My weekend with the Ouya…

MyOuya

So I got myself an Ouya, and over the weekend I’ve been playing a lot of this machine. Some good stuff, some bad stuff.  But what do I think about this £99 console? Well… Why do we have to pay more for this! In the states it costs $99, but $99 is not £99, it’s £65! But talking about price, I’ll explain how this might get a little more pricey than expected depending on where you get it from. Let me explain…

Buying the system

This was the first console that I bought from launch from a brick and mortar store in what feels like a LONG… time! Now I could’ve got one from Amazon.co.uk, but they got their shipment in late meaning that I wouldn’t get an Ouya until the Tuesday after. So the only people who got it on time for it’s official UK release was GAME. A place that I’ve had a weird love-hate relationship this, well, more hate than love; and in this case, hate…

Usually, before I buy a console, I know quite a lot about it before purchasing it, all except the experience of said machine. But there was one thing that I didn’t know about. Either I have missed this information, or it was just not mentioned, but in order to use the system you need to make an Ouya account, which is pretty obvious, but in order to have said account, you either have to put credit card details in, or have a pre paid point card code in order to start using your new silver cube android game system. But here’s where retail will slap me across the face and remind me of what I have to do on a regular basis at my work, but honestly believe that it would never happen to me… When purchasing said machine, I was asked if I wanted to buy their GAME Ouya bundle kit, this is the Ouya console, a spare controller, and £10 point card for £149. I didn’t want this. I knew that I can use my wired 360 or PS3 controller as a second controller on the Ouya, and I just wanted to use my card to pay for games on the system. This is where I declared war inside the mind of the guy selling the the Ouya. He proceeded to attempt to sell me a £10 point card, which I didn’t want either, but this was where I discovered by the employee that you need credit to make an Ouya account; but this is where the pseudo tennis match begins. The employee knows, just as much as I know when I’m at work, that you do better towards your supervisors when you sell more stuff, and selling only one item per sale is a sin, even if said single item costs a fair amount, granted it’s not a new console that cost more than £200, but it’s not like you can spend £1000 every day. I said “No I’ll just use my debit card to buy games”, this is where the fight begins as the employee goes on this little “Non-Rant” about how I should use point cards as the console is easy to hack, which it is, but he then used the excuse of “Your account can be hacked and someone will use you details to commit fraud!”. This is where I can see the BS pour out of this guy’s mouth, as yes you can hack the Ouya to run APKs, turn it into a Media Player, run Emulators to play ROMs, yadda yadda yadda… But your account details are not on the console itself. It’s on the Ouya Company’s servers. Infact if you so desire to break the Data Protection act and steal details from the Ouya servers, you can just do that with a PC. This whole argument was all to do with what happened with Sony in 2011 when PSN was closed down due to people breaking into the PlayStaion Network servers and acquiring details such as credit card numbers. I remember this quite well, was a little shocked, and tried to change the password as quite as I could when I heard this information.  Fortunately, I didn’t lose any money from this, and earned a few free games due to the online outage. It was a pain that this guy selling me said Ouya would mix this incident with this machine, when really he just wanted to sell more than one item to me… After arguing for a bit I knew I was wasting my time on this, plus I was on a lunch break, so I needed to get out of their ASAP, but I gave in and asked for a £10 card too, but for some weird reason it wouldn’t go through on the employee’s till, he tried, but it never worked. I was getting a little pissed at this point as I needed to get back to work when the guy turned and said, “How about a £17 card?”. That’s another thing I noticed, £17? Sounds like a weird number for a point card doesn’t it? Well it turns out that all prices on the Ouya are done in US American Dollars, and nothing is converted into local currency. So a £17 card would give you $25. At this point it was becoming extortionate, but I REALLY had to get going back to work. So the guy in the GAME store won his little retail tennis match with me and made me spend WAY MORE than I was expecting… Good thing I haven’t got any plans to go back there any time soon…

So I got it, took it home, made an account, updated it, the typical works of setting it up, and I finally got to play this damn thing!

The controller

OuyaController

The first thing I wanted to know was the controller. The controller itself is a bit of a mixed bag, some good, and some bad things. First off are the analogue sticks, I’ve definitely used worse sticks in the past, but they’re not the best. They’re a little bit “tougher” than sticks you find on Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft pads, but at least they’re better than some analogue sticks on terrible third party N64 pads! The Dpad on the other hand is much better than the Dpad on the Xbox 360 controller, but the edges on it are rather sharp and might take some time to get used to. The face buttons on this controller are really good, possibly the high-light of the Ouya controller. They’re raised higher than most buttons that you find, but they’re responsive and work very well. However the biggest downer with the controller is it’s triggers and shoulder buttons, compared to the face buttons, they feel very cheap. The analogue triggers are just a little “too chunky”, and when you pull on them there’s this squeaky noise that sounds as if they used a cheap spring and potentiometer to make these triggers. The middle of the controller works as a track pad that allows you to operate a cursor on screen. according to early adopters of the Ouya, the track pad was awful, however firmware updates for the system has improved the performance of the track pad.

Even if the Ouya controller isn’t quite up to snuff with the mainstream console controllers, the Ouya is infact compatible with PS3 and wired Xbox 360 controllers. However not all games are compatible with them yet, it not as easy as just mapping Ouya buttons to the 360 and PS3 pad, they actually require extra work in code to allow these controls to work in each game. Hopefully later on there might be a library source code that will allow easier controller syncing for other pads on the Ouya.

The Menu

The menu system itself works to a degree. But it is a bit rough around the edges. The system itself doesn’t have any games pre-loaded onto it. So you have to go to the “Discover” section to download games. Why it couldn’t be called “Shop” or “Store” is a little weird; then again the Ouya is a system where by every game MUST feature a free to play mode on it, be it either a demo, freeware, or a freemium title; they could’ve called it just “Download” to prevent confusion. Maybe they didn’t want people to think that you have to pay upfront, funny that, I had to have credit in order to start an Ouya account! Another noticeable thing is that there’s no guide menu, there’s a centre button on the controller called the “OU” button, but that only really acts as a pause or menu button for some games. Tapping it twice allows you to exit games, but pressing it on the menu screen doesn’t come up with anything, which is funny considering that every mainstream console, including Steam’s Big Picture comes up with a form of a guide screen that can be useful. Something I noticed was how when you download a game, the only way to find out how much time was left for it to download was to go back into the Discover store and find the game, where an orange bar is on the top of the game’s store icon. It would’ve been nice to have an easier way to see this, be it either through a guide button screen, or to see it downloading in the Games list. But as much as I might sound like I’m bitching about this, it’s not like the Ouya company can’t fix this with a software update. I just wish it wasn’t this rough around the edges on launch…

The Games

The games on the Ouya are a little hit and miss, then again what are you going to expect from a system that promotes freedom to the developer? You can’t expect every developer to churn out gold right? Then again my issue isn’t so much about what games are good and bad, it would be nice to know if a games properly complete and finalised! One example of this is a rather well known Ouya game called Tower Fall, it’s a Smash Bros style fighting game where you shoot arrows rather than melee fighting. But there’s no real single player mode on it, well there’s a traning mode, but you’re just shooting at dummies that don’t move! On the Ouya forums, the development team working on it have stated that the game in the future will have a single player mode that isn’t just a training mode. This goes back to the argument of modern games where games get released that aren’t finalised and require a patch and/or download to complete it. It’s a shame that a game that’s been so talked about hasn’t been finished yet. Going back to when I was talking about the menu, it would be nice if there was a way to identify if a game is a work in progress, or if it’s truly gold. I thought of and idea of placing a “Hammer Icon” on the upper right hand corner of game icons where they haven’t been released as gold yet. Regardless to more of my bitching, there are a few worthwhile games on the Ouya to play, so let me talk about those!

Canabalt HD (For Ouya)

Jeu OUYA Canabalt HD

Well, it’s Canabalt, the same game on the PC, Mac, iPhone, Android, PSP, you name it, it’s bound to have a port of some kind on it. But… The Ouya edition of the game has a few awesome tweeks to it. Not only is there an online leader-board, but there’s also a few different play modes in the game. One of which removes all the boxes in the game, whilst another makes all the building invisible, meaning you’ll have to keep an eye out on the birds to figure out where the buildings are. So far this is the only game that I’ve purchased so far. It only cost $2.99 to unlock the full game, if you like Canabalt, you’ll definitely like the Ouya version!

Survival

If you’re a fan of the Atari 2600, or anything pre Nintendo Entertainment System. You’ll like Survival! It’s pretty much a Shark-Shark! clone, but this time you’re just a white pixel avoiding coloured pixels bigger than you. Despite it being a “retro” game, it uses the left analogue stick to move. Then again, I would love to see this game being played with a track ball, that would be cool! The game is free, but you can donate a dollar to them if you really like the game, like I did!

Deep Dungeons of Doom

This is a great little rhythmic fighting game on the lines of PunchOut, but you only ever use two buttons, the O button to attack, and the U button to defend. And that’s it! The idea is to attack each enemy on each level of a dungeon to descend down and fight the final boss for epic loot! It’s a pretty good game, despite it feeling like I’m just playing a phone game on a big screen TV…

The Bard’s Tale

Not a terrible port of the game, it’s still the great game from 2003. But it’s the same game on Android and it’s not the HD version! This might have to do with the fact that the Ouya only has an eight gigabyte internal memory on it, after all the HD edition is three and a half gigs big! You’d practically fill the internal memory up very quickly, and there doesn’t seem to be a way to play native Ouya games from USB yet.

Amazing Frog

Despite it’s looks, Amazing Frog is a funny open world game set in Swindon where you play as a frog where by you accumulate points by throwing yourself off building and racking up points by bouncing off things and destroying stuff! The graphics are a bit rough, but the gameplay is great fun! you just want to see what you can throw yourself off from next!

Hacking and Emulation

Chances are, you may have thought about getting an Ouya for console emulation. And yes, you can do that straight out of the box, and there are many programs you can download from the discover store to get you to emulate your favourite games. So far I only installed an NES, Atari and Commodore 64 emulator onto my Ouya. But you can also get a GameBoy, SNES, MegaDrive, Playstation, and NeoGeo Pocket emulators on the Ouya. One of the most noticeable emulators on the Discover store is “Emu-Ya”, shown above,  that’s a little more than just an NES emulator. You can download homebrew games through the Emu-Ya store built into the emulator. So far there are a handful of homebrew games to try out, some of which are just demos. But it’s been said on the Ouya forums that in the future HomeBrew developers can sell their games on it with a $2.99 price tag. That’s pretty good! Now if only there’s an Atari version that the Retro Gaming Roundup guys can sell their CGE Adventures onto!

 

Speaking of CGE Adventures, I’ve been playing the ROM of it on the Ouya through the 2600 Emulator on it. And it’s pretty good! You can set up filters on it to make it look like you’re playing it on an old TV, but it’s not as good as the BLARGG filters that you can use on Stella on the PC. I’ve been playing a lot of Yar’s Revenge and Phoenix on this, which is great when I still can’t be bothered to fix my damn 2600! lol!

 

As for hacking, I haven’t done a whole lot, but I have “side-loaded” a few android apps onto the Ouya. This is a little fiddly, and without help you might be a little stuck, but it is “do-able”. The way that I side-load apps onto the Ouya was to first find the DropBox APK using the Ouya’s web browser, from here I downloaded it and run it from the downloads folder in the Storage settings. From there I loaded up a bunch of APK files from my PC to my Drop box, then I run drop box from my Ouya and install each APK that way. I got to run Free-Tyrian on my Ouya, despite that there appears to be no way to pause the damn game!

Should you get one?

So far, with as much bitching as I may appear to have done, the system isn’t bad, but there’s signs of “rough-ness”, more so than most console launches. Then again most of the issues can be fixed with software downloads. The only thing I might say is be prepared to hate those triggers on the controller! lol! I have a feeling that the Ouya Company might have to release a second version of the controller like what happened with Microsoft and the original XBox controller. Then again with it’s ablity to run with wired 360 and PS3 pads, I don’t think it’ll happen. The thing with this system is that it’s really made for those who have an interest in indie and/or Android games. It’s not going to the same appeal to everyone on the lines of mainstream consoles, you’ll have to remind yourself that this is a 99 dollar/pound console. From what I’ve seen on some websites is a word coined “Micro Console”. Which makes sense as the Ouya is no way going to compete on the lines of current generation and next generation consoles. With the Game Stick out too, and with the Google Console being talked about, it sounds as if we have a new genre of gaming hardware on our hands. The Ouya is there for those who like to tinker around with things, but hasn’t got the time to do a lot of tinkering. If you own a Raspberry Pi and didn’t do much with it, I might suggest checking out the Ouya for more of a “Pre-built” emulation machine with indie games on the side. Otherwise if you’re expecting something that ready out of the box and guaranteed to work like a mainstream machine, look else where. Otherwise I’ve had a lot of fun with it, I have a background in technology, and I like tinkering, so it’s my kind of system, it’s just not going to be “everyone’s” console…