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Old 07-16-2013, 01:59 PM
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Default Ouya: Days 2-6 - The Ouya Gaming Experience

After all of the opinions, the delays and the drama surrounding the Ouya I finally received mine, rather than just do an unboxing or a review I thought I would keep a Journal of my experiences with this little console. So consider this an extended, multi-part review where I?ll dig into everything about the Ouya ?experience? starting with the kickstarter, continuing with the unboxing and today, ending with the actual gaming experience. These are ?Days 2-6?A computing device, be it a PC, SmartPhone or game console is only as good as the software you run on it. The physical design of the console, how well the controller feels in your hands, how quickly it was delivered and all the good intentions of the designers are completely irrelevant if you can't play anything worth playing. At the end of my first day with the console I didn't even get that far after running into problems with the Wi-Fi reception and then the Credit Card requirement before even being allowed to view the console's dashboard. Day 2 started with a trip to Google to see what (if anything) could be done about the Credit Card requirement. As expected, there were a lot of people upset about this and the conventional wisdom on the Ouya forums seemed to state that the easiest passage through was to simply feed it fake information. There was a more technical alternative that seemed like it had more in common with witchcraft than anything else. Not wanting to hunt down a pre-paid card and figuring that I would plan on buying at least one game I caved and just entered my info. And just like that, I was finally allowed access to my Ouya.

The Main Menu is pretty simple; you're given a list of options: PLAY, DISCOVER, MAKE, and MANAGE. They do what you'd expect, "play" is for using games and apps you've downloaded, "discover" is essentially the marketplace where you can browse and download new games and apps, "make" is for those who wish to develop on the Ouya, and "manage" takes you to console and profile settings and configurations. It's worth noting that if you wanted to run any apps that aren't available through the official Ouya store then they must be side loaded (if you don't know what this is, it's a fairly technical method of loading unofficial software on jailbroken or rooted mobile devices). Side loaded apps can only be launched from the "make" section. I haven't attempted this yet myself but speaking with people who have, it doesn't sound simple or streamlined in the slightest.

The discovery menu is the most apparent first stop but I opted to poke around before hitting it up. The "play" menu was completely empty (obviously). The "make" menu had a few options available but none that were really apparent as to what they did. I'll save that for sometime in the future when I'm feeling more industrious. It's nice to know that the options for developing on Ouya are right out in the open like that; even if I did have to give them my credit card to get there. The Manage menu brings you to a sub menu for configuring things like your account, your controllers, the networking etc. Most of these options take you to completely unmodified Android menus, which isn't horrible but you end up seeing things like the option to lock rotation as landscape, not exactly appropriate for something like the Ouya.

The Discover option was my final stop on my tour of the main menu and I was greeted with a large grid of empty squares. It took a good 20 seconds before thumbnail images began to appear for each of the games, and even once they started appearing it was a few minutes before they had all filled in. I chalked this up to a first time load of the marketplace but on subsequent visits it took just as long; this isn't really optimal. While I don't want the console dashboard taking up any more space than is necessary? surely they could figure out some mechanism with which to cache these things that doesn't take up too much space and improves the loading speed. The menu is somewhat reminiscent of Microsofts Metro UI tile system though it doesn't run nearly as smoothly or responsively as that.? There's a delay moving from item to item, combined with the slow to load thumbnails the whole experience has the slight frustration reminiscent of dealing with a slow PC; only this is a brand new device fresh out of the box.

Each row of the discover menu has a different heading, there are lists for "Featured" games and Ouya Exclusive games, a list of games currently "trending". Below that are lists based on the likes of notable people in the gaming world; various developers, Ouya founders, the Penny Arcade guys have their own list. Once you get below a number of these lists you finally get to the bottom where there is a sub-menu to select genre.? At any time you have the option to search but unless you know exactly what you're looking for it's pretty worthless. The strength of any marketplace is how well you can find items that you didn't even know you were looking for. At first glance I liked the haphazard listing of items, it was reminiscent of browsing a retail store and just looking for interesting cover art. I started going through, selecting and downloading any game that seemed interesting.? Like other consoles it only downloads one game at a time and additional titles are added to a queue. I should note that there doesn't seem to be anyway to view your queue or even see what is currently being downloaded. If you happen to see the game on the discover screen you'll see a progress bar at the top of the thumbnail if it's downloading, or a simple red bar if it's on your queue, but if it's not readily visible on the discover screen then who knows whats going on. On more than once occasion games that I had queued up simply never downloaded and I ended up having to go back and instruct Ouya to download them again. Several times when selecting a game to load up it's information page I was presented with an Android error message and a blank page. Exiting the page and re-selecting seemed to fix the issue, it didn't happen frequently enough to be a nuisance but it occurred far too frequently to be dismissed as an anomaly, and it only further detracted from the experience.

Once I picked through the offerings on the discover page I realized that there really didn't seem to be much offered. The Ouya website says there are 245 games (as of this writing) available for Ouya yet I was only seeing the same 20 or so titles repeated over and over again on the discover menu. So Much for discovery, so much for my original impression that I would just browse around the whole store; I was only seeing a very small portion of it. The Ouya website clearly lists ALL of the games and gives you various options for sorting them, I saw a lot of titles that looked great that I didn't even see on the store. At first I thought it might be nice if I could queue up games for download via the website like I can with the Xbox 360 but really I should just have more "discovery" options on the Ouya itself. I honestly didn't browse too many of the "genre" sub-options available but that was mostly due to them being fairly weird and nonsensical. Some options only had one or two titles under them other options were for really nebulous groupings such as? "Dual Stick", "Arcade" or "Retro". I want an option to just view everything, or view a list based on games I've already played, or based on ratings from the community. When the best option is to go to the website on your PC and write down a list of things to search for and download on your console: your console marketplace is poorly designed.

So, are the games any good?

I played a lot of games over the weekend and the answer to that question is: it's a mixed bag. There are some great ports from other platforms that? you've probably already played. Games like Final Fantasy III, You Don't Know Jack, The Bard's Tale, and Sonic The Hedgehog 4. These games really need no introduction or further review. While it's great that big name developers like Square Enix and Sega are supporting the Ouya these aren't exactly games that you would want to buy the Ouya for as you likely already own a device capable of playing them. There are a number of great games from smaller developers that previously only existed on PC or other mobile devices. "Ittle Dew" for instance is a great little title by an indie dev that plays like a comical version of the original Zelda games and previously only available on PC. Then there is "ShadowGun" a 3rd person shooter that actually looks fantastic and shows how far the Ouya can actually go graphically, it previously was only available for iOS. There are other smaller dev titles that have come over too: games like "Super Crate Box", "Canabalt", and "Puddle". These all make great titles that help to add legitimacy to the platform, but none are really compelling reasons to buy the Ouya over just using the device you already own.

As with any game marketplace with a low barrier of entry for developers there is plenty of shovel ware, games that are fun for a few minutes and then completely boring and repetitive, decent clones of more poplar games, poor clones of more popular games, etc. Ports are great but the real reason for buying a console is the exclusives, preferably good exclusives, and Ouya does have some of these too. The most noteworthy titles at this time are "Towerfall" and "Chronoblade". Both are fantastic games. Towerfall plays like a 16 bit version of Smash Bros and is great fun, you and three friends can jump around various arenas shooting arrows at each other. Chronoblade is more of a beat-em-up, the kind with big combos and chain-attacks. It's really fun and graphically looks great. It would have been my first real purchase on Ouya but currently it's just a demo and all you get are two characters and 1 short level. For what it's worth ShadowGun was my actual first purchase. The game's not going to win any awards but I found it fun enough that at the end of the demo the $5 price tag seemed well worth paying to keep playing. While ShadowGun is available for other mobile devices it's the kind of game I can't imagine playing it on anything but a controller and a TV.

I considered purchasing Towerfall as well but at $15 it's a hard sell unless you're planning on playing it a lot in local multiplayer. This brings me to another problem with the Ouya marketplace. You can only ever download the demo. If you want to buy the full version of the game it must be purchased from inside the demo. Unlike other digital marketplaces there doesn't seem to be a standard mechanism for buying games, there's no way to determine price outside of the game, and perhaps most disconcerting,? there is no way to look at your purchase history. Some games are very professional and clearly display prices and purchase options inside their menu. A few games I played; however, made no indication as to their price until I selected the option to buy and was presented with the standard Ouya purchase confirmation, one button press away from being separated from my money. It's also incredibly easy for developers to trick you into triggering the purchase confirmation. This happened to me once when I attempted to select a menu option and a pop up spawned asking me if I wanted to buy the full version as i was pushing the button to select something completely unrelated. Another time I was frustrated with the poor control of one demo and mashed all the face buttons at once which ironically spawned the purchase dialogue, as if I would want to buy a game that I was getting ready to purge from the console. There is an option to require password entry on purchases; something added after owners of early units complained of the potential for errant purchases by children. Even still, I find it troubling that the user interface for actually making purchases is handled nearly completely by the developers and not by Ouya.

Other than games there are a number of apps available for Ouya as well. This includes a number of emulators, Media streamers like Plex, and even some more interesting apps like one that allows you to use your smartphone or tablet over Wi-Fi for text input on the console, and one that allows you to remote play games from your PC. These seem to take a little more technical expertise to get working, the remote PC app had no instructions to speak of and apparently required that I download a companion app to my PC but I couldn't find the relevant information to make it work. I did however download the Twitch TV app and watch some of the live streams for this weekend's EVO Fighting game Championship series. In this regard I feel like the Ouya could be genuinely competitive with the big name consoles. Sure you can do Twitch TV and media streaming on your PS3 or Xbox 360 but those console's marketplaces are so locked down that you'd never find an emulator available without hacking the device, and many of the more popular media encoding formats aren't supported. The Ouya is just a NetFlix app or so away from actually being a superior media and app device than the other console offerings.

Now is the really hard part, the part where I cannot recommend anyone buy this console, at least not yet. Despite the pre-launch debacle with kickstarter backers, despite the problems with Wi-Fi and the problems with the marketplace and the credit card requirement... despite all of that there is a serious, game-breaking problem with the Ouya: controller lag. This was something that apparently was reported with early dev units and I've heard it's a lot better now than it was, but about half of the games I downloaded, even titles that probably would have been a lot of fun, were unplayable due to controller lag. Most of the time this manifests itself in a few milliseconds of delay, mostly unnoticeable, however it seems (especially when the analog sticks are getting heavy use) the Ouya lags behind and essentially buffers your inputs. In some games it was so bad at times I actually had to put the controller down for a few seconds to let it "catch up". Other times it manifests itself with "sticky" analog sticks, where you'd push a direction and then let go but the Ouya thinks you're holding that direction and continues on until you wiggle the stick again. Some games seem to manage this better than others. I played 4 hours of ShadowGun with only mild (manageable) lag before I ran into the problem with the inputs getting backed up and needing a break to catch up. After the one incident it never did it again. Other games like Polarity and Bard's Tale I didn't get 2 minutes into the game and it was doing this along with sticky sticks constantly forcing me to just go play something else. I've even experienced it just navigating the Ouya Dashboard and games with simple graphics that shouldn't be taxing the console at all.? This isn't a problem with the controllers, it seems to be an issue with the console itself. You can use both PS3 and Xbox 360 controllers (I should note that not all games support alternative controllers, and most don't) but the lag appeared present even when using those and even when plugged in directly to the Ouya.

Honestly, the controller lag is heartbreaking, because despite all of it's other flaws, I feel like the Ouya is a great little console. It would potentially make the perfect console for someone who couldn't afford an Xbox 360 or PS3 but still wanted to play some great modern games. It has a lot of potential to fill the need for games that support local multiplayer (many of the games on the marketplace are designed for 2-4 players) something that is sorely lacking from Sony and Microsoft's offerings. And most importantly I feel that the console has overcome it's biggest critique since day one: "just a way to play smartphone games on your TV". Looking at the games available and having played them that actually couldn't be further from the truth, sure there are a number of smartphone games available but the Ouya marketplace has much more in common with the Xbox Live Arcade than the Apple App Store. Sadly all of that is ruined by the controller lag issue. A console is worthless if you can't play any games worth playing, and with often game breaking controller lag, you can't play most games.

I don't regret buying my Ouya, I like the slick bronze case of the Limited Edition, and I still support their goals of trying to make a console platform built around indie game development. I think anyone who wanted to buy one for those reasons probably already has one anyway. But for anyone who was on the fence about it's potential or wanted to play a wait and see approach, you'll have a while longer to wait. I feel like the Ouya is still a "beta", a very good beta, but beta none the less. In a few months maybe they'll have worked out the issues with the console dashboard and purged the console of it's controller lag demons but until then it's still just a great idea chalk full of potential waiting to be unlocked. Hopefully it will get there some day, just not today.... View this article on the HomePage.
Old 07-22-2013, 05:05 PM
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SwiftDeath SwiftDeath is offline
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Default Re: Ouya: Days 2-6 - The Ouya Gaming Experience

Surprised this hasn't been commented on

Anyways Ouya sounded interesting to me assuming the controller lag was addressed as that sounds obnoxious

Saw this today

About Towerfall
"We've made about 2,000 sales so far at $15 each," Thorson said. "So sales have been surprisingly high for a new game on a new console. The game has definitely proven itself on Ouya, I think there's enough demand to warrant bringing it to PC."
So towerfall isn't really going to be Ouya exclusive anymore

A lot of the other numbers and devs seem less positive though
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Old 07-23-2013, 08:48 PM
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comaamen86 comaamen86 is offline
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Default Re: Ouya: Days 2-6 - The Ouya Gaming Experience

good read will you do something like this for xbox one, i like the way it is put across factually and with an impartial view

at swifyt them sales figures blow

Old 07-23-2013, 09:53 PM
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twistedsymphony twistedsymphony is offline
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Default Re: Ouya: Days 2-6 - The Ouya Gaming Experience

Originally Posted by comaamen86 View Post
good read will you do something like this for xbox one, i like the way it is put across factually and with an impartial view

at swifyt them sales figures blow
If there's interest in an Xbox One review I'll write one.

I did actually write an Xbox 360 review when it came out, but that was long before this site existed

I used to write reviews and other things on that old site of mine before I decided to create CE.o

I ordered my Xbox One through a few days after pre-orders became available (AFTER they dropped DRM) so there's no guarantee I'll get it on launch day.

Old 08-02-2013, 02:16 PM
etkeller etkeller is offline
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Default Re: Ouya: Days 2-6 - The Ouya Gaming Experience

Thanks much for the great overview. Very good well-balanced reporting. I keep looking forward to another installment!!
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