April 11, 2019

Saber beating

Is Beat saber a killer app for VR? I have not only played a lot in the past months, I have also let other people try it whenever the opportunity arises. From age six to forty, everyone who I have helped adjust the headset has been able to grasp the game and have a thoroughly good time from the first beat. The kids especially have a great time, with the no failures option letting them finish songs without worrying too much about the details of slicing. And when not playing, they are bouncing up and down centimetres from the TV, commenting on every move. It re-struck me (if there is such a concept) how much more social and graspable the Playstation VR becomes by having the real-time stream of the view right there on the TV:

Killing it?

The last time I wrote about the game I imagined a standalone, cable-free, version perfect for travel.

Since then, I realized the Oculus quest is on its way and that Beat saber will be on it.

I fear this is enough to make me buy another system, just to play a game I already own in a slightly better way.

That does sound a lot like a killer app, right?

March 24, 2019

The best kind of end

En podd om teknik, wrapping up En podd om teknik, wrapping up

There is a live recording of Pet shop boys at the Mermaid theatre with a full symphonic orchestra. They finish the regular set to tons of applause, and when they come back on I can hear the wide smile on Neil Tennant's face as he says "It's not really the end, of course."

That is how I feel right now, having had the honor to play a small part in En podd om teknik's marathon live charity event, also doubling as their final season. I have a wide smile, a lovely fuzzy feeling inside and a knowledge that it is not really the end. This particular podcast is wrapping up for sure, but it is doing it in a nice laidback way while both listeners and makers having a good time, and I know other good things will come out of it.

I want more experiences like this. And whoever wants to put on an event like this should definitely consult the crew here because everything worked so well as to almost be suspicious.

I needed to leave way before the very end of the evening, which was a little sad as I am sure the last part will be the very best for us long-time listeners. On the other hand, it means I will have some all-new material to consume at some later point when withdrawals become too bad.

Also, I now get to discover what comes next.

It is not really the end, of course.

March 17, 2019

Adopting Podcast chapters

In the early evening of March 6th 2019, I became the developer of Podcast chapters, the Mac app for managing chapters and other metadata in MP3 files. I am excited and very thankful to Thomas Pritchard, the original developer of the app, for giving me this opportunity. I have given him a hand with the last few versions of the app, so I think I speak for us both when I say this felt like the natural step once it became clear Thomas had too many other things going on.

What will happen?

My main goal here is to keep a good thing good: I use Podcast chapters several times per week and the most important thing for me is to keep up with fixing any bugs, keep the app evolving as a good Mac citizen and perhaps even add a feature or two some day.

It feels really great to have an app in an app store again, and even more so now that it is a Mac app. There are so many indie Mac developers I look up to for the love and craftsmanship they put into their creations. Native Mac apps seem to me to have a very high average quality and care level, perhaps the highest of any platform I know of, and I look forward to striving for that. I have often thought about building something Mac native, since web and other cross-platform stuff is most of what I do every day, but I have missed a suitable project. Podcast chapters is the right size for me to be exciting, meaningful and hopefully also decently managable inbetween everything else in life.

Request for comments

Oh, and if you use the app: I want to hear what you think! Do you miss something in it? Do you suffer from some bug I have not yet heard about? Get in touch! I have already had two support requests, one of which led straight to a bug which was just the right size for a new maintainer.

Other than that, I have started hacking on some internal parts. I am aware that parsing bytes out of MP3 files may not sound like a fun pastime to the average person, but trust me: it can be in the right circumstances.

February 24, 2019

One step back

Wet headphones Wet headphones

My headphones, put down to dry up.

After writing about my first Move experiences, I got myself together for today's play session and stepped back. Way back.

Well, it was perhaps half a meter to a meter, but more back than I would have stood otherwise, and far back enough to clear most possible obstacles without ending up with too little cable to move. Then I dove head-first into Beat saber.


Playing with enough space around you makes a lot of difference. After watching a few videos, I learned that Beat saber encourages you to make larger swings and motions. Being able to do those without worrying about things around you blocking or hitting you adds another level of immersion and physicality. It suddenly became clear to me how Beat saber becomes one of the most entertaining forms of exercise, and it also felt like seeing the Matrix gameplay-wise. Those larger motions makes everything feel that much more fluid, more like dancing and also more plain fun. I found myself exhilerated, and dripping with sweat, as I reached scores I had never been close to before.

I also had the idea of Beat saber on a completely stand-alone headset as the ultimate portable exercise for business travelers. No need to even leave the hotel room to fit in some exercise between meetings, before breakfast or just before going to bed.

I want to play more, but on the other hand I have already had one shower today …

February 21, 2019

On the Move

A year and a half into owning a Playstation VR I bought a pair of Move controllers almost as suddenly as I bought the device itself. I have never felt very excited about movement-tracking controllers in general. With the main exception of the Wii - which tended to do meaningful stuff - I prefer my controls exact and, more importantly, without placement or space requirements. I found playing Moss slightly annoying at many points because I always needed to be sure the camera could properly track my controller, and although Astro bot does great and I had learned more about camera and personal placement by the time I started playing it, it remained a slight source of friction. Just the little bit of extra work.

Work and play

Well, playing comfortably with Move controllers is a whole extra level of work. I am somewhat in love with Beat saber, but to play even decently I need to create more room by sticking the camera about as far away and off to the side as its cable will let it, and even then the space is not perfect. Having a big empty cube as my entertainment room would be beneficial.

So I have great fun when I play, but it is enough extra work to get into a good gaming position that I think actively about it before I start a Move-based game.

Because of this, I also have not tried that many games. I have yet to try Doom for example, but I have a hard time imagining that I will prefer Move to the visceral fun of controller-based gunning.

Oh, I need to get Superhot VR as well. Thanks for reminding me.

Tethered was great fun to try using Moves. With a Dual shock controller, the game is played with you looking down at the wonderful world from fixed clouds. With Move controllers, you have two hands and can move your viewpoint freely. If it felt like looking at a moving model railway landscape before, the feeling just exploded when I was able to look as close as I wanted from any angle I wanted.

So that was cool. But I am not sure Tethered actually played any better. Perhaps I had not got the setup quite right, because it feels like an RTS with two independent controllers could be perfect. But with the brief time I put in, it felt fun but imprecise.

Beat saber rocks

Beat saber actually has moments of imprecision as well, times when I have to move to avoid obstacles or make wide swipes and notice tracking is lost momentarily. But when the setup is right, the game plays and feels so good it easily gets into "well, I never want to play this in any other way"-territory. It would be such a lesser experience with different controllers, or outside of VR for that matter. (This is even before considering the fact that the controllers appear as light sabers, and how they buzz and vibrate if you cross them.) It is cool to play, and when I find the space too small I wish to find a better space rather than stop and play something else.

Drift and improvements

Drifting in general feels like more of a thing than for the VR headset itself. There is also the extra setup of activating and grabbing the controllers to play. For some reason, the Playstation UI will not let me move between things using the Moves, so I always have a few moments where I need to juggle three controllers, and find some decent place to put down the Dual shock afterward.

On one hand, it bothers me to have games which place so much of a demand on the room in which it is played, especially when the great thing with VR is removing the room and creating another world in its place. On the other, I look forward to figuring out the best setup given my physical spaces and then seeing how good of an experience I can get.

Beat saber has already made it worth the investment as far as I am concerned. But if VR gaming has some number of steps to go before mainstream ease of use, I feel like VR gaming with Move-type controllers has at least two more.