Archive for the ‘Console Gaming’ Category

The PS Vita’s First Death

Monday, October 26th, 2015

I think it’s been a good run for the PS Vita, and it’s ability to offer third-party titles and act as a remote station for the PS4 means it still have a lot of utility (and a great back catalogue), but Sony’s SVP Massyasu Ito confirms that there are no first-party titles in production for the portable console.

Ito told the Japanese gaming website 4Gamer (translated by DualShockers) that “first-party studios have no titles in development for PS Vita,” confirming what many have suspected and feared for a while now.

According to the senior vice president, Sony Computer Entertainment’s game plan now is “to focus on PS4,” as it is “a new platform.”

That said, because of the third-party apps (and the popularity of MInecraft on the PS Vita) the Vita is still for sale, and is getting the non-update update of ‘new colours’ in the run up to Christmas.


Shut up, it’s not a ZX Spectrum

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014

Lots of easy headlines from the tabloids for a crowd funding project that runs a ZX Spectrum emulator inside a joypad that looks a bit like a ZX spectrum if you removed all the keys, the programming language, the I/O ports, the edge connector, and Fantasy World Dizzt.

It’s not a ZX Spectrum. It’s a console. And you can say ‘Bah Humbug’ all you like.

The six billion pound franchise that’s made in Scotland

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

In case you missed it, Brian Baglow has the reminder, over on Scottish Games:

While it’s too early to provide reliable sales figures, industry analysts are forecasting sales of 20-25,000,000 units in the first twelve months and generate a billion dollars in sales in the first month. With such positive reviews and the reception thus far, this figure does not seem unreasonable. As of December 2012, GTA IV alone had sold over 25,000,000 copies.

…Globally, the series has sold 125,000,000 copies to date, generating around $6,000,000,000.  The games have received almost all of the awards it is possible for them to win and the most recent games are some of the highest scoring in the world.

Made in Scotland, from girders bits and bytes.

Microsoft burned at E3

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

Sony’s guide to sharing and exchanging games on the PS4. Feel the burn, Xbox One…

Pippin, Apple’s games console that didn’t

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

Adam Volk:

Today, the Pippin is a curious footnote in Apple’s corporate history, a device long since laid to rest alongside the TurboGrafx-16 and the Sega Dreamcast; dug up and enjoyed almost exclusively by a few masochistic hardware modders and eBay traders. And yet, Apple is now a leader in the video game industry, with players choosing from countless titles on the iPhone and iPad… Apple’s rise to the top as a gaming giant, however, has hardly been quick or easy. In fact, the company’s first big foray into video games was a complete disaster.

The Xbox One in the Sky

Friday, June 7th, 2013

Or Sky TV more precisely.

Sources familiar with company plans have informed games industry magazine MCV that the box could include a Sky satellite tuner or act as a video recorder in the future, but we’ll also follow suit and suspect only the latter is more probable. The subscription from Sky could well be centred around an Xbox One and pre-installed Now TV or Sky Go application. Couple this with SmartGlass support and you’ve got a winner.

Microsoft want to own the living room. So why not replicate the subsidy model used in mobile to gain an advantage over the Playstation’s, Nintendo’s, and mythical Apple TV 2’s of the world?

Does The Xbox One Want Indie Developers?

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

Gamasutra on the XBox One and where it is targeted at:

It is my belief that the Xbox One is primarily a device designed so corporations can have relationships with each other: Comcast and Microsoft and Activision Blizzard and the NFL. It is a device created by a company that venerates the creation of devices, and will come packed with services that sound good to companies that like to sell services to attractive demographic targets.

Microsoft broke the wrong compatibility

Friday, May 24th, 2013

Windows 8 has backwards compatibility with Windows 7, even though there was a brand new look of live tiles, user interface, and the look and feel of the hardware. Xbox One breaks compatibility with the Xbox 360, significantly reducing the usability of the gaming and media device out of the box.

I wonder if Microsoft would have been in a better position at the end of 2013 if the Xbox One had the compatibility, and Windows 8 didn’t?

That moment when a 3D games console is a good idea

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

One of those ‘something in my eye’ stories:

I say I’m “mostly” stereoblind because despite my eyes’ poor grasp of trigonometry, the optical center of my brain seems to work just fine. I discovered this the first time I held a 3DS and played Pilotwings Resort. To be perfectly honest, I really didn’t expect much from the console. But clever readers have already noticed that my sight lines meet at just the right distance for holding a 3DS.

After playing with the depth slider off for a few minutes, I slid it up out of sheer curiosity and saw something I had never seen in my life: a third dimension.

Not only was I “seeing into the screen” the way so many others feel when playing a 3DS for the first time, I was seeing in a direction that had previously been literally invisible to me.

Terence Eden and the Xbox 360 Experience

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

That, I think, is the root of the problem. Parts of the 360 feel like it has been designed for Microsoft’s benefit; not mine.

Tom Watson… Defender of Modern Warfare

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

Proposed Amendment to EDM 2427:

That this House notes that the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) gave the video game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 an 18 classification, noting that `the game neither draws upon nor resembles real terrorist attacks on the underground’; further believes that the game has an excellent user interface and challenges the gamers’ dexterity as well as collaborative skills in an outline setting; and encourages the BBFC to uphold the opinion of the public that whilst the content of video games may be unsettling or upsetting to some, adults should be free to choose their own entertainment in the absence of legal issues or material which raises a risk or harm.

Let’s practice writing about #epicfails like Duke Nukem Forever… it’s fun!

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

I don’t think there’s any surprise that a PR company has been a bit heavy handed in their work around Duke Nukem Forever (Ars Technica and others), but being someone who’s done a fair bit of reviewing, can I remind everyone about the other side of the coin?

Sometimes it’s a lot of fun for a writer to go all out on a poor game or application. There’s a certain artistry in composing a review of a really bad piece of code, a fine line between critique and crassness that needs to be walked. If the marketing people in the gaming industry don’t let people practice writing ‘bad’ reviews then when it really matters you’ll get bad ‘bad’ reviews.

Which aren’t helpful, or funny.

Best in Show at Over the Air 2010! Parrot Drones, iPhone controlled racing cars and mad ideas at Over the Air 2010

Sunday, September 12th, 2010

Yesterday at the Over The Air hack-a-thon, I was part of the team that won both the Best Hack in Show and the Paypal X Challenge. This is the story of that hack…

Over the Air 2010, Benjamin Ellis Picture by Benjamin Ellis.

First up, a huge, huge thank you to the rest of my team at the Hack-a-thon from this weekend’s Over The Air Mobile Development event. My hacks traditionally have a huge vision, and that needs an ad-hoc team with a huge range of skills.

So to Simon Maddox, Sam Machin, Rachel Clarke, Robert Lee-Cann and Karl Turner my thanks yet again not only to committing to the hack, but joining in with another one of my mad ideas.

Thanks also have to go to Nicolas, Martin and Michael at Parrot for the use of their Parrot AR.Drones, the flying quadricopters that took to the sky during Over the Air which everyone was queuing up to have a go on. Having seen some prototypes last year, I had a sneaking suspicion then that they’d be (a) useful at a Hack-day style event and (b) an instant hit with everyone in the crowd. I was right on both counts.

Over the Air 2010, Benjamin EllisAgain, by Benjamin Ellis. 

The basic idea for the hack was to create a “futuristic racing game” that was a bit like the Sony Playstation’s Wipeout series. But to create it in the real world. This would mean:

  • …building a suitably twisty and hilly track around the Great Hall at Imperial College.
  • …having two vehicles that could race round the track under player control.
  • …provide suitable video coverage to both play the game (from in-car streaming cameras) and around the track to provide the sweeping view you expect from any racing game (via the Parrot AR.Drones and their web cams).

The track itself was the first casualty, as the hoped for cardboard supports never arrived although the sheeting for the track surface did arrive – so that means a lot of improvising with chairs, upturned plastic crates and a lot of tape. Rather that a big loop, the hack ended up with “drop and climb” hill section from the stage to the back of the hall, a hairpin, and then back through a tunnel.

The climb had to be reduced in incline during design as well, thanks to the [lack of] power in the remote control cars we had sourced as our vehicles.

These were controlled by either an Android or iPhone client, using the accelerometers to steer the cars (by rotating the phone left and right), and tilting back and forwards for accelerate and reverse, with a drivers eye view relayed back to the handset.

In essence we were looking to replicate the control system that Parrot has spent years developing for the Drones in around 18 hours, although our cars didn’t have to deal with issues like stability, thrust, balance and weight distribution (it really is magical what the AR.Drone manages). We also need to hook up the vehicles to the smartphones. Parrot manage this with an ad-hoc wifi hotspot created in the Drone. Our route was a bit more involved. The smartphone connected to our own wifi network, whose router then had an Ethernet connection to an Arduino circuit board, which then was hardwired into an R/C handest, which sent the requisite commands over a radio channel to the R/C cars.

And apart from some latency issues, the controllers worked and we got some track time with the cars!

Behind the scenes

The second goal, to get live streams from the webcams from the Drones and the cars, (which were essentially Telent controlled Ferraris) wasn’t as successful. Simon ran out of time, and while we had some VGA output going to the mixing desks, there wasn’t enough time to finish this code so we could present it.

Telnet controlle Ferrar

What Simon did come up with though was a front-end to the vehicle control application that allowed us to hack together a financial reward system for loaning out the Parrot AR.Drone. Handing over your smartphone to someone so they can find the Drone, they are asked to input their Paypal account details along. They can choose the duration of how long they want to play (and the cost) before they were given

We also added in a very alpha section that supported the Bump API, the intention being that when an impact was detected, when Matthew Cashmore someone crashes the Drone at top speed into a wall high above the Great Hall, they’ll contribute to any repair costs of the Drone. This would need a fair bit of work to be fully implemented to reach a suitable consumer grade level.

And for the record, all the Paypal interactions took place in a sandbox, so we’ve not made that profit… yet. But given the popularity of the AR.Drone in the hall, this hack could easily cover the cost of buying one for your office!

Over the Air 2010, Benjamin Ellis Picture by Bejamin Ellis

So to the presentation. I think it would be fair to say that it was very British, with a bundle of technical issues that meant the smoothly planned introduction and 90 seconds went a bit haywire. Still, the goal was to show how much fun we had, and there is a certain bit of latitude given to the tech going snafu at any event like this.

Personally I though this was one of the weaker hack presentations I’ve done. With all the problems it was very hard to get any flow, and improvising meant the story was told out of order. On top of not getting the VGA feed code working, to me the whole thing felt incomplete.

Turns out I’m being a bit too hard on myself, because it’s obvious that it all came together in the end for the audience. Lots of the attendees spoke to us afterwards that they loved our presentation. By the way the presentation video will follow in a few days, and if you have clips, please send them over to me,

Over the Air Presentation

Then came something a touch unusual, because in previous Hack events my team has usually been regarded as an “out of competition” hack for various reasons (including but not limited to pyrotechnics, the appearance of Cyberman, the supply of stupid amounts of wood and LCD projectors…). Not this time. The Ben Collins Appreciation Society was a full entry, alongside 25 other hacks from some of the brightest minds in the UK mobile scene.

 And we won!

The team took two prizes.

The PayPal X Challenge
The Best Mobile application on iPhone/iPad/Android embedding PayPal Adaptive Payment libraries will be awarded with an HTC Android Smartphone.

Best in Show
The big one, the overall prize which every hack is measured against all the others. Or as the website says “selected by a panel of judges, including an independent adjudicator, on the basis of the entry the Judges consider to be the most apt and original.

On the day I was shocked that we took the Best in Show, but having looked at the reactions and how people are describing the hack I think I can see why. For example, Grant Kemp notes it as iPhone Clients, Android Clients, PayPal pay per use, flying drone, bump plus wi-fi equals Best in Show in his video clip.

Thank you again to everyone involved, each year’s hacks are always a team effort, but this one really raised the bar.

We Want Our Boxes (For Our Games, That Is)

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

Over on Ovi Gaming I’ve posted an editorial on the importance of game boxes and physical media for the collector and the console gaming ecosystems.

This may seem a strange issue to bring up, and even though there is a niche that regards game boxes as collectibles, there are many, many more that would be quite happy to sell on a game, be it to a second hand shop, as a trade in at EB Games, or on Amazon or eBay. And the games publishers are fighting to stop this second sale happening – after all, these are sold on at almost full price.

Nowadays, with electronic stores, you have to struggle just to re-download an application you’ve already purchased, and in the case of the Ovi Store you get one chance at downloading a purchase. Need to grab it again because of a hard reset, corruption or you’ve bought a new phone, then you’re out of luck.

More on Ovi Gaming, which is the new name for All About N-Gage, in case you have forgotten!

Why Do MP3’s Encourage Piracy while AAC Is The Salvation on the Nintendo DSi?

Thursday, March 5th, 2009

What is in the water at Nintendo UK? There’s a nice interview with David Yarnton in the Times today, talking about the soon to be launched in the UK Nintendo DSi. It’s an evolution of the existing DS Lite, with basic cameras, SD Card support and an on-device store.

Are they talking on the iPhone? Of course they are. But sometimes I wonder just what they think pirates are up to. First of all they’re proud that the DSi will not recognise the R4 Card (which is used to run homebrew code and .nds downloaded games). That protection should last about… ooh… 27 minutes.With updateable firmware Yarnton reckons they can keep one step ahead at all times.

Like that worked on the PSP.

But even more wacky is the music support. With SD card support, a small form factor, and a regular headphone socket, this could be a great little music player. But Nintendo don’t want you to even think about playing pirate music on the DSi. Let me quote directly:

As for music, if we allowed MP3 playback, a lot of those files may be pirated. We support AAC, which is the format used by Apple and iTunes.

David Yarnton, interviewed on The Times.

Give me strength. Because nobody has ever wondered how to change MP3 files into AAC files.

Oh, hold on. Import an MP3 into iTunes and it will convert it to an AAC file. But pirates would never think of that….