The following topics will be discussed, but not limited to:
The car cabin may become the last playground for adults;
Getting in the game, “playable” and “enjoyable” are completely different concepts;
You never know what your teammate is using to play games with you;
Musk: You will play real blockbuster games in the cabin, and this car is…… The Ideal L9: Absolutely, that’s me;
Is the cabin game for better child raising? That’s bullshit.
Recently, the topic of “playing games in the car” has become popular again.
The specific reason is believed to be due to the promotional activity of the Ideal L9’s new car, which has brought this topic back to discussion.
As far as the eye can see, many people think that using in-car hardware to play games is too unreliable.
Admittedly, before discussing whether it will become the third space or have cultural attributes, the essence of a vehicle is still a means of transportation, and the core element of driving behavior is still safety, which is beyond doubt.
But we want to seriously discuss “getting in the game” and “playing games in the car” – note that these are two different things. On the one hand, we analyze the possibility of getting in the game and which games are suitable for car rides; on the other hand, we look at the essence of the problem of “playing games in the car”.
Why do games need to get in the car?
First of all, the entertainment demand in the car cabin has been verified as necessary long ago and it is constantly evolving.
In recent years, commercial KTV venues are no longer the favorite of young people, so keen KTV song selection system developers, armed with music libraries and microphones, use the air-tightness and good original sound quality of the car space to create exclusive KTV rooms in the cabin. As long as you don’t care about the gaze of others, anyone can be the most popular singer in the parking lot.
Car manufacturers, suppliers, technology giants, and internet companies have all shown their cards. Why hasn’t the development of in-car games taken off?
Before we ask this question, let us first clarify who is playing games.
Shen Yanan, Co-founder and CEO of Ideal Cars, once said at a public event “We have statistics that Ideal ONE car owners spend an average of 4.4 hours per week inside the car but not driving.”
Talking to many people about this topic, almost everyone will think that this 4.4-hour scenario is most likely waiting for children to finish school at the school gate. Or as the car company’s friends say, one hour in the car cabin is the last oasis for working people’s lunch break.
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Here’s a typical example: on a certain day I went to the hospital to visit a friend while my wife waited for me in the parking lot. During my brief absence, she managed to open “King of Glory” on her phone and play two rounds of qualifying matches. When I returned, her face was as red as a hot pot of eggplants, and there was no need to ask about the outcome. Let’s take her out to eat something good.
Whether it’s taking a nap or waiting for someone, charging or gaming, the best target for in-car cabin games is fragmented time and users who are willing to spend time in the cabin. Like many mobile games, it doesn’t require long periods of time and space, nor does it require clear objectives. Start anytime, end anytime — at least until Elon Musk’s promised top-notch 3A games become fully available, this will be the case for a long time.
Some may say, “If I have free time, why don’t I browse Weibo, read Zhihu, chat on WeChat, watch Bilibili, or just close my eyes for a while?”
How to allocate time is up to each individual. Essentially, adults have the freedom to choose, rather than not having anything to do.
A friend told me that he completed “The Order: 1886” on his PS4 in the time between his quiet awakening at five o’clock in the morning and when his wife got up at seven o’clock.
For those who enjoy gaming, please do not doubt their enthusiasm. What they need is just a space and time that will not be disturbed.
Gaming is not just about having the ability to play.
When it comes to developing cabin scenes, Miss Leek-Box, a good friend of GeekCar, doesn’t mind putting her Tesla Model 3 through more tests. If the smell in the car wasn’t so strong and persistent, she might have enjoyed some snail noodles in the office at noon in a show of kindness to her colleagues.
Anyway. Whether it’s a meter-long ultra-wide screen that can be split in half or an entertainment screen that’s almost as big as mainstream computer monitors, or even a co-pilot screen that connects to Bluetooth headphones, etc., the unprecedented designs show that more and more car companies are determined to take the independent entertainment space to the next level.
The more beautiful the vision, the more harsh the reality tends to be. Gaming in the car, like online music libraries with a lot of missing songs or travel services that only allow queries but no reservations, is like an angel whose wings were broken off in a previous life and was taken to be grilled into wings for a snack.
Simply getting into the car is not enough. Entering the cabin to play games still faces important unresolved issues:
Core hardware capabilities
What is the performance of the onboard chip? What kind of games can it run? Is local running or direct projection possible?
This is the soulful question when it comes to gaming in the car. The operating mechanism of a car is different from that of a personal computer, and it cannot be arbitrarily DIYed to increase its configuration. Can the car’s SoC provide stable experiences for users’ gaming entertainment behavior while ensuring the normal functioning of the car?It turns out that even luxury brands emphasizing technology need to prove their practical performance.
We chose the popular MOBA mobile game “Honor of Kings”. After searching for the entrance on the entertainment screen of the passenger seat’s Application Store, we struggled for nearly half an hour to download, update and successfully log in.
Upon entering the game, we found that the actual frame rate of the screen couldn’t support normal game play after adjusting the screen to full-size as usual.
This is a familiar scene for all gamers. So, we opened the screen options and set the frame rate and resolution to the lowest “energy-saving” mode, choosing “standard” for the total picture quality and turned off the anti-aliasing option that uses a lot of hardware resources.
In the displayed screen, the jagged edges around the characters are very obvious. Even when pursuing the lowest graphics requirements, there is still some stuttering while swiping left and right around the models.
In the smallest single-player mode, the amount of content that needs to be rendered is much smaller than the standard 5 v 5 mode. The characters’ movements, spells, and special effects on an open field were only just smooth enough. If both the AI-controlled character and I started fighting in the core region, the frame rate would decrease to a certain extent.
If I were to describe it, it’s like the five-hit combo attack that should have been lightning-fast is slowed down by the drag of the slow-motion effects in the screen.
Because of direct manipulation on the touch screen, the temperature on the entertainment screen of the passenger seat shows that it’s almost overloaded. The sound of the fan somewhere seems to suggest that the chip’s cooling system is working diligently.
As for the strange posture of leaning forward with just the upper body to play the game on the car’s touch screen, it’s definitely not a comfortable experience. At least, it’s not better than the time when I was a child and hidden under the covers to play on the Nintendo Gameboy portable console to avoid parents finding out, then suffocating almost to heat exhaustion.
This experience reminds me of a popular saying in subcultures found online: “One fps gaming is playing, two fps is just smooth, and three fps is e-sports.” This phrase is a satire of those players who insist on playing even if the game’s lowest requirements can’t be met and the experience is terrible.It is proven that using high-level large-scale games to “test” mainstream cockpit chips has practical significance. If we don’t explore the marginal ability of mainstream chips and keep fussing over the number of cockpit screens, the fluency of the in-car system, and the variety of ecological applications, the day when the demands of experience are seriously taken into account may never come.
The Unignorable Network
On the other hand, the impact of network conditions on gaming experience cannot be ignored. If players can tolerate poor picture quality and fluency, network latency is another dimension of suffering.
Experienced players know that even slight network latency affects the speed of receiving information, making decisions, and inputting operations. Serious latency can even cause the game screen to freeze. When the latency is over, the player’s character may have already been defeated, or a chance to affect the outcome of the game may have been missed.
Affected by the game form, when the competition is intense and the requirement for judgment is strict, latency immediately becomes the enemy of experience. Unfortunately, unless indoors with a stable wireless network connection, network quality in open environments has always been a huge challenge for actual gaming experience. Just like me in the back seat of a car after work commuting with a ride-hailing car, although the game-dedicated phone has always had good 5G signals, during the dozens of minutes journey from the south fourth-ring road to the east fourth-ring road in Beijing, there are still several signal blind spots, experiencing an intermittently seconds-long to tens of seconds-long, network latency surge and even complete freezing.
The Gaming Advantage of the Cockpit is Still Irreplaceable
The difficulty we are discussing is not simply to discredit the possibility of gaming entering the cockpit. If we give a simple yes or no answer, that would be a real problem. Conforming to stereotypes is not our style.
Just like how for many years the mainstream perception of animation in China has been unilaterally regarded as “for children,” and even equated to “childish behavior.” But in fact, animation is just a form of expression and content carrier. Excellent scripts, camera language, and even surreal images can bring much more energy than real-life filming.
Returning to the car, the cockpit has its irreplaceable advantages.
First of all, the cockpit is, to some extent, a very “convenient” space, between personal smartphones and indoor family entertainment. The car itself is a mobile private space that connects many real locations, such as parking lots, underground parking spaces, and roadside areas. The binding attribute of the car and the driver determines that, as long as it is legal, compliant, does not violate public order and customs, the car has both the attributes of a movable private space and a device complex.
Secondly, cars are born with real cockpits. Friends who know a little about games can name a few racing game titles: Microsoft’s Forza series, Sony’s Gran Turismo series, and the long-silent EA Need For Speed series. Just like the joystick is to flight simulation/air combat games, although the gamepad can be used, as well as the mouse and keyboard, even the touch screen can also be used, but the most fun is the closest to the real control way of the steering wheel, gearshift, and the pedals under the feet. In this way, the cockpit of a car already has several familiar components of the best experience, even the budget for purchasing a racing seat is saved.
Of course, it would be better if the user’s line of sight to the screen can be better taken care of. For simulation and racing games, the three-point-and-one-line relationship between user’s line of sight, control equipment, and content display should be more reasonable.
Thirdly, the device advantages of the car cockpit. Except for a few extremely cheap models, the sound effects in the car cockpit generally will not be bad. In terms of how to achieve better sound performance and higher sound insulation, car companies and suppliers have worked too hard for too many years and they are too familiar with it. In the gaps of NIO EC6 smart cockpit evaluation work before, I tried to connect to Bluetooth with a playful attitude and returned to the Valley of Kings. Except for slight transmission delay, the enveloping sound field and thick feel brought by the 12 speakers are far better than the mobile phone speaker or true wireless earphones.
Although the effect of sound equipment has always been rumored to be both obscure and suspenseful, the huge gap in the effect achieved by more speakers, larger unit sizes, and higher power, precisely proves a simple and crude truth: brute force. Compared with gaming behavior in a room, the cost of achieving good sound effects and good sound insulation conditions is too high.
The characteristics of the cockpit affect the experience of playing games in the car, and also determine the types of games that can enter the cockpit.
What games can be played in the car?When it comes to the future of gaming, the buzzwords are inevitably 5G, cloud, VR/AR/MR, and oh, yes, the metaverse that everyone wants to play in.
However, as they say, “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.” Let’s talk about something more practical: what kind of games are suitable for playing in a car?
Networking is still the deciding factor
As mentioned earlier, latency has the greatest impact on the final gaming experience. Given the uneven networking conditions in open environments, too many potential factors can cause interference, making network issues still an inevitable concern.
Based on this, game types that emphasize real-time online gameplay and a fast pace of play are clearly more difficult to achieve. MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) games such as League of Legends, Honor of Kings, and the DOTA series are at the forefront of this trend. The intensity of competition between multiple groups of real players determines that if any one person drops the ball, the effects are certainly not limited to themselves and the outcome of the game, but also their teammates’ blood pressure.
Perhaps with 5G smartphones and other mobile devices, players can sacrifice battery life and temperature control for stable hotspot access to the network. If that is the case, why not just play games on your phone? Why go to all the trouble of playing in a car?
Similarly, online shooter, fighting, racing, and sports games that emphasize competitive elements and a fast pace of play are clearly not suitable for car gameplay until there is a significant improvement in the network experience.
Fortunately, we can see that the latecomer advantages of new hardware are emerging in some new car models in China. As long as we can overcome the inconvenience caused by the mismatch between the size and control mode of the central control screen and the accumulation of fatigue caused by holding the central control screen, the fluctuation of network latency seems to be within an acceptable range.
On the other hand, casual, management, text-based, and tabletop card games that do not emphasize gameplay pace in vehicles have less stringent requirements for network connectivity and latency. As long as network connectivity can be guaranteed for game account login, updates, and progress synchronization, these types of games can often provide a good entertainment experience, and the learning curve is relatively lower.### Those Car Companies Who Know How to Have Fun
In 2021, as clever as Musk is, he has shocked the world more than once with the news that the 3A game blockbuster is about to be launched.
The brand new Model S Plaid unveiled in June is equipped with AMD Ryzen processors and AMD RDNA2 architecture GPU, which claims that its performance is comparable to that of overclocked Sony PS5 host. In the demo video, the 17-inch central control screen of Model S Plaid runs Cyberpunk 2077 smoothly, Musk said it is “great，very smooth, and can even run at 60 frames.”
With The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt in the past and Cyberpunk 2077 in the present, we don’t know why Musk and the team are so fond of putting the masterpiece from Polish game developer CD Projekt (CDPR) on their cars. As of April 2022, the global shipments of The Witcher 3 released in 2015 have reached 40 million copies. Following the principle that “black and red are still red”, Cyberpunk 2077, which has received mixed reviews from players, has sold 18 million copies since its release in December 2020.
There is no doubt that CDPR, known as “Polish dumb donkey” among players, represents the highest level of game development in the world, and it is also one of the biggest traffic IPs in the game industry. Setting aside Musk’s preference for CDPR, the ability to run the most popular 3A game blockbuster on their own car system is a strong embodiment of Tesla’s and AMD’s technical strength.
At CES 2022, AMD CEO Lisa Su also confirmed that AMD-related technical products are being applied in the entertainment system of Model 3 and Model Y, in addition to the center control of Tesla Model S/X.
I give full marks to Musk and “Mrs. Su” for this mutual support.
Earlier this year, Musk tweeted that he wanted to bring Steam’s game library to cars. If this is not just a rumor, it is far more meaningful than bringing CDPR’s several 3A blockbusters to cars.
As the world’s largest comprehensive digital game social platform, Steam, with a DAU of 69 million in 2021, has unprecedentedly connected developers, publishers, and players. The complete integration of Steam into cars will produce many significant implications:
Digitally-purchased games on the Steam storefront can be browsed and bought on the car’s dashboard. Already owned games can be downloaded onto the car’s system, and used with the vehicle’s hardware and external devices at any time.
Steam’s complete game-based social and community functions, including instant messaging, voice communication, and group communication, may also have the opportunity to be integrated into the car’s system, providing a multi-platform experience.
There are some manufacturers who have enabled cross-platform playing across different systems such as PS/XBOX/Steam. If the Steam connectivity on the car can also be integrated, the game experience would be even more comprehensive.
Most importantly, games with Steam Cloud support can allow for saved progress on a personal computer to be synchronized and downloaded to the car to complete the seamless experience between cabin gaming and home gaming.
“Software-defined cars” are already an industry consensus. Applied to cars with gaming, the hardware mentioned earlier is an essential foundation. If the Tesla team can complete all of this by adding Steam to its cars, it would be a real blessing.
If there are no surprises, it is expected that the related content and services will continue to be provided to Tesla users through a subscription-based payment system, with users paying based on personal preferences.
On the Pacific shore, the brilliant promotion of ideal L9’s series of revelations related to gaming in cars is too much to ignore.
On the one hand, the new car will continue the popular “car and home” concept of the Ideal ONE. On the other hand, by releasing information through pictures and text, the two points of controversy, “can we play games in the cabin” and “can games in the cabin entertain children,” are brought to the forefront, providing ample room for discussion.
Compared to the high-quality hardware configuration, including a 3K resolution car-grade OLED ceiling entertainment screen with 2560×1600 resolution (if it can be called a 3K resolution), 21 speakers, a maximum power of 2160W, which is the highest level of the original car audio sound system, a 7.3.4 panoramic sound layout, and a 4D immersive audio and video system, the premium feels more reasonable.
According to the available information, the ideal L9 cleverly adopts cable direct connection for screen projection. Whether it’s the central control screen, the passenger entertainment screen, or the rear cabin entertainment screen, they can all be connected to Nintendo Switch using a Type-C cable.
The ideal L9 did not use Tesla’s transplanting mode, which might reduce the development workload and difficulty in implementing games onto the car. With just one fully compliant Type-C cable, the host end can be connected to high-level cabin entertainment hardware, and the screen, sound, etc. are only used for local output. This not only can avoid the possible bugs in game cross-platform development but also to some extent reduce the risk of transmission delay and other shortcomings, killing two birds with one stone.
During the spoiler spreading activity of the L9 by Ideal Auto, they also stated that some phones, pads, and laptops that are compatible with Type-C interface have already achieved high-definition projection and charging with just one cable, and more devices will be adapted in the future.
As for why Nintendo Switch was chosen as the focus of promotion, this may be the cleverness of the ideal team.
Nintendo’s significance to the gaming industry and players can be described by a consensus from English gaming media: Nintendo has made a name for itself as a family-friendly developer.
On the one hand, Mario, Zelda, Pokemon and other IPs under Nintendo’s division have already become world-class cultural symbols.
On the other hand, first-party games from Nintendo have always brought fun as their priority. If you don’t believe it, you can look back two years to the Ring Fit Adventure for Switch which was out of stock during the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Switch’s appeal lies in its ability to allow non-gamers to enjoy the fun of games in a non-restrictive way.
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Compared to everyone rubbing their phone screens together, many of Nintendo’s first-party game series have always focused more on multiplayer fun. As you can see from the first batch of promotional images for the Ideal L9, each child in the middle row and back row has a Joy-Con controller in their hands. The conveyed message also fits the family-oriented concept of both Nintendo and Ideal and their belief in fun for everyone.
In addition, in the absence of game classification policies in China, the large number of all-ages games on the Switch allows young parents to choose games to play with their kids with less worry and more ease of mind.
Although the launch event has been postponed due to changes in the domestic epidemic situation, I am still looking forward to the actual performance of the Ideal L9 in games.
Let’s go back to the initial question.
Can you play games in the car cabin? Absolutely.
At this stage, whether it’s a large game with high hardware requirements or a small game focused on casual entertainment, as technology continues to be advanced and with the advantage of being a late entrant, it is entirely possible to expect these games to be available in the car.
Hardware and device combinations are easy to achieve, while automotive product managers’ understanding of playable games and designers’ understanding of control design centered around games will determine whether users enjoy a genuine entertainment experience or a rebellious, curious action art.
As for whether cabin games can make kids behave, I think that’s the crux of the issue.
Not to mention the safety concerns during vehicle operation, as well as the interference caused by game sound played out loud. Staring at a screen for a long time while driving can cause significant damage to eyesight, which can be calculated by the hour.
Perhaps this concept cannot be quantified scientifically, but here are some personal experiences to share.
Commuting on public transportation is often the main gaming scene. Based on past experiences of an adult playing several “Super Robot Wars” series turn-based strategy games on PSP/PSV/3DS, each entry takes about 80 to 100 hours to complete. After finishing each game, there was always a noticeable decrease in eyesight or a slower eye refocusing that lasted for a month or two.
If adults are like this, let alone children who are still developing, and have to work with textbooks and homework every day.
Of course, whether game behavior in the cabin should be subject to some safe design concepts, such as limiting the scenes to video playback only in the park state, to avoid these potential risks and controversies, is probably understood by every clear-minded designer.
In the end, the essence of bringing games into the car cabin is for better entertainment. As for whether it complies with driving safety, whether it can be used to entertain kids, and when it is suitable for gaming, I believe that every person with normal cognition will make the right judgment.
This article is a translation by ChatGPT of a Chinese report from 42HOW. If you have any questions about it, please email email@example.com.