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

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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.

    • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

      • 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.

  • 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)

  • 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.

  • To me.. the software side sounds like a good idea.. but as actual console hardware I have to buy.. just isn’t as accessible as I would like.. if I’m going to buy yet more hardware, I want it to do more than what is being presented here..

  • The guy in the video could be paid to help make a proposition advert for a non-existant product for a creative ‘university assignment’ or something, and may not know he’s being used to sell a scam. They take everyone’s money, we go after this guy, he knows nothing about it, gg.

  • Obvious scam:

    – poor English
    – video designed to get attention and be shared without a proper company site existing
    – “Kickstarter” rip-off site which takes your money immediately.

    Bad, bad stuff.

    • Poor english i can sorta forgive..

      Instant “supporter” backlash the moment when its been critiqued and continued aggressiveness puts up my alarm bells. Because thats usually the tactic of very bad asian online scams.

      The supposed”Kickstarter” which actually takes money up front instead of waiting for a deadline for backers pretty much just confirms it IMHO

  • So out of curiosity, I started doing some poking around. The website is registered to “Derrick Samuels”, the same person the website claims is a ten year entrepreneur, inventor and game veteran Derrick Samuels.

    Further digging revealed, pretty much what I expected to see. The same guy has been around basically since 2004 trying to make and sell ‘consoles’, originally under the company name Envizions.

    A bit more googling and revelead the name of one of the consoles as EVO2 and a few articles from around 2008 onwards, with a familiar story. A small start up trying to “take on the big guys” making promises of things to come, but nothing ever coming out of it from as far as I can see. Articles make claims that the consoles aren’t far off but then nothing since.

    Numerous websites have been registered by the same guy (19 of them), and what ones I could find either seemed to no longer be relevant to the product they were trying to sell (http://www.envizionsinc.com) or simply are no longer maintained (http://kickvoxx.com).

    I think it’s pretty clear what the story is and should really take it for how it appears. Ludicrous claims, unsupported by anything substantial in a desperate attempt to con a few gullibles fools out of a few dollars.

    Also, that controller looks hellishly uncomfortable. I don’t think I’d want to use it for more than ten minutes. 😛

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EVO_2_DX
    http://www.thunderboltgames.com/features/article/an-interview-with-envizions-founder-derrick-samuels-feature-for-all-none.html
    http://www.videogameconsolelibrary.com/pg00-evo.htm
    http://www.engadget.com/2011/05/25/evo-2-console-promises-to-bring-android-gaming-to-your-tv-this-f/
    http://whois.domaintools.com/kickvoxx.com
    http://reversewhois.domaintools.com/derrick-samuels

    • I think you left out the part about him actually supposedly releasing the original EVO.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EVO_Smart_Console

      That said though… ya, he seems like a bit of a dreamer, but when it comes down to getting the product out there it’s difficult.

      While I don’t think this is an outright scam (I do think the guy has good intentions), I’m not sure I’d give him the million he wants. He hasn’t really proven to anyone he can responsibly produce a games console within a deadline… or a promotional video for that matter. He can’t even explain the claims he makes in his video.

      If he had just waited until he had a prototype, he could have had a Kickstarter, which would have helped a lot. Hiring someone to make a promotional video that knows what they’re doing would have helped too. Making sure you’re making claims and backing them up within the script and video = big plus.

      This whole thing is basically the antithesis of how to create a good funding campaign.

  • They posted on youtube that they were in the kickstarter program, which was false and debunked quickly. When they were shamed in the comment section, they changed the name from “Kickstarter” to “Crowdfunding”
    Any comments questioning the console were removed, deleted and now he has disabled comments entirely. People had valid points, asking how it works etc. Definitely sceptical at best but then again, people need some constructive criticism sometimes.

    Their last console, which barely even made it to market, wasn’t even a console at all. It was a overpriced, over hyped, glorified Linux Box. A friend of mine actually bought one and states that it was the worst thing to come out since the Atari Jaguar.

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