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Comment: What was and wasn't working... (Score 2) 97

by RogueyWon (#47745827) Attached to: Hackers Claim PlayStation Network Take-Down

As somebody who spent most of the day yesterday on the sofa with his PS3 and PS4...

- First of all, this wasn't just the US. Europe was affected as well.

- Disc-based games were working fine all day on both consoles. I've seen FUD above suggesting that always-online connections may be required for these. They aren't. Certainly, MS wanted to do that until the 2013 E3 (and I'll bet Sony gave it a lot of thought as well), but it never actually happened. Single-player modes of disc-based games were fine all day.

- Providing the console you were using was set as one of your primary consoles, then downloaded games (including PS+ games) were also fine all day.

- Basic login was down at first but came back after a couple of hours. Barring a couple of glitchy periods, it was mostly up through the rest of the day. Cloud save functions were working whenever basic login was up.

- Online matchmaking also came online a few times during the afternoon, though never really for long enough for a proper multiplayer session.

- The PS Store and Account Management features were off until quite late last night, When basic login was up, trying to access these gave a "this service is currently undergoing maintenance" error message, implying Sony had taken them down deliberately as part of the effort to keep basic login and matchmaking working. With Account Management offline, the option to re-download content you'd already purchased was also offline.

As of this morning, everything seems to be fine again. What was interesting was how the timing (on a Sunday, and a Sunday followed by a public holiday in several parts of the world) affected both the Sony response (which in communications terms was extremely slow) and the media-coverage (which was virtually non-existent for most of yesterday).

Comment: A few other observations (Score 5, Interesting) 275

by RogueyWon (#47741157) Attached to: Among Gamers, Adult Women Vastly Outnumber Teenage Boys

TFA has some interesting stats, but not much narrative to go with them. I would say that there are two big over-arching themes that are driving changes behind "who plays games".

1) The first generation to grow up playing games is now moving into its 30s and even early 40s. Moreover, while this reflects my personal prejudices only (hey, at least I'm upfront about it), I suspect that with many of the first generation of gamers being academic and nerdy types, they are disproportionately well-paid now compared to their wider generation. So the people who grew up with games in the 1980s and early 1990s now have a lot of spending power. For some years now, the 30-40 year old age group has been the most lucrative in gaming.

This is partly why Japan's importance as a market for (as opposed to a producer of) games has plummeted. Aside from "quick blast on the train" mobile games, gaming in Japan is in a very unhealthy state. Domestic production in Japan, when it targets domestic audiences, increasingly plays for children (eg. Nintendo), teenagers (Capcom) or the unemployed/under-employed "otaku" demographic living off its parents' income (Gust, Nippon Ichi, Cave etc).

This is largely because Japan doesn't have the market of relatively well-paid adult gamers that the West has. Some of that is down to social stigma (games being a "kids' thing"), but much more of it is down to working cultures. Maintaining a middle-class lifestyle in Japan requires the kind of office-hours that would make even a Western games-development house in crunch-time blush.

So yeah... in the Western gaming market, oldies increasingly hold the purse-strings, while Japan is increasingly falling out of the mainstream.

2) There is no longer one single "games industry" any more. If... indeed... there ever was. Back in the 1980s and 1990s, the games industry split neatly into two halves marked "console" and "computer", with very little cross-over. These days, that distinction has almost vanished (most console games bar first-party exclusives come to PC, Valve increasingly act as the platform-curator for the PC). But at the same time, there is a growing divide between "core" and "casual" gaming, with the latter not looking much like traditional gaming at all.

Facebook games and mobile titles like Candy Crush Saga draw nothing but contempt from "core" gamers (including many of those affluent 30-40 year-olds mentioned above). But they have drawn in a vast market which would never touch a "core" game - and that market is heavily female. So the demographic of the gaming population in general is skewing to reflect that.

There's also what almost constitutes a third tier somewhere in the middle - the "dudebro" gamer (which is overwhelmingly, though not entirely, male). These are the guys who spend a lot of time gaming, but almost all of it goes into Madden/FIFA (delete as appropriate depending on whether in the US or not) and Call of Duty/Battlefield (delete as appropriate depending on favoured brand of spunkgargleweewee). This is a big demographic, but as MS learned when it pitched the Xbox One at them heavily, it isn't a big-spending demographic or one that's particularly sensitive to technological advances.

Comment: Re:Reasons not to switch? One word: (Score 3, Interesting) 127

by RogueyWon (#47683687) Attached to: Switching Game Engines Halfway Through Development

Prey and Duke Nukem Forever fall into the exact same category. Games which were pitched as "we will make the content on somebody else's engine", but which felt they had to play catch-up on engine tech.

When id released Quake 2, they caused an absolute cataclysm for many developers. In terms of looks, it was way ahead of the Quake 1 engine, particularly for people with new-fangled 3d video cards. Lots of people were out there making games on the Quake 1 engine, with contracts that gave them cheap access to the Quake 2 engine once available. The assumption had always been that porting from one to the other would be easy.

It wasn't.

So several studios, including those making Daikatana, Prey, Half-Life and Duke Nukem Forever had a choice between putting out a game on the old engine or restarting a lot of their work from scratch on the new one.

The ones who went for the latter option ended up in engine hell. Only Valve came through it reasonably well. They took a hit on Half-Life's release date, but basically hacked around the Quake 1 engine to replicate some Q2 features and to make the (highly successful) bastardisation that became known as the Half-Life engine.

Comment: Re:That reminds me... (Score 1) 146

by RogueyWon (#47678103) Attached to: World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor Launches Nov. 13th

As others have said; Final Fantasy XIV. Candidate for the "most improved game in history", following a disaster of a launch a few years ago.

The current incarnation is possibly the only MMO around to be able to go toe-to-toe with WoW in terms of features, content and polish. The update cycle which adds new content is at least on a par with WoW's (if not slightly better) and, unlike games such as Lord of the Rings Online and Star Wars: Old Republic, it isn't afraid to do things differently to WoW in some respects.

In particular, the class/job system is much more flexible than WoW's. The crafting system is infinitely more sophisticated, particularly at the higher levels (I know people in-game who only rarely play combat classes). The PvP modes are hived off entirely from PvE, with their own stats and abilities, meaning that PvE players don't get messed around by constant PvP balance changes. The game is also much more accommodating for casual players than Pandaria-era WoW, avoiding WoW's obsession with locking casuals into an endless, tedious grind of daily quests as an alternative to raid content. But it does this without compromising the experience for the hardcore; the Coil raid and the extreme-mode Primals are on a par with top-end WoW content.

With player numbers reputed to be closing in on 2 million and still rising, it feels like the first MMO since WoW to have a chance of equalling WoW's success - despite much less mainstream media hype.

Comment: Re:Huh? (Score 5, Informative) 406

by RogueyWon (#47620557) Attached to: Idiot Leaves Driver's Seat In Self-Driving Infiniti, On the Highway

Actually, there are plenty of other reasons why we remove trees from the sides of roads. Dropped leaves (which can increase braking distances significantly), dropped branches, the chance of the tree falling onto the road during a storm, the risk of obscuring signage and, if the road is below the level of the terrain to either side of it, the chance of roots undermining the banks and causing a landslip.

By and large, while it's never going to be economical or appropriate everywhere, you don't want trees close to major roads.

I've worked in transportation for a good number of years and have been involved in this issue. I don't think "because drivers keep hitting them" ever came up as a reason.

Oh, and it's even more important on the railway. People laugh at the thought on "leaves on the line" causing delays and assume it's just a bullshit excuse. It isn't. What leaves do to trains' ability to accelerate and brake is much, much worse than ice.

Comment: Re:Awkward (Score 5, Informative) 121

by RogueyWon (#47573833) Attached to: Crytek USA Collapses, Sells Game IP To Other Developers

The first Homefront game was nothing to do with Crytek. It was developed by Kaos and published by THQ. Crytek merely bought up the rights to do the sequel. For the record, I bought and played through Homefront on PC. It was basically a mediocre and generic shooter based on top of some really interesting fiction. In the right hands, it could have been a much better game.

And there are lots of people - self included - who will sing the praises of the original Crysis as a game rather than a tech demo. It's much smarter than the average shooter, with plenty of room for exploration and taking different approaches. There are few other shooters that permit the sheer on-the-fly tactical flexibility that came from Crysis's nanosuit.

The game did make a few mis-steps - the quality notably dives in the final 25% or so of the campaign, once the aliens show up (the floaty section in the alien mothership in particular goes on for far too long). But overall, it is an excellent shooter which has stood the test of time far better than most others in its genre.

Crysis 2, on the other hand, was crap. And Crysis 3 had a few moments where it was pretty good (mostly in the more open sections near the end of the game) but ultimately disappoints.

Comment: Re:Anybody know? (Score 5, Interesting) 234

by RogueyWon (#47555867) Attached to: Free Copy of the Sims 2 Contains SecuROM

So... genuine question...

What does SecuROM actually do to your system and what are the implications?

The wikipedia article, beyond a floating comment that SecuROM isn't uninstalled when the game is uninstalled, is basically silent on this. In fact, let's break it down into a series of further questions?

- Does SecuROM cause security vulnerabilities on PCs on which it is installed?

- Does SecuROM prevent applications - other than pirated copies of the game it is supposed to "protect" - from functioning on PCs on which it is installed?

- Does SecuROM create any kind of "always on" background process that consumes resources and potentially reduces performance on PCs on which it is installed?

If the answer to any of the above is "yes" then obviously there is a fairly major problem here. If the answer to all of the above is "no", then I'm not quite sure what people are getting upset about given that we are talking about a free game (SecuROM being bundled with paid-for games is another issue entirely).

And to emphasise, I genuinely don't know the answers to the above and can't work them out from the links in TFA.

Comment: Re:"Compatible" (Score 1) 94

by RogueyWon (#47513879) Attached to: Open-Source Blu-Ray Library Now Supports BD-J Java

The Playstation 3 likely remains the most common blu-ray player around - and it does the job very well (though it helps to pick up the optional remote control, as managing playback via a game controller can be a touch irritating). It also, coupled with the PS3 Media Server software on a PC, makes a pretty damned good "just works" solution for playing media files off your hard drive onto the TV and - crucially - one which is easy enough for a total computing ignoramus to get up and running with little or no guidance.

It's a pity that the PS4 (and Xbox One) are missing most of this functionality. As media players, the "new" consoles are a significant step back from the last generation.

Comment: Re:Maybe Ubisoft made this press release (Score 1) 154

The same way PC ports sometimes go horribly wrong - terrible mouse and keyboard support and a lack of technical optimisation that is causing framerate issues on $6,000 test-PCs. Plus uPlay.

Ports like this are less common than they used to be, but the odd one still sneaks through. Especially from Ubisoft.

Comment: Re:So glad it's over (Score 1) 151

I've owned two "top end" (as opposed to merely "high end") graphics cards in the days before I had a mortgage and when the top end of the market was still only in the $1,000 range. The first was an Nvidia 7950 GX2 and the second was an Nvidia 590. Both of them, frankly, were cranky, unreliable and difficult. It was also rare I took them anywhere near their performance limits. This latest trends towards super-priced cards is a combination of R&D and willy waving.

This wouldn't be slashdot without a car analogy, so...

A Bugatti Veryon sells for around $1.7 million (according to my hasty google search). Even compared to previous generations of supercars, that's pretty insane. But it doesn't mean that cars in general are getting more expensive. You can get something good enough for everyday tasks cheaper than ever. If you want something sportier, with a bit of performance, then adjusted for inflation, the price range is more or less what it always has been. Plus that "something sportier" will probably be a lot easier to manage and maintain than the Veryon, as well as a lot easier to drive to the shops in.

I'm on an Nvidia 680 now (the 590 crapped out after less than 2 years), paid a sensible price for it and have a card that can handle almost everything at 1080p with max or near-max detail (the exception being Watch Dogs, the PC port of which is a badly coded piece of shite).

Comment: Re:Maybe Ubisoft made this press release (Score 4, Insightful) 154

I don't disagree with you on the quality of the game. Unfortunately, in this case, Ubisoft are laughing all the way to the bank, because it's the fastest selling game not based on an existing IP in history and has posted the best opening weekend sales of any Ubisoft game in history. And this is despite the terrible PC port, the uPlay problems affecting all platforms, the limp plot and character designs that feel straight out of the notebook doodles of a 13 year old who still thinks wearing a trench-coat makes you cool and the laughable implementation of the core "hacking" concept.

So sure, while it would be nice to think that Ubisoft is sitting there feeling sad and desperate, it's simply not true.

But if you're reading this and thinking you need something shiny and new to play on your PC or new PS4/Xbox One, then be advised that the new Wolfenstein is a far better game in every respect (an actual proper shooter, rather than a 2-gun corridor game).

Comment: Re:Still... (Score 1) 134

by RogueyWon (#47118355) Attached to: Valve's Steam Machines Delayed, Won't Be Coming In 2014

My bet? They'll never make either a HL2 ep 3 or a HL3.


Not because it wouldn't be successful - it would. But because it would harm their wider business interests.

Valve makes a lot more money these days from running what is in essence a platform than it ever made from being a games developer. Steam is a big and successful platform. Numbers relating to its success are notoriously hard to come by, but by joining together a few pieces of publisher and charts data (which exclude Steam sales) and feeling out the gaps, you can work out that in the closing year of the PS3/Xbox 360 console cycle, Steam was managing major games sales on a par with either of those consoles, while probably managing a lot more sales of small indie titles.

A big part of running a successful platform is managing your relationship with the wider industry - publishers in particular. Historically, in console land, Sony has been particularly good at this and Nintendo has been particularly bad, with MS somewhere in the middle. Valve is, by all accounts, pretty good at it. Almost everybody publishes on their platform. EA is trying to make a go of their own alternative with Origin, but that's hardly turning into a stunning success. Ubisoft thought about making a break for it with uPlay, but have relented and uPlay has just ended up as a pointless and inconvenient "wrapper" for Ubisoft games which often requires Steam to be running in the background anyway.

And a big element of having a good relationship with publishers is being seen by them as a partner, not a competitor. Since Steam first started to get momentum, Valve has confined its first-party games development to titles outside of the major commercial arenas. Portal and its sequel exist more or less in isolation in genre terms (at least outside of the indie market). Left 4 Dead was like nothing else around when it launched (though others have copied it since).

But if Valve were to release a major high-profile mass-market shooter, like another Half-Life, then Activision and all of those other companies who publish on Steam at the moment might start to look at Valve differently. All of a sudden, they're getting nervous about being reliant on a platform owned by somebody who is competing with them. Worried that their visibility on the platform will be reduced, or that they might get shunted onto the ass-end download servers if they launch in the same window. Why do you think non-EA support on Origin is so poor, despite EA being happy to carry other publishers' games?

It's the same over in console-land. MS and Sony do develop and publish first party games, but they're pretty blatant about the fact that they basically do it just to build the installed base of the console (making it more attractive to third parties). Their main revenue is from third party licensing fees, so the last thing they want to do is get into a cut-throat competition with those third parties. Nintendo, on the other hand, make first-party publishing a huge part of their business, which makes their platforms a scary place for third parties.

So yeah. Steam is great and all that. But it's probably killed off any prospect of more Half-Life for the immediate future.

The only way I could ever imagine that lock being broken would be with Half-Life 3 as a Steambox launch exclusive to give the console's installed base a flying start (so essentially acting as a loss-leader for the sake of third parties).

Comment: Re:Nintendo has fallen far (Score 2) 110

by RogueyWon (#47105547) Attached to: Nintendo To Split Ad Revenue With Streaming Gamers

On the contrary, Nintendo has a long and ignoble history of doing this sort of thing. They've sued or C&Ded customers in the past just for mentioning their games on a blog, when the customer has been somebody who doesn't fit with their image (their was a stripper a few years ago who got threatened with legal action for saying she "liked Metroid"). They're incredibly protective of everything they see as relating to their franchises and characters (despite the fact that Donkey Kong - the game that started it all - borrows from King Kong's imagery so heavily). They're also pretty lawsuit-happy within the industry, having gone after games whose concepts are too close to their own and even hardware manufacturers for putting out controller d-pads too close to their own.

And player-focussed? Don't make me laugh. They're the only manufacturer still making region-locked consoles. They're the only manufacturer ever, so far as I can tell, to have region locked a hand-held. They basically have a paternalist view of the world where their top brass sits around a table and decides which regions deserve which games (and when some of that reasoning comes out, it often sounds, frankly, borderline racist). They're the only manufacturer to link online purchases to console units rather than accounts, making for endless grief for people whose consoles die. Hell, they even had their own run-in with a Red Ring of Death fiasco (albeit less reported), with the Wii-U's launch firmware update and its habit of bricking consoles.

And this is leaving aside more subjective stuff, like their promise of extensive third party support for the Wii-U which they then failed to guarantee except in a tiny number of cases. Oh, and the speculation they're now themselves fuelling that the next Super Smash Brothers will require Skylanders-style "physical DLC" to access all on-disk content (though they still have time to U-Turn on that one).

And yet, as your post demonstrates, they get away with it. I think part of it is because, being pretty much just a gaming company, they have fewer spheres in which to have scandals. They've never had a CD-rootkit fiasco because they don't distribute music and only make games for their own hardware (though they have long been pioneers of restrictive copy protection in that field). They've never had a Windows 8 fiasco because they don't make operating systems (though one can only imagine how locked down and restrictive a hypothetical Nintendo OS would be). But in the gaming world, their policies have been pure poison for decades.

And oddly, this is the other reason they get away with it - direction of travel. When MS comes out at E3 last year and shows that it wants to be really evil (possibly more evil even than Nintendo) there's an outcry that eventually forces the company to back down. Why? Because it was more restrictive than what MS had done previously. When Sony first entered the market, it basically (probably because it wanted to copy what worked) lifted MS's policies on region locks etc. Since then, it's progressively liberalised them. Nintendo, on the other hand, just carries on being as evil as it has always been, so it only rarely gets noticed (region locking the 3DS got it some bad press, I guess).

In short, don't confuse Nintendo's underdog status (which they've reclaimed again after a brief and terrifying flirtation with success with the Wii) and any nostalgia you may feel for its franchises with any kind of ethics on the part of the company. Within its narrow sphere, it is the most restrictive and anti-consumer of the three console manufacturers.

In these matters the only certainty is that there is nothing certain. -- Pliny the Elder