Monday, 29 August 2016

I've changed my opinion on VR/AR headsets

Oculus Rift Headset
I’ve just finished watching a live Facebook Q&A in Rome, I’ve left a link in case you wanted to check it out yourself. About half way through Mark Zuckerberg was answering a question about how people use Facebook when he made a quick comment about virtual reality and it got me thinking.

So, even though nobody asked for it, here’s my opinion on Augmented and Virtual Reality. :P

If you don’t know Augmented reality is a view of reality in which computer generated elements such as video, graphics, 3D models etc are superimposed into our physical reality, sometimes referred to as meatspace. Pokémon Go has an example of an AR app. Virtual reality is purely a reality made up of computer generated elements usually used to replicate a real environment.

Pokemon Go Augmented Reality View

Augmented and virtual reality headsets are here and I think, they’re here to stay. I usually have a good idea about what technology trends are going to stick and which will fade away. When Microsoft announced the Kinect I could see the practical applications for a lot of things but gaming wasn’t one of them. When 3D TVs and Google Glass were introduced I remember laughing in disbelief. Then came along Oculus.

I couldn’t see why anyone would want to wear a VR headset while doing anything. You look ridiculous and you know it. With previous attempts like Nintendo's virtual boy I was sure this would be a flop. Even as other companies like Google,  HTC, and Samsung started working on their prototype headsets I still thought it was a mistake. I had tried out the Oculus development kit 1 (DK1) and while it was immersive, wearing it for too long gave me and others headaches.

Then Late Panda went to GDC and holy crap, VR, was everywhere! I had time to explore all the different headsets, except PlayStation VR for scheduling reasons. I got to see the progress that had been made with the Oculus Rift since 2014, and even though the Oculus had a rocky launch I believe the technology that will only improve over time. like phones, I don’t think our headsets be disappearing any time soon.

Hololens Headset

Then there’s Augmented Reality headsets. I’ve never experiences donning one of these devices but it’s clear to me, that this will be the future of mobile computing. Surprisingly by the time I learned about AR headsets my opinions about appearances had subsided somewhat. Don’t get me wrong, they still look dumb resting on your head but i could see the point in them immediately. Microsoft's Hololens does have its fair share of issues but it’s a self-contained system, which means no wires to tie you to a PC or to get tangled up in, and I fully expect the issues to be ironed out in the future. I’m also expecting a Google Glass comeback that’s slightly more practical than it’s predecessor, maybe they’ll do something with Magic Leap.

Seriously, what the hell is Magic Leap! I still don't know!!

I’m just hoping the future isn’t filled with unnecessarily slow animations and copious amounts of hand gestures when trying to activate intangible buttons, which is the future depicted in this vision of 2025 by Microsoft.

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I hope you enjoyed that,
Ellie xx

"We are stuck with technology when what we really want is just stuff that works." – Douglas Adams

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

How freemium is destroying the games industry

Today I thought I would address the elephant in the games industry, freemium mobile games.

In the past few years mobile games made a major shift, gone are the days where you would purchase a mobile game for £2.99, now game companies have introduced the “Freemium” game model. You download the game for free but embedded into the game are “Microtransaction” where the player can purchase in-game currency with real money. This form of revenue generation can be effective when handled correctly however it has become standard and exploited in the worst possible way. Companies cater to what we call “Whales” who happily spend more and more in the game to become better than all the other players. This causes other players who refuse to purchase the currency to become frustrated with the game and leave, meaning the “Whales” no longer have anyone to over-power with their “paid-to-win” gear causing them to leave the game.

This game model is very damaging for both the game itself and the entire mobile gaming industry. There are many exploitations that utilise a base understanding of human psychology to keep you playing and buying. Having an in-game currency like gemstones or coins creates a distance between spending real currency, similar to credit or debit card purchases the money you spend does not leave your hand directly so there is less impact from the purchase. Games also use poor exchange rates for the in-game currency having £3.99 buy you 650 gemstones while an in-game item costs 40 gemstones it becomes very difficult for anyone to know actually how much they are spending per item. Some games also use dynamic pricing meaning that some players pay more for items than others do, for example a “whale” may pay £3.99 for 650 gemstones while someone who very rarely plays the game may pay only £2.99 for 650 gemstones this both incentivises the rare player to keep coming back but also generates high revenue from the “whale” who happily pays the increased price without realising.

If you want to hear more about these exploitations watch this video from Vox guest starring Jamie Madigan from the Psychology of Video Games. There is a major focus on Pokemon Go during the video, while that game did initially handle the microtransactions very well the most recent update makes all pokemon harder to catch meaning more pokeballs are used forcing the player to either visit more pokestops in the hopes they can collect more or purchase more from the store.

Moving away from the exploitations of the freemium model, I will touch on incentives in games. Using Burrhus Frederic Skinner method of operant conditioning players can be incentivised to continue playing a game that long ago lost its meaning. Games like World of Warcraft or Farmville use in-game mechanics to keep the player engaged long past the point of enjoyment where the player finds themselves saying “just one more level” or “this plant is almost ready” only to realise later they wasted their time on a task that they didn’t find enjoyable at the time for some minor reward.

The Extra Credits video “The Skinner Box - How Games Condition People to Play More” lists other methods developers can use to keep players engaged in their games. Listed as; mystery, mastery, mental change, narrative, novelty and flow. These are only some of the methods developers can use to create a better player experience while keeping the player engaged.

So what was the point in this rant, was I just attacking the industry? Well no, actually it was something that we at Late Panda realised a long time ago before we started the development of Skorian Tales. We agreed that we couldn’t make these “freemium” or “skinner box” games because in the long term it really harms the industry. We can already see the damage and have first hand experienced these types of games on many occasions and like the vast majority of the players became too frustrated and left.

We want to create games that players can enjoy without feeling obligated to purchase microtransactions, or feel forced to continue playing so they can just get that one last level before they go to bed at 4 a.m.

We created Late Panda in the hope that we could show how a game company could make a title that is both fair for the players while financial profitable for the company itself. That is our dream, our goal.

Thank you all for reading,

You can follow us all over the internet

Thanks for reading,

“A soulless husk of a title, a free to play cow clicking cash vampire that bears little to no resemblance to the original in anyway whatsoever.” - Totalbiscuit on Dungeon Keeper 3 Mobile

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

4TG Games Con 2016

So last weekend Late Panda exhibited at 4TG Games Con 2016 in Aberdeen. This was a new event that set out to celebrate 24 hours of gaming over the 6th and 7th of August. We were invited to exhibit by managing director at SEM Events Ltd Alexa Scott.

This exhibition couldn’t have come at a better time for us as it fell just one week after Resonate in Glasgow so I’d like to call this the last stop in our first ever, despite brief, Scottish tour of Skorian Tales.

The majority of our marketing budget was spent on Resonate so unfortunately we could only attend 4TG for 1 day. To get to Aberdeen we took the 03:15 megabus from Glasgow, slept on the bus for 3 hours and then walked the 3.1 miles to the AECC at 06:40 in the morning. This was honestly the best plan we could come up with at the time so we had to travel light. Our booth was set up with the familiar  Moams, business cards and badges along with simply my laptop.

As we’d arrived at the venue so early (3 hours early) we could go for a wander around the event.
3 hours before opening
We also found BB-8
The event itself was packed with things to do, see and play with. There were board games, retro games, Esports, Youtubers, cosplayers and of course the indie zone.

The feedback we got from everyone who’d played Skorian Tales was the same as at Resonate. You can read our previous blog if you’d like to see how people were reacting to our pre-alpha.

We also had time to network with our fellow indie developers; iSandbox, Kandocorp and Alan Caleb from Dare the Monkey.

iSandbox is a sandbox with a projector above it. They can detect the height of the sand and project a terrain map on top of it so for example you could pile up the sand, the software would detect the pile and render something like a volcano. This is an experience that you really have to play with to get the full impact.


Kandocorp is a 2D multiplayer platformer built in Unity. If you’ve ever played Super Meat boy and thought the levels were too easy this is the game for you!

We were stationed next to Dare the Monkey so whenever things quietened down we would end up chatting about the games industry or Pokémon Go. He’s developed a 2D platformer for children that I’ll link to below.

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I hope you enjoyed that,
Ellie xx

“The only thing standing between you and your goal is the bullshit story you keep telling yourself as to why you can’t achieve it” - Jordan Belfort

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Resonate Total Gaming Expo

We are back!

It’s been awhile since we have done a blog, with the run up to the Resonate Total Gaming Expo last weekend we didn’t have time to write any posts. That said I thought I would talk about the Resonate event this weekend in case you couldn’t make it out.

So in case you are not local to Glasgow or somehow didn’t hear about it, Resonate Total Gaming was a new festival of eSports and gaming at the SECC last weekend. The event featured Minecraft, Fifa, several eSports titles like Rocket League and Independent game studios like us showcasing their games.

In order to prepare to showcase at the event we met several times with the organisers to discuss what we needed to do in order to attend. We also got advice from other industry professionals to help us provide the best possible visitor experience at the expo without us having any prior knowledge of exhibiting.

Just prior to the event we were contacted by The Scottish Sun and interviewed about the Game industry’s growing impact in Scotland, as well as our attendance at the Resonate gaming expo. They published an article online with interviews from us and other game companies in Scotland as well as an article in the Wednesday Scottish Sun, which was a great experience for us. We were also contacted by BBC The Social who requested a live interview during Resonate lead by two YouTubers Silentc0re and MarleyThirteen. If you would like to see this video it can be found on their Facebook page here.

During the event the visitors played our pre-alpha to test the core features of the game, while we describe how the game will play once it is finished and what it will include. Afterwards we asked the players what they liked or disliked about the game, most of which believe the game had promise and would like to play the finished game, with one of the players even giving out a hi-five. If you want to stay updated on the progress of our development then stay tuned to our blogs or follow us on Facebook and Twitter below.

So what comes next for Late Panda?

Well we will be focusing on the development of our first release. It will include several characters and locations as well as creatures to battle. In order to reach this stage however we will need to focus on our development for the next few weeks. Keep up to date with our blog posts and you will see the game develop over time.

You can follow us all over the internet

Thanks for reading,

“If you wait until you feel like doing something, you will likely never accomplish it” -  John C Maxwell