Home of Craig Stevenson, Game Designer, Homebrewer, and Amateur Photographer

Home of Craig Stevenson, Game Designer, Homebrewer, and Amateur Photographer

The OUYA Unboxed!

Last Friday, my OUYA console showed up at my door after what has seemed like a roller coaster ride of waiting and anticipation.

Shipping and Receiving

I pre-ordered my OUYA right after the Kickstarter campaign had just finished up. From the original date of purchase, I had an expected arrival date of April, which thinking back made sense. The stores were supposed to receive their OUYAs in the beginning of June. Well like all new experimental endeavors, things didn’t go according to plan. The in-store date got moved back to the end of June. To make matters worse, time was flying by and a lot of early OUYA kickstarter backers still hadn’t heard a peep from the OUYA team. As time passed more complaints started to show up on the OUYA developer’s internal forum. Half the group getting concerned, a few down right mad demanding refunds, and another half telling everyone to just calm down. It got worse, before it got better. As OUYA’s began to ship in what seemed like no conceivable order, the angry group grew. People who were numbered backer 1,000+ were getting their OUYAs before the first 5 backers. It wasn’t based on the amount backed, geographic location, or notoriety. It wasn’t until this week that Julie O spilled the beans on DHL’s massive shipping cluster. Apparently the consoles had been ready since May but no one was receiving, not even the stores. So that being said, by the time my OUYA did show up, I wasn’t sure if I was really all that excited. I had ordered my OUYA so I could develop Android games, particularly for my team’s entry in the Kill Screen OUYA Create contest that was finished months ago.

After playing this weekend with my wife and 4 friends, here’s what I’ve found so far:

Couch Gaming Is Back

The absolute best thing about the OUYA is the fact that it pulls your friends together for co-op and competitive play. Not since Mario Kart Wii and Rockband have I really had this experience. The friends that I played with weren’t hardcore gamers but the titles we chose were easy to pick up and a lot of fun. More on that later.

When is the OUYA Controller 2.0 Coming?

So, if you hadn’t heard, the biggest complaint of game devs who got a super early OUYA was that the controller had some serious issues; mainly lag (taking too long between button press and game response), cheap feeling triggers/bumpers, and buttons getting stuck. Now, if I’m remembering correctly, we were told that the controllers had undergone a makeover before shipping, but my controller certainly doesn’t seem like it. I experienced all of those issues, particularly the lag which is hit or miss depending on the game. This is unfortunate when playing a game like “You Don’t Know Jack” a buzz-in trivia game where time really matters. Canabalt is also nearly unplayable because of this lag. At least OUYA allows you to use XBOX360 PC controllers (not your regular 360 controllers due to proprietary connectivity tech) or PS3 controllers, but there’s problems there too. I tried for nearly 20 minutes trying to pair my PS3 controller both using the regular OUYA pair menu and the Android Discover Bluetooth options with no luck. Then I read this post which explains you have to connect first wired, shut off the OUYA then turn it back on again. I’m not sure how you would connect two PS3 controllers in this manner because the OUYA only has one USB port. Better controller support is a must have for the next gen OUYA wares.

Additionally, I came across an annoying issue using the my 360 PC controller. Since its a wired version, the controller never really turns off since its sensing power from the OUYA. Which in turn, keeps turning the OUYA console on. The only way I found to prevent this was unplugging my controller when I wasn’t playing. Minor but still annoying.

User Interface

So there's another Towerfall tile...

So there’s another Towerfall tile…

Another gripe I have with the OUYA is the UI. If you go to the DISCOVER section, where games are displayed for you, OUYA separates the titles into a series of playlists. The genre specific ones makes sense but otherwise what you get is top game choices from different game outlets that “bought in” on the OUYA. They have a founders section of games from the day one releases, a Kill Screen playlist for their favorite games, OUYA exclusives, and about six other playlists. The problem with this idea, is that you wind up with the same seven games repeated in each playlist. Towerfall for instance appeared in just about each one. It makes the overall catalog seem much smaller than it is, and trying to find a particular game very cumbersome. I don’t know where the supposed 201 games (of this date) are, but good luck trying to find the one that just came out. They need to rethink this approach.

The next UI issue is something that OUYA really has no control over, but the user has to face non the less. Since there are no real first party games for the OUYA, each developer is free to design their game how they want. While this freedom is amazing and a great feature of developing for OUYA, it comes with a price. This means that are no real heuristics when it comes to game UI. For instance, most games utilize the red A button to go back, the green O button to confirm a choice. However, games don’t have to follow that rule. So what you wind up with (like in the case of Muffin Knight, where the blue U is go back on one screen, but A on another) is games that will behave differently from one another. The player experience is the one that suffers making the product feel a little more fisher price, than console quality software.

The MySoreThumbs Playlist

Of the 20 or so games that I downloaded the clear winners are local multiplayer “couch/party” type games. This is also another issue that I have with the current catalog. When attempting to play by myself, the choices are limited in quality games. Here we go:

  1. BombSquad ($4.99) – Fantastic! Up to 8 players compete in a series of challenges that range from blowing each other up, sports with explosives, races matches and the hilarious slow motion battle. Supports XBOX360, PS3, Android and iOS controllers.
  2. Towerfall ($14.99) – Brings archery deathmatch to your living room. The patience and reflexes required to dominate in this 4 player vs. player game are above my abilities. Even though I continued to get destroyed by my friends, it was a lot of fun trying to shoot seeking laser arrows at my friends.
  3. You Don’t Know Jack ($9.99) – A long running series of trivia games that I used to play as a wee lad on the PC.  You only get one free episode but it gives you a good taste of this party game. The full version has 20 episodes. It’s simply a lot of fun to screw your friends and take all in the Jack Attack. The only downside is replay-ability is nil once you know the right answers. Supports XBOX360, PS3, Android and iOS via the JackPad app.
  4. Beast Boxing Turbo (Demo) – One of the most polished games I tried on the OUYA, BBT is a boxing game in the vein of Mike Tyson’s Punch Out. You play as a human trying to sneak into the secret Monster Boxing circuit. Each fighter you face has a unique style and power move that you need to learn to counter. Fights earn you cash that you can spend on upgrading your character or equipment. My favorite single player offering of the OUYA so far.
  5. League of Evil (Demo) – I’m slightly hesitant to include this game on the list, mainly because its a clear variant of Team Meat’s Super Meat Boy without the originality or charm. However, I’m a sucker for a good platformer and even though the levels are highly inspired by SMB, they are a lot of fun. Included in the rip-off is seeing each death of your character. Only in this game, they show it while your still playing which is really annoying. So what I’m really saying is, TEAM MEAT give me SMB on OUYA!!!

In Conclusion

In the end I’m really glad I purchased the OUYA. It provides a lot of fun to the party goers who are looking for something new to play at a really affordable cost. The games may be more than your typical mobile game, but they are all still much cheaper than a full console release. The ability to try out every game before buying is unparalleled and very nice. The controller really needs an overhaul as well as the user interface. I’m hoping things really take off for OUYA and they start getting more support from the developers we know and love, and continue to help build the careers of us starving indies. If you care more about how a game plays than how it looks than the OUYA should make you happy. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the offerings so far, and introduced to some great developers I hadn’t heard of before.

However, the OUYA’s not for everyone. If your expecting a full console experience, you’ll feel disappointed. It still has some growing to do before it could reach a wide market appeal.

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