Features

Driving virtual reality and beyond

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In between breaks covering Paris Games Week this week I take quick power naps.

2015 has been an exciting but exhausting year. So much has happened already, but as the year winds down, there is still a lot of check out, and plenty to write about. Just like in real life, it appears there’s never really any rest in the world of console gaming, and industry leader Sony hopes to keep it that way.

Amidst a sea of oversized blue balloons imprinted with square, circle, x and triangle symbols, I make my way through the throng of gaming fanatics hoping to get some play time with yet to be released titles from next season. There is an electric energy inside the Paris Expo, particularly in and around the Playstation booth. It’s been 20 years since the original Playstation was released, and the festivities today are as much a celebration of that, as much as they are of the games themselves.

Sony PlayStation celebrates 20 years this year.

BIG 20. Sony PlayStation celebrates 20 years at Paris Games Week 2015.

A mile-long queue has formed in front of the PlayStation VR demos. Slots have been pre-booked days in advance, anyone wanting to give it a shot today is out of luck. Word on the street is that a commercial launch for Sony’s virtual reality headset is slated for the first half of 2016, but there are already several demos you can try today, and with each show the experience gets better.

There’s a preview reel you can look up on YouTube (see clip above) that runs through several upcoming titles that are expected to ship when PlayStation VR does. If there were any doubts about the how virtual reality will change the dynamics of game play, all that should be quashed today.

RIGS mechanized combat league

RIGS mechanized combat league is coming to Playstation VR

One of those new games Rigs: Mechanized Combat League is playable at Paris Games Week (PGW). One of the few multiplayer VR games around, think of Rigs like an extra dirty, extra defensive game of basketball played on machines. The demo for PGW is set in futuristic Dubai, with players on machines with feet that resemble blade runners. While this team sport is akin to basketball, in the game there is no ball, instead actual players must plunge themselves into oversized rings to score. Getting there involves a sometimes perilous journey that includes a fast paced chase through a maze of structures, there’s lots of running, leaping, and head switching.

If there’s anyone who knows more about these games and everything else in the PlayStation pipeline its Shuhei Yoshida, President of Worldwide Studios at Sony Computer Entertainment.   

Shuhei Yoshida

BEST JOB EVER. Shuhei Yoshida is Sony’s Head of Worldwide Gaming Studios.

Appropriate for a man whose main function is to oversee the creation of games, Yoshida is a kid at heart, a superhero character (yep look up Super Time Force Ultra) who spends as much time on his PS Vita as he does on Twitter fielding questions from fans.

At an intimate chat session this week in Paris, a jet lagged Yoshida was glowing from the warm reception for his company’s latest announcements, and bullish about the prospect of PlayStation VR and virtual reality in general. “Because there are so many creative people working on this technology, there will be many great results will come out, and it will be sooner than later,” he said.

For its part Sony is working behind the scenes to push the technology forward, “From a platform standpoint we have the responsibility to show examples of what virtual reality can do. Virtual reality games have to feel natural, you really have to design the game from the ground up.”

For this to happen Yoshida believes, game design has to change. It’s not about repurposing existing titles and slapping on VR support, but about rethinking what works for VR and how VR can enhance the experience.

But virtual reality is not just about gaming.

While gaming has been the logical first application of this new technology, it will soon change the way we consume other types of content. Earlier this month, as part of promotional efforts for the film “The Walk” about high wire artist Philippe Petit who crossed a tight rope between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in 1974, the PlayStation VR gave fans a feel of how that death defying walk actually felt like.

I’ve experienced vertigo while playing a virtual reality game before, and seeing how VR technology and film making can work in tandem to create entirely new, emotional experiences is mind blowing. Yoshida says these two will merge soon, and at the center of it is the PlayStation – not just a gaming console anymore.

But perhaps we’re getting ahead of ourselves. While VR promises to redefine the gaming landscape. The present, and to a certain degree the future are still all about new titles coming to the world’s most popular gaming console. Earlier this year at the annual Electronics Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles, the gaming word’s biggest stage, I thought I had reached my quota for PS4 announcements, but there are a lot more titles coming.

There’s a game called Super Rude Bear Resurrection from independent Game Developer Alex Rose who tells me, he’s been working on his first PlayStation game with a small team of 3, for just over 8 months now. That game was ready to play at PGW. It’s not hugely popular like those from the usual game houses, but it’s a testament to the breadth of Sony’s developer ecosystem. One that Yoshida tells me his company is going to great lengths to grow and nurture.

Among the marquee titles that I had the chance to preview this week, two upcoming games excite me the most.

Wild for PlayStation 4

WILD. Explore a harsh world where man and beast can become one.

One is called Wild, set in a vast world, beautiful but filled with dangers. It’s an open world game that’s about exploration and survival. Conquering forces of nature and asserting dominance over other animals that live amongst you.   

Unchartered 4 is a much anticipated third-person shooter, and possibly the last in this series. Developer Naughty Dog is calling it the culmination of the franchise, and is upping the anti with a multiplayer mode that ramps up the cinematic experience in glorious 60 frames per second, fights that are faster but longer, and with the added dimension of side-kicks and supernatural power-ups.

But the game that Yoshida is most excited about is called Dreams. Initially I had trouble wrapping my head around what kind of game Dreams is. Its developers aren’t 100% sure either, “We don’t know what it will become,” they say those who participate in the beta will make that clear. Perhaps the confusion is because the game can be about many things, expression and performance, creation and play.

Dreams for PlayStation 4

DREAMS is not just a game, its a platform for creating content.

But more importantly it a platform, a platform for game developers, animators and story tellers. If the game kicks off users will be able to design dream sequences, create mini walk throughs, or develop their own animated short films.

Yoshida has a sparkle in his eye as he talks about his new baby, “Dreams is an amazing project. It’s a serious creation platform for people who like to create. This is your chance to create something amazing.”

The technology behind Dreams is likewise pretty amazing, the game uses a completely new rendering engine, not polygons which is traditionally used to create 3D computers graphics. In and of itself it is a testament to the power behind the PS4, also the reason why this year’s crop of games are more realistic than ever before.

“Next year’s games look amazing,” said Yoshida, “2-3 years after will be even more.”


 “PlayStation: Driving virtual reality and beyond” was first published in The Philippine Star on November 2, 2015. The Philippine Star Technology Section is printed every Monday, and is also available as a digital download from digitaledition.philstar.com

[irp posts=”3647″ name=”Sony PlayStation VR gets global release”]

Features

Peloton vs excuses: Mind tricks that can help you squeeze in a workout

For those struggling to keep a routine

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If anyone tells you that having a personal gym at home will remove all barriers to working out, they’re lying.

The Peloton bike packs an insane amount of tech that should help me stay on track, so I should have no excuses not to exercise, right? With it I can do live and on-demand spin classes, strength training, yoga, even meditation and sleep courses. Having it at home also means not needing to make time to travel to the gym. And yet, despite all of this, I still find reasons to shun fitness on the daily.

If you’re like me who typically gets a good week of workouts and then hits a slump when life happens, I’ve compiled some tips that you might find useful. Here are some ways I tricked myself into working out more regularly whenever I struggle to do classes on my Peloton.

Find the time that makes sense for you

After doing your workouts for a while, take note of when you enjoy it the most. For me, sweating it out in the morning works best. If I tell myself that I’ll workout later in the day, it just never happens. I’m just not someone who enjoys exercising in the afternoon or evening as much.

Make it habit

While some people make plans, I just tell myself that I’ll work out everyday and figure it out later.

Peloton has workouts that are as short as 10 or 15 minutes. Even when pressed for time, 15 minutes is just that — 15 minutes. 

Those days I end up not exercising I would just consider recovery days. Our muscles need time to rest after all.

Take a scenic ride

Another trick I do is telling myself to do 10 minutes of a scenic ride. This is an option on the bike if you don’t feel like doing a class. You can ride at your own pace while the monitor shows beautiful landscapes and cities.

What usually happens when I do this is I end up doing an additional 10 minutes of arm workout. Often, I’ll feel warmed up and ready for a regular class afterwards.

Warming up at my own pace without any pressure to perform gets me in the right mindset to actually do a full workout. There are lots of other warm up rides available, too, but they’re usually pretty tough. Picking something that has no pressure eases me in.

Low impact doesn’t mean low effort

When I discovered the low impact ride, I wondered why I hadn’t been doing them all along.

I’m an old lady, or at least my body feels that way. I’ve gotten injured a few times riding the bike: the tendonitis in my thumb flared up, and the muscles that aren’t used to being used so much protested.

You still get a great workout when you choose low impact, but you’ll never achieve a personal best — and that’s perfectly okay.

Put the leaderboad away

Now we’re going to dip into the tech side of things. The leaderboard pushes you to get your personal best, which is great. But when I don’t want to work out, I’ll tell myself that a 45min class will be more doable if I take the leaderboard away. As a competitive person, I always get horrified at my performance when I check it because I don’t push myself nearly as hard apparently.

Pick a class with a gimmick

Peloton offers so many kinds of classes with different genres of music. I’ve done Guns N’ Roses as well as Madonna rides. Jess King has a show tunes series, and there are rides with a DJ.

Whenever I don’t feel motivated to exercise, I think of it as entertainment first and that’s how I trick myself into doing a full workout.

Save classes that made you feel good

When you save classes that made you feel good, you’ll be reminded of that feeling when you see it again on the monitor.When struggling to pick a class, I choose from a bunch of saved classes that I don’t mind doing again.

If I can’t bring myself to face a new challenge, doing one that I’ve already smashed is the best way to go!

Lower the instructors voice

If you have classes where you loved the soundtrack, save them and then choose to have more music and less instructor. It’s amazing how much having motivational music blasting helps.

Forgot how to change the audio mix? Hit the volume button on the right hand side of the display and then change the mix. You have to do it each time as it always resets back to an even mix of music and voice.

Find more tips and tricks on how to maximize your bike here.

Do a class with weights

Doing weights is challenging, but it gives your legs some rest. A 45-minute class is sometimes better than 30 minutes because I know I’ll get breaks to do weights.

Pick your feel-good instructor

Sometimes, picking an instructor that fits your your mood is all you need. When I just want to do a feel good class, I pick Cody because he’s like my gay best friend and his classes are always entertaining. Seeing instructors have a bit of a hard time with the workout is also the energy that motivates me to give the workout everything that I got.

Should you be taking workout advice from someone who struggles with working out? Probably not. Was this entire article about how to work out a little less hard? Maybe.

It would be unfair to say that fitness isn’t a big part of my life. I actually spend a lot of time thinking about working out more than working out itself. It’s one of my favorite past times.

Keeping a consistent workout routine is what I’m struggling with right now. These mind tricks have at least helped me get my ass on the bike and squeeze a workout in even when I don’t feel like it. And for someone who isn’t a disciplined fitness freak, that’s all that matters.

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Best Smartphones

Best Smartphones for Gaming in 2020 (so far)

You don’t need an expensive gaming smartphone to get good

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While you’re stuck at home, your smartphone becomes your go-to device for a lot of things. Whether it’s the news or connecting with your friends, at this point, you can’t live without a smartphone. But of course, even you will run out of things to do on your smartphone. At least, that’s what you think.

If you’re not off browsing through social media, you’re going to consider downloading games for your phone. However, most smartphones face the same problem when you’re strictly using it to play games: the heat. So, not only do you want a phone that lasts long, but one that can handle the heat while playing.

Lucky for you, here are four smartphones that we think are the best of both worlds. At the very least, these are proof that you don’t need a gaming smartphone to play all day.

The realme C3: the most budget-friendly option

If you need a phone that will definitely fit your budget, that’s exactly what the realme C3 offers. For starters, it comes in at PhP 5,999, and is actually the most affordable smartphone on this list. And for that price, you’ll experience solid gaming through and through.

Realme’s OS-based gaming optimization software allows you to play a ton of games without sacrificing battery life. However, the 3GB of RAM will be a bit of an issue when you want to play more graphically-intense mobile games. Nonetheless, it’s a great recommendation for a lot of people, especially for those who play shooter games.

See: the realme C3 in action

The Huawei Nova 7i: a little new but powerful enough to game on

Apart from the stylish colorway, the Huawei Nova 7i provides the power for anything. The Kirin 810 plus 8GB of RAM opens up a ton of performance for gaming purposes. And with a whopping 128GB of storage, there’s plenty of space in there for your favorites for PhP 13,990.

The device comes with GPU Turbo inside Huawei’s EMUI, which improves gaming performance overall. Most MMORPGs and shooter games greatly benefit from GPU Turbo’s enhancements, but it handles even most graphically-intensive sports games well. It’s a great all-around device that will also keep you gaming for hours on end.

See: Huawei Nova 7i pricing and availability in the Philippines

The OPPO A9 2020: big battery for the long playing hours

Much like the Huawei nova 7i, the OPPO A9 2020 also comes with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage inside. It comes in at PhP 15,990, but the real difference is that it comes with a whopping 5000 mAh battery. A bigger battery usually means longer screen time, which leads to longer playing time.

The key to that is OPPO’s Game Boost 2.0, which improves energy consumption and prevents your device from overheating. This gaming optimization software also does its magic on your phone display, reducing input lag. You can play for longer, and possibly compete against your friends in high-stake battles.

See: Hands-on experience of the OPPO A9 2020

The Samsung Galaxy A71: it won’t break the bank, and your back

Out of all the options on this list, the Samsung Galaxy A71 is the only one that breaks the 20K price point. However, even at PhP 22,990, this device is excellent for gaming on the go. Apart from the 8GB RAM + 128GB storage, it comes with the Snapdragon 730G octa-core processor. This, in itself, provides excellent performance and gaming on it is a breeze.

The device comes with the Game Booster optimization software inside Samsung’s OS which improves both performance and energy solutions. This opens up improved performance especially during intense gameplay. Furthermore, the hardware inside opens it up to take on more graphically-intense games.

See: The Samsung Galaxy A71 in action

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Features

7 blue smartphones worth giving a try

All beautiful in blue!

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When Pantone announced Classic Blue as the next color of the year, we listed down powerful smartphones from 2019 that comes in this familiar shade. Nearly halfway through 2020, we saw more smartphones that come in this hue albeit in different shades.

Here, we listed phones that aren’t just beautiful in blue, but powerful and reliable enough to be your daily driver.

Samsung Galaxy S20

The first flagship to astound the world this year is Samsung’s Galaxy S20. A crowd-favorite, this phone came in a charming Cloud Blue that would be difficult to resist and not have a crush on. It’s what every flagship smartphone should be — smart enough to get the job done for you without too much tinkering.

Hands-On: Samsung Galaxy S20 Hands-On

OnePlus 8 Pro

The so-called flagship killer is long gone! OnePlus finally joined the league of iPhones and Galaxies — but still at a little cheaper price compared to these long-standing flagships. Remaining true to its motto ‘Never Settle’, the OnePlus 8 Pro is a reminder that you don’t have to settle for a thousand dollar phone to get the best of the best. Also, it comes in a stunning Ultramarine Blue.

Review: OnePlus 8 Pro

Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro

Another flagship killer who moved to the premium league, the Mi 10 Pro is still one of the best smartphones Xiaomi has to offer. It comes in Solstice Grey, which looks like deep, unsaturated blue — something you see in the skies at dawn. This exorbitant flagship is an ideal alternative for the Galaxy S20 Ultra, since it’s a tad cheaper than Samsung’s 108-megapixel monster.

Review: Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro

LG V60 ThinQ

Odd, quirky, yet functional — the LG V60 ThinQ is truly the most underrated phone of 2020. This phone comes in Classy Blue, packed with essential features. LG didn’t put gimmicks that are commonly familiar to most smartphones in 2020, and instead, offered what every consumer needs. It’s a smartphone with practical solutions to almost everything.

Review: LG V60 ThinQ

Huawei P40 Pro

Huawei has been on a tough spot ever since it lost Google Mobile Services, but it still continues to release phones that are hard to ignore. The P40 Pro is that one case, where everything is pretty much what you’d hope for in a flagship smartphone, except it doesn’t have the basic services to make your life easier. However, this phone found a new market to serve — its loyalists and those who love to tinker around and have full control over what they install on their phones.

Review: Huawei P40 Pro

POCO X2

POCO is back, but it’s not the successor to the well-loved F1. The POCO X2 is proof that POCO’s independence can yield outstanding results. It comes in a flamboyant Atlantis Blue, easily stunning anyone who sets its eyes on this midrange phone. Moreover, it’s a breath of fresh air in a sea of midrange smartphones trying to be the ‘first’. It simply delivers an experience, making it the perfect midrange phone you can buy today.

Review: POCO X2

Samsung Galaxy A71

Samsung has a pretty crappy midrange lineup for a while, then the Galaxy A71 appeared. It may have taken years for Samsung to produce a solid midranger that gets the job done, but it almost perfected the craft with this beaut. It doesn’t have a single strong standout feature, but it’s a well-rounded phone that can keep you entertained and secure. It’s impossible not to give it a try, especially with its cute Prism Crush Blue color.

Review: Samsung Galaxy A71

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