Last night my kids and I were just meant to play a little bit of Dungeons together on our Xbox One S. Just a quick run through a zone and then off to bed, alright kids?
Two hours later we had scoured every nook and cranny, found every secret door and every hidden chest in an area we probably could have cleared in 10-15 minutes if we’d just mainlined it. But with every step the game revealed itself to be a fabulous ‘Diablo for families’ experience that will get regular play for months and maybe years to come.
There’s so much to be said for elevating ‘kid friendly’ games toward the best game mechanics in the business. Nintendo certainly does it like no other, but the wider industry often thinks that you can’t make something for those under 12 and still include advanced game mechanics of any kind.
Minecraft has shunned this idea since its earliest days, of course. It is simple on the surface and quickly offers deep building and crafting systems to those looking for details.
Here with Minecraft Dungeons, Mojang Studios and Double Eleven have built a full fledged action RPG with a gorgeous Minecraft skin. Starting with simple characters, the levelling, the equipment drops, the enchanting system, they all work together to get you thinking and rethinking character builds in search of optimised carnage.
The game flows smoothly on Xbox One, and local multiplayer was a joy. There’s no fighting for loot here, which is a plus or a minus depending on your outlook. Every drop is reserved for specific players, and the emerald currency is evenly distributed each time it drops. I really wish there was loot trading system, though, as there was jealousy amongst the troops when someone else got a drop they didn’t need while someone else was desperately trying to target a tankier build to play up front while another was keen to be a ranged attack specialist.
The general vibe of drops through the first play through are very hit and miss. When you start buying random items from the village vendor and it says they’ll be ‘level appropriate’, people often find themselves receiving useless items well below the level of their current best items. It’s actually more of a disappointment for the younger players, who again would dearly love to be able to swap with each other to get the gear they want.
There’s a fun story to play through – indeed some might find themselves wishing there was a lot more story. But it’s a complaint based on how nicely the story elements have been put together. It would be great if they lasted longer. Instead, the game speeds you toward the adventure mode where you can start to level up the challenges and in the process find cooler items and tougher enemies to deal with. Yes, just like Diablo.
As much as those gripes about trading and overly randomised loot are very real, Minecraft Dungeons has given us a new environment that is familiar to Minecraft fans that takes them toward new styles of gameplay. This is a gateway game for the hardened young Minecraft fan to open their eyes to new styles of fun.
If Minecraft Dungeons as it stands right now is all we ever get, it’s a nice fun ride that will wear eventually feel a little tired, I’m sure. We are yet to head into its hardest levels of difficulty, but it is the discovery and customisation that attracts our merry band to play. Once items, enchants and artefacts become largely a known quantity it won’t be quite so fun.
But I can only imagine Mojang has expansions and updates in mind. And with that idea that this game is likely to be well supported into the future to keep it evolving and fresh, and potentially solving some of the gripes that exist, I think Minecraft Dungeons will see a long life in many households for many years to come.
We received a free review code to access the game ahead of launch on Tuesday, 26 May. It will be available on Xbox GamePass, or for direct purchase via Xbox One, Playstation 4, Windows and Nintendo Switch.
Passwords. People hate them. But people can’t live without them anymore. And they usually have to be dragged kicking and screaming toward doing something better than reusing passwords on 50 different sites… but there is a better way these days.
Yubico and its Yubikey is one of those better ways, with a hardware dongle you can use to improve your authentication for many sites and in the process reduce how often passwords are required — sometimes they aren’t even required at all.
So, this week I’m talking to with Alex Wilson, he’s the Director of Solutions Engineering for APAC and Japan at Yubico. We caught up on Password Day – one of those excellent made up holidays, but in this case it *is* a good excuse to highlight something that I know far too many people keep pretending is OK when it really, really isn’t.
Be vigilant, update your f’ing passwords. And hopefully Alex Wilson can help encourage you toward a future where your whole experience with passwords gets much, much easier. The excuses are done with. Just get on with it.
The gaming influencer and content creator agency Click Management represents some of the world’s biggest names in the space. LazarBeam, Loserfruit, MrFreshAsian, Muselk, and more.
Grace Watkins co-founded the company and runs the show, having peeled off from working at PwC to take on this role.
Gaming content creators are a massive force in this industry, so it’s great to get Grace’s insights on the role Click aims to play both locally and globally. And how they engage in that tricky space where global reach doesn’t always align with where marketing dollars want to go.
This was recorded in the ‘before times’, at Fortnite Summer Smash back in January.
Seamus and Nic are loving the memes right now, and find they really do help take the edge off a tricky time. But can we please stop trying to turn everything into an industrialised meme factory? Not everything needs to be commodified!
This leads to Joe Rogan’s new Spotify deal, which leads to apps and tech we will definitely use differently after the ‘rona times calm down a bit, which leads to Assassin’s Creed telling us the next one is even bigger makes us both a little less excited for it (but we’ll still love it).
If that wasn’t a weirdly literal rundown I don’t know what is, but there’s plenty more I’m sure I’ve forgotten along the way…
This week I’m chatting with Ross Symons, CEO of Big Ant Studios, Australia’s most prolific maker of sports video games. Cricket, AFL, tennis, rugby league, and even lacrosse, Big Ant has got them all in its library. What unites designing sports games of so many stripes? How has Big Ant dealt with licensing? We explore these questions and many more.
Ross is a true veteran of the industry and shares so many great thoughts about games development since some of its earliest days and how to carve a path in the industry. So we start by heading all the way back to where it began for Ross to show just how deep his knowledge of the business goes.
Last week I got to catch up with Thomas Dexmier, the Country Manager for HTC for Australia and New Zealand, to talk about the state of their hardware today, as well as how they see software, hardware and network platforms working together to take us next.
I first got a taste of virtual reality back in 1992 when the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney had the Dactyl Nightmare VR game on show. I queued for about an hour, I played this blocky 3D game with terrible physics for 5 minutes and it was over.
We’ve all wanted good VR for a long time, and we’ve all wanted easy VR for a long time. Having both is hard, but each new product helps us get closer and closer to that dream.
HTC has been at the forefront of VR hardware since it launched the HTC Vive system back in 2016 in partnership with Valve. I’ve had my own setup since that year in my own home and I love it. I know we’re not quite there with ease of setup, but the experience is great and I love sharing it with friends and family any chance I get.
Here’s some links to the VR games and experiences we mentioned during the show:
A synthetic Instagram star signs with the biggest talent agency in the world? Sounds like the perfect week to get extra virtual as we deep dive on our own experiences with the HTC Vive Cosmos over recent weeks. Is VR ready for prime time yet? If not yet, when and how?
Plus a little more Elon and a dash of Spot the robot dog enforcing social distancing in Singapore. Thankfully, no cattle prod… yet…
Anyone who knows me knows I’m a Sonos nut. Long time user, over a decade of digging on their various speakers and now there’s one in every room of the house.
Maybe that would mean I’ve got enough? Not when something especially cool is added to the list, and the Sonos Arc is a big leap forward in the living room.
The Sonos Arc is the new ‘smart soundbar’ in the company’s line up. The first soundbar, Playbar, arrived back in 2013, and I’m surprised to realise it’s now seven years old. It changed the way we thought of having speakers in the living room altogether – to have one easy setup that is both a music system when the TV is off and a surround sound system when you’re getting into big screen action.
Even today there’s no other brand that unifies music and TV services into a single audio system as seamlessly as Sonos. But for the hardcore home cinema junkie the older soundbars were not keeping up with the latest standards of immersive audio. And that’s where the Arc steps in.
Sonos Arc brings Dolby Atmos support to the family, the latest Dolby standard that builds on 5.1 surround sound by adding height into the mix.
The Arc delivers that by adding upward facing drivers to the system as well as side firing and angled elements to deliver a pretty great surround experience without dedicated rear channel speakers. But being Sonos, you can use Sonos One units to act as perfect little rear channels, and a Sonos Sub to take over the big beefy low end duties.
Sonos has already been doing a great job of automatically tuning the room via the Sonos app on your phone with its TruePlay system, and this is again used with Arc to get things sounding just right in your main seating position.
With Arc, the control scheme for your audio setup shifts toward the HDMI based ARC standard (Audio Return Channel), so your TV can send the signal from all your devices back to the Arc for playback. This is where you get the Dolby Atmos support, as the old optical audio standard does not do Dolby Atmos. (Even at that, it’s the eARC standard you need for Atmos support…)
If your TV isn’t Atmos capable, you can still get Atmos through whichever device you plug directly into the Sonos Arc, so choose that option carefully (in our house that will be the Apple TV 4K).
Sonos Arc $1399 in Australia.
We had a great chat with some of the folks behind the scenes at Sonos to share shortly, and we’re hoping to get you a hands on review once we get to check out this new hardware, but seeing the Arc arrive alongside upgraded Sub and Five Sonos units feels like just what we needed when our home cinema is the only cinema we’ll be experiencing for at least a few more months to come!
After a nod to Star Wars Day letting loose some first rate indie talent in the new and expanding universe, Nic and Seamus discuss Tom Cruise really actually going into space with SpaceX to make a movie. Is it actually Mission: Impossible or just eventually improbable?
Plus an extended uncomfortable examination of Elon Musk’s trajectory as a person who shouts weirdly on the internet, and then an actual examination of Apple’s new Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro. Just how close are we to the official “iPads are laptops now” debate being settled?
And then Nic opines for access to his beloved gym because tech just doesn’t cut it for replacing what he wants from his exercise experience. Is there anything out there that can?
Along the way we shout out Peloton, Mirror, Ring Fit, Just Dance 2020, and lots more.
Seamus talks to Ed Pullen, Regional Marketing Director for Dataminr to discuss the company’s real-time AI event and risk detection system.
It’s running everywhere from newsrooms to corporate security departments, helping companies find the information they didn’t know they really need to know to stay ahead of the risk curve.
We talk examples of the kinds of events the system can detect, how it’s finding this information from structured and unstructured data sources around the world, and what it says about how we search for and manage decision making in the digital world.
Dataminr sponsored this episode of Jetpacks Are Overrated. Having said that, I don’t ever intend to say yes to a sponsorship if I don’t find the product interesting and worth talking about.
A big thank you to Dataminr for supporting the show!