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James Andrews's blog

8:52 AM on 03.01.2010

All work and no Playstation Network makes Jimmy a dull boy...

This network outage is not cool. Nobody's sure if their trophies or themes will survive, and there is general anarchy while PSN central has refused to peep on the matter in the last 12 hours, but that isn't what is really bugging the crap out of me now...

Now I've been a Playstation guy from day one almost, and if I want to go to my cabinet, dig out Jumping Flash and play it on my good ol' grey Playstation 1 I can. No questions asked.. just "bommmmm boooooom...." and I am off. Happy as can be. The trouble I am having now is I have a perfectly fine console that cost $499 and no connection to PSN. "No problem!", I declare, "I can still play my games offline!" Not so. Demon Souls and a few others would not even boot to the menu.

Now what the heck happens when PS5 comes out and SCEA-J decides to take their PS3 servers off line? Right now it seems like the entire investment gets flushed down the damn toilet. Even if they decide to run a charity for elderly consoles and keep these servers working... there is no guarantee that third parties, like Atlus (I love you guys I really do!) for instance, will continue to support the games they publish, or that Sony won't tie PS3 network access to PS4 or 5 ownership or some other wallet dig.

Now I am sure that patches could be devised for these games to make them able to run in an offline mode, or perhaps some forward thinking Sony tech left breadcrumbs in the firmware for a dummy PSN server to run from the PS3, sending fake signals to the games, but does this sound like something they would do? Ever since the dubious "decision" to ditch backward-compatibility in the first years of a new console's lifespan I haven't trusted them too much, and any chance to get us to pay out again for what we already own is just too tempting a prospect for these guys. Can anyone really say otherwise without taking out their fanboy card and stapling it to their forehead?   read

1:54 PM on 02.22.2010

The Tester, for real? Like really? ...

So I saw the preview episode and the 1st episode and I have some comments to make. 1. Watching this show makes me uncomfortable. 2. Am I alone in wondering if I am doing something skeezy by simply downloading this? 3. I'd love to see the numerical data on the trees they killed in legal documents and release forms that the contestants had to sign before filming could begin. 4. And the overall feeling I am getting from this entire project, and of course mirroring the title of the post, is a big "Are you people serious?"

First let me say that I have NOT been a consumer of 'reality tv' as it is constituted on broadcast media since "The Real World" season 2 (that is a long time ago, kids), nor have I even paid a cable company for the privilege of having it beamed into my house for nearly 10 years. Between raising my son and playing games, there is no time for it or whatever else is on cable these days. Between DVDs,Hulu and getting my football games over the airwaves I am fine. Secondly, I am not a fan of most of what SCEA has done in the past as far as marketing goes. It's been disjointed, unsettling and above all confusing right up until the "It Does Everything" campaign, which is wonderful. The "Playstation 9" spot was another highlight. All that said it seems that things are on the up and up and then comes along "The Tester".

Now if you been following this you'll know by now that it's basically "Survivor" plus video games and the prize is a job as a SCEA QA monkey and $5000. Now I am not a man who is going to turn up his nose at a chance to win $5000. I mean, that's class money. Nor would I shirk an all expenses paid junket to some sort of nerd playground with a bunch of other like minded folks. Whether a week or two weeks I think it would have been worth the trip, not to mention the dubious benefits of Internet fame. Where all of this caves in however is the job. The job is grueling, detail intensive, repetitive and above all boring. Simply put it turns playing games into a job and is the slayer of carpal tunnels everywhere. Most software concerns don't even spring for an office or health-insurance, making it instead a part-time at-home gig. And the most amazing thing I noticed by watching the firstep was that many of the 'gamers' involved were wearing clothes that basically told you that they already had BETTER PAYING JOBS. ??? I mean... come on, people. Unless this particular magical tester position pays more than the requisite $12 bucks an hour, I just... I... *facepalm*

That aside this reality show isn't even a reality show, it's an advertisement. And advertisement for a brand, not even a single game or console. Are contestants allowed to have a negative opinion? Let say Cyrus is in a one on one challenge with Luge, and they have to kill five trolls as fast as possible in SCEA's new world-ender "God of War 3". Great, now seeing as Cyrus' favorite game is "Magical Drop 3" (whaaaaaaa?) he may be waiting for bubbles to burst or for chibi anime girls to yell at him. Luge, seeming as one well suited to wanton destruction, starts tearing the faces off of trolls in record time. Cyrus' starts bitching about the controls, like all gamers do, or about the fact that he's not into the kind of game, or... well about anything. What if he doesn't like all the gore? What if wishes aloud that Kratos was actually a scantily clothed fairy or angel of some sort? All of this ends up on the editor's recycle bin. I don't see how SCEA can allow these people to speak freely about their gaming experiences. On the other hand I don't see how they aren't coaching them into making positive statements. Wouldn't that make the most sense? In a way aren't they taking what is already a travesty of a television genre and turning it out, making the tawdry almost unseemly? Or am I thinking about this too much?

Lastly this show is supposed to be about gamers, that is, us. People like you and me who play videogames are contestants, and from what I have seen so far, it does not cast us in a very nice light. If you subtract the 'preview' episode, where Hal Sparks dismantles the varied out of control video submissions they had to choose from and actually made it funny, if a little sad, the actual show just seems sad. Here are people in our consumer demographic drooling over wall mounted PS3 systems, speaking with urgent sincerity about how they want, no, NEED to win this contest to get their foot in the door of the industry. There's crying, backstabbing, trickery and oh so sure to be fits of nerd rage coming in the future... and all for a really crappy job. It seems these folks have lost their grip on reality. Just watching their mouths open and close, speaking in reverence for the quest, for the chance to get closer to whatever it is that is "Playstation", makes me ashamed. That is the feeling that makes you uncomfortable when you are watching this in case you were wondering.

Oh me? I'm rooting for Big D.   read

11:40 AM on 02.16.2010

The PSParadox

So, once I wanted a PSP. I was going to get one for sure, seeing as I sure as hell wasn't going to spring for a PS3 at the time (they were like $800). The games looked decent and it was essentially what I had been dreaming about in a handlheld ever since I held a gameboy in my mitts long ago. Huge screen, analog controls and massive storage capacity. Then upon it's release, horror stories about it's battery life and faulty screens gave me pause. $249 for a handheld wasn't anything to sneeze at either, not to mention Sony's dream of crafting a UMD movie empire seemed to the melting in the sun. It just seemed as if there were were all of these red flags, and I decided to hold off.

About this time there were really great games dropping for the DS, New Super Mairo Bros, Lunar Knights, Dawn of Sorrow and Dual Strike. I liked the games, but the system was an ugly brick. THEN the DS Lite arrived and there wasn't anything left for me to bitch about. I snatched one of those up on release day and have been a happy boy, minus some hinge issues that I solved with a summer's day and a magnifying glass. As time went on I kept hearing about the PSP's woes and terrible third party games and sat convinced that I had made the wise choice. Then the first PSP revision came along and people were pleased with the longer battery life and hardware quality. I found myself thinking, "Way to go old chum! You can do it!", cheering on the obvious second place holder in the handheld race. After all I had feelings for the PSP once, and I wasn't a jerk about it. Then something changed.

Monster Hunter Freedom was released in the states. Reports stated that the game was a phenomenon in Japan, the place were all good things seem to come from. Aside from that it was an action RPG that was legendary for it's difficulty and required balanced, thoughtful team-play with other human beings. To say I was intrigued wouldn't really cover it. I am a nut for hard RPGs, Etrian Odyssey, SMT: Nocturne (hard mode) and currently Demon's Souls are all favorites of mine. Reviews were luke warm as they are always for games that don't spit out endless achievements, so I wasn't expecting anything there. I just didn't have the cash to hand over for a new system. That didn't change the fact that I wanted it, and for me that is a most inconvenient state of affairs.

Now time went on and the PSP's star continued it's decline and some games I hadn't noticed fell in alongside MHF and new games I wanted continued to be relased. Breath of Fire 3, Tales of... something, Neverland Card Battles, Jeanne D'Arc, and now Class of Heroes, more Monster Hunter, the Persona Remake and Valkyria Chronicles 2 for the freaking love of god. When does it END? The list is much longer than this in reality, but how in the heck are they getting all these great games for the system? Of course "great" is relative I suppose. Probably... Anyway I am clearly a fan of games from Japan, I am just wired in that way, and US third parties have just about abandoned the PSP, those except the few SCEA commands expressly to slave away in the PSP mines. They have fled the field smelling the stench of smoke and fear generated from sluggish AAA title sellthrough and the total dominance of the DS. All the while dev houses in Japan are insulated from this state of affairs and have continued to pump out the titles people there like.

So now there is a vacuum in the US PSP release schedule. Jocular fellows and all around good guys of the sort that repackage Japanese games for the US market go to their contacts over the Pacific looking for something to fill the void. Not only that but they are getting these titles at cut rates because of all of the softness in the US market. Jack says, "I can't pay that licensing fee! Can you see that the PSP is on the way out over here?" And the Japanese Dev House says, "Oh well, but free money is free money! Right?", and hands over the property at massive discounts. Not that I am against bargains, by all means please. This is just good business. What I don't like is that I actually need a PSP to play these games. Why don't they ever think about us poor gamers???

Now I have still remained abstinent from PSP temptation, mainly because I don't want to get "Dreamcasted" again. Back when I simply HAD to play Last Blade 2 and Garou: Mark of the Wolves I went for the DC to only have Sega pull the rug out from under me 6 months later. Of course Sony is a stubborn old beast, and that probably won't happen. Right? Right?   read

3:40 PM on 02.11.2010

Samurai Showdown Sen

This is not the time to be making more of these games. Think about it, Samurai Showdown is turning into the Sonic of fighting franchises. One crappy 3D implementation of the classic 2D gameplay after another, and all fans want is a return to the old style of game. What gives? The problem is that 3d models are now probably easier to create than sets of 2D sprites. This wasn't always the case however, but back in the the early 2000s you HAD to make a 3D game to be relevant, to even get approval for the project. So back then they blew millions on making convincing 3D models because they had to. Now it's just easier. THIS is the problem I effing guarantee it, and there's just enough sycophantic fanboys to float this turd on the honorable corpse of what used to be SNK.

Now I worshiped SSII, and I made it my life's work to beat that game on a quarter once upon a time, but unless I can ride a train to a parallel dimension where 3D fighters were outlawed by the emperor I will never see it's like again.   read

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