Saturday, 29 June 2013

Ouya The Early Days

The Ouya has only been available for a few weeks and I have had mine about a week.  Being a Kickstarter investor in the Ouya I am keen to see this games console succeed.



To cut a long story short, so far the Ouya has been disappointing.  It shows promise but in my opinion has been released a little bit before it is ready.

My view so far:

Overscan

The biggest issue for me is the overscan problem.   This is where some of the screen is clipped by the edges of the screen.  Every screen is different and some screens will not have any overscan.  For anyone working in TV or developing games for any other console, this is a well known issue.  The solution used by both TV and games console manufacturers is to have a margin round the outer edge of the screen by 10% of the pixels.  Nothing important is ever displayed in that 10% and all text is kept within the central 80% of the screen.

Other games consoles, probably all except the Ouya, have restrictions enforced against the developers of games.  If anything important is in that outer margin the game can not be distributed.  The developers soon fix that problem.  Ouya advertise how open they are and because of that I think, they have "shot themselves in the foot."  Leaving it up to the developer to make decisions that spoil the games for some people!

The standard XBMC media player which works on the Ouya allows you to set the visible limits of the screen and keeps all text within that.  This works great.  Sadly the vast majority of the initial crop of games on the Ouya have come from mobile phones and tablets which rarely if ever suffer overscan problems.  The developers porting the apps are either ignorant of the problem or could not be bothered to fix it before releasing on the Ouya!

This has left a lot of disappointed Ouya owners that cannot find games that they can play.  Their frustration is taken out on the Ouya support forums!

Controller Lag

This is one of those tricky areas.  I cannot prove if the lag comes from the hardware or the games themselves however it is very frustrating.

All I can say is that in any of the fast action games I have played so far this becomes an issue.  I have seen run on, where the character or object in a game keeps moving after I let go of the controller.  I have seen continuous rotation, so the character spins when I am doing nothing and the worst is that I see the game play my key presses several seconds behind when I have pressed the keys.

Again, I hope this is one that developers, as they get more familiar with the Ouya, will be able to overcome.

A couple of other point while on controls.  The touch pad is too vague and too fast to be of any use.  I understand why it is there but it is nearly useless.  So far the only manufacturing problem I have is that one key, left bumper, gets stuck on the controller housing.  I may have to get a knife out to trim back some plastic!

Ouya User Interface

This is the last problem for now.  Back to my previous point.  It's just not finished.  The front screen and the first level of sub menus are nice and clean and it is easy to find what you want.  The Discover section initially had its foibles but Ouya improved those last week.



The problems are in the Advance menu where you get to what is clearly a completely unmodified mobile phone implementation of the interface.  Now with the overscan I have it means that many of the essential options, like deleting files, are inaccessible!  There are probably other options I can't use but I don't know what they are because they are off my screen!

This is one that clearly Ouya need to fix.

The Good News

I thought I should end on some positive points.

  • Tiny
  • Looks Good
  • Easy to setup (just plug in the HDMI and power, job done)
  • Upgrades are quick and painless
  • Controller feels nice in my hand
  • I particularly like the weight and where the batteries are housed
  • Controller has the right number of buttons in the right places (for my liking)
  • Wireless controllers connect easily to the Ouya
  • Low cost
  • Developers can self publish games (Indie games)
  • Every game has a free demo (that is such a good idea)

I look forward to some better games coming out and for the fixable issues to be resolved.

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