I'm Not Quite Sure What To Make Of 'Oton', A Console That Promises To 'Self-Create' Games

The Ouya is happily ticking along, with $US8.5 million in the kitty and development kits going out this month. It's hard not to be inspired by the interest — and dollars — the project has drawn; we shouldn't be surprised by others trying to get in on its success. Enter EnGeniux with its "Oton" console that will apparently create its own games. Yeah, I'm having trouble buying it too.

Is Oton just another Phantom, or is there something tangible to its claims? All we have to go on is the top video (but all that gives us is a sales pitch, some concept images and clips from currently-released games) and a press release, which shares details on the unit's planned hardware, software and capabilities.

The press release states that EnGeniux has been working on the "Oton technology" for three years, with a custom version of Ubuntu, called "Otonomous X", providing the operating system.

On the hardware side, the company says we should expect a rear projection camera on the back so images can be thrown up on walls, cutting off the need for a TV (this is, admittedly, a cool idea). Inside, a quad-core Cortex A9, 2GB RAM and 16GB of flash are promised, along with bevy of input / output ports including USB, ethernet and S/PDIF. Three "HD" models will be available, with prices of $US279, $US379 and $US579, though what the added cash buys you is not specified.

I had to raise another eyebrow when I tried to visit the company's website and ended up nowhere. Maybe it's not set up yet or is temporarily down, but you'd hope it would be on top of this sort of thing.

As of writing, the project has one backer, who has supplied $US49 of the $US1 million EnGeniux apparently requires to get things going. At this rate it's going to struggle to get funding, but I'm honestly not surprised. If EnGeniux has been working on the tech for three years, surely it can muster up more than a video showing off the games of others? Yes, we get to see some code, but it's presented without context and we don't get to see the compiled end product.

The video claims the software can create both simple 2D games and complex 3D ones, but seeing it mention the concept of levels and other basic building blocks does not bode well for the "complex" side of things. Games aren't just about levels any more; it's going to take a lot more sophisticated logic to sculpt anything beyond a Mario-style platformer.

What seems to be missing are the elements of story and depth — I'm sure creating a Doom clone might be possible, but it would be a hollow, artificial experience compared to the real thing. Unless EnGeniux has a world-class procedural narrative engine bubbling away in its programming cauldron, I wouldn't expect much beyond jumping, shooting and collecting power-ups.

There is talk of actual developers and players themselves creating games for the console, a la Ouya, but this is mostly a footnote compared to the ambitious claims of the device's game-building abilities. Procedural generation is hard enough as it is when creating content within an already established framework. Crafting everything from nothing, though?

It's a mighty huge claim and if these guys are for real, I wish them the best. But any programmer worth their salt knows how large a project this would be and beyond building very simple games, Oton is going to have to do some pretty amazing things to deliver on its promises.

OTON [Official site]


Comments

    Hey Logan. I work with these guys as a supporter. The site does not official go live until Monday. they decided to wait until then until then since most of the positive media stories were next week. And yes, the team worked on the idea for three years on the concept...do you know how hard it was to create that code? They have the alpha code like every other company.

    This make me sick. Ouya comes along with this phone and you guys love it. but when someone does something innovative you crap on it1 How about being a bit open and want to see it succeed to see what they have planned and it has raised more than $49. The other donations want process until Monday. This is selfstarter like every other company. Why do gamers want something new but complain when someone try! Sorry for the rant but you guys kill me. You want info email the freaking company!

      Hello Michael,

      I'm not trying to crap on this at all, I'm just stating the realities. I'm a published game developer myself (both indie and mainstream), so, yes, I have some idea of just how monumental a task this is, at least from a software perspective. Like I said, I wish them all the best, but I'll be honest -- the pitch video wasn't very convincing. These are my impressions, not an attempt to burn the project before it's started.

      Just for the record, I had a lot of reservations about Ouya too, having followed the saga of Phantom years ago. I was very happy to see Ouya succeed and will have the same attitude with Oton.

      I'll keep an eye out for the site on Monday, thanks for the heads-up.

        lol comon are people really buying this? Obviously this is some sort of hoax. Or prank. This is ridiculous Logan

        Website's up, if you want to have a look.

      Well can you blame him? A youtube video is already alive but the official site isn't? Why didn't they go up hand in hand instead of creating a void for people to question its validity?

      Secondly - Ouya as a concept is sound and promising. It has efficient yet powerful hardware which is open for moding and budding developers, while also providing your typical platform for gaming. Ouya is already in production with developers devices date set to ship and one hell of a sexy piece of equipment.

      Oton on the other hand is promising unlimited content for free and games? 100% return to developers on their games? Where is the business model in this? Okay cool If its all true - but unlimited content the console creates instantly for you - where is the narrative and progressive gameplay/story telling in this? How good is this actual free content? Overall I think it has a lot to explain and show before anyone can get excited - its basically promising you everything without showing anything at this point.

      You might be upset because the initial reception is poor... but the video leaves some serious questions and overall comes across as being targeted towards investors who don't understand games rather than developers and industry.

      Critically it makes two claims that completely contradict one another. Developers gain 100% of revenue, and that players don't need to pay a cent for games or content.

      Perhaps the procedurally generated games will be free, but honestly the current state of procedural content in games isn't that good. Certainly not good enough to create balanced games.

      Honestly, it sounds a lot like "unlimited detail" to me.

      I'll admit this has some interesting idea's (not sure how they'll work out), but the Ouya had a couple things going for it strait out of the box:
      -A cheap buy in ($100)
      -An existing marketplace (Google's Play Store)

      As it is an Android console it was easier for devs to get behind it as it is using the existing market place and games would just need a couple tweeks to work with the controller.

      The OTON on the other hand has three levels of buy in (Why???) and though the current buy in is $99 (what does this get you since there are three levels), the bigger issue here is that they are selling it as: It will buid the games for you, and they're free.. but you can sell them, and you can buy stuff others have made... ect, ect...
      How will you get any interest from propper game developers when the system is based on the idea of free games...

      Good Luck and all, but this look somewhat more scetchy than Ouya...

    Hey, Logan I'm not trying to give you hard time or nothing. I know these guys and they are great people and they understand business. Yes, this is a hard project. OTON was develop to compete with the big 3 consoles. How do you beat the big 3? Create a system that can produce unlimited games! These guys have already ship a small run open source system that sold out and highly requested by collectors. This company has game veterans with a 10 year history of delivering!

    The Android console Ouya is pushing was though of from these guys 1 1/2 before Ouya so they had to strap their Android system and pull OTON from the self and do something amazing! The positive buzz is growing! As a developer would you like to do less work and make more money? If yes, OTON is that system. Yes, this is challenging, but someone had to do it! And no they want put their secret sauce in a 4 minute video so the big 3 can see.

    Contact the company and get the real scoop! This is the most important console to come to market. This system can't fail it's history making moving us toward something good! Check out this link! http://www.videogamemadness.co.uk/oton-home-page/ Sorry for the rant and hope you don't kill one of the most important system to come to market in years!

      Lets see the reality of the situation before claiming it to be the most important systems to come to the market in years shall we... Seriously. I get you're friends with them but Logan makes a lot of good points. I'm getting this very heavy 'Im from Otons marketing division' vibe I must admit with this second post.

      Sorry for the rant and hope you haven't killed the publicity potential for this console with yours...

      You should just stop posting. If this thing is really as great as you say, then you are doing it a massive disservice "promoting" it. How are you helping us understand the potential of this thing if we can't even trust you to spell properly? You sound like a bot.

    After watching the video, I have to agree with Logan. There's a lot of talk of self-creating games but they're not really showing how that could work... maybe it will be great.. but the video doesn't present a convincing case.

    Rhetoric, smokey mirrors and attacking legitimate criticism is not a good start to any marketing campaign.

    I also agree with Logan. After watching the video, I was just left confused. It goes on about these unlimited, automatic games or whatever, and then just shows angry birds and some other games made by developers. It's a really, really bad pitch. And Michael, you had me until your second post just became marketing spiel.

    Edit: Oh, and that "Video Game Madness" site is, to put it as kind as I can, shocking.

    Last edited 02/12/12 4:26 pm

    fractripro these guys are not trying attack nobody. This is me saying this not the project. These guys are just doing a kickstarter like anybody else. These guys are doing a simple campaign. This should be fun and exciting to see something new. Guys the have the code but it wasn't finish in time for the kickstarter video. Trust me fun things to come. As a gamer let's enjoy this and help this thing get funded. Like I said reach out and stop just assuming it's bad. This is good!

    Hey Ben. I was just showing that some people are supporting it. The code was not finish in time to get in the video. It's not as hard as everyone is making out to be. These guys seen an opportunity and did it. I'm not trying to pitch or nothing. I'm a supporter. I have bought product from these guys. If that's a issue I'm sorry. I can't force nobody to like nothing. I'm just saying wait before you judge and see where it goes.

      We are judging by what we see not what is claimed. Why launch this when you can not back up what you claim or effectively demonstrate it? It will seemingly destroy the campaign before it has begun. Further - you claim this tech will work but then qualify it with the fact you are just a supporter who has worked with them. Where is your objectivity? You are vouching for a product on assumption and hearsay. You are doing more damage than good from your commentary.

      First of all, you are clearly from the company making this, second of all, learn to reply correctly.

    I'd be thanking Logan for the free advice. If your asking people to give you a million dollars, you need to give them a really good reason to do so, and he has highlighted several factors that may make potential investors reluctant.

    Everything that the console is suggesting might be entirely possible, but anyone with even the most rudimentary understanding of programming knows how immense a task this is.

    Prove to them just how special the OTON is with a video that shows something really special. At the moment, it feels like it's like an impractical idea, even if your intentions are good.

    sounds like garbage

    sounds like BS, smells like phantom all over - id be very sceptical

    So because someone is trying to be innovative it's a issue? Yes, this is huge challenge. But guys it's not as hard as you think. The guy that figured this out understand programming. The demo code on the video is pretty much the system creating a game level. When they showed me. I was a instant believer. It's not as hard as you think trust me. If you guys get to know the guys and I promise you would talk about OTON for hours. Like I said. I'm just a supporter and find this site checking for updates for Monday. I'm done for the night guys. I enjoyed the discussing.

      You don't sound like you enjoyed the discussing. You sound like you're annoyed at everybody for not recognising the wondrous innovation of this machine. Does new automatically equal good? I mean, I've just had an idea for a console that is the size of a washing machine and can only play one game: a new version of Pong where the ball is invisible, and it plays an unskippable cutscene every time a point is scored. This has never been done before, therefore it is awesome.

      What you are writing is ruining any chance of me and other ever taking this console seriously.

        Yeah Michael really needs to stop talking. It is coming across like he is representing the company in some way and in doing so is also coming off very badly. Besides the fact that it does not look or sound very good anyway.

          He reminds me a little of that 'Ocean Marketting' guy a few months back, but somehow slightly sedated.

      You sound like typical viral marketer - but usually you call phone :P

    Given that the first video related to this product links to this site: http://www.envizionsinc.com/ I have my doubts.

    Micheal, I'd just stop talking - the broken english and marketing undertones are not doing the project any favours.

    http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_mdf3na1vAf1rl4vr0o1_1280.jpg

      I don't get it... is that an Gameboy getting excited about an VHS tape? :P

    Michael stop advertising your product.This is the internet everything gets criticised .This "product" has done anything yet to compete with the "big 3".The Ouya looks like its going to be a flop IMO but with its price point there might be a market for it .With the Oton's price point just get a wii U ,As Nintendo have consistently brought innovation to the gaming world ,also now with its gamepad.Michael GTFO.

    Nice article Logan

    the comments here are hilarious.

    short of having some sort of post singularity AI procedurally creating the games, i cant imagine this being very fun at all to play.

    also, was that video filmed on a phone? at the very least check your white balance guys.

    I love the idea of trying to develop something new - challenge the 'Big 3', but like others have stated there's no substance to the video. They don't really show what the system actually does what the company is claiming.
    Delaying the video until some progress has been made would be beneficial as well. Perhaps in six months when they have developers working closely with the OS/Console and have some actual understandable coding (rather than claims), then it may take off. Until then a video making claims isn't enough I'm afraid.

    However, If they are genuine then I do hope they succeed.

    The Oton drinking game - you must take one chug of beer every time you hear 'game' in the video.

    What this? In-console DLC? lol. (capcom is never going to live down what they did)

    Wow that's a powerful lot of Astroturfing for a small post.

    This reminds me of Angelina, (http://www.gamesbyangelina.org/) which seemed like a good idea, but the games it produced (at the time Kotaku ran the story: http://www.kotaku.com.au/2012/03/software-designs-its-own-video-games-for-humans-to-play/) really were just simple platforming, collect'em up games.

    Last edited 02/12/12 8:22 pm

      Hey! Thanks for remembering me. :)

      Just wanted to let you know that since then I've worked on getting ANGELINA to inspect code to invent game mechanics: http://www.gamesbyangelina.org/?p=234 AND we're releasing a free Desktop/Android game to show off some of the mechanics and levels this month: http://www.gamesbyangelina.org/?p=233

      We're working hard on getting ANGELINA to be better and better! But I must admit, OTON does seem a tad pie-in-the-sky...

    I haven't even watched the video but the comments have been very entertaining.

    WTG, Micheal. You've pretty much instantly ruined the reputation of the company in my mind by acting like a complete and utter jerkwad to a journalist who has said nothing other than noting the difficulty in pulling something like this off. The terribly made sales pitch, video of OTHER DEVELOPER'S GAMES (did you get permission to show those?) and the rather laughable radio announcer don't help much either.

    good luck. you'll need it.

    Looks like a total scam. Was this recorded on a phone? They are asking for $99 per backer which is charged to you immediately, but somehow their one 'backer' has only spent $49. Avoid.

      Not to mention their "home" page/"kickstarter" is not even hosted by kickstarter themselves. I don't know a whole lot about these sort of things, but I wouldn't feel comfortable giving any money directly to this operation without a reputable middle man (kickstarter.com) - doesn't seem like a lot of consumer protection there. Not to mention their payment page has no encryption. I'd avoid until something tangible is shown.

    So console not even good as 3DO? Will bomb-bad :P

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