No we are not talking about MineCraft here, nor about any old type of gaming with wooden blocks in a children play area. When I was looking for indie stuff for yesterday’s article, I came across a new type of gaming: gaming with gaming cubes. The name of the first of these things on the market is Sifteo Cubes, but I am sure that more will follow with similar technology.
What are these special cubes? Sifteo Cubes are cubes with a bit of hardware in them.. some logic, a screen to display things and a main base station where the software is installed on and the sound comes from. This main base is like a console, just a bit smaller. It comes with an USB connection to be able to install new games on it. Otherwise they need some triple-A batteries to be able to run.
Oh and software ofcourse. Some of this software has already been developed and will be delivered with the cubes when you buy a set somewhere in the world. But as the developers stated in their video: they are not the creative type, they are asking the game developer community to build games for it. Currently they are selecting and accepting a certain type of bigger game developers via their website, but they are also building tools for the more indie developer to allow publishing via their network.
So if you are a developer (and most of you here are gamers and not game developers I believe) than you can download the free Sifteo SDK from their website and try to create games for them. The SDK comes with an emulator to be able to check your creations out.
But enough about that aspect. Let’s talk about how these cubes function and what you can do with them!
The magical cubes run software, as I talked about before. They respond to motion (holding them in your hands, I suppose they have some sort of Nintendo-like gravitational sensors in them), they respond to touch with a touch screen and they respond to each other. Whether that last is a sensor, or more of an NFC read technology I am not quite sure, but they know exactly which side of the cube is touching the other (eachother) and then the software of both will interact with each other.
So for example you could build a game where you have to let a character walk a path and this path is created by putting the right type of cubes on the right sides of the path to make the path continue, or a game where a fluid has to fall down (stack the blocks on top of each other). Now were these examples from their own video on youtube, but I am sure there will be much more creative ideas coming from this concept and technology.
The cool thing of this is that you can play games on the table or in your tent on a holiday, or in the car while driving to your holiday destination. You won’t need a TV, you don’t need a console, you just need these blocks. It is also expandable, it starts with three blocks, but more blocks can be bought seperately. Or you can have your friends join you with their blocks.
Does this mean that you can play with an endless amount of cubes?
Sofar the support forums showed that the main base supports up to 12 connected cubes. Next to that game developers can make games limit the amount of cubes to use. For example a Twist inspired game is going to be launched somewhere this year and will have a maximum of 12(!) cubes, while a lot of the smaller puzzle games allow a maximum of six cubes. It’s just a matter of time and creativity on the game developers side to create awesome gameplay with a big amount of cubes.
New games are launched via their games store which you can download via your PC or Mac and then new games can be synchronised with your Cube main adapter via an USB cable. These new games will most likely come for a price. Games are for sale against credits and credits can be bought via the website of Sifteo.
I hope they will also come with different cube types with different ways of play. Perhaps add a microphone to the mix or a mini camera?
I am not trying to commercialise this company or its products, but I surely feel interested in this type of alternative interactive gameplay. Even if it was just to relax for once and not use the PC for a bit of time, and holidays are exactly those moments we usually don’t have our favourite console around us or that powerful PC to play on.
The cubes cannot be switched on or off by a button. The cubes will turn themselves off after a certain amount of minutes while not being in use. You can “wake them up” by shaking them (they will turn on again). The main base can be switched on and off by pressing and holding a button on the top. Turning off the main base (5-second rule anyone?!) will also shutdown the paired cubes and this will show a 5-second countdown on one of the cubes. Connecting (pairing like in bluetooth, perhaps it is bluetooth they use) is done by holding the ‘to connect cube’ directly to the left side of the main base.
This is actually the second generation of cubes. The first version came one-and-a-half year ago and had less functionality. The Sifteo cubes are for sale as a beginners set of three cubes, a main station, five batteries and four pre-installed games for a price around 130 USD. For International buyers you get forwarded to Amazon.com. Note that ordering from the US might add some taxes from the Customs for importing the product into the country you are living.
Hmm I think I have to save up some money for this and get it. I really want to play around with it. Perhaps I even want to develop for it!