I keep an eye on skeptic.com for the occasional updates. I like to argue with my family about their use of snake-oil and natural remedies, the site can give me some fresh ammo. In the least expected place, a podcast has been posted, Skepticality, that talks about design, software usability, and a little bit of gaming. They interview Charles L. Mauro, a Certified Human Factors Engineering Professional and founder of MauroNewMedia. Apple is one of his clients and they do a little apple wanking off, but it's less about apple and more about the philosophy of user interaction with software.
I really liked it and I think many of you will find interest in it as well.
Listen directly here or
Otherwise (iTunes etc.)
Hi I'm Brainderailment, I haven't posted a blog in a long time and I really haven't posted anything meaningful on this site in over a year. Small introduction to the peeps on this site, I've been here since the Summa days and I lurk.
Having just read Tony Ponce's thought provoking "Screw home consoles, time to go 100% portable" post, I'm ready to say a few things. While I agree with many of Tony's points, I have to make a respectful and (hopefully) clearly understandable rebuttal.
Upon seeing the announcement of the "NGP" I had the thought, "could portable gaming machines completely replace consoles?", "is Sony even going to bother with a PS4?". I think it would be kind of cool for that to be the case for a few reasons. However, I think at this point in time, we aren't quite ready to make that transition and here are my thoughts on why.
The big tv argument.
When you are sitting in your living room or wherever you might play your console, hold your psp/ds about 1-2 feet from your face and compare the size of the screen to that of your perception of the tv. Is it bigger or smaller? In my case, the tv would be smaller, but I don't have to cross my eyes to focus on it. Using a large screen at a far distance rather than a small screen at close proximity is easier on the eyes. When you read those warnings about taking breaks from you computer or tv, it usually states to "look away from your computer at least every 20 minutes and gaze at a distant object (at least 20 feet away) for at least 20 seconds." (source)
If you are confused about what size screen you should have, just use a viewing distance calculator. I, for one, choose to have an easier time on my eyes with a perceived smaller screen than to stare at a small one right in my face. Especially since I stare at a computer screen for 12 hours a day at work.
Pixel density is not a factor. Even if your screen has a higher pixel density than a 40" 1080p television, your game will be rendered at whatever resolution the developer feels suits the game best. If you've hooked a PSP2000 or higher up to an hd television, you'll notice that some games are displayed larger on the screen than others. This is because the developers commonly lower the resolution of their game from the console's native to squeeze out more frames per second. This is done on both consoles and portables. I'm no resolution elitist, but I just want my image to be clear and focused. 1080p is more than enough for me.
Now, you are poking at one of my sore spots. Headphones are absolutely, positively, not going to give you the experience that is available through a surround sound system. Please read about "sound localization" and "psychoacoustics" to fully understand why headphones (even the "surround sound" ones) cannot give you a true sense of sound localization. Now you may ask yourself, why would I care about that, immersion? No, not immersion. Immersion can be a buzz word that you might want to attach to the use of surround, but that applies more to movies (medium with a static, predetermined sound and image) than it does to games. (medium that changes depending on the input and feedback of the user) Bear with me please as I explain. When you hear a sound directly to your left in a game, you most likely will turn your character to your immediate left to asses the "threat". Adding surround sound to the equation gives you a much more precise direction in which to respond. Humans have an incredible ability to recognize the exact location of a sound when we are facing the noise, to the point where 1 degree change is distinguishable to us. Much of this is because our outer ear is helping us decipher that information. Headphones take your outer ear completely out of the equation. (Watch a dolby engineer explain some of this phenomenon on Revision 3! 00:20:30 in.) Now, why does it matter? The answer is, shooters. In an shooter, we constantly react to our environment in the game as if we were a part of it, but instead of moving our head, we move our left stick. Giving that information to your brain while you play an FPS or TPS can improve your performance (online and off) and in my opinion, the fun factor.
I implore you to sit on your couch with your head back and you hands on your lap as you play your portable system. You cannot do it. You must be looking where your hands are because your screen is locked to the controller. This also brings up laying down. Surely we've all played a portable system while laying down. If you want to lay on your back, you have to hold your hands in the air like an old person in a nursing home begging for attention, looking for someone to come clean the load of poo that's glued the top sheet to the bottom. Your hands will eventually become uncomfortable from the lack of blood flow. When you lay on your side you have to keep that arm you'd normally be laying on in front of your face. With a console, you can keep that controller tucked between the warmth of your sexy thighs or any other body parts you deem sexy.
While it may be true that a ps3 dev kit costs significantly more than a psp one, the costs beyond that are completely up to the developer. If the developer's goal is to make the next big game that blows all loads, they'll spend a lot more money than the guy trying to make the next Angry Birds. That decision is up to the developer. If he wants to try that on the NGP, I'm willing to bet their costs will be comparable to doing the same game on the 360. Just because the game is on a smaller screen doesn't mean the game is automatically cheaper to produce. The same applies to the inverse, bigger screen doesn't mean more money. The developer chooses whether or not he wants to spend a ton of dough on a mind blowing epic explosion jizz inducing game. The point is, no company is being forced to make multi-million dollar games.
Now, the pc elitist might poke fun at the console players for their choice of systems because they may use wifi to connect to their innertubes. However, the choice is there for use of ethernet to keep that latency and packet loss down. If you want to replace the home console, you cannot ignore online gaming, it's much too popular. In case you are wondering about 3g, go pick up a smart phone and do a ping test, it's not an option unless you are playing a turn based game.
So, do I want portables to replace consoles? I kind of do, because then I can take my main machine to work and other places. But I don't want to yet because of the reasons stated above, and if I so choose, I can throw a $50 controller against the wall and go get another one. My back wont hurt from hunching over a portable (I'm not doing it on purpose, it just happens) and I can become a sweaty blob of disgusting american stink for 8 hours in one session if I want to. No recharging batteries, no looking for a plug to continue my obsession. No hot sweaty hands because of the recharging device between my mitts.
The Rocket Fish Gaming Playstation 3 Rapid Fire Wireless Controller looks like an XBOX360 controller, but it's made for your Playstation 3. If you're one of those people who has been playing an XBOX360 for a few years and recently got a PS3, you may find yourself either loving or hating it. I'm going to tell you in this hardware review whether or not the Rocket Fish Rapid Fire controller is for you.
It looks appealing, one of the reasons I picked it up. It has that fat PS3 and PSP shiny finish all over it. Obviously just like those two systems, shows fingerprints like black glass. It's bluetooth equipped so you don't have to occupy a precious USB slot on your PS3. It appears to have everything a 360 lover would want in a PS3 controller.
How does it feel:
This controller feels decent, it doesn't quite give me the sweaty palms that a 360 pad does, but that may be different for you. The joysticks feel kind of coarse, by that I mean, I had to look very closely to see if there actually was rubber on the tips of the sticks. There is rubber on the joysticks, but it's so tough that those 4 little nubs on the head of the joysticks you see on your 360 controller are sharp and uncomfortable. The shape of the grips you will be palming is very curved as shown in the image below.
It's a little too curved for my tastes. It feels okay but your middle fingers can tend to feel a bit claustrophobic. I don't have large or tiny hands but this controller made me feel like my middle fingers were too big yet my index fingers too short. As shown below, the L1 and R1 buttons feel just barely in reach. I didn't have a 360 controller with me today to compare, but I can tell that the shoulders are too tall.
The L1 and R1 buttons are the same size as the Sony controller not the nice wide curvy clickers (LB RB) as seen on a 360 pad. Even though this controller has a broad top and shoulders, the L1 and R1 are still about the size of 2 tic tacs lying end to end.
Now about the L2 R2 (or LT RT). They feel cheap, really cheap. As you pull them down, you can actually hear a metallic spring sound like an old spring mattress squeaking. They don't feel smooth either. It feels a bit like a loose tooth as you press down, there's too much lateral motion in these triggers.
The sticks themselves as you can see are offset like a 360 controller. Some people claim there is some kind of advantage by having an asymmetric layout to the sticks. I believe it's merely a matter of preference. This controller's sticks work well and are fairly smooth. A negative about the sticks is that they have an odd sensitivity curve. They don't feel quite like a 360 controller and they feel nothing like a DualShock 3. I believe I pinpointed it to some kind of acceleration range. As felt on a DualShock3 or a 360 pad, you should turn more quickly (in an FPS) the further toward the limit that you pulled the stick. The Rocket Fish controller seems to have too sharp of an acceleration curve to work right.
I played one match against bots in UT3 with the Rocket Fish and I got used to the controller after adjusting the sensitivity up, but the turn acceleration way down. Then I immediately played the same round again only this time with a DualShock 3. I didn't adjust the settings once I switched back to the DS3 and I was doing much better that round, I was moving faster, going around corners much more smoothly, and not taking angled turns. That was the moment I knew I shouldn't have bought the Rocket Fish controller.
Pressure sensitive buttons:
They aren't. The most obvious way of testing this is to put in a GT game and map the throttle and brake to a face button. GT4 shows on screen how much throttle you are applying so you can directly see the variance. That's what I did, and no matter how lightly I pressed, I couldn't get the throttle to variate.
Most of the time that I was playing UT3, I was actively trying to feel the rumble in the controller. It was extremely weak, and felt like only one side of the controller was actually vibrating. I started playing Bioshock, knowing I could encounter a Big Daddy and have my hands wracked, it still felt like barely anything was happening.
Did I mention it has turbo? No? Well it does, you can set the turbo to 3 settings, when you do, a light around the PS button flashes red at the rate your turbo is set. First setting is at about 20Hz, almost too fast to tell it's flashing at all. I couldn't think of a single game that would benefit from a turbo button, so while messing with Metal Gear 4, I held the crouch button causing snake to do a tea-bagging motion faster than the speed of sound. The second setting was not worth using at about 3Hz and the Third setting was completely useless at about 1.2Hz.
Wrap it up B!
The most major flaw that I was nagged at by this controller was actually not completely a fault of the controller itself. It was a problem with most PS3 games. Many shooting games on the PS3 have the fire button mapped to R1, and you read what I thought about the R1 and L1 on this pad. Unless you're playing a game, like Killzone 2 or Bioshock, you will be shooting with L1 and R1 with this controller which is significantly more terrible than doing so on a DualShock 3.
Overall this controller looks cool, but feels cheaply made, weighs significantly more than a DualShock 3, and is difficult to play with. I would not recommend you buy this controller as your primary gaming pad. I might, however, recommend you buy it IF you have a friend that comes over to your place, you melt his face with some split screen play, and he blames the DualShock 3 because it's different than a 360 pad. If you have one of those friends and you want to shut his bitching up, it will cost you $47.99 at Best Buy.
Ars Technica has a great article explaining why PC gamers are rightfully upset about the server situation for MW2. In the post is this video about COD4. This video makes me sad for my PC gaming brethren. I don't play a lot of PC games, but I know where they stand, and why they love their platform of choice.
I recieved only a few entries into the contest, even though they are all great, there aren't enough of them. Remember they don't have to be Batman themed, or any specific thing, just awesome themed. Read here for the deets.