Thursday, March 08, 2007

Home Improvement

Well, I've obviously now joined the large list of blogs that never update. I just can't seem to find the time anymore, as the huge gap between this post and the last one shows quite well. I started a post about a month ago, but I never got around to finishing it. It may simply be that the video game industry has been so quiet during the typical post-holiday lull that I haven't had much to talk about. Or maybe it's because the pipe dream of writing about video games for a living has felt a little more distant and unattainable lately, and so I haven't felt compelled to put in any effort. Whatever the reason, the problem isn't going away, and I'm not going to bother lying and saying that I'll try to post more often from this point forward. I'll just content myself with a update schedule of "never" like most of my friends. It seems to work well enough for them.

So what has brought me out of my long slumber? The Game Developers Conference is this week, and yesterday it produced something that I almost no longer thought possible: good news about the Sony Playstation 3. The month of March began typically enough, with Sony generating yet more negative PR in its continuing mission to drive the Playstation brand into the ground. Kotaku had leaked a story about a rumoured upcoming GDC announcement, detailing a service called Playstation Home that would see a blending of two different stolen ideas: Nintendo's Miis and Microsoft's Achievements system. Sony, who had warned (read: threatened) Kotaku against publishing the story, responded by cutting all ties to Kotaku, uninviting them from Sony press events and demanding that their debug PS3 unit be returned. The internet at large soon caught wind of this, and within hours the huge public and industry backlash prompted Sony to reverse their decision. Still, the damage had been done. To quote Penny Arcade's Tycho: "Like some idiot alchemist they are able to transform good news into bad news, or turn gleaming triumph into wretched defeat."

The end result of all of this foolishness was that the original story was over-shadowed and largely forgotten (at least by me). However, today the promised announcement officially arrived, and it's far more than was previously rumoured. Rather than a stolen blend of Miis and Achievements, Playstation Home is more like an integration of Second Life into the PS3 platform. Essentially, Sony intends to create a large virtual world that users interact with, and their PS3 serves as a sort of personal living quarters, or "Home", within this world. It allows robust avatar creation (of a decidedly more realistic nature than Miis), social networking, environmental customization, media sharing, and in-world games (played at such places as the virtual arcade or virtual bowling alley). Players can interact with each other in the larger world, or join each other in one of their Homes and access that person's content, from their decorating to the movies they have on their console (displayed on an in-world television). Or they can just meet and talk, and then launch a multiplayer session of a retail PS3 game from their virtual home. It's a bit difficult to explain, really, but I think their GDC trailer does an excellent job, and I heartily recommend that everyone watch it.

As a further bit of good PS3 news, Sony recently settled their long legal battle with Immersion over the rumble functionality of the PS2 DualShock controller (Microsoft and Nintendo, who were a little less stubborn about the whole thing, settled similar suits for their respective consoles long ago), and has now entered into a working relationship with them. The PS3's current controller, the SIXAXIS (yes, that's the official spelling), has no rumble feature, and reports from current PS3 owners generally indicate that their gaming experiences are worse for it. Originally, Sony claimed that rumble functionality was not included was because there was no room for both it and tilt-sensing, but after a series of experts testified that this was absolutely not true, Sony changed their story and derisively called rumble a "last-gen" feature. Meanwhile, everyone who was not a Sony mouth-piece knew that the only reason that the Sixaxis (the official spelling can kiss my ass) lacked rumble was because Sony wasn't willing to play nice with Immersion. Well, now they are, and already they're beginning to back-pedal, indicating that they're open to the idea of rumbling Sixaxis controllers in the future. This is bad news for everyone that already owns a PS3, but since noone is buying the damn thing as it stands anyway, its good news for the majority of gamers.

So, does this mean that Sony is finally starting to recover from their train wreck of a console launch and beginning to turn things around? It certainly seems that way, although of course only time will tell. Just think how great this all would have seemed if they had launched the damn thing once it was actually ready, with all of this functionality out of the box. And all of this news comes just as I was beginning to become cautiously optimistic that I might not have to buy a PS3 at all (provided that Final Fantasy XIII made its was to the 360, of course). There's still plenty to hate, though, as there's no sign of a price cut coming any time in the near future, and future PS3 models will likely have gimped backwards compatibility (all European PS3 will come that way once the console launches there later this month), addressed through a cheaper software solution instead of the current hardware solution, which is a huge issue for me and my massive catalog of unplayed PS2 games. Until they get these problems sorted out, I'm still having plenty of fun with my Wii and 360.

[End post body]

Given that it has been so long since my previous update, I feel like I should also mention what I'm up to these days (besides "to my neck in work") before I go. It makes the whole post look less professional, but so does waiting two months between posts, so why worry about it? On the 360 front, I recently purchased Gears of War, which, for any of you not familiar with it, is generally considered to be the best game of last year, sweeping awards features left and right. It was definitely money well spent. Although the game doesn't really break any new ground, it brings it all together into an incredibly fun and amazing looking (especially on my new high-definition set) package, and the time Aiden and I have spent playing through the campaign mode in local co-operative play has been the most fun I've had gaming so far this year. I've also been spending a lot of time (and money) with the Wii's virtual console. If I ever get around to finishing the stalled post mentioned above, I'll speak at length about it. The Wii also introduced the Everybody Votes Channel recently, a service that allows Wii owners to do just what it says, and although it doesn't really do a whole lot for me, Vern seems to be quite enamored with it.

Speaking of Vern, everything is going great with us at the moment. I made it through our first Valentine's Day safely, and we're scheduled to do some traveling next month. We'll be heading to Toronto for a week and a half in April to visit her family. I'm a little nervous, since I've never been in a city that big before, and my closest previous experience (one trip to Montreal) convinced me that I'm not a city person, but hopefully I'll be able to ride the subway without clutching my legs to my chest and rocking back and forth, doing my best not to get robbed or shot. In more immediate travel news, I'll be driving to Moncton tomorrow night after work with Aiden and hanging out with John and Cheryl for a few days, which should be fun. I've burned two CDs worth (1.4 GB) of anime intro and ending mp3s for the trip, and I'm very pleased with the collection I've managed to put together over the last few weeks. Also, Vern has said that she might show up at work tomorrow with delicious homemade chocolate chip cookies for the trip, and the anticipation is such that if I receive no such delicious cookies then I may just cancel the whole thing altogether. :-P

Other than that, there's not a whole lot going on with me. I'm still super busy at work, fixing bugs in and adding functionality to my .NET base class libraries, and preparing to push our first .NET application out the door while starting the design work on our next one. The .NET mentor from AllStream that I'm currently working with leaves at the end of the month and heads back to Halifax, at which point I'll officially become the .NET mentor for everyone else in the section. We're all doomed. :-P

Well, it'll probably be quite some time again until my next post, so let me take this opportunity to wish everyone a happy Easter. Or not, if that's you bag (eyes a certain pair of identical twin atheists). To those of you hailing from parts of the world where its not bitterly cold right now: I hate you.


Blogger Stefan Robak said...

Yeah, Hokkaido is not bitterly cold, but all of it's residents tell me it's supposed to be. Thanks, Global Warming!

Friday, March 09, 2007 8:53:00 AM  
Anonymous Vern said...

I think Fredericton's getting some of that stratospheric cold air like in that terrible disaster movie about the coming of a second ice age.

I have absolutely no idea why your dreams of becoming a professional gaming writer are looking bleaker, unless the fact that I'd like to see you happy with your job and keep pushing you to apply for openings for these positions that you've obviously taken time to look up, is actively making you want to shove it in my bossy face that you're perfectly happy with the job that your at now. Either that or you're worried that if you let slide the pathos you've created for yourself by working a job you don't like and by giving yourself tantalizing moments of imagination and action about doing something you'd love, I wouldn't be like "ohhh, you've had a shitty day, let me give you a massage" anymore.
I think it's actually option C though, that you're too macho to have your girlfriend who's contemplating getting a PhD, make THAT much more money than you. :-p

Friday, March 09, 2007 9:22:00 AM  
Anonymous vern said...

umm, I think we've actually had many ice ages, not just 1. Oops

Friday, March 09, 2007 9:24:00 AM  
Anonymous vern said...

Option D
You're worried I'll work at the co-op the rest of my life and make less money than you would being a writer.

multi posts FTL

Friday, March 09, 2007 9:31:00 AM  
Blogger Jordan said...

Well, you've found me out. My career aspirations have all just been a clever ploy to get free massages. And I would have gotten away with it too, if it hadn't been for you meddling kids and that dog! *shakes fist*

Friday, March 09, 2007 1:42:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home