Monday, March 28, 2011

Initial 3DS Impression

Now that I've spent a few hours messing around with my shiny new 3DS, I thought I'd share some of my thoughts about it. Maybe this will encourage some of you to go out and buy one.

Things You Can Do With The 3DS Hardware Right Out Of The Box (After The Excruciating Initial Battery Charge):

1. Take 3D photos of yourself and anything else. These are somewhat nifty but on the gimmicky side, considering the only way to view them is on a 3DS and the resolution of the camera is quite low.

2. Record and edit short audio clips, or listen to music from your SD card (2GB card included with system.

3. Play AR Games with the AR cards included with the system. These include a target shooting range, and fishing game that are projected onto any surface you place the card on. One of the coolest things about this is how it makes the surface you're playing on appear to bend and stretch in reaction to the game. These are generally fun little toys that amuse for short periods of time.

4. The oddly named Face Raiders is a more fun AR-type game that doesn't require aiming the camera at a card on a flat surface. It imports pictures of your face (and friend's faces) and maps them onto little floating orbs. These are then cartoonishly animated (which is much funnier in play than it sounds), as they attack the screen. You have to shoot at them to score points while you move the DS around. The camera just uses your surroundings as the background, so you have to aim the DS all around you to hit the different enemies. There are even boss battles, and it keeps track of your stats.

5. Create Miis, just like on the Wii. But now there are a few more options to choose from, and more to do with them. In addition to trading Miis with other players and importing them into select games, there are now a couple small bonus games included into the Mii package itself. These include collecting puzzle pieces to form 3D Nintendo-themed images, and a little RPG adventure in which you fight ghosts to rescue your Mii. In order to play these games you need to collect Miis from other players to help you. This is done simply by leaving your system in sleep mode. If it comes within range of another 3DS, they will trade Miis and other information (more on this later.

6. The initial system update downloaded OK GO's 3D music video "White Knuckles" to the menu screen, which was a sweet little bonus. But it says this will be erased with the next system update (which I believe is scheduled for May). Still pretty cool.

7. While in sleep mode, the 3DS records your steps like a pedometer. Every 100 steps earns you a play coin. These can be used for lots of things, including buying items in certain games (like character statues in Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition), or buying random Miis for use in the Mii mini games. This is one of those features that future developers can use to add more content to their games, and I'm really interested to see how some of them incorporate it.

These are some of the main features I've enjoyed just with the system alone.

As for the games, I picked up two: Nintendogs + Cats and Super Street Fighter IV.

I've spent more time with the latter so far. I won't get into much of a game review (it's great), but I wanted to mention how it uses some of the unique 3DS features. I mentioned that you can use play coins to buy character figurines in the game. These are based on each of the 30-something characters in the game, and come in different levels with varying stats. You can then choose which ones you want on your roster (five total), and save this information to the system. If you then come into contact with another 3DS owner who has this game, your figures will auto battle, and you will see the results later and earn rewards. This happens automatically, even if you don't have that particular game in the system.

I imagine a lot of games are going to use a variation of this StreetPass system in the future. It's an exciting prospect that you can collect stuff for any number of games just while traveling around with your system in sleep mode. This will get better as more people own the system and more games are released to implement it.

Nintendogs + Cats is essentially a pet simulator. There are three different versions, each with its own initial selection of seven dog breeds (though they can all be unlocked eventually on any of the games). I went with the French Bulldog edition (because those things are freakin' cute!). After selecting my dog (a female Frenchie), I brought her home and named her Ponyo. You name your dog by recording yourself saying it a few times until it understands. This is also how you can teach your dogs tricks by voice command. Let me say, that as cheesy as this sounds (and I strongly resisted buying the last incarnation of this game on the DS), it is surprisingly addictive. I've already found myself talking to the dog far more than just the few commands it recognizes. I'm not sure what that says about me.

You can take your dog for a walk, go shopping for all sorts of needs and accessories, and enter it in competition. You can eventually have up to three animals at a time (I understand the cats are less impressive and more of an after thought, though).You can also use the AR cards to snap photos of your pets in the real world - I've got a couple of Ponyo sitting in the palm of my hand. And you can unlock new breeds and items with the StreetPass mode.

I haven't spent as much time with this game yet, but it is fascinating having a little virtual pet that responds to my voice.

As for the 3D, my experience so far has been mixed. In many cases it comes off as a bit gimmicky (much like 3D movies), but it is nonetheless a very cool effect. No glasses required.

For action games like Street Fighter it's sometimes easier just to turn the 3D off. Especially if your vigorous button mashing jostles the screen too much. If you're not looking directly straight at the screen from the right distance it gets askew. I also noticed this during the AR games. It can be difficult keep the system the proper distance from the AR card while at the same time keeping the screen at the correct angle for your eyes. However, it was very cool while playing Face Raiders. Overall, I'm curious to see how future games make the 3D screen actually necessary, other than just a very pretty effect. I do like Ponyo poking her cute little nose out at me, though.
What? What are you all looking at?

I have to say I am incredibly pleased with the 3DS so far, as I was with the regular DS. The graphics are much improved. The AR has a lot of potential. The StreetPass feature is going to add tons of extra value to future games. And online gaming is much improved.

Each 3DS system will have a friend code that works for ALL GAMES as oppossed to the previous Nintendo strategy where each game required its own friend code to be traded. Your system will also alert you when friends are online and what they are playing, allowing you to set up games easier.

If you are on the fence about getting a 3DS I would say go for it. Even if the 3D turns out to be a gimmick, it is still a very pretty one. And everything else is such an improvement over the original DS, which was a tremendous system. Future updates are going to add a simple web browser, and a store for downloadable games (including old GameBoy and Game Gear games, similar to the Wii's Virtual Console).

It Has Begun...

As with the Wii before it, early reports of 3DS-related maladies are already beginning to hit the internet, apparently. I expected this to happen.

For several months after the Wii's release, stories and images of black eyes and broken tv sets from errant Wii remotes were everywhere.

With the impending release of their latest system I wondered how long it would take for the eye strain and brain damage complaints to appear; despite abundant warnings - on the packaging, on the menu screen, and pretty much everywhere - about prolonged use of the 3DS (not to mention a prominent switch that just turns the 3D effect off).

I haven't had any trouble so far, but I've only used the 3DS in short spurts since getting it yesterday. But I generally don't have trouble with 3D movies or motion sickness in general, so I probably have a higher threshold then some.

Nintendo claims that taking a short break will alleviate any problems, and that there is no long term damage. But no one knows how an all day 3D marathon will effect people yet.
My theory is that it could look something like this:

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

This Would Really Tie The Wall Together...

Abide is one of the best paintings I've ever seen:

Oh, that expression on the Dude's face. I wouldn't mind having a painting of just that.

[via Laughing Squid]

Monday, March 21, 2011

Art For Japan

Ransom Notes has a couple links to some interesting art prints you can buy and help benefit relief in Japan.
They include a red version of Alex Pardee's "Guilty Smurf":

I bought this one:

[via Boing Boing]


Here is an awesome short film about a robot named Blinky. He's friendly!

Blinky™ from Ruairi Robinson on Vimeo.

[via io9]

Sunday, March 20, 2011

To Boldly Go...

Excellent things are in store for the second season of Star Trek: The Continuing Mission! Season one was a tremendous amount of fun for me. The work continues to be a labor of love for everyone involved. It's a small, dedicated crew. For that reason it sometimes falls behind schedule, but it's only so the final product can be as good as possible.

One of the major changes you'll notice is that I've gotten a bit of a promotion. In season one I played science officer Lt. Stephen Knight (as well as one or two other smaller guest spots). I enjoy playing Knight, although the character hasn't had a chance to shine quite yet. Fortunately, Knight gets some more action in the season two premier. But he will be voiced by another actor.

I will be playing Captain Paul Edwards in future episodes of the show. I'm honored to have been chosen to play the head of the Montana's crew, after the fine work that Tim Renshaw did in season one. My characterization will be a little different (as my voice is different), but the writing and spirit remains true to the original character.

Also, listen for Dani in a guest role!

I'm happy to post the brand new trailer for episode one, entitled "Earth":

We're starting off with a bit of a wacky episode, which is a lot of fun. Star Trek can't be serious all the time. Some of my favorite classic episodes are ones where the characters are just cutting loose and having a good time.

Later in the season there are going to be some other great episodes, which I can't wait to hear.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Ultimate Home Videos

TED talks are always impressive, but this is one of the best I've ever seen. An MIT researcher wired his home to record 90,000 hours of audio and video. He did this to study his baby son learning how to speak. The data they are pulling out of this experiment is pretty remarkable and has much larger implications than they originally intended.
But this video gets me on a very human level. Some of the family moments, including an audio time-lapse of his son learning to say "water", gave me chills.

[via Boing Boing]