Game Design Analysis – Dota 2

The game I will be analyzing will be Dota 2. Dota 2 is a MOBA game by Steam. 2 teams of 5 players will control a hero each and try to take down the enemies’ ancient. Below is a link to the a game from TI 9 Grand Finals (actual gameplay start at 12mins):

A runthrough of the game:

The game starts with a hero selection phase where the 2 team picks their heroes.

Afterwards, they spawn at their base and the game begins. They will try to upgrade their heroes while vying for objectives and resources. Inevitably, teamfights will occur

until a team wins the game!

Lens 9: Lens of Elemental Tetrad

Of the four, the most important aspect of Dota 2 is its mechanics. The basic mechanics of the game is rather simple and can be picked up quickly. However, there are many subtleties to its mechanics and various interaction between the hero skills, items as well as environment mechanics. All of these takes years to master and fully understand as the gameplay can get very deep. To become “good” at the game, the player must understand all of these mechanics, many of which is not told explicitly by the game and have to be learnt through experience, ranging from how the AI of in game units, to environment interaction to various gimmicks and tricks. Apart from the depth of the mechanics, it has to be balanced across its many heroes and items so as to allow a diverse and competitive gameplay experience.

With regards to story, Dota 2 does not really have a proper lore. It tries to build a lore but it does not really make sense and does not tie to the game itself. However, this is understandable as story is not the focus of the game and is just a bonus.

Dota 2 does have decent aesthetics and compared to the other MOBA games, it is darker in nature and have a more realistic and gritty vibe to it. However, it has a rather clear UI which is important to the gameplay experience. It does feature in game cosmetic that do make your hero look much cooler than default but does not affect the gameplay.

In terms of technology, Dota 2 is available on PC, Mac and Linux. It is exclusively on PC and uses a mouse and keyboard primarily. It features voice chat so you can attach speakers to it.

Lens 43: Lens of Competition

The game features a matchmaking system which is dependent on your matchmaking rank, a measure of how good you are at the game.

Players have a numerical number and a medal which was added quite recently 2-3 years ago. This makes the game competitive and many players (myself included) spend thousands of hours into the game, playing matches after matches in an attempt to get a good rank. While this makes the game highly addictive, it can also be a detriment as it can cause the community to be toxic and elitist towards lower ranked players.

Lens 44: Lens of Cooperation

As a team game, cooperation is very important to the game. A team that cooperates well have a much higher chance of winning. This is because of the nature of the game and the various mechanics that the game uses. Many skills and interactions relies on your team for its full potential to be unleashed. Furthermore, one man is not able to do everything by himself and players in the teams usually have their own roles to fulfill. Communication is very important and the game features a text and voice chat as well as pings and indicators for players to signal their intention with other players.

Lens 6: Lens of Problem Solving

There are a myriad of strategy a team and player can use. Even from the start at the hero selection phase, the player have to think about what hero they should pick in order to best counter the enemy picks, while synergizing with their own team picks. During the game, players have to consistently device strategies and plans to allow them to outmaneuver the enemy and to counter their current strategy.

Lens 5: Endogenous Value

While the ultimate goal of the game is the destroy the opponent’s ancient and win the game, over the course of the game, the players can do many things to improve his character, improve his gear so as to improve his chances of winning. Take the core mechanics of last hitting for example.

In the initial phase of the game, the players will usually go to the lane to farm gold and experience. This is done by killing creeps and in the case of gold, dealing the final blow to the creep. This incentives players to last hit the creep to get gold which will allow them to buy better item and improve their heroes.

Killing the enemy heroes too does provide rewards. Other than the in-game announcer announcing the player’s kill streak, the player gets gold and experience from the kill.

Godlike streak (10+ killstreak) announced!

This also punishes the dying player as he has to wait for a non negligible amount of time to respawn while being unable to do anything, and lose gold at the game time.

Lens 98: Lens of Community

Finally, one of the reason of Dota 2 success is its community. While it does have the reputation for being extremely toxic, a lot of people play the game because of their friends and peers. It is very enjoyable to play Dota 2 with your friends late at night after school or work. Competitions are also supported by the community with the annual International Dota Tournament being largely funded by the community. The previous TI, boasts a prize pool of 33million USD, mostly crowdfunded by the community

Outside the game, there are also twitch streams, youtube videos and forums where people discuss Dota 2 and their experiences, while exchanging strategies. This is one of the reason why after 10 years since its initial release, there are alot of people still playing Dota 2.

Game Analysis: Super Mario Odyssey

Super Mario Odyssey for Nintendo Switch – Nintendo Game Details

Description

Super Mario Odyssey is a 3D Platformer published by Nintendo. It features Nintendo’s flagship character Mario, as he traverses around the world with his sentient hat, Cappy, in order to save Princess Peach and Cappy’s sister from a forced marriage with Bowser. Typical Mario stuff. Released in 2017, it was a nominee for game of the year alongside notable titles such as Persona 5, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, as well as Horizon Zero Dawn.

Super Mario Odyssey – Game Trailer – Nintendo E3 2017 – YouTube

Super Mario Odyssey – Nintendo Switch Presentation 2017 Trailer – YouTube

Lens 9: The Elemental Tetrad

In Super Mario Odyssey, the game successfully ties together the various elements (aesthetics, technology, mechanics and story) into one cohesive package.

The Story

Super Mario Odyssey has a simple story, as per usual platforming Mario games, with most of the emphasis placed more on the mechanics. However, Mario Odyssey does something which most of its predecessors does not, which is to make each distinctly different role have some level of cohesion to the theme of the game.

In the story, after kidnapping Peach, Bowser goes to different kingdom and steals a particular item (wedding dress, a diamond, famous stew, etc.) which would play a part in the wedding. Mario, having a semi-functioning ship, has to go to each kingdom in order to gain more stars to fuel his ship, whilst resolving the issue that was left over by Bowser.

This all directly plays into the theme of an odyssey, where Mario is made to go on this voyage around the globe in order to catch up with Bowser. It’s a subtle touch, but adds a layer of cohesion that’s not usually seen in other 3D Mario games. In such a case, most worlds and bosses are mostly just temporary obstacles rather than existing as a unit for storytelling.

The Mechanics

In practically all 3D Mario games, he possesses his usual suite of jumping and movement abilities, including the triple jump, the long jump, backflip, and more. In addition, he usually gains a separate ability unique to the game in question. For Super Mario Odyssey, this is the Cap Throw.

The Cap Throw allows Mario to do one key thing: Take possession of another entity. This can include electricity, enemies, and even a DINOSAUR.

The goal of each kingdom is to collect enough moons in order to power up the ship to allow Mario to catchup with Bowser. Each kingdom showcases its own theme, from a realistic New York-esque city, to a low polygonal cooking themed volcano town. The contrast designed really shows the Odyssey-like nature of the game, with each kingdom being ever so different from the other.

Technology

Super Mario Odyssey was built for the Nintendo Switch, and its joycon controllers pair well with the mechanics of the game. There are multiple joycon motions available which would allow Mario to use his cap in a multitude of ways.

Aesthetics

Super Mario Odyssey’s aesthetics further reinforce the nature of an odyssey. Barring the designs of Mario and common enemies in the game, each kingdom showcases a drastically different style from one another, bolstering the idea that Mario is far from home and is on an epic journey around the world.

As such, it can be seen that Super Mario Odyssey successfully melds the 4 elements together seamlessly, creating a thoroughly cohesive game worthy of its praise and accolades.

Lens 1: Emotion

The way the game is setup is to give the player a sense of wonderment that one might have when they travel overseas. The unique designs and themes of each kingdom is testament to that fact.

A sense of nostalgia is also prevalent in a certain sequence of the game, where Mario pays homage to the first Donkey Kong game in a festival that has an overall feel-good factor.

Super Mario Odyssey – Pauline Band Festival w/ Jump Up Super Star – YouTube

Lens 5: Fun

Super Mario Odyssey is a game that does not lack any breadth or depth. The sheer number of collectible moons are sufficient even for the most hardcore of players. The variation in the puzzles and hidden areas for each moon is also far reaching, and despite the seemingly simplistic nature of the mechanics, the combinations that come from optimization are seemingly endless and drastically magnifies the fun derived from the game.

Lens 8: Problem Solving

Super Mario Odyssey boasts a myriad of puzzles for the player to solve in order to find moons. Some are literally just sitting in a corner, whilst others require a bit of platforming skill to get to. Some require to answer a few questions in a quiz, whilst others require you to solve a simple puzzle from different ends of the map to complete. The variety is magnificent, which keeps players on their toes and always coming back for more as they do not know what to expect.

Additionally, an added segment named ‘Luigi’s Balloon World’ sees the player seek out balloons that other players have hidden across the map with a time limit. The player is also able to hide his own balloons. The PVP structure of this minigame expands the scope of problem solving in this game as we pit players against one another to see who can pop the other’s balloon. Multiply that with more than 10 kingdoms, and it’s easy to see why players would continue coming back.

Conclusion

Super Mario Odyssey pog.

Lens 27: Time

Super Mario Odyssey is a game that is accommodating to different player styles. The length of the game is largely determinant on the player style. If one is more of a completionist, he/she would definitely spend a lot more time trying to collect the over 800 moons available in the game. For players that are more casual, a mere 120 moons are required to to complete the game, with 500 for the true ending. If one so wishes to skip finding moons, he/she can simply buy them at a shop at an infinite amount!

This accessibility to different player types easily accommodates players such that they would not find frustration or boredom in having to play the game for too long or too short.

Game Analysis : Invisible Inc

Store Page: https://store.steampowered.com/app/243970/

Invisible Inc is a turn-based rogue-like stealth game. Players have to control their secret agents to sneak past guards, open lockers & complete mission objectives. Fly around the globe to look for lucrative jobs, upgrade 

Elemental Tetrad:

Mechanics

The game is turn-based. Player & the computer AI take turns to make their moves. This gameplay mechanic is similar to XCOM: Enemy Unknown, an award-winning turn-based game, but with strong emphasis on stealth.

At every turn, each agents have a certain amount of Action Points (AP). Players can spend these AP to control their agents to move, peek, predict guard patrol patterns.etc. Agents can use a wide variety of gadgets & weapons to navigate through the map safely.

When it comes to dealing with guards, guards typically have 2 types of vision: peripheral & direct, which the cone of vision is noticeable on the round. 

Note the red patch on the ground. Bright red indicates direct vision while partial indicates peripheral.

Agents spotted directly by the guard would immediately raise the alarm, whilst being in their peripheral vision means that the guard would investigate your spot once your turn ends. which can be used as a distraction. Guards have 3 states: Patrol, Investigating & Hunting. The first 2 state would be oblivious to your presence (until they spot you), while the last state means the guard is hunting for your agents. 

Besides navigating the agents, all electronics have firewalls. Players have to use a hacking AI known as Incognita to break firewalls. Players can buy programs for the AI to bypass electronics such as cameras and terminals to steal cash, move pass areas without getting detected. etc.

Invisible Inc.: Contingency Plan
Number beside the electronics indicate firewall level which one have to break to gain control of the device.

Another mechanic to increase mobility is the alarm. At every 5 turns, the alarm level would rise, given the player additional threats such as activated cameras, increased firewalls & guards. Alarms can also be raised by killing guards, getting spotted by guards or cameras.etc. This forces the player to complete the objective and leave the mission as fast as possible.

Story 

The year is 2077. Big corporations took over the world, and a freelance intelligence agency known as Invisible Inc provides espionage services to these companies using field agents & a powerful AI, Incognita. 

One day, their headquarters was attacked, with most of their assets gone, except 2 field agents and Incognita. Their AI cannot survive outside a terminal for more than 72 hours, which within this time, the agency can infiltrate various corporate offices to upgrade their agents, before striking back to host their AI. 

Aesthetics 

The art style is primarily cyberpunk. This flows well with the weapons, gadgets, guards & drones used in the game, such as Cloaking Rigs to gain temporary invisibility & Buster Chips to hack devices, inspired by shows such as Ghost In the Shell & Psycho Pass. The field agents available are inspired by fiction such as Sherlock Holmes & James Bond.  One of the mechanics, Incognita, fits well with the cyberpunk theme as well.

Technology

Mouse/trackpad primarily, keyboard optional. The iOS version uses a touch screen which potentially makes the gaming experience even better since it makes the player feel more like a tactician commanding his troops on the battlefield.

Lens #1: Essential Element

The partial top-down view makes me feel like an espionage tactician when I play the game. Being able to see a guards field of vision, as well as agents being able to predict guard patrol patterns gives me a strong sense of control. The randomly generated maps gives me a strong sense of curiosity as to what lies beyond each room which i have not explored. The alarm mechanic also gives a sense of urgency, forcing me to rush the mission as efficiently as possible instead of being slow & steady.

Lens #2: Surprise

Every match & post match is a trove of surprises, shock & disappointment. In the match, I could never expect the kind of goodies I would find, such as a side mission, or a super powerful rifle that cannot be purchased in-game. Sometimes I get nasty surprises, such as a guard waltzing into the room when I least expected it. 

Travelling to a mission location takes time. After the timer hits every 24 hours, the difficulty level of missions would rise, followed by a new list of sites to infiltrate, each with a different objective, such as rescuing a captive, stealing credit, or simply gaining augmentations. 

You can choose your missions depending on availability.

Lens #4: Curiosity 

Similar to Lens #2. Every gameplay entrails a random set of challenges and architecture. Agents start off in an enclosed room. Outside the room is pitch black & players have to look into the unknown to learn about the map. Agents have to explore the map as the game progresses, piquing player’s sense of curiosity in the unknown area. Every door, while dangerous to open due to unseen guards on the other side, is tempting to open.

Lens #5: Endogenous Value

The endogenous value that this game offers is unique in the sense that it is a lack of one. It is more of a punishment rather than a reward.

Players are encouraged to be as stealthy as possible. By relying on distraction, stealing from guards & avoiding conflict, players will be able to complete the mission with maximised cash in hand & lower alarm levels to deal with. 

On the other hand, relying on brute force punishes the player. Knocking out guards means guards would wake up after a certain period of time and in order to keep the guard down, players would have to use an agent to “pin” the guard, thereby slowing down the game progression since that agent could have use that time to perform other tasks besides being restricted to dragging bodies. Killing guards is even worse as it incurs costly ammunition and causes the alarm to rise. 

Quite a unique reward system compared to other stealth titles since most stealth titles rely on points which makes stealth a choice rather than an obligation. In this game, players are obliged to play stealthily since playing using brute force will impair one’s game progress.  

You need cash to upgrade agents/buy items, and killing incurs cost

Lens #6: Problem Solving 

The game offers multiple angles to solving problems. Agents can sneak pass, stun or even kill, in descending order of recommendation. However, sometimes there are complications in which the player will have make difficult decisions, such as killing a guard in order to ironically allow the game to progress faster. Players have plenty of options to solve a problem, such as momentarily distract a guard from a helpless agent using another agent making noise, or using an invisible agent to spearhead behind enemy lines. 

Overall this is a fun game with high replay value, something pretty uncommon in single-player games. Every match is based on a good combination of luck & player’s skill, and no 2 games are ever the same. Things that could be improved can include Endless mode, which once you survive sufficiently long, your team is virtually unstoppable and it gets stale. 

Game Design Analysis: Slay the Spire

The bulk of the game is figuring out how to defeat your enemies

Description

At its core, Slay the Spire is a deck-building roguelite, and it features the player character trying to escape the spire by defeating enemies throughout three acts. Each acts culminates to a final boss, and beating it gives you a special boss relic, which can change your play style for that run. Winning each fight allows you to customise your deck by adding additional cards, and defeating special “elite” enemies gives you a relic which changes the way you build your deck. The game is $22 with no in-game purchases required. Thus far, there have been no paid DLCs, in fact new content has been available for free and these range from bug fixes, to a brand new character.

Lens 7: Elemental Tetrad

Mechanics:

  • During each combat, the player has a limited amount of energy each round, and playing cards cost a varying amount of energy.
  • Cards can do damage, provide defense against enemy attacks, or various other utility effects.
  • Some cards are one-time use per combat, as they will exhaust themselves during the combat, which means the player has to decide the opportune moment to use them.
  • Enemies have an intent which signals to the player what they plan to do that round.
  • Since health only replenishes between acts, the player’s health is a resource which they
  • After a battle, the player gets the choice to upgrade his deck by adding another card to his deck, which can make him more powerful in future fights.

Story:

  • The player is trying to climb the Spire, and ascend its floors though the span of three acts.
  • Each act is culminated in the final boss.
  • Even if you defeat the final boss, the player will lose consciousness and will have to start from the first floor in future runs.
  • Thus, the story in Slay the Spire is not particularly strong.

Aesthetics:

  • The game is entirely in 2D, and its art style is consistent throughout the game, choosing to utilise a more hand-drawn cartoon art style.
  • Each card is made to seem like a traditional card game (TCG) card, and they have their own art work.
  • Overall the aesthetics are clean yet bring about the fantasy theme, which allows for a crisp gameplay.

Technology:

  • Slay the Spire is not very resource intensive, as its graphics are not as intricate as other AAA titles.
  • This is perfectly fine since it can be run on lower-end PCs and consoles. The game can even be run on mobile, making it very accessible.
  • The game runs well, even though each run is procedurally-generated, making the gameplay smooth and enjoyable.
Deciding which card to add into your deck

Lens 39: Meaningful Choices

The game is filled with a multitude of meaningful choices, such as:

  • Choosing which card/relic to pick after each battle, and there’s an option to not pickup a new card if it dilutes and weakens your deck
  • Choosing which path to take on the map, since the player could opt for more combat rooms, which gives them the option to accrue more cards at the expense of health, or to visit other utility rooms such as event rooms or the store
  • Choosing what to spend your gold on in the store. The player can buy new cards, one-time use potions (which are cheaper), or to remove a card permanently from the deck, thinning it and making each draw more consistent.
  • During battle, the player has to juggle between choosing to deal more damage to kill the enemies quicker, or to raise your own defense to mitigate health loss in the long run

The fact that the game is filled with meaningful choices, means that if the player ends up losing a run, they are often able to pinpoint exactly where they messed up, and they can learn and adapt in the future.

Lens 34: Skill

Over several runs, the player will slowly start to learn how each enemy type behaves. For example, in a battle against a cultist and a knight, the cultist will keep buffing and healing the knight, so the player will learn to focus down the cultist first, so the battle will end quicker.

Additionally, the player will start to pick up what kind of playstyle he enjoys, whether they prefer doing big damage, or going for a combo-centric build where they aim for a small synergistic deck.

The game highly tests the player skill and ability to adapt to whatever he is given. Since the map is procedurally-generated, each run will be different so the player cannot use the same strategy each time.

Different starting character options

Lens 46: Reward

At the end of run, the player is awarded XP based on how well they did. Even if the player’s run was short, they will still earn some XP, which is used to increase your player character level to unlock new more powerful cards and relics. These can unlock new strategies and play styles and often allows the player to progress even further in the run. Each time they beat the three acts with a character, it will unlock a different character to choose from, which plays completely differently and provides new mechanics and nuances in the player’s abilities. This rewards the player for just playing, and motivates them to try out all the characters.

Community made character, the Bug Knight from Hollow Knight

Lens 98: Community

The game has plenty of mods, developed by the community, ranging from new custom developed characters to various gameplay tweaks such as providing a bonus if you kill the enemies with the exact number of damage. These shows how much the community is invested into this game, and the fact that the community is constantly churning out new content for the game means this game can last well into the future, even if the developer stops producing new content for it.

Game Design Analysis – Brawl Stars

Brawl Stars: No Time to Explain - YouTube
Brawl Stars

Description

Brawl Stars is a freemium multiplayer online game and 3rd person hero shooter where players from around the world can battle against one another in various game modes. Players can select from a pool of characters (known as Brawlers) unlocked through boxes, brawl passes, the objective path (known as Trophy Road), or purchased via the Shop with in-game currency.

Lens #9: The lens of the Elemental Tetrad

Mechanics

  • Mostly team-based, solo options available, MOBA
  • Simple characters and skillsets, including super-powers and upgrades called gadgets
  • Limited and simple gameplay (movement, firing), with advanced strategies in a competitive setting

Brawl Stars has a low barrier to entry for beginners (even with simple brawlers/characters) to play. It is rather interesting to note that a higher amount of strategy and teamwork mechanics/dynamics is needed for more competitive gameplay across various maps and characters. Overall, it seems that the game is kept minimal and simple (limited buttons, super powers, restricted movement) to level the playing field as well as offer realistic dynamics for a mobile game MOBA as such.

Story

It is rather apt to note that Supercell (owner of a couple of top mobile games) started off Brawl Stars after a series of successful launches – including Clash of Clans and Clash Royale. The story is similar and in-line with the lore of the past games, again with a minimal approach (not as complicated as League of Legends, Dota etc) of certain renowned characters such as the Barbarian, Archer). Similar characters were showcased but with noticeable differences in storylines.

Aesthetics

The game is relatively well-lit, also with cartoon-like characters which introduce high levels of comfort across all level of players (beginner to advanced). Their attacks and animations are well thought, including special ones for selected skins, increasing the reactivity of players to their aesthetics and pleasure/satisfaction in well-crafted graphics and design.

Technology

Brawl Stars does not require intensive hardware which makes this mobile game easily accessible to many devices. In fact, playing online against other people across the world does not require much data usage which is a strong factor for players to increase their usage without worrying about incurring additional cost.

It is clear that the 4 elements are well integrated to cater to players of the different spectrum.

Lens #34: The lens of skill

As the game has the potential to be mechanically intensive, players with better skills will outperform and play better at different maps and game modes. Skills include map awareness, champion mastery, team communication and map/mode strategy all play a significant role in the victory of each game. Players who spend and invest more time in analyzing and learning game strategies will perform better and win more games in such a setting.

Together with their ranking system (offering trophies for each win, and losing trophies for each lost), this helps to matchmake better players together and vice versa which allows for a better levelling field of learning and improvement for all parties.

Lens #55: Visible Progress

Progress is one of the keys in Brawl Stars in maximizing retention of players while ensuring accomplishment through the games. As a beginner, one would only have access to a small pool of (basic) characters with limited upgrading options to allow beginners to practice and learn more. However, this is strongly supported with trophies and levels which correlate to how well you play the character or game as a whole. This is always listed on the homepage whenever you started the mobile game on the top left. Brawler trophies are also listed on the top of the character.

Brawl stars account, Toys & Games, Video Gaming, Video Games on Carousell

Upgrading a character essentially means your character does more damage, has more health, and has more access to better special powers (such as gadgets and supers). Hence, the process of upgrading a character signifies a gradual journey to groom one’s skills and abilities and provide a strong sense of accomplishment and satisfaction when a certain level is obtained. Ultimately, this serves as a metric for social comparison, allowing you to check out leaderboard across social groups or clans to compete for standing and position in their skillsets.

Lens #98: Community

Finally, the community may be the strongest aspect for Brawl Stars. One reason why Brawl Stars shot to fame was because of the multiplayer MOBA that attracted friends to team up and play with one another, raising the level of fun from just individual to a communal one across classmates, colleagues, and family. Players are mostly expected to team up and join clans which promotes group inclusive effort and maximizing together-time across many games played in Brawl Stars.

Unsurprisingly, Brawl Stars is one of the most successful games of Supercell yet, having a strong audience due to its prior successes, yet not neglecting innovation and trend towards MOBA games while leveling the playing field for both experienced and inexperienced, young and old.

Homework 1

List of hardware – Head-mounted Displays

Hololens

List of hardware – Glasses

List of hardware – VR Walker

Most preferred devices for VR

The possibilities of VR are limited by it’s physical environment when it comes to simulation for open-world scenarios.

One way to overcome physical boundaries is to use a VR walker.

Imagine playing a game of counter strike in VR where you can physically interact with the counter strike world without environment limitations. VR walker significantly improves the impressiveness since player can now “freely” walk in game.

Most preferred devices for MR

For Mixed Reality, I foresee that the widespread adoption will be on consumers and smart glasses can be the enabler for that.

MR may seem really cool but we cannot ignore the fact that it is weird to hold your phone up and catch pokemons in a public setting. For the use of MR to be considered “normal”, the interaction with the device that enables it need to be “normal” and “natural” as well.

Therefore, smart glasses fits the use case because the usage of MR is hand-free and the consumption of the MR content is natural in a way that it does not disrupt the natural day-to-day movement of an individual.

One of the exciting release is the Facebook first smart glasses where it collaborates with Ray-ban. (see below)

For the widespread adoption of smartglasses, it not only need to provide the necessary functions, but it also needs to “look” normal when wearing. This is where I think Facebook and Ray-ban collaboration really shines since Facebook can take care of the tech aspect really well while the look and feel of the physical glass can be handled by a well-established brand such as Ray-ban.

VR/AR/MR Devices


Best AR/VR/MR devices:

VRARMR
– Oculus Quest 2 
– Sony Playstation
– HTC Vive
– Google Glass Enterprise Edition
– Vuzix Blade
– Epson Moverio BT-300
– Microsoft Hololens 2
– Magic Leap One
– Samsung HMD Odyssey+

I believe the table above have one of the best options for AR/VR/MR. With the exception of the pricing of the MR devices listed above, I have chosen the above due to their application support, price and design. MR devices were selected solely based on power and functionalities.


Most preferred device for AR and MR:

AR: Oculus Quest 2

Specifications:

  • Panel Type: Single Fast-Switch LCD, 1832×1920px per eye
  • Supported Refresh Rate: 72Hz (default), can be configured to 60Hz in some cases
  • Default SDK Color Space: Rec.2020 gamut, 2.2 gamma, D65 white point
    • CIE 1931 xy color-primary values:
      • Red : (0.708, 0.292)
      • Green: (0.17, 0.797)
      • Blue : (0.131, 0.046)
      • White: (0.3127, 0.3290)
  • USB Connector: 1x USB-C
  • Tracking: Inside out, 6DOF
  • Audio: Integrated, in-strap
  • CPU: Qualcomm® Snapdragon XR2 Platform
  • CPU Notes: Developers have access to 3 gold cores
  • Memory: 6GB total
  • Lens Distance: Adjustable – 3 preset IPD adjustments

The reason why I believe the Oculus Quest 2 is the best AR device is because it is able to do VR applications as well.

It is cheap (~$431) and is becoming more and more affordable for all users as compared to other devices that could go above 500$. The Osculus Quest 2 also does not need a powerful computer or GPU to support.

Although the specifications is not as superior as the Microsoft Hololens 2, for its price and wide range of supported applications, the Oculus Quest 2 would still be my preferred device. I am also looking forward to purchasing an Oculus Quest 2 soon.


MR: Microsoft Hololens 2

Specifications:

  • 52 degrees of freedom (Edition 1 had 34); 47 pixel per degree or 2048 x 1080 pixels per eye.
  • Transparent lenses, HD 8 MP camera, numerous sensors to track user position from all sides, and a microphone for voice inputs.
  • Current updated HoloLens 2 has two 2K 120 Hz (refresh rate) display that projects to overlay 3D color 3D images over natural spaces so the user sees mixed reality and can interact with virtual 3D models and holographs.
  • Eye and hand movement tracking to place mixed reality content appropriately and allow proper interaction by the user.
  • Popular for enterprises in remote training, remote collaboration, logistics, assembly lines, etc.
  • HoloLens 2 used for developing mixed reality apps with Unity and Azure for free trials.
  • Remote assist option allows for data sharing and collaboration.
  • 4GB RAM, Storage 64 GB. Weighs 20 OZ.
  • CPU: Custom-built Microsoft Holographic Processing Unit (HPU Generation 2); Qualcomm Snapdragon 850.

I personally have not tried on the Microsoft Hololens 2. However, based on the videos online and reviews by participants, it seems to have a pretty quick response rate and great audio and viewing angles.

As much as there is a reality trade off as portrayed in the uncanny valley diagram, I believe that the stronger and more powerful the device, the greater the immersion and presence the device is able to take on.

Unlike magic leap 1, which looks like goggles, I would prefer a cleaner design with higher specifications. Although it might be pricey, but with the power and potential it has, I believe it is the best MR device.

Virtual Reality and Mixed Reality Technologies

Before we dive right into my top headsets list, let’s explore the relevant metrics that aided me in sieving these few choices out. Since the program or game used for the headset is not inclusive in this comparison, we will not be able to compare how each headset provides `Experiences` or its corresponding fidelity levels. Instead, we will be comparing how each headset is able to support these experiences through its technical specifications and unique features. As all I can see are through Youtube videos, my opinions may be swayed by the reviewers I watch.

Here are my favourite headsets shortlisted from the youtube videos I could find.

VR Headsets:

1. HTC Vive Cosmos
2. Playstation VR from Sony
3. Quest 2 (Oculus)

AR Headsets:
1. HoloLens 2
2. Google Glass
3. Magic Leap

MR Headsets:
1. HoloLens 2
2. Samsung Odyssey+

There are certain metrics used to evaluate my favourite Headset; albeit amateur ones.
These are field of vision, resolution, refresh rate, modularity, auxiliary modules (such as earpieces), how comfortable it looks, its I/O options, how independent the set is, its software support, tracking capability, etc.

Which is my favourite? (as a consumer)
Oculus Quest 2!

– Integrated Speakers
There is no need for additional speakers or headsets, which may interfere with the headset itself. This means zero latency while providing an enclosed environment and quality sound. This may not be ideal for users with specific audio preferences, but works perfectly for me, or the majority of users. Tangle-free, fuss-free.

– Doesn’t require additional modules / Oculus Link
The Oculus is stand-alone and does not need another device like the PlayStation VR. This means lower costs and ease of upgrade. (no need to upgrade PC, or graphics card) — however, this may not be ideal for users who wish for modularity.
Oculus Link allows users to link with a PC. This allows for choices.

– Aesthetics
It looks clean, modern and not too daunting to the regular consumer (e.g as compared to the Hololens with industrial looks)

– Controllers
This is one major factor as to why the oculus is one of my favourites. With an easy entry from console controllers, your hand can rest on the controller, with the thumb be the only moving limb. This provides intuitive and fast controls. The grooves look ergonomic as well.

What's new with the Oculus Quest 2 controllers? | Android Central

– Price
The price of the Oculus compared to its counterparts is much more affordable for a similar level hardware specs.

– Software Store / Software Support
One feature is its safe playing area, which may be important especially now where many stay at home.
There is also robust support and a huge game store. This is valuable as nobody would want to buy a headset with no software supported.

– Specifications
I shall not repeat these, but here are the specs: https://developer.oculus.com/learn/oculus-device-specs/

Oculus Quest 2 review: Facebook's $299 VR headset is one of my favorite  game consoles - CNET
Facebook's reveals Oculus Quest 2, which starts at just $300 - Business  Insider

VR/MR Devices

My most preferred VR device is the the game-changing, high-tech device Google Cardboard. First of all, for all its features, the Google Cardboard is available at an unbelievable price of 14.90 SGD on Lazada. Secondly, it boasts a high quality frame made from highly recyclable material. Thirdly, there is almost no learning curve. In order to experience a high-quality virtual reality experience, all one needs is to slot a smart phone into the Google Cardboard and get started. This video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6IZK1k1elBU), for example, provides a high degree of immersion and presence despite the Cardboard’s limitation of having only 3 degrees of freedom.

Figure 1 Google Cardboard

Unlike VR devices, I have never used an MR device and thus, my preference is solely based off the marketing efforts of the companies behind the devices that I have been exposed to. Microsoft released a video envisioning the future of MR devices (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2MqGrF6JaOM) amazed me as I was completely unaware of the utility these devices could offer us. Therefore, my most preferred MR device is the Microsoft HoloLens 2 as it seems that the companies vision is to invent a device which aims to enhance human life as much as possible. In a demo by Microsoft, the HoloLens displayed impressive eye-tracking, voice recognition and six degrees of freedom which allowed the user’s surroundings to be completely populated by virtual objects.

Figure 2 Microsoft HoloLens

With an approximately 6000SGD price tag, I would probably prefer purchasing the ground-breaking, game-changing HoloKit instead.

Figure 3 HoloKit

Virtual Reality and Mixed Reality Technologies

The latest commercial Virtual Reality Hardware release was Facebook-owned Oculus’s Oculus Quest 2 back in October 2020. Unlike other leading VR hardware out there, Quest 2 is a standalone VR headset powered by Android, meaning that it does not require a PC or a smartphone for one to operate it. The fact that such a standalone hardware can run VR is a feat of excellence, given that VR requires high fidelity graphics together with target framerates higher than that of PC and Console gaming’s (90 vs 60 FPS).

Taking away the inconvenience of setting up a VR environment with the classic tethered PC/Console VR such as the HTC VIVE, PSVR, and Valve Index, the Quest 2 still manages to provide smooth VR experiences with its powerful hardware. Hence, it is hard to not pick the Quest 2 as one of my favorites in the VR hardware sphere as it removes one of the major pain points of VR hardware. Another huge plus is that it is at a lower price point (SG$450) than PCs and Consoles, paired together with the fact that it is a standalone device makes it a highly accessible technology for one to pick up.
As for Mixed Reality, a relatively younger phenomena, the leading technology by far is the Microsoft HoloLens 2, released in 2019 at a hefty price point of SG$5,388, and is an improvement over its predecessor, the Microsoft HoloLens, which was released back in 2016. The HoloLens 2 features a much higher field of view of 52 degrees compared to the 30 degrees that the first version has. It also has an increased display resolution of 2048×1080 pixels, eye-tracking, and a much better processor. Development potential also increased dramatically with the addition of the tracking of both hands as well as additional gestures that the HoloLens 2 can pick up.


Its competitor, Magic Leap One, while costing two-thirds the price, underperforms the HoloLens 2 in almost every aspect. Unique to the HoloLens 2 for example, is Microsoft’s “Remote Rendering”, which is essentially using cloud computing to provide the hardware with extra computing power and hence performance, easily achieving better performance than Magic Leap One. The amount of content available to the user is also overwhelmingly in favor of the HoloLens 2, having backward compatibility with applications that were made for its predecessor. Tracking and Control is also way better on the HoloLens 2 with its new hand tracking system that picks up both hands. Therefore, Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 easily wins out its competitors in the Mixed Reality market.