The 2014 EB Expo is here, running from today until Sunday October 5 at the Sydney Showgrounds. Unsurprisingly, as we found last year, the show is heavily skewed towards the major consoles, but with area set up for independent games developers to showcase their wares.
First of all, I checked out the Sony stand and found them promoting their new Xperia Z3 range with its PlayStation 4 Remote Play capability. This involves attaching your phone or tablet to a PlayStation-like controller which then streams your gameplay from the console and uses your phone as a screen, streaming the output from the console.
Sony’s putting a lot of focus on the feature as it rolls out, and understandably so – Remote Play removes the need for you to take over the TV in your house in order to play your games, and essentially makes your PS4 portable.
The demo unit on hand was an unreleased Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact (due for release, we hear, in November but alas still without known pricing) streaming Destiny from a nearby PlayStation 4. Everything worked smoothly, and the gamers stopping by for a play were suitably impressed.
While Sony considers Remote Play a jewel in its crown and wants you to buy one of its new Xperia phones to access the functionality, it seems an enterprising user at XDA has ripped Remote Play and its associated files and given instructions on how to set it up on any Android 4.0+ device. Sony’s rep didn’t seem too upset about this development, and said that they can obviously only guarantee the quality on officially-supported devices – which seems fair.
And yes, that’s a confirmed Google Glass sighting.
A lesser-advertised feature Sony was keen to highlight was the ability to use your Android device as a microphone in the newest entry in the SingStar series. It’s not quite clear whether you can use any phone though, or just Sony’s own Xperia devices.
Home Grown Games
I went along to check out the independent game developers area of the Expo as well. Disappointingly, it seemed a little more cramped and crowded than last year, and most of the developers on-hand were showing off PC titles. EB Expo is mainly geared towards console and PC gamers, so that’s not too surprising. I still got to check out a number of titles.
Lime Rocket – Buzzy TV Crowd Games
First up were Lime Rocket, the creators of Buzzy TV. It’s a crowd entertainment system that runs test-of-knowledge games on screens in venues and lets users participate using an app on their phones which detects their location and syncs them up with the quiz in progress. Questions are generally some kind of visual cue with an obscured image becoming clearer over time with players who answer quicker earning more points.
Leaderboards are shown occasionally so you can try to beat your mates, and Lime Rocket say they’d like to do some more advanced mining of audience interests in a particular venue so they can tailer questions to those who are playing.
There’s a Buzzy set up on the down-low in Sydney at the moment which I’ll be looking to check out in the next couple of weeks, but in the meantime you can download the app. Lime Rocket is also looking to make the game available for people planning to host it for private parties — perhaps something Chromecast-related looms in their future.
SMG Studio – OTTTD
Sydney-based indie studio SMG was showing off OTTTD, which stands for Over-The-Top Tower Defence game with a good sense of humour – or, as they put it “Spaceballs meets Starship Troopers”. It’s a gorgeous-looking tower defence game with a variety of level types. The game that puts you in direct control of troops on the ground and also lets you place tower-defence mainstays like turrents, etc to stop the oncoming waves of bad guys.
OTTTD looks fantastic and is a testament to the quality of talent on offer in Australia’s games development scene. It’s $4.99 on Google Play with a 4-star rating, and is also available for iOS and PC.
They were also promoting their upcoming title One More Line:
(Fortunately they were better at playing it on the stand)
One More Line comes with an interesting promise:
— SMG is 📦 Moving Out April 28 📦 ➡️ #PAXEAST (@smgstudio) September 24, 2014
Want more? SMG also has a cute game of destruction named Thumbzilla available for free in Google Play, and was also demonstrating its upcoming game One More Line. Check it out!
Chaos Theory Games – S.W.A.P
S.W.A.P isn’t actually an Android title, but it had a neat concept so hopefully Chaos Theory Games will look at porting it to mobile platforms and find a way to solve the control issue. The game is an arena-style FPS where shooting another person switches you into their body instead of killing them. There’s a neat reversal capture-the-flag gameplay on offer, where you need to take over the body of whomever’s carrying a virus and bring them back to your own flag.
Chaos Theory also has a couple of cool-looking Android projects coming up. Novae has you growing your own solar system, while Gltch (yep, there’s no I) looks like a well-presented puzzler. You can click through to those links to sign up for more information on their site.
Perhaps the gaming world’s equivalent of a self-titled album, Studio Stormworm’s “Stormworm” game is a deceptively complicated, lo-fi/wireframe slightly-psychedlic-looking version of a 3D version of the ever-popular Snake. In Stormworm, your snake is moving across a small 3D planet trying to find cubes and avoid obstacles.
Stormworm is $1.99 on Google Play and it’s currenty got a 4.5-star rating. At that price you’d be mad not to try it out.
I also checked in with Blunt Instrument, who impressed Dan and I last year with their Oculus Rift title Super Mega Mega. While the latest version of that title was again on show, Blunt Instrument were this year more focused on their new in-progress nature survival game We of the Woods. It’s still in development, but we’re told it will be hitting Android devices!
Saito Games – Puppy Wings
Puppy Wings looks amazing with its cartoon-inspired character design, and has a unique boomerang-themed weapon that has some interesting gameplay implications. It’s available in free and paid versions on Google Play and costs $3.20.
Saito Games also has an older game, Treasure Submarine available on Google Play – it’s a cute game, based on the old Battleship formula and is a free download with no in-app purchases.
A visit to the Sydney Showgrounds for an event like the EB Expo warrants a little bit of photographic magic, so I made a Photosphere while I was there, and then turned it into a Tiny Planet:
EB Expo is on this weekend in Sydney. For more information on exhibitor, admission fees and events, check out the official EB Expo site. I’ll be heading back for day 2 tomorrow as well, so if you see me wandering around, say hello!