September 26, 2014

The argument in favor of the New Gen Consoles

Some of you may remember a harsh rant on the new consoles not long ago with a somewhat substantial list of complaints. Now I sat down as a developer and thought about it from a budget point as well as R&D and many other facets and considered what I would've really done myself if I'd had the power to jump in the console war.

My big complaints were about all the new tech coming out. This is also the biggest counter, is simply that it's new which means low adoption and more overhead cost for development for what would ultimately be an inferior product given first gen tech. In comparison all the hardware being used now is veteran with high reliability and manufacturing process which also allows for top efficiency and low cost development from both hardware and software perspectives. With added overhead from the hardware to do more we can focus on better products. To break it down I'll enumerate with some detail what I really mean.

4k UHD for example is one of my biggest current fetishes for hardware and as eager as I am for hardware to support it not everyone is ready for that jump and what is available is a little bit pricey for the average consumer. With few displays being able to handle this much less handle it cleanly (for example man displays use two chips to process data for different sides of the screen effectively making it two different displays in a kind of extended mode) this means that even if the other hardware was there viewing would be an issue which could also come with any number of future headaches. The hardware itself would add such an exorbitant cost that it would make the 800$ ps3 launch look cheap if they'd went that route.

When I complained of DDR4 I also hadn't thought about production cost and first gen inefficiencies for an otherwise minimal gain in performance and capacity. If combined with the hardware necessary for 4k content the cooling alone would mandate a substantially larger console size. All these elements adding to development and production cost and more which eventually lands on the consumer to pay for which just wasn't going to happen twice in sony's case and xbox certainly wasn't going to take that chance after seeing what it did for sales between ps3 and x360.

In regard to the inclusion of SSD's I hold firm that they should've included at least some small amount of high speed storage solution even in a minimal capacity to accentuate the ram. Imagine even a small 8gb volatile unit designed for temporary storage to offload from the main drive for use of a given game while it runs. The load time on the next COD map would save us so much time wasted on a loading screen. The price has come down enough at this point that they could've included something minimal without much added cost and almost no development cost. Though I am happy that they do officially support ssd's with an easy swap process, it still would've been nice to be included from the beginning. Hell even a hybrid drive would be sufficient.

The same holds true for display port which wouldn't be hard to include next to an hdmi. Of course sony wants to be stubborn though given that hdmi is proprietary for them but even the 360 started including them towards the last revisions of the slim and it's not like display port has the royalty cost hdmi does, so it really wouldn't hurt to add it. I hope they include display ports on the next revisions.

Then again after all this I've written enough in favor of the new gen already this is really just a proper explanation of the hardware decisions they made. My previous posts handle everything else. So it's time for a small follow up now that the consoles are out.

I'm proud to say even though we're only barely into the new gen sony is making good on its promises and many psn titles are backwards/forwards compatible though xbox finally decided to turn off the cameras which for those unaware were still on even when the system was off taking pictures when they weren't supposed to. In the case of one of my friends he got banned for having sex on his couch with his GF when the console was supposedly off it was taking pics and uploading them to M$ and when he found this out he almost sued them until they somehow convinced him for a free lifetime of xbl gold and like 300$ in ms points.

I finally got my hands on a vita. Sadly sony is treating it like a bastard child even though I find it surprisingly awesome and basically take it everywhere I go. the Near app has actually helped me make a few new friends as well and there are a lot more games than I thought available. I actually have almost all the vita games available because they came free with ps+ which I've had for a bit now and I gotta say there's a lot of good games in there. I'm also pleasantly surprised to find trophies for the same games don't stack on the vita which means I get two platinums for mgs3 on psn.

Of course after all this I'd still take a pc over the consoles any day. Though that's for another post.

September 19, 2014

Homebrews and CFW

If any of you reading have a psVita and you've ever wanted to carry around your old games now is the time to get a custom firmware (CFW) after this last weeks huge exploit release all be it poorly timed if you were looking forward to the new official firmware (OFW) update anyway.

What is this nonsense? basically a CFW is a custom shell to a given system and can be used to do things the developers of a given console probably don't want you doing or simply aren't allowed to let you do from a legal standpoint. In this case on the vita it has a natively built in psp emulator to play psp titles which we can manipulate to give us access to the whole psp system with some work. We can then modify it to do things the psp was never meant to do such as emulate and play older titles from older consoles. In my case I love my old SNES and the zelda game I have for it and link to the past works amazing as a portable game it's like it was meant for a handheld. So I put my SNES collection on my vita so I can play it wherever I go and put away the old console because now if I get the itch it's quick and easy to just get into it and play. No dealing with setup and finding everything and whether or not the cartridge is going to work without some effort.

As a consumer I much prefer being able to play everything from a single device, part of why I've always loved my pc gaming is I didn't need to have a dozen different pieces of hardware floating around to play different games. If the day ever came I could repurchase any of these games on my vita I'd do it in a heartbeat. Hell I've known since back in the ps1 days that ps1 discs are pc rom format so I can just put them on the pc and run most of them without even needing an emulator they just work natively (FF7, MGS) and most ps3 users apparently didn't realize that either that they'll work fine on a ps3 regardless of ps2 compatability. I have yet to check on my ps4 so I'll have to get back to everyone on that but I'll be sure to mention it at some point. Supposedly they're working on it and in the mean time there's psNow and rumor has it some discs already work while officially they're not supported so I'll just need to do it myself and see. In spite of knowing though about these discs when I saw FF7 and 8 on steam I didn't even wait for a sale or price drop I jumped on it. When halo comes out I'll be all over that as well. If suddenly steam added a retro market to play all the old titles I'd be all over it. It's a damn shame how much money publishers are missing out on as well as developers simply because of focusing on the now and ignoring nostalgia.

Though as a dev I understand that there's all kinds of licensing issues as well as how the markets are competing with each other and thus don't want pc players forgoing a console by making these titles available. I've said before though that I see the day we all sit down on a unified hardware structure with swappable OS' in a virtualized system allowing us to play whatever we want however we want without worrying about hardware and paying more for extra consoles. Though it'll be a far way off considering profit margins on consoles in the long run. That's part of what makes everyone angry about CFW's as well is because they know they're effectively losing money regardless of if it was money they never would've gotten anyway, though their main concern is losing money on active titles they could still earn through legitimate means. That is to say a CFW on a vita sadly can be used for piracy of psp titles which they still make money on if you buy the game like you should. They're less concerned with the homebrew I imagine and only slightly concerned with emulators for older consoles because these are things they wouldn't make money on anyway. While its true a homebrew has earning potential from sales and distribution on the platform the titles tend not to meet their so called quality standards and thus wouldn't make much money even if they were officially released titles.

What do you think? Do you have a CFW and some emulators, if you did what kinds of games would you have stocked on it?

September 12, 2014

A man of many hats

So most of this blog has been from my work and as a dev with some insights on my views as a consumer and a rare post as both. I thought this was to separate my blog from the many consumer based game blogs out there. Now I see combining the two should be more of a focus as neither stands out on their own for me now.

This is my official return to regular posting after my long hiatus. During this time I would like to say it was self discovery that brought me back or reinventing myself. The truth being I'm roughly the same as I ever was simply with more life experience in the past few months.

The recap of my time off is basically my going around to conventions and seizing opportunities. I managed to sell most of my work while retaining some of the IP rights to reuse my material in the future. And on an unrelated note I was sued for a bill I paid years ago and that's been fun so far. I still have one court meeting left to officially resolve everything but all the paperwork and evidence is in so I'm feeling good about it.