In-game XMB ruins blog

Seriously, now what will the readers of Sony's official blog whine about? In case you haven't heard, Sony has announced the much-anticipated Playstation 3 firmware version 2.40 for July 2nd of this year (that's 2008 for you time-travelers). The first video details the in-game XMB feature, allowing contact with other gamers as well as some settings and direct launching of other games from within a first game and the second introduces the new trophy system.

Trophies, I'm excited about. In-game XMB, only so much but being able to set up my bluetooth headset while already in-game (Warhawk!) would be much appreciated. I can't wait to check my friends to see what they've actually achieved in some games, and to compare our mad skillz. I hope that already released games with built-in accomplishments of various forms will port their old rewards to the new trophy system though (I mean you, Insomniac and Naughty Dog).

Well, here's to seeing what the next big complaint will be.


Open letter to PS3 haters

What is with you haters? The PS3 has quite a few good games, none of which required Sony to pay anyone anything. Microsoft is the one who pays for exclusives, not Sony. Microsoft bought all of Bungie back in the day to keep Halo exclusive even.

Resistance, Resistance 2 and Ratchet & Clank are exclusives for the PS3 from Insomniac Games. Drake's Fortune is a gorgeous exclusive from Naughty Dog. Heavenly Sword is exclusive and very fun, Warhawk is exclusive and I love the excellent online 32 player battles. Metal Gear Solid 4 is one of the best games of the year, easily, and is exclusive to the PS3 (good luck making a 50GiB game on the 360).

As others have pointed out, a number of the new games are being designed directly for the PS3 now and then being ported to the XBox 360, not the other way around (like LucasArts. That includes Burnout Paradise, which is including software scaling for 1080i support on the PS3 in their next update without losing their 60fps speed, because the Cell has a lot of power left over.

Do I love my PS3? Yes. Do I have anything against the 360? Not really -- but the 9GiB disc limit is a pain, although XBL and achievements are pretty cool. As far as achievements go though, most of the games I like playing have them built-in anyway (see list above) so its not really relevant to me. Just stop claiming the PS3 has no good games, just like the 360 had no good games when it launched either.


Feeling the Escher love

Well if you've been following this blog (and I can't imagine why you wouldn't), you'd know I love the PSN downloadable game Echochrome. If you didn't read my previous post about this game, Echochrome is a cool little 2D/3D black and white puzzle game reminiscent of (and inspired by) M.C. Escher's impossible geometry paintings.

One of the interesting features of Echochrome (and one of the primary reasons I bought it) is that it includes a level editor that allows you to create your own levels which you can then send to friends on the Playstation Network or upload to the servers of the game designers for review and possible inclusion in future updates.

I'll admit, I haven't played the game for as many hours as I thought I might, partly due to being busy, partly because Burnout Paradise and Hot Shots Golf were taking up so much of my time, and partly because some of the more difficult levels required me to take a mental break after beating them. That said, I found myself dreaming up new and interesting level shapes I could build in the level editor. I made four or five basic levels, nothing too fancy, just to try out my skills and figure out the controls and possibilities afforded me. I uploaded the few that seemed to work as I figured, "why not share?"

So just today I see that the Echochrome devs have posted on the Playstation Blog and that there are 30 new levels coming to the game from North America (the USA, Canada and Malta in fact) in the next downloadable update and I figure "ah, some new content" and figured I ought to browse the level diagrams on Flickr and see what's new and interesting. Well imagine my surprise as I'm scrolling through the photos and I recognize one of my levels is being included in the update, rated a difficulty of 2. A quick "Woohoo!" goes through my head and I call my wife to brag about having made one of the thirty included levels when I notice that another of my levels, this one rated a 3, is also being included.

Yes, I'm bragging. Leave me alone, it feels good. My head should shrink back down by tonight when I'm trying to sneak past the automatic sentry machines in MGS4.


Haze fun but not excellent

Haze, the PS3-exclusive first person shooter from Free Radical looked like it had potential. For years. I kept seeing previews and hearing about the game, and the game never emerged until it had all but been forgotten. Then it came out to glorious reviews!

Not quite. As ps3fanboy has summarized, there aren't many glowing reviews. Now as some of the comments have pointed out, its competitors have received strangely high review scores (especially on the single player campaigns) -- COD4 and Halo3 come to mind of course.

In fact, if I could convince them to do it, I'd ask reviewers to review the single player campaign game-play and the multi-player sections of games separately. Some games have excellent multiplayer with no single player plot to speak of (or have none at all, like Warhawk).

That aside, what I hated about Haze was the dialogue -- there were moments that were well-written and there was dialogue I could tell they'd put some thought into. Then there was the other 85% which sucked, was poorly timed and didn't advance the story at all (cutting room floor, anyone?). The lack of load times was a complete lie of course, they were just covered up by transport vehicle moments with aforementioned terrible dialogue. I'd rather have a loading screen with a good story insert or a movie clip with background loading personally.

The story, quite honestly, was good but could have been fleshed out better. There should be more attachment time to your own character at the beginning and more AI-driven decision making (to turn or not to turn -- to shoot your own men or not -- to kill rebels or not, etc.). I miss games letting me make decisions. But besides decision making being made for you by the plot, the overtones of the game, the issues of deciding good and evil, the ending especially make this game worth playing.

As far as actual game play goes, its a fun shooter. I have one and only one real beef with the mechanics of the game -- I know why the Mantel soldiers can self-heal, but how is it that after becoming a rebel I can still self-heal without my Mantel suit and drugs? Also, why is there no cover and sneaking mechanic in a game designed around the bold stupidity of the Mantel soldiers? I should be able to sneak up behind one, knock him down, steal his gun and leave without his buddies noticing since they can't see his dead body after ward.

What about the resolution of the game? Well my eyes are very sensitive to low resolutions and that's why I never played FPS games on previous console generations (okay, I played Perfect Dark on the N64) but Haze gets around its low resolutions by having almost all the action up close and personal. There are very few environments that require you to deal with enemies in the distance and therefore the inability to distinguish between a bird a flower and a mantel soldier at 200 yards is less relevant.

Since playing a couple other games recently, Free Radical could have implemented something like Denied Ops' destination designator instead of the over-used compass mechanic to make life easier in some vertical areas too since when you're directly above or below your final destination, the compass heading is not very useful if you can't find the right set of stairs to use to get there.

Overall, it was a fun game. I rented it for $10 and beat it in a week. I played online a bit and it was actually kinda fun, but nothing elaborately exciting. The layouts are not outstanding nor is the use of weapons crates at spawn points. Play it for the single player campaign then go back to your favourite online shooter for multi player.


PSN Store Late with Qore, Novastrike

As an addendum to my entry on Qore, its worth noting that the PSN store update didn't happen for on Thursday, at least not in EST and that over 5,000 comments were made to the PSN Store update blog entry (which was intermittently unavailable for me this morning). I began my downloads this morning, and will likely have more comments in a new post later.

For now, I'd like to point out that there are some serious cry-babies in the gaming community (as will be evidenced by a reading of the aforementioned Playstation blog. I still see no reason for the hostility some people appear to have toward Qore. Perhaps they spend too much of their time swallowing the opinions of others instead of reading what Qore really is intended to be.

Many people seem under other circumstances to not understand the difference between Sony as a platform maintainer and Sony as a publisher of content, and that may be part of the problem here. Since Sony's publishing the blog and Sony's publishing the PSN store and Sony's publishing this Qore magazine, then it must be the same resources involved in each? Right? Wrong. There's potentially no cross-over in talent or resources at all in fact, much like Sid Meiers probably has nothing to do with the latest Burnout game, despite both being published by EA.

At any rate, I'd love to know the technical reasons for the Store not being updated on time but right now my PS3 is at home happily chugging away downloading several gigabytes of new content, including this month's episode of Qore and the first self-published title on the PSN, Novastrike.