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A game studio without hardware experience builds a VR-enabled console



  Slightly Mad Studios promotes the VR modes of its Project Cars games. Now the CEO wants to build a living room gaming box for high-end VR games.
Enlarge / The Mad Studios prefer the VR modes of their Project Cars games. Now the CEO wants to build a living room gaming box for high-end VR gaming.

Are you ready for another video game console with promises of high-speed performance for 4K TVs and wireless VR headsets? Are you ready to believe that such a system can be delivered by a game development studio with zero hardware launches in its history?

The announcement of Wednesday's new console, the Mad Box comes courtesy of Ian Bell. CEO and founder of Slightly Mad Studios. And Bell told Ars Technica that he expects the console to hit the market in "more than three years" at a "standard plus next-generation price".

The London-based studio is best known for its PC-based game console series Project Cars, which also includes its own impressive VR implementation on PCs. But Slightly Mad has no history of hardware production.

Bell & # 39; s Wednesday announcement coming out of nowhere on his otherwise blank Twitter account was not helped by his confusing language:

What is the Mad Box? It's the most powerful console ever built …

It's literally "crazy" … you want 4K, want VR at 60 frames per second? You want a free engine to develop your games on it? You have it.

Following pressure from followers, Bell made the repeated claim that this "60fps" rate in a VR headset is "per eye" and the competition is slightly slower than this rate. "No one walks at 180fps," Bell wrote in response to a Twitter comment (which he later deleted), but that's inaccurate. Both the HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift offer a maximum refresh rate of 90 Hz per eye, which technically means a workload of 180 frames per second (because VR systems produce stereoscopic images that are unique to each eye.)

In an email interview with Ars Technica, Bell clarified what he wanted to convey with his tweets since deleted: that no existing console can play 180fps content for VR headsets "with every detail of the next generation," but that the Mad Box will do this.

In scale?

When asked about Slightly Mad's lack of experience in hardware production, Bell pointed to his first job "28 years ago" in PC construction. Bell does not list this work experience on his LinkedIn page, nor has he clarified how this experience in a PC building business could apply to our "large-scale computer system production" question.

Bell Also Clarified The Mad Box Unlike Slightly Mad Studios, the company would be produced by a "brand new company," and "we're having talks with about 20 [hardware production] groups, but that's all under NDA. "

Bell provided a surprising answer to Ars' question about the bandwidth of the system's connectors, as some PC makers have begun to push ahead with a USB Type-C standard for future VR headsets. After noting that the Mad Box will contain "the latest connectivity," Bell added, "We're in talks with some vendors currently working on unconnected [wireless] VR."

This clue may be found in or not in the coming years, as wireless VR adapters hit the market well in the past year. They deliver decent results (but at an prohibitively high price).

"We expect all good developers to fully engage in the high-performance and low-cost arrangements we plan for the Mad Box," Bell told Ars, emphasizing the "full engine for free" aspect of the pitch Mad box. "The industry needs some competition."

We have to wait and see how the Mad Box is positioned in the hardware area of ​​the living room. This also includes whether the system uses an open-source operating system such as Linux, a locked-down operating system such as Windows or a proprietary operating system. console-like walled garden. The last major attempt to shake high-end console games was the steam engine from Valve Software. This initiative end of 2015 reached after a quiet start and a still calmer run on the pasture no second generation.


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