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LONG BLOG

Got my Verizon XV6800... for gaming

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I'll be the first to admit that I hate cell phone games. They reek of "casual", they're choppy, the controls are poor, etc. etc. But I wouldn't be me if I didn't pick my next cell phone with gaming in mind. The way I saw it, I had two choices: I could go with an N-Gage, or a PocketPC Smart phone. So I really only had one choice.

Now, at heart, I'm a die-hard GP2X fan. I've bought three of them, the last being the white F-200 version with the correct D-pad. I've loaded my SD cards up with every emulator and ROM imaginable, and it actually got quite a bit of play at the Baltimore NARP (BlindsideDork enjoyed the very well done Genesis emu.) The problem is, it's kind of hard to slip the GP2X in and out of your pocket and play it at work and look casual. It's clearly not a cell phone, and you're clearly not text messaging anyone.

I had worked with a guy who had an XV6700. That's when my eyes were really opened up to the possibility of gaming with emus on a phone. Here is a device with a 240x320 display, running WinCE, which makes porting Win32 emus extremely easy. The problem has more to do with the controls. So in choosing a phone, I had to take input possibilities into consideration.

I waited quite a while for the 6800 to come out since I knew it was on the horizon. It came out in December (almost 2 years after the 6700), but I was only ready to buy in May. So imagine my surprise when I discovered that the 6900 had been developed and released already! So naturally, I had to check it out. What I found was a cheesy kind-of iPhone wanna be with no slide-out keyboard, and far fewer buttons on the front. Naturally, everything was supposed to be touch screen driven. As an aside, I got my wife an iPhone last year when it came out, and naturally, I was curious to see how the NES emulator ran on it. Let me tell you, playing the NES with touch screen controls is not a joy. It works, but just barely, and forget it if you have to make any quick inputs.

Unfortunately, I'm the type of guy who is inclined to believe that newer is better, and in this case, I had a really hard time convincing myself that going with the "older" model (by a mere 5 months) was the better way to go. Holy crap, man am I glad that I did.



What you see here is not the bleeding edge in cell phone technology, but a rather capable emulator device. As a huge MAME fan, my first instinct was to install PocketCultMAME and see how that worked. To be honest, I was a little disappointed, and as my first emulator experience with the device, I was worried that perhaps I made the wrong decision. The configuration would not correctly identify my d-pad (which, as d-pads go, is pretty poor, but it will suffice). Undaunted, I moved on to try something else.

I went with PocketNester next, a well regarded NES emulator. Now this was what I was hoping for! Full 60FPS emulation, fitting nicely on the screen. Everything works great! Well, almost everything. There is a limitation with these devices where you can't really press two buttons at the same time. So as I made Mario run with all his might with the B button, my attempt to make him jump with the A button resulted in Mario running squarely into a Koopa Troopa :( So action games such as these will either require new strategies, or they are a no-go.

Next I tried out MorphGear which is a multi-system emulator that has a NES component (which you must pay for regrettably to play unlimited). That worked great as well, and I tried out the Game Boy / GBC module, and that works fantastic as well. MorphGear also has a GBA module, so naturally, I got curious. My favorite game of all time on that system is Mr. Driller 2. I even had Mr. Driller on my old crappy Samsung cell phone. As horrible as it was, I probably spent more time playing that game than using the phone for talking. So I loaded up Mr. Driller 2 on MorphGear, expecting it to be unplayable, and... holy crap, it worked. Not great, but playable. So I did some more research, and it turned out there was an even better (and free) GBA emu for PocketPCs as long as you were willing to sacrifice sound. I installed PocketAdvance, and what do you know... it did play Mr Driller 2 even better than MorphGear. Unfortunately, it has a lot of trouble recognizing my available buttons, but I have a working configuration.

So, like I said, it's not GP2X, but it's really playable, and just what I need during those long ass boring meetings, doctor waiting rooms, and unplanned road trips. I'm glad I went with such an input rich device, cuz I would not be this happy if I bought the 6900. Plus the fact that the 6800 has 802.11b and the 6900 doesn't.
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About Procyonone of us since 10:16 AM on 12.08.2006



My name is Scott. I've been playing video games since my hands were big enough to hold a joystick. I started with the Atari 2600, and graduated to the Atari 800 computer where I taught myself how to program in BASIC. I eventually got a NES, and later a Game Boy. The first summer I ever worked, I was a CIT at the day camp I attended. I worked all summer long to save up enough money to buy the SNES the very day it came out.

I attended college at the University of Pennsylvania. I was introduced to the internet my freshman year in 1993, and I fast became a console pirate, purchasing a copier and downloading ROMs off of IRC channels. Good times. In my senior year, I purchased the N64 as soon as the street date was broken, and skipped classes for the next three days to play Mario 64. I also bought a used PSX the same year.

After I graduated with a degree in Computer Science and a degree in Psychology, I was accepted to Digipen. I was part of the very last class that attended the school in Vancouver, before they moved the campus to Nintendo of America's HQ in Redmond Washington (across the street from Microsoft). After completing the program, I got my very first job as a programmer at Ubisoft.

I lucked out with Ubisoft because they were actually opening a studio near my hometown in NYC, so I actually landed my dream job and got to live on the east coast near my family. I worked on Batman: Vengence. I met a number of cool people, but the only one I still keep in touch with happens to be a buddy of mine who was the lead designer on "Army of Two." He is without a doubt, the greatest game designer I have ever had the privilege of working with.

The studio in NYC didn't pan out for Ubisoft, and they decided to fold the team up to Montreal. After living in Vancouver for a year and a half, I decided I had enough of Canada, so I stayed in the NYC office, which transformed into GameLoft. I stayed there until me and the buddy I mentioned landed a job at 3DO. We both moved out to Redwood City and started working there.

3DO wasn't a great company, but it wasn't terrible, and I met a crew of people who became some of the greatest friends that I have ever had. I worked on Dragon Rage, which was being led by Kudo Tsunoda. He told the execs that it was going to be an Army Men game with an art asset swap, and it would take 6 months to complete. The truth was we were building a new engine from scratch, and it would really take a year to get it done right. When the six months were up, the execs asked for the game, and we weren't even close to finished, so we had to do 12 hours days, 6 days a week until the game was finished. 3 months later, nobody cared about it anymore, and it went straight to the budget bin.

3DO closed down very shortly after. While I was at 3DO, I got to know two people who amazed me: Howard Scott Warshaw and Tod Frye, two of the original Atari 2600 programmers. Getting to meet them and talk with them about "the good old days" at Atari was an amazing thing to me. (I totally recommend visiting Howard's site, Once Upon Atari and ordering his DVD about what those days were like.) I still run in to Howard infrequently at retrogaming conventions and it's always a delight.

After 3DO, I worked for a THQ studio that used to be called (oddly enough) Pacific Coast Power & Light. It's known as Locomotive games today. I was put on the WWE Crush Hour game, the game that was designed to mix the WWE up with Twisted Metal. I created the game's shell and character selection screen. It was actually a pretty cool game, but THQ's love for WWE had cooled down when the game was close to finishing (right after WWF became WWE, the ratings started to tank), so they rushed it and laid off the whole team.

Wishing to return to the east coast, I applied for jobs that I could find there, and actually lucked out with a job opening at Firaxis Games in Hunt Valley, Maryland, home to Sid Meier. When I got there, they were toying with the idea of remaking Pirates, and were prototyping a lot. The results were mixed, and Sid decided to get involved with the development personally. They knew they wanted to make a console version, and they put me on the small team responsible for porting the game to the Xbox. I had doubts about the game, and I wasn't enjoying the tasks I was being given (such as working on the in-game glossary), and things didn't work out. I made a lot of good friends there who I miss working with.

By this time, I had been with four companies in six years, and my girlfriend at the time was in the middle of going to school to get her degree, so I did something drastic: I grew up. I ended up looking for any available programming job, and accepted a position with a UPS owned software company as an algorithm designer. I've been there since 2005, I get paid more money, and work fewer hours than I ever did as a game programmer. But I really miss the creative environment and working with people that I have a lot in common with, i.e. a love and passion for video games.

I am currently own and operate StrategyWiki, which strives to become the best online source of video game guides and walkthroughs anywhere in the world. I am now living in northern Maryland. Welcome to my blog.
Xbox LIVE:ProcyonSJJ


 

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