29 Jul 2008

PSN hmm...

I have removed the PSN "Portable ID" on the left side. Seems like it's just a static display for my user name and avatar picture doh... And I can't believe that Sony doesn't let me download (buy even!) additional gamer pictures from PSN (or I simply didn't find them? even after the re-design it isn't exactly easy to find stuff on the PSN shop, even though there's not THAT much stuff there). I'd really love to have an MGS4 gamer pic. It's all those little "un-important" things which make me appreciate the online-integration of the 360 (on the other hand, if I had gone straight from the PS2 to the PS3 I probably wouldn't even care, but the 360 really has spoiled me). Sony really needs to get all this simple and obvious stuff fixed first instead of wasting their time and resources on Home IMHO.

25 Jul 2008

Kept ya waiting huh?

Sooo I finally bought a PS3 yesterday. MGS4 did it (I basically bought a PS2 just for MGS3, so this was inevitable). My local GameStop was sold out completely (the guy there said he won't get any new PS3's until the new 80GB model comes out end of August). MediaMarkt still had one MGS4 bundle left so I took this one.

First impressions:
  • OMG its huge! Ok, power supply is integrated, but the 360 looks tiny compared to this thing.
  • I was actually planning to wait for the white PS3 (black entertainment devices are plain ugly IMHO) but it looks like it will never arrive in Europe.
  • System and WLAN setup was fast and flawless.
  • Surprisingly, picture quality is worse on my TV then my 360. I have an 2 year old 32" LCD Sony Bravia, and have the PS3 connected through HDMI. The 360 is connected through VGA. There's a lot of edge aliasing going on in the PS3 picture. I suspect that's because the VGA connection runs at the native display resolution (1280x768 or so), while the 720p HDMI connection has a non-native display resolution so that the TV's scaler kicks in. Basically looks the same like when I had connected the 360 through component. Still I would think that connecting one Sony device to another Sony device through a digital connection would generate a better picture.
  • During a game, the TV signal is lost from time to time (maybe once per hour for about 2 seconds). WTF? I've read about this in forums but thought this would only happen with some obscure TV's. Again this is a Sony TV and a Sony console. This definitely didn't happen when I had my 360 running through HDMI.
  • The XMB looks slick and feels much more responsive compared to the 360's dashboard.
  • Way too many system settings... half of which don't interest me at all (mouse sensitivity???)
  • The system didn't notify me that a software update is available. How is a typical user supposed to notice that he isn't uptodate?
  • Not impressed by the web browser, feels terribly slow and unusuable without a mouse...
  • Downloading the new firmware took FOREVER (20 minutes or so?), and displayed another progress bar for installation which took another couple of minutes. I don't remember waiting for more then 3 minutes for a system update on the 360...
  • MGS4 starts: ugh more installation... this isn't funny.
  • Start screen with all those little flowers looks REALLY messy on my TV...
  • Ok, WTF is this David Hayter interview shit before starting a new game?
  • Hmm, ingame graphics isn't quite as impressive as I remember from the trailers...
  • Snake's character model looks really great though.
  • Adaptive camo is nice.
  • 2 hours later...
  • MGS4 doesn't know whether it want's to be a shooter or a sneaker... definitely too much emphasis on guns and shooting, which would be fine with me if shooter controls wouldn't be horribly broken, getting out of that abandoned hotel with the hot chick's team was an extremely frustrating experience
  • story didn't exactly grab me so far... cutscenes are cringe-worthy when they try to be funny
Guess MGS4 needs to grow on me. When I launched MGS3 I was immediately fascinated and couldn't stop playing. This didn't happen so far with MGS4. Will post more impressions when I finished the game.

22 Jul 2008

Ninja Gaiden DS

Ninja Gaiden Dragon Sword for the Nintendo DS is finally available in Germany (Dragon Sword - DS - gettit?). How the game is controlled using the stylus is astonishing, breathtaking, eye-opening, dare I say: revolutionary.

They nailed the controls, plain and simple. Just as the 2 Xbox games, the DS version is all about rythm, but instead of hitting button combos, playing NG DS is more like painting a picture with a brush. A few well-placed "brush strokes" here and there, a few taps over there, and another group of Spider Clan ninjas are history. Something complex like an Izuna Drop is simply done by a down-up-up-stroke over the enemy (the first down-stroke is a more-or-less normal sword attack, the first up-stroke launches the enemy into the air, and the second upstroke has Ryu jump into the air, grab the enemy and whirl it into the ground.

The graphics are beautiful for what the DS can do. The backgrounds are 2D bitmaps, but give a good 3D-ish illusion since the 3D characters can move into the screen with the correct perspective projection.

Best DS game in a while, shame that it got so little attention from the DS crowd.

20 Jul 2008

10 Years After

Andreas, an old friend of mine, noticed that Urban Assault went Gold (or RTM - Release To Manufacture as it was called at Microsoft at that time) on July 13th 1998, almost exactly 10 years before Drakensang went Gold (which was at the 10th of July 2008). He even sent me the original anouncement mail I sent back to Germany. Andreas and I had been "stationed" over at Seattle at that time to apply the final fixes and polish to UA, since flying the programmers over to NA was probably more convenient in 1998 then FTP'ing complete daily game builds over ISDN.

Apart from the usual post-project cleanup stuff I can now start to work on new and exciting technology stuff again, improving our tool-chain, continue working on Nebula3, and dust off those Wii and 360 devkits which probably feel a bit neglected due to our focus on finishing Drakensang.

We're also a licensed PS3-developer now, a N3 port hasn't started yet but from looking through the SDK docs the programming environment doesn't seem to be too bad. The underlying philosophy or "style" is a bit different then the 360 SDK (just like for instance Win32 has a different style then Unix). But all in all the PS3 SDK looks complete and actually quite usable. It's also quite obvious from looking through the release note history that the PS3 SDK has improved a lot since the PS3 launch. I think it will be relatively easy to get "something" up and running on the PS3, squeezing the last bit of performance out of the bitch however will be something completely different I'm sure ;)

The Dead Rising port to the Wii might be the most interesting news I took out of E3. It made me play the 360 version again, and this is one of those game which get better and better over time.

I totally underestimated the importance of the books one can find in the different book stores. In the past I ignored them because they take up valuable inventory slots. But what they actually do is they make every single slot much more valuable. For instance there is a book which triples the time edged weapons can be used until they break, and another which triples the usage time of items from home-improvement-stores. And the effects actually stack. For instance the mini-chainsaws which are unlocked after killing the clown-psycho (pretty much the most powerful melee weapons in the game) fall under both categories!

The Wii port of Dead Rising makes immediate sense with all the special attacks or shaking off zombies for instance. These should translate very well to waggle. I'm concerned though about the number of zombies. It's just not Dead Rising without hundreds of zombies on screen. The first batch of Wii screens have a suspicious lack of zombies in them...