Virtual Reality on the Cheap

I found a refurbished HP Windows Mixed Reality headset for $160.  It’s the cheapest way to do virtual reality.  It does 95% of what the fancy/expensive HTC Vive does.  They keep the cost down by using cameras on the headset to sense the controller position instead of external sensors.  We cleared out a bunch of space in the living room and I temporarily moved my computer into there.  The more space you can clear, the better.  But being tethered to the computer with a cable is a pain.  You almost need to play barefoot so that you can feel the cable with your feet avoid getting tangled.

Anyway, it’s a lot of fun!  It really does a great job of tricking your brain into feeling that it’s real.  The Lab is an awesome free game where you walk around a lab and play a variety of mini-games…some of them hilarious.  Picking up objects and looking at them closely with even the light glinting off of them is really convincing.  Putting your head into physical objects is a weird thing to do because you’re thinking “collision”!
Google Earth VR is fun.  You’re like a giant walking around Paris or wherever you are.
Beat Saber is a music game that’s a big workout.  You use light sabers to cut through music blocks as they fly at you.  You also have to doge moving walls…kind of like a virtual reality Dance Dance Revolution.  You really feel the music.  Exercise with VR goggles and headphones is very sweaty, though.
Windows has their “virtual house” and Steam has theirs.  The Windows portal prefers everything to be Windows apps.  You can paste a giant Netflix app on your fake living room wall.  (Everything is houses instead of desktops.)  So it’s funny starting out in the Windows house and then loading the desktop as a big screen floating in the backyard.
I recommend going cheap on these things because electronics devalue so quickly.  I recommend a GTX 1070 videocard or better because some of the games got laggy on an AMD RX 580.
Sometimes, games are made with Vive/Oculus Rift in mind and the WMR controllers work by emulation or something.  Google Earth VR, for example, shows a virtual Vive controller with a button in a totally different position than the Windows controller.  It can be confusing when you look down at your hand and see a controller you’re not really holding.  Of course, your controller can look like anything.  In Minecraft, it’s a blocky arm.  (The Windows 10 Minecraft app didn’t use the normal teleport movement, so it borders on nausea as you move, but your real body remains still.)  In the Windows house, your controller is a realistic looking Windows controller with an added bonus of a virtual battery indicator on the underside.  In The Lab, your controller changes to whatever contraption you pick up.

After playing VR for a while, you can get a weird disembodied feeling with your hands…almost as if you’re wondering whether they’re really your hands.

Holiday board games 2014

Over the recent holidays, we got a nice chance to play some board games with Uncle BoardGame.  🙂  We played Castle Panic…a cooperative game in which you have to fend off orcs, trolls, etc. that are trying to destroy your castle.  We played Bombay…a trading game in which you trade silk on cute little elephants.  We played Cities…a simple little tile-building game that he was able to expand from 4 to 8 players just by buying 2 sets.  My son really liked Say Anything in which you have several opinion-based questions on a card.  We played a game where you balance bent-up metal rods, called Suspend.  Reminded me of Jenga.  Someone gave Sean Millionaire Monopoly.  It’s close to normal Monopoly, except that the first person to $1M wins, so you don’t get into that depressing situation where one person takes a couple of hours to beat the other players.  But this has an odd loophole where all the other players could suddenly buy one of their losing co-players’ properties and suddenly propel that person to a win…but this would be pretty spiteful!

How to find the good LittleBigPlanet levels

If you play LittleBigPlanet on PS3, you may have tried some of the community levels and found them to be mostly just ripoffs of other games.  The best way to find the good levels is to go to the community->search page, and search for most hearted.  The quality levels are hidden there.

Also, Sean proved that there’s nothing funnier than calling someone a hacker in local multiplayer.

Holiday board games

Uncle Keith is visiting, so board games it is!  Last night we played Shadows over Camelot…a neat cooperative board game that involves a lot of multitasking.  We just barely pulled off a win.  Today, we played several rounds of Escape: The Curse of the Temple.    This one was an interesting cooperative 10-minute game involving a CD playing audio queues for timing and frantic dice rolling.  I’d almost call it an action board game.  It rewards thinking fast and observing fast.  We had to cheat and remove some room tiles from the deck before we could win…maybe we’re just not fast enough.  Anyway, it was playable for 9-year-olds, which was fun.

make your own board game

After playing a cooperative firefighting board game called Flash Point, I came up with the idea of one called House Work.  You must clean up the childrens’ toys and take care of the other chores before the house is enveloped in utter chaos.  It’s almost impossible to win because as you’re cleaning up toys in one room, the 1-year-old is scattering toys in two other rooms…somehow simultaneously.  Look out!  It’s an outbreak of laundry coming from the kid who’s decided to throw clean clothes directly into the laundry basket.  Just like Pandemic, you almost never win.

Holiday Board Games

We got to visit relatives and my uncle (super board game aficionado) was there.  We played 7 Wonders, a big ole empire-planning strategy game.  Pretty good, but with a high learning curve.  We also played Flash Point: Fire Rescue, a cooperative firefighting game similar to Pandemic.  Surprisingly, we actually won.  I hear that’s rare.  One pretty casual game that I found we liked a lot was Hamsterrolle.  It’s a bit like Jenga, played in a circular will with inward facing slats around the edge.  You’re trying to get rid of all your little wooden blocks by placing them on a wheel, making it slowly turn and eventually drop pieces out.  If you cause pieces to fall out, you have to pick them up.  Lots of tension and excitement in that game.  Oh, another casual game we played was Luck of the Draw.  Draw a random subject mentioned on a card and vote on some random criteria such as “most surprising” or “most angular”.  Pretty fun.

Let's get on those story points 'cause I'm worried about the velocity of the burn down.

In scrum software development, there are all these ridiculous special phrases like “story points”, “burn down”, etc.  Specialized phrases always annoyed me.  Why can’t you just speak in plain English?  Why do they have to invent these silly terms?  Is it just to protect the trademark of the process inventor?  It’s kind of like Bananagrams…great (and stressful) word game, but instead of “next” you say “peel” and “bananas” instead of “done”.