Bravely Default — Review

Game: Bravely Default
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Genre: RPG

Bravely Default is a spiritual successor to classic Final Fantasy titles, being inspired by the former’s aesthetics and gameplay.
The story is that of four, young heroes out to rekindle the dying crystals to save the world. Tiz, the main protagonist who loses his home village right as the game begins. Agnes, a priestess at the Wind Temple that was recently raided and destroyed. Edea, the daughter of the snow emperor who wants to dive into the rabbit hole of the empire she was raised in. And Ringabel, a mysterious man searching for clues to his past.

I followed this game since its original release in 2012, and I got to play it when in released in the United States two years. And I must admit, the wait was worth it. The version that released internationally made Bravely Default one of the most user-friendly games. While the gameplay is very reminiscent of classic turn-based JRPGs, there is a twist in its simplicity with the job classes and the Brave system. Below, I will go into the details.

Elemental Tetrad

Mechanics
As someone who believed that job classes were pretty much perfected in Final Fantasy V for single-player JRPGs, I can gladly say that Bravely Default brought the job system into the modern age. Characters are able to select any job they want at any time they want. This gives each character in the party an advantage or disadvantage during any particular battle.
While the turn-based battle system is relatively standard, as far as JRPGs go, the Brave system adds a satisfying aspect to a given battle. The Brave system adds a risk-reward to the mix. If you select Brave, you can attack more than once in a turn, but have to wait as many turns as they attacked. If you select Default, you can stack Brave Points to be used later.

Story
Seeing as this is an RPG, I can only go into the story so much without getting into spoiler territory. It initially starts off like a classic RPG, wherein the heroes are in search for the crystals to save the world from its demise while trying to stop an evil empire. While yes, the initial plot is very basic, how the characters react both to the situations, their own group, and the others that inhabit the world is what carries the first half of the game. The main characters all meet up pretty early on and have fantastic chemistry that you can see in the frequent party chats. There is are a number of wild plot twists that I do not want to spoil here, as this is a game I feel needs to be explored.

Aesthetics
All backgrounds are hand-drawn and painted, and they all look gorgeous. The characters and world map are 3D models, which look fine considering they are on the 3DS, but the backgrounds are beautiful. The aesthetics of the world vary depending on the town, having many anachronisms, but having an overall “middle ages” feel. My favorite areas are tied for the water town Florem and the sand town Ancheim. Not to mention that the orchestrated soundtrack is outstanding.

Technology
This game did not break any boundaries or push any limits for the 3DS. But what it did do was use the 3D to have a parallax view of the gorgeous towns.

Lenses

4) Surprise
The game lures in fans of classic Final Fantasy and other JRPGs, but gives classic fans a surprise with the later twists in the plot, well-established characters and their interactions, and a gorgeous parallax world.

21) Flow
The plot tends to flow very smoothly for the first half, with very clear goals communicated by the characters (save the crystal’s destruction, stop the empire, save the world). The “distractions” from the main plot usually tie in at one point or another, but they’re mainly there to expand the party, the world, or to gain jobs to enhance the gameplay.

40) Triangularity
The Brave and Default aspects to the battle system offers the risk-reward of the game. The job classes also help to expand the gameplay. The challenges to get the classes are arguably tough to obtain a good 40% of the time.

63) Feedback
The game has great user-friendly feedback and customization of gameplay. In terms of customization, you can speed up battles, turn off random encounters, and set your party to level 99 (max level). The feedback given during any particular point is also pretty good. There’s an on-screen map that shows where you are at any time, the characters will bring up where to go next, and even if you lose a battle, you know what to do the next time you go against them with a different strategy.

CS3247 Game Review: Crypt of the NecroDancer

Game: Crypt of the NecroDancer

Genre: (Hardcore) Roguelike dungeon, rhythm game/ 2D

Description: The player controls the protagonist Cadence to retrieve her heart that was stolen by the antagonist, the NecroDancer. On Cadence’s quest, she must travel through 4 levels, defeat various bosses and finally confront the NecroDancer. The player may only make moves with the beat of the music, using only arrow keys on the keyboard. Combat is turn based and is situated on a 2D grid.

Website: https://braceyourselfgames.com/crypt-of-the-necrodancer/

Screenshot:

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R5198bVlANY

In my opinion, the game is generally well done, with some possible room for improvement. Probably not my most favorite game, but I believe it deserves a 8/10.

What was done well:

Elemental Tetrad: The 4 elements are well integrated. The mechanics of the game are executed with the music yet follows the rules of a roguelike dungeon game. The story is linear (and continuous for unlocked characters) and encourages the player frequently by showing part of the story whenever they progress into a new level. The story revolves around a Golden Lute, a cursed artifact that grants its wielder immense power, at the cost of their freedom (allured to play the Lute for eternity). The dungeon and the Lute are both created by a single entity that was working on necromantic experiments that involve infusing musical instruments with life, which explains the various enemies and the environment the player observes, making the game aesthetically consistent with its music theme. For example, the Minotaur carries a harp on its head like a pair of horns. The technology used was simple as the game was designed with a 2D screen experience, requiring no more than a laptop.

Minotaur image:

1. Essential Experience: Brings out the minimum axioms in both roguelike dungeon and rhythm games, yet make the combination synergistic. Requirement to follow the beat forces the player to act and plan carefully for the roguelike aspects (turn based grid movement, defeating enemies without being damaged). All enemies move/attack in a pattern specific to how they look, allowing players to gain an advantage through mastery. Bosses follow a more complex set of rules, possibly requiring the player to specially strategize to defeat them efficiently.

18. Flow: Players have a clear direction for stairs to reach and defeat the boss. Enemies gain HP and damage, attack in more complex patterns, music tempo increases with later levels, at a reasonable rate of progression. New traps are also gradually introduced. In each level, the player’s goal is to descend 3 floors by finding stairs, and defeating a boss at the end. The player is required to defeat a miniboss, a strong monster, every floor. The player is initially armed with only a dagger, having to defeat enemies with melee combat, and gradually gains access to more powerful weapons acquired through in-game currency of gems, which can be earnt from defeating bosses/finding loot in dungeons. Players also gain access to armor that generally reduce damage taken, and accessories that assist the player in various ways.

Traps can affect players, but can be also used against enemies:

55. Virtual Interface: Screen is neat, player health and items are shown above, music rhythm is shown below, visited rooms are shown on a minimap and monsters have their health shown directly above.

57. Feedback: All monsters hop when they move, and emit sounds when damaged/defeated. It makes the game alive, acting always and only with the flow of the music.

What may need improvement:

27. Skill: “Rather steep learning curve”/”may not be suitable” for most players, rules are harsh. Players get damaged easily when they miss a beat when trying to kill an enemy, or does not react to environment on time due to the fast tempo of the music. The player (and all monsters) may only make a move on each beat of the music, extra moves will be ignored, and missing a beat may be disadvantageous for the player in certain situations. Although the player can damage/defeat enemies with their dagger, they need to be careful not to get hit by monsters as these monsters move/attack in a pattern with the beat of the music as well. The game may boil down to a skill wall when the player is completely unable to cope with the new level’s enemies, or its fast music tempo, requiring the player to practice before gaining a single bit of progress.

Example (Red Dragon). This enemy has a powerful beam attack which many players may struggle to avoid:

A Short Hike – a journey full of cuteness

Claire finally reached the top of the mountain! The view is EPIC up there.

Description

A Short Hike, which received the Seumas McNally Grand Prize, is a relaxing 3D adventure and action game.

The main character, Claire, traveled to the Hawk Peak Provincial Park with her parents for a vacation. The player can explore the harmonious mountainside landscapes freely, chatting with people along the trails, hike, climb the walls, and even glide through the region, mingling with the wind. Walk around the island, chatting with others, discover coins, shells and treasures, and try to unveil the mystery of the island!

Game’s website: http://ashorthike.com/

YouTube gameplay demo: https://www.youtube.com/watchv=qsA5p0MKdoM

I would like to analysis the game with the following lenses:

Lens #7: Elemental Tetrad

  • Mechanics

There is a variety of actions that a user could perform. She can move in four directions, jump, glide in the air, pick coins or shells from the ground, talk with others, and climb the walls with limited stamina.

When the user equips with tools, she can perform special actions. For instance, when the user holds a bucket, she can fetch water and sprinkle a specific area of soil. When the user picks a stick, she can hit movable beach balls and even play ‘stickball’ with others.

  • Story

This game neither has a sequential storyline which requires the player to follow, nor having a leveling system which may cause changes in difficulty or modification of the environment, etc. The main goal of the mini-game is to reach Hawk Peak, which is the top of the mountain. The message is clear: When we reach out and explore the world, we can experience great things along the way.

  • Aesthetics

The pixel art style applied in this game creates a dreamlike, foggy scene, and the light background music mainly played by piano and violin. These facilitate the generation of a calm and delighted mood and a strong sense of serenity.

The music and the graphics form a pleasant environment which makes the exploration process full of joy.

  • Technology

This game runs on Windows, Linux and Mac OS. A keyboard and monitor are required to play the game with the best experience.

Lens #4: The Lens of Curiosity

Although the main goal of this game is reaching the top of the mountain, as the player wandering around the site, she meets different animals, and they might teach her a skill such as fishing, or even give her treasure maps and hints that there are other mysteries around this island. The players will have high incentives to keep travel around the island and unveil the mystery of the island, even after reaching the top of the mountain.

Lens #1: The Lens of Essential Experience

After playing the game, I would command it as a very relaxing experience. The light music and the pixel artworks with cute style made me feel like I am having a happy vacation and I revived my inner-child and made explorations in the game. The sense of serenity generated by the graphics and the music are essential factors that make the game excellent.

Lens #27: The Lens of Skill

There are only a few skills required for playing the game. Players only need to use the arrow keys, z-key, x-key, and the spacebar to perform all the motions for the character, including climbing, chatting, gliding, swimming, running, picking up an object, etc. Skills that are related to motions are dominant in this game since the main goal of the character is to climb to the top of the mountain, and these skills are helpful for the player to explore various regions. Since this is a sole game, no unfairness between players could exist.

The controls are simple and intuitive, and some characters will teach the player how to perform the motions. In my opinion, the skill level required is suitable for this simple, relaxing game.

Lens #45: The Lens of Imagination

The players can immediately relate their experience in visiting country parks to this game since there are a host of natural landscapes including hills, rivers, waterfalls, forests, etc. There is not much imagination involved in this gameplay in terms of the environment.

Since this is a pixel game, it is hard to show the detailed facial expressions of the characters. However, by using intonations in the character’s speech, the player can identify the mood of the characters. Some NPCs even give the player some hints that there are treasures located in this park, which inspire the player’s thoughts about heading to the unknown areas.

Lens #31: The Lens of Challenge

The main challenges involved in the game is trying to reach a certain part of the area with limited abilities. For instance, the player needs to climb up a wall with limited stamina, or the player needs to go across a broken bridge with a combination of skills, including gliding and climbing. The difficulty is just right, the challenges do accommodate a variety of skills, but the variety of challenges is limited since the game is only about exploring in a huge park.

If you want to be relaxed, meet cute animals and admire the beauty of nature, this game is for you!

Subnautica

Subnautica Cover Shot

Description

Subnautica shoots you down onto an ocean planet, stranded, and the only thing that separates you from the deep dark abyss that is the ocean is your lifepod. You are the only survivor, and your goal is to survive the unknown and somehow, in some way, escape.

This is a first-person survival and adventure game, set in a mostly underwater environment. Players are able to explore the open world, collecting resources to create tools, buildings, and even underwater vehicles, while completing different tasks and triggering storyline advancements.

Weblinks

Game site: http://subnauticagame.com/

Gameplay demo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i9FTfbDeN4Q

The Elemental Tetrad:

Mechanics:

Played in first person, Subnautica has a standard and intuitive exploration mechanic. Players have the freedom of swimming through the ocean in three dimensions, and are able to interact with the environment through grabbing or hitting objects.

As a mostly underwater game, the player also has “needs”, such as food, water, and most important of all, oxygen. Food and water is easily replenished through making use of the abundant sources in the ocean. On the other hand, oxygen can be replenished through either surfacing from the ocean, or later in the game, through vehicles that the player constructs.

The player also constantly constructs new equipment to improve themselves, which allows for exploration further and deeper into the ocean, which subsequently unlocks new content for storyline progression.

Story:

The world of Subnautica takes place in the futuristic setting where humans have gone beyond the solar system, and begun to colonise other worlds. Your ship has been sent to a particular star system in search of a ship lost ten years ago when it crashed on a planet 4546B. Upon reaching orbit, your ship was struck down by a mysterious energy pulse, leaving you stranded on the planet as the sole survivor.

The story was told through PDA records left by past survivors, as well as interactions that happen between the player and the PDA’s AI. This does not create an information dump on the player, and allows them to experience the story as they proceed through the world at their own pace.

Technology:

Subnautica was developed with the Unity Engine, and is available on both Windows and macOS, a blessing for macOS users.

Aesthetics:

The ocean world of Subnautica is a gigantic handcrafted map, which consists of a large variety of biomes throughout the world that have their own flair that doesn’t get old. There are also biome-specific enemies which make the experience more interesting, even for long-time players.

Lens 6: Curiosity

The game piques the player’s interest with the presence of eye-catching objects or creatures that the player might find. Chase it down too much though, and you might actually end up running out of oxygen, or get chased by an unexpected creature.

With blueprints that are scattered around the ocean, players can’t help but be curious about the purpose of the tool that it unlocks for them, and the places that the new equipment might bring them in their journey into the depths of the ocean.

Lens 27: Time

Subnautica does not force players to complete any tasks or missions within any sort of time constraints, which allows players to move on whenever they feel well prepared enough. However, personally this might end up making the gameplay longer than necessary. The game might feel too boring if the story is not driven fast enough, especially if the player does not know what else to do and end up wandering aimlessly without progress for too long.

This does have its benefits, as players can choose to farm for resources early on to make themselves more well prepared for the dangers that may arise later on.

Lens 32: Goals

The game leads the player to its goal through quest beacons which direct them to further the storyline. Furthermore, the crafting system for Subnautica also allows the player to set their own goals; to collect materials for the equipment or tool that they might be hoping to obtain, or even to defeat the creature they could not defeat before.

Lens 94: Atmosphere

Light penetrating the shallow waters create a warm and safe environment in the early game in the biome where the player starts out. Different biomes may also have special lighting and terrain, which can evoke a sense of awe in the player visiting them for the first time. As the exploration gets further away and deeper, different features start to show, most notably the drop in visibility in deeper regions. This pairs extremely well with the uncertainty of deep ocean creatures which may be lurking in the hidden depths.

The sound effects enhance the experience further, adding environmental sounds and even the roars of the marine creatures, which definitely add to the feeling of terror when you are exploring the deep darkness and trying your best to stay alive.

VR/MR Review

VR – I think my most preferred device is the Oculus Quest. Similar to what the others have mentioned, I like how it is not connected to a PC. I feel this is important as the user will not be able to see anything in the physical world when wearing the headset, and tripping over wires is a likely accident that might happen if one is not careful. However, I have to add that it might be a little bit uncomfortable when it came to wearing it. I tried it once and it felt like it was drooping forwards despite adjusting the straps a number of times. Despite that, I still quite like this headset as it is easy to learn how to use it and the hand controllers are intuitive to use.

MR – I think my most preferred device is Microsoft’s Hololens 2. First of all, it has a very sleek look and seems less bulky compared to other devices in the market. Additionally, I also quite like how the design allows the user to be able to “flip up” the headset. It makes it very convenient to switch between seeing in mixed reality and the real physical world. It is also clear that users can wear spectacles when using this headset. During my internship last summer at a VR company, I helped out in a number of outreach events and I realised there is a common misconception that one has to remove their spectacles whenever they have to put on such headsets. Besides the technical specs, I feel that the design of the headset is also integral in attracting one to want to buy it, as well as ensuring the user is comfortable and enjoys using it.

Credits: Pictures obtained from Google Images

VR/MR Review

Regarding VR headsets, Oculus and VIVE are the more well-known headsets out there. While the idea of VR dates back as early as the 1860s and that the first head-mounted display being made in 1968, it was not till 2010 that VR truly starts to gain widespread public attention.

While VR has its application in fields such as medical and military, it was in the gaming sector, where it truly stands out. Based on this train of thought, it made sense to create VR devices that caters to gaming instead of other fields.

Oculus being one of the frontrunner in the VR gaming sector meant that there is a lot of support available for it be it game titles or profits from selling its device. Additional revenue meant that there is a better ability to come up with better versions of VR headsets.

Oculus Quest VR Headset

While I do not have a specific favorite VR Headset to say, Oculus Quest is likely to be the head set I will be purchasing if I decided to get start with VR now. Asides from the wide plethora of gaming titles available for Oculus products and being wide priced relative to its capabilities and utilities, there are certain specifications that made Oculus Quest stands out from the rest of the headsets.

The first and foremost would be that it is a standalone VR headset. This meant that it is wireless and users do not have to risk tripping over the wires while using the device.

The second standout function it having 6 Degrees of Freedom and that is a pretty big plus. The problem with 3 Degrees of Freedom headsets is that it can only track your head orientation and does not track the position of the headset. Having 6 Degrees of Freedom, Occulus Quest can provide a more immersive experience by giving the feeling that you are actively in the VR world rather than being stuck to a fixed spot only being able to rotate your head and limited to the movements of the controllers.

However, what the Oculus Quest lacks is built in earphones. This meant that there is a need for a additional earpiece or headphone to be plugged in the Oculus Quest itself.

In this aspect based purely on technical specs alone, HTC VIVE FOCUS would be a better device given that it has built in microphone and speakers and also have the functions mentioned above. The downer to this device is that it has a relative high price. Since earpieces are pretty common nowadays, not having built in headphones is not necessarily a negative.

Image result for hololens 2
Person wearing Microsoft HoloLens 2

Mixed Reality is a relatively new concept, where the first time I have heard of it was in the 1st lecture itself. While there are a number of MR headsets out there, HoloLens 2 stands out compared to the rest of the crowd.

One of the more standout features is the futuristic feel to the headset. In Sci-Fi shows, movies and stories, we have heard from time to time that people can just interact with holograms out of thin air and the HoloLens 2 is basically that except for the need of having the headset of course.

The headset is proclaimed to be pretty comfortable even for people wearing spectacles. It would be pretty hard to be immersed in the experience if you are constantly being annoyed with the headset itself.

Favourite VR and MR headsets

Favourite VR headset: Valve Index

Valve Index (full kit)

My favourite VR headset is the Valve Index. Priced at $1000, it costs more than twice as much as an Oculus Rift or an HTC Vive, but it does come with some pretty cool specs. It has a resolution of 1440×1600 per eye with a 120Hz refresh rate (higher than the average 90Hz in many headsets). It also features an estimated 130 degree field of view.

While the display specs are good, I am most excited about its unique controllers! They are able to track even individual finger movements! With these controllers, it’s fully possible to reach out and grab an object in virtual reality instead of relying on abstractions that do the grabbing for you. You can watch the finger tracking in action in this YouTube video.

The second thing that I quite like about the Valve Index is the audio system. Instead of headphones that rest over the ears, there is a pair of speakers that sit some distance from the ears. I personally prefer listening to music and game audio on speakers because it’s more comfortable for me, so this is another feature of the Valve Index that would compel me to buy it.

The speakers on the Valve Index rest a distance from the ears. No direct contact is made.

Favourite MR headset: HoloLens 2

HoloLens 2

The HoloLens 2 is one of the most advanced Mixed Reality headsets available now. It is also a rather expensive device, with each unit costing $3,500! At that price tag, it is clear that the HoloLens 2 is targeted at companies and professionals.

Based on reviews written by people who have actually tried out the HoloLens 2, it provides an immersive experience in mixed reality for the wearer. Interaction with virtual objects is seamless, and the objects respond as if they are real objects.

The HoloLens 2 has a visor that can be flipped up when the wearer wants to exit from the mixed reality. The visor has an ergonomic design aimed to promote comfort when wearing the device. It even slides over prescription eyeglasses, making it possible for myopic people to use the HoloLens 2 without having to be blind as a bat. As someone who wears eyeglasses, I appreciate Microsoft’s effort in designing the headset to allow us to comfortably keep our eyeglasses on.

The HoloLens 2 visor can go over prescription eyeglasses comfortably.

VR/MR Headset Review

The Oculus Quest headset is my preferred VR headset in the market currently as it includes many desirable features. Firstly, It is a standalone product which allows ease of movement and no need for connecting wires. It has the ability to rival PC powered VR experience but is less expensive because of the lack of additional gadgets and wireds needed to be connect to the equipment.

Since there are two motion controllers, the Quest offers six degrees of freedom tracking. This implies that the user is able to walk around, crouch or bend comfortably in the VR environment. The user comfort has also been rated to be extremely high for this device as it is quite light on the head and has foam inner lining around the goggles. In terms of resolution, it is also superior to many other headsets (1,440 by 1,600 per eye).

My favorite MR headset would be the Magic Leap One headset. The main selling point of this device is that it uses Light Field technology. This makes it extremely usable and comfortable which also means that it may be more useful in integrating the technology into commercial and real life usage ( incorporating the real world is one of the aspects of MR that is very important to me). The device uses advanced eye tracking and even uses blinks as a control function for the user. Magic Leap One uses Interchangable components which allows greater user comfort experience. There is a lot of funding, around 2 billion, for this product which my allow it to develop faster than other products on the market.

One Magic Leap - VR/AR

resources:

https://www.techradar.com/sg/reviews/oculus-quest-review

Review of VR/AR/MR Headsets

VR/AR/MR is still in its relative infancy. While significant strides have been made in terms of technological improvements and availability of content, it is still seen as a niche.

I’ve only tried two VR/AR/MR headsets, namely Microsoft Hololens 1 and Google Cardboard (doesn’t really count, I don’t think but works well enough for a small introduction to VR, if you can’t afford a full-scale headset.)

But enough about me, here are my thoughts on the VR/AR/MR scene.

Latest Devices on the Market (not exhaustive)

HTC Vive Pro
Steam Index
Oculus Rift S
Oculus Quest
Sony Playstation VR
Microsoft Hololens 2
Samsung Odyssey+
HP Reverb Pro
Pimax 5K Plus

Preferred Devices

For VR: Oculus Rift S

Image result for oculus rift s

This is a subjective opinion, but I personally prefer the Oculus Rift S. I haven’t actually tried any VR headset, so my opinion might be invalid, and is based on research and watching others use the headsets on YouTube. I feel that to have an informed opinion, you got to try them out yourself in person. The Oculus Rift S is affordable, which is big if you want to mass market it to consumers and bring it out of the niche it’s currently in. It is a well-rounded headset, in terms of having better lenses, better controllers and better tracking for the price point. It also doesn’t rely on base stations, which dramatically increases portability.

Having cutting edge features is not going to help the scene if no one’s buying headsets, and so I believe lower cost headsets with features that are just good enough for immersion is the gateway for VR to become more popular. So while other headsets might feature higher FoV/framerates or better displays, it’s wise to be price conscious because VR is a fast moving field and the devices of today might be obsolete really quick because of rapid innovations in VR tech, and so that is why I elected to go with the Oculus Rift S.

For AR/MR: Microsoft Hololens 2

Image result for microsoft hololens 2

I consider Hololens 2 to be the world’s most pre-eminent MR headset. The problem with AR/MR today, similar to VR — is the ubiquity and accessibility of devices to the masses. Make no mistake, the Hololens 2 is not a consumer-grade device, but targeted towards developers instead, priced accordingly.

Since I’ve only personally ever used the Hololens 1, I cannot accurately say how the experience of Hololens 2 would be. One of my issues with Hololens 1 was it’s fairly limited field of view, which is addressed by Hololens 2 with its larger field of view.

The headset is accurate in tracking the real world. The virtual objects placed in the environment seems like they’re really there, and there’s no drifts or deviations in placement. I remember playing a game (a tech demo really) and they had robot drones flying all around the mapped room, and clinging onto the walls, firing at you. I thought that was pretty cool. You can also do random things like putting up YouTube videos on a wall in your office, or open a browser.

MR has a ton of potential use cases, for consumers and enterprises alike and Microsoft is well-placed to be the driving force and catalyst to propel innovation and generate interest in the field with its Hololens 2 offerings.

Conclusion

It’s an exciting time for VR/MR/AR, and maybe 2020 will be the year it all breaks out and becomes the next big thing, and maybe we’ll see VR/MR/AR be common place just like the smartphone revolution, and to a smaller extent — the smartwatch revolution.

The future is nigh.

My idealisation of VR and XR

Admittedly, my experience with VR, AR, and XR is rather limited – I have only tried VR and AR once or twice, and I have not had the opportunity to experience XR yet. Therefore, it is really difficult to dictate any device as a ‘favourite’ without having experienced them all. That said, I still have my own ideas and perceptions of what I desire with these devices. Hence what I write here will be a subjective analysis of the products based on my understanding of the devices and the ideas/technologies they represent.

Favourite VR Device

To me, the outstanding feature of a VR device is not necessarily how well the virtual world can be presented to the user – truth to be told, I think a good monitor(s) can really help with immersion. Instead, when I think of innovation in VR, I think of the controller. VR allows users the capabilities of 3-Dimensional inputs, with movements no longer restricted to just 2 dimensions. So what is the next step?

Image result for valve index controllers

Presenting the Valve Index and its unique controllers! Unlike most of the controllers on the market right now, these controllers do not just track your movements, but they track your fingers too! This allows for much more sophisticated controls – you can now pick up a ball just like in real life, instead of just pressing down on a button. With the controller straps, you could also go hands-free allowing actions users to ‘throw’ objects around naturally. While there has definitely been progress in hand-tracking technologies (such as with the Oculus Quest), I feel that the controller coupled with the hand tracking would allow for seamless transitions in gameplay/interactions between moving a character and performing hand gestures. Lest you end up with weird control schemes like in the Xbox Kinect, where users could use arm gestures naturally, but had to resort to doing weird actions with their bodies to move around (see: Star Wars Kinect).

While I have many thoughts about the other VR devices in the market, I think a short and concise summary of the product and my thoughts should suffice. Ranking from my favourite (after the Valve Index) to least favourite, they are:

Oculus Quest: A standalone VR headset with a relatively cheap price can go a long way in making VR very accessible. Even its short battery life has a silver lining – it is important to rest your eyes once in a while! Also, hand tracking!

PlayStation VR: Another accessible VR headset, that is if you already own a PlayStation 4 console. As the power of the hardware is limited by the PS4, it means that all the software that you buy can be played without any performance issues from having a weak CPU. With the support of Sony, the PlayStation VR also feature an extensive collection of high-quality games to play.

Oculus Rift S: The ‘OG’ VR headset is still quite decent, but the other options either have something unique, or are just more accessible. It also features a cable that helps to provide more power to the headset, but I can see that being a hinderance when users are trying to use the device.

Nintendo Switch VR Kit: While I am a big fan of the creative approach that Nintendo used to enter the VR market, the fact that you have to physically hold the ‘headset’ to your face the entire time looks really, really tiring. It also doesn’t help that it has a very limited library of games. Despite the ability to play older games with a new perspective (ie. The Legend Of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey), it is hard to really judge how influential the new perspective can be without trying it out myself.

Favourite XR Device

On to XR, however, I am much less uninformed about the technology here. I wish I have had a chance to try out one of these products at least once, but I haven’t had the luck. To me, I think XR should be a device that one can use to enhance their daily lives, and I think the demo for Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 really sold it for me. Featuring hand-tracking (which I have already mentioned how much of a gamechanger it could be above), eye-tracking and voice-commands, it seems as though there are many different ways to control and enhance whatever the user is doing. Best of all (not really, but still pretty significant), it features a flip-visor, so that users can easily switch between the mixed reality and… reality without the hassle of removing the headset. Of course, the price is pretty steep, but if we’re looking at my favourite XR headset, this is pretty much what I want XR to be and more.

Image result for hololens 2

Once again, here are the other noteworthy XR devices ranked (after the Microsoft HoloLens 2) as follows:

Oculus Quest: I like it because it can do both VR AND XR, which really gives the user a lot of flexibility on how they want to use the device. Once again, my bias of hand-tracking is still present and swaying my opinions, especially for XR devices, since the user’s own body should be part of the mixed reality.

Magic Leap 1: Despite the lack of hand-tracking, the Magic Leap 1 does feature eye-tracking and voice commands, which still goes a long way in helping users interact with the virtual elements around them. Moreover, the Magic Leap 1 is also available with prescription lenses, which can prove to be helpful to someone like myself. However, the lower field of view compared to the HoloLens 2 seems to play a big part in ruining one’s immersion.

RealWear HMT-1: The RealWear HMT-1 is clearly designed for industrial workers, and while I can definitely see its use and impact, it is simply not what I am looking for in a XR headset. That said, I have to say that aesthetics and functionality wise, I love how the headset is part of a safety helmet, further emphasising what it is for.