Bryan Preston, in a recent post here at PJ Lifestyle, wrote:
Sony says that as things stand now, backward compatibility is not built into the PS4. Gamers will not be able to play legacy games on the new system, which may impact some of this year’s bigger releases like the Tomb Raider reboot. They say they’re working on it. They may be setting up to sell multiple forms of the PS4, some that will include backward compatibility for a price, and some that don’t. Backward compatibility can be gotten around via streaming games, but that requires hefty bandwidth that most American households still don’t have, or via downloads, which will take up valuable hard drive space and may create other issues. We’ll see. But the failure to provide backward compatibility from the get-go is an ominous sign that Sony may be looking to roll out their new box at one stated price, which is not the actual price gamers will end up paying if they want to keep playing their old Call of Duty titles on their shiny new systems.
I agree with him, but, sadly, backwards compatibility appears to be on the way out. According to Mark Deering of Gadget Insiders, the Microsoft 720 won’t be backwards compatible, either. It appears only Nintendo will allow its customers to play older games.
But it makes me wonder if Microsoft or Sony were ever interested in it at all.
Speaking from experience: Microsoft only offered some backwards compatibility with its 360. And those games they said that worked often didn’t. So I gave up playing them on my system.
The Super Nintendo and the country house — now, there’s a combination I don’t think anyone has ever imagined. According to Vanity Fair, Bill Kiley decided to bring Downton Abbey back to the 1990s and turn it into a game modeled after those of the now-defunct SNES.
Julie Miller writes:
Kiley began by simplifying the show’s theme song down to a video-game-befitting synthesizer remix. Over “a few really late nights,” the Downton buff culled images from video games including Clock Tower to mock up the resulting excerpt. By assuming the role of a new Downton footman, players are asked to complete several tasks from Lady Mary (spying on Mrs. Patmore to see if she is trying to poison Matthew), Anna (“If you can fluff five pillows in 20 seconds, I will let you read a letter from my jailed husband”), and Robert.
In dialogue that is spot-on for Super Nintendo (but might make Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes cringe), Lord Grantham asks, at one point, “Footman, I require assistance! I have misplaced 10 of my most cherished cigars . . . I have guests coming over for a fancy cigar party. Without them, I’ll be ruined . . . I need you to explore the estate and the surrounding grounds for my fancy cigars.”)
It seems like retro, eight-bit mock games are in right now. They’re all over the Internet. What’s interesting is this: they seem to be popping up — the same can be said of shows like Downton Abbey — as we continue to fly toward that elusive, seductive place called “progress.” I think this is a playful signal from the culture. It’s saying: Whoa. Uh, pump the breaks, please.
Related at PJ Lifestyle:
Oh, Dikembe. You had me at “The Blurgpocalypse.”
Old Spice has created an ingenious ad — yes, an ad — that allows the player to control now-retired basketball player Dikembe Mutombo as he joins his friends Science the Bear and Random Turkey in a quest to stop the Mayan Calendar from reaching December 21. Along the way the player will encounter references to Gangam Style, Furbies, Twilight, and lots of munching on food. What makes this hilarious is the voice work by the real Mutombo. His gravely, dead-panned, accented delivery brings an extra bounce to what is already clever writing.
The link is here.
There are only two more weeks to play. Check it out. It’s worth your time — especially if you like basketball, fun pop culture references, and you appreciate old, eighties-style games.
Related at PJ Lifestyle:
Like many others, last Tuesday I picked up a copy of Halo 4 before going to oust our president. I immediately noticed that the game raises some interesting questions.
First: the meaning of greatness. Some context: The genetically-engineered super soldier and protagonist Master Chief is the last of his kind. And he, of course, saved the galaxy from the theocratic — shades of Al-Qaeda? — Covenant, a group of alien races that serve as the series’ primary villains.
A character in the game questions this. He certainly likes to kill, the character asks. Doesn’t that make him a sociopath?
The doctor who created him dismisses the claim. The Chief is a good man, she says. Look at his accomplishments.
Fans of the game will know that Master Chief stopped at nothing to defend humanity. He cares not for himself. He nearly died. And when we last saw him, he sat frozen in a ship, forever caught in the eternal drift of space.
Second: bioethics. As mentioned, characters begin to question the purpose of the SPARTAN program that created Master Chief. They’re right to do so: the leaders of the program stole children from their parents and replaced them with clones. They altered their DNA to make them perfect. And they fitted them with incredibly advanced armor. The kicker: all of the other SPARTAN soldiers died. Master Chief survived. Does human nature, then, even burst through the attempts of the technocrats and authoritarians who wish to play with it? These questions will likely be further explored as this new trilogy progresses.
We live in uncertain, turbulent times. Our president won re-election, and now he’ll attempt to complete the fundamental transformation of the United States, the dream of progressives since Woodrow Wilson.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
On the road to the Republican presidential nomination, Mitt Romney ran up quite a body count, from Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann to Ron Paul and Rick Santorum. Now as the former Massachusetts governor gears up for his first debate with President Obama, Slate V is rolling out Political Kombat ’12, which recounts the story of the campaign as a series of video game fights.
Those growing up in the ’90s remember Mortal Kombat — the game in which you would pummel people to the sound of an epic yet cheesy soundtrack. It was violent. It was bloody — but cartoonishly so. Thus, it’s not hard to see what Slate is upto here. They — as many have throughout this election cycle — are making a comment on the supposed brutality of the Republican primary.
Well, yeah — but, let’s be honest. Politics has always been like that. What we’re seeing now is nothing different from the past. In fact, as Reason points out in the video at the bottom of the page, attacks of history were sometimes worse than what we’re seeing today.
Which is why any student of history or politics should laugh at the language in the above quote: “Mitt Romney ran up quite a body count.” (Emphasis added.)
The establishment media — even when joking, as Slate is here — never stops decrying the supposed “lack of civility” present in today’s politics. Oh, those SuperPACs! They’re frightening! And those mean, vicious ads — how dare they!
Their whining reminds me of the controversy that arose when Mortal Kombat first arrived. Worried parents refused to buy it for their children. It led to careerist lawyers filing lawsuits against game companies. They feared the violence it depicted.
But the game was substantive. It had a story and memorable characters. Each of them had something to gain or nothing to lose. Some were good, others were evil, and they all fought for a reason. By today’s standards the graphics are primitive, but at the time they dazzled. Overall, it was a well-done game that still holds up today. And its impact cannot be denied.
We should be thankful that Slate is comparing the primary to Mortal Kombat. It shows that our politics is still at least somewhat robust.
If the media and the civility police had their way, then political life would be nothing more than Pong.
We’re not talking about football.
Ben Miller of Examiner.com reports that Ubisoft has created a “season pass” for players who are interested in downloadable content. It will be available at a discount. Buying packs separately, according to the piece, is more expensive.
Obviously, this will be good for antsy or frugal gamers.
Something else that’s interesting: one such story will be about “The Tyranny of King Washington.” As quoted in the piece:
As the revolution comes to a close, a new and most unexpected enemy emerges. Driven by the desire to secure the fate of the colonies, the greatest hero of the revolution, George Washington, succumbs to the temptation of infinite power. The new King is born and his reign leaves no one untouched. To return freedom to the land our new hero must dethrone a tyrant he once called friend. Today, Ubisoft announces the Assassin’s Creed III Season Pass offer, granting access to all five upcoming downloadable content packs to gamers owning the original game on PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system, Microsoft’s Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system, and Windows PC.
Assassin’s Creed III downloadable content will feature “The Tyranny of King Washington,” an all-new single-player campaign told through three episodic content packs that lets gamers experience an alternate history of the events following the American Revolution.
Cool, cheap season pass: Check.
In-game lesson on the nature of limited government and ordered liberty: Check.
This is one game that you shouldn’t miss.
More video games at PJ Lifestyle:
Sometimes, simple is better.
The freeware game “Slender,” which was made by indie developer Parsec Productions, is scary. I mean, like, really terrifying. I played it recently, and it gave me chills.
The plot: You’re a girl thrust in the midst of creepy, long, ominous woods. The sky is pitch, and there are no lights. You’re hit with the instruction: “Collect Eight Pages.”
That’s it. You’re off.
You find the first page and then you begin to hear loud slams — great, terrifying thumps and bangs. They’re steps.
Something is chasing you.
Not much more needs to be said. What’s impressive about this game, though, is that some guy made it on his computer. It cost pennies. A major developer would have spent a fortune and the product, sadly, would not have been as disturbing.
Charles Onyett, in a review for IGN, said the following:
Few horror games thrust you so directly into the heart of fear. All of Slender’s elements – the lack of a map, the threat of instant death, the slight element of unpredictability of the page locations – all contribute to a pervasive sense of hopeless vulnerability as you frantically flee an unknowable predator who may or may not be directly behind you.
He’s absolutely right.
Parsec Productions understands that large expenses are unnecessary to frighten. All that is needed is what’s primal: the feeling of being lost in the woods, the darkness of night, the claustrophobia, the noises.
Everything hits the right note.
The best part is that it’s free. Head to their website and download it.
This is a great lesson to developers. When things become too convoluted, then you lose sight of the game. Keep it simple. People will come.
A note to those who might be interested: play it in a dark room and put on headphones. Wait until nightfall. Oh, and try to be near a light. You probably won’t sleep much.
Ryan Lawler of Techcrunch.com reports that Sony has purchased Gaikai, a cloud-based company, for $380 million, which he says is a move that could potentially change the face of the industry:
Sony’s purchase of GaiKai could be a harbinger of things to come. For those unfamiliar, GaiKai provides a cloud-based service for accessing more than 40 popular video games online, without the need for any sort of fancy hardware. Early reports pointed to the possibility of extending PlayStation games to other platforms where games could be made available — including mobile devices, tablets, and kiosks — creating a sort of “PlayStation Anywhere” type of service. But I think the impact that the acquisition could have on Sony’s next game console could be even more dramatic.
There are problems with this software. For instance: “the infrastructure just might not be there yet to support it.”
Let’s face it, a lot of gamers — even those who subscribe to Xbox Live — are still stuck on DSL connections, which might not support the type of HD-quality graphics game providers would like to build.
There are also issues with cost and size and scope. That said, a move to cloud-based software would make sense for the industry. Streaming movies — and other media — onto a computer continues to soar in popularity. It would be absurd for video game companies to not consider something similar. Consumers, then, should expect to see test-runs of cloud-based systems within the coming years. Nothing will be immediate. As Lawler notes, “Microsoft and Sony already probably have their plans mostly hashed out for the next generation of hardware.”
Don’t be surprised, though, if the successors to the Playstation, XBox, and Wii resemble something like Netflix.
Stores like Gamestop should prepare for the change or else they will face extinction:
If the current issues surround cloud gaming are resolved – and with Sony now fully on board they surely will be – it could change the face of gaming forever. Our recent poll suggested people still want to be able to buy games at retail and own them on disc, but just as has happened with iTunes and Spotify for music, and Hulu and Netflix for television, it only needs services that work well for people to come round to the idea behind them.
Big things are coming…
Nintendo has announced that a larger version of its 3DS, appropriately titled the XL, will be released later this summer. Mashable.com reports that the system had slow sales and system problems. Nintendo says that the latest edition will correct these issues and hopefully lead to higher sales:
The refresh comes after initially underwhelming sales for the 3DS — a console that creates 3D images without the need for 3D glasses or other accessories. Nintendo has sold 18 million units of the 3DS since its launch in March 2011, but was a drag on earnings for the company that year. The company slashed prices earlier in the year for its Nintendo 3DS consoles from $249 to $169 to help boost sales, but the move ultimately backfired and influenced a hit on revenue.
The Washington Post has updates on the improvements which Nintendo made to the device:
The 3DS XL will boast a new 4.88 inch stereoscopic 3D display screen, an increase from the 3.53 inch screen in the current Nintendo 3DS model. The system’s secondary display, the touchscreen, will also see a size increase from 3 inches to 4.18 inches.
The new system will also boast extended battery life. Nintendo estimates that the 3DS XL will offer 3.5 to 6.5 hours of play time with 3DS titles, six to ten hours when playing DS titles.
The 3DS also operates as a sort of tablet computer, in that users can access the Internet, watch movies, and read books and newspapers. It has received positive reviews. IGN referred to the 3DS as “the natural evolution of the Nintendo DSi system” and said that it was “impressively sharp and clean.”
What’s interesting about this is that it again demonstrates Nintendo’s willingness to innovate in an ever-changing market and pursue demographics beyond its base. This device should appeal to not only serious gamers, but the more casual user interested in fun mobile devices.
According to an article in The Times of India, researchers from UC Berkley, the University of Rochester, and the Rochester Institute of Tehcnology have discovered that adults with lazy eye respond positively to video game-based treatment. Doctors previously thought the condition, amblyopia, to be untreatable once a patient reached maturity.
Now, however, things have changed:
In collaboration with Daphne Bavelier, PhD, of the University of Rochester and Jessica Bayliss, PhD, of Rochester Institute of Technology, Levi has been working on a new approach using video games for visual training.
The goal is develop a new type of action game that will combine the fun and excitement of video games while targeting the visual skills needed to improve visual performance in the weaker eye.
Initial clinical studies suggest that video games may improve several aspects of visual performance. In one recent study, this approach to perceptual learning led to recovery of three-dimensional stereo vision in adults with established amblyopia–even after decades without normal binocular vision.
And games not only assist patients. Doctors, too, have noted the advantage of using them for their medical training:
A reported 98 percent of medical students surveyed at the University of Michigan and University of Wisconsin-Madison liked the idea of using technology to enhance their medical education, according to a study published online in BMC Medical Education.
For example, a virtual environment could help medical students learn how to interview a patient or run a patient clinic. In the survey, 80 percent of students said computer games can have an educational value. (University of Michigan, 2010.)
Take note. Now, whenever some sanctimonious fool tells you to shut off the Wii or Xbox or Playstation, tell them: “I can’t. Doctor’s orders.”
The birds are angry, and they have acquired a new target: the console.
According to the Associated Press, Angry Birds and other similar games are hitting Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo hard. Sales are down across the board. Gamestop, which the piece says is the “world’s largest video game retailer,” has seen its revenues drop, too.
This shouldn’t surprise anyone who has been paying attention to the market.
Consider: mobile devices continue to spike in popularity. Apple churns out a new product every five seconds, and it is always gobbled up by consumers. These devices can be used to play games. People love to sit and play these games during a boring meeting or class or in the waiting room. They’re great because in our busy world people are always on the go. Not everyone has the time to sit down and put hours into a console game.
It looks like the gaming world is on the cusp of a new trend and a reverse seems unlikely. Companies are looking for cheap-to-make products that have the greatest return in investment. A lot of them see that people like to play these “time-wasters.” They recognize that they’ll make money.
One such company is Disney.
The big three — Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony — should take note. They should make sure that the next generation of consoles blows consumers out of the water.
Or else that style of gaming will go the way of the birds.
Kotaku on how gaming and holograms look to couple up:
We are creatures driven by discovery. Why do you think Skyrim did so well? Why do you think New Vegas failed? The former facilitated discovery and exploration; the latter was too focused on being a good RPG to care about the world it had created.
The future of games is going to capitalize on this. Arguing that we should eliminate the concept of immersion in games, that the immersive sim should be dead, or anything else along similar lines, is like arguing that we shouldn’t have voice acting and ought to stick with scrolling text. It is an argument that says “games should not be more than they already are!”
As the writer says, it’s inevitable.
And we’ll likely see the beginnings of the future upon the advent of the next generation of consoles.
Microsoft and Sony continue to prepare for the release of the sequels to the Xbox 360 and the PS3, tentatively named the ’720′ and the ‘Orbis.’ Discussions online have started to billow: note here and here and here. Both companies wish to remain mum on details, however.
And we also know something about the names. 720 makes sense. It’s a progression of the previous system: the 360. Sony’s, however, is different. And it coincides with their latest handheld system: the Vita. Kotaku, in a different piece, points this out:
It’s also a name loaded with meaning. The word “Orbis” itself, from Latin, means circle, or ring, or even orbit. Not terribly helpful. Combine it with the name of Sony’s new handheld system, though, and you have the common term Orbis Vita (or, in strict Latin, Orbis Vitae). Which means “The circle of life”. Could the Vita be playing a very important role in the development and use of the next PlayStation home console? Maybe!
Both systems promise to be really cool. They’re probably going to blow all of our minds.
So how does this relate to the gaming and holograms?
These announcements arrived in the same year that a team at Queen’s University created something like a holodeck from Star trek. From Enterprise Communications:
Created by Professor Roel Vertegaal, director of the Human Media Lab, and his team at the university in Ontario, Canada, the technology, known as TeleHuman, has been likened to Star Trek’s holodeck where people can walk around a 3D hologram of the remote person they are engaging in conversation; 360°, real time, 3D view! What makes it so realistic is that the new technology captures the visual cues in 3D that we would normally miss in 2D, such as a gaze or look, posture of the body, a slant or nod of the head, etc.
This, too, relates to Tupac’s “performance” at the Cochella Music Festival — even if it wasn’t a real hologram.
Obviously, we won’t be jumping into virtual worlds once Sony and Microsoft release their latest systems. We are, though, looking at the future. Technology continues to expand at unbelievable rates. It looks like holograms will soon be a reality. And after all, if they work for video conferencing, then they’ll certainly work for games.
All I can say is this: Tea, Earl Gray, Hot.
A D&D session probably calls to mind the following: a group of overweight, awkward men who have no social lives. They spend weeks locked in a parent’s basement, blissfully unaware of reality.
But that is not the case.
Some famous people speak fondly of their experience with D&D. Jonah Goldberg referenced it in his latest piece for National Review Online:
Washington is full of nerds. I know. I speak nerd — not fluently, mind you, at least not anymore. But I certainly know more than a few phrases memorized from a Berlitz nerd-to-English phrase book. I can talk Dungeons & Dragons (both D&D and AD&D). I know about the Golden Age of Comics (as in comic books — if you thought that was a reference to Bob Newhart’s heyday, subtract 20 nerd points right there).
The game is essentially improvisational theater. The player crafts his avatar and he must dive into his character’s soul. Most stories, which are crafted by the Dungeon Master, involve quests which look something like The Lord of the Rings. A group of different people have come together in order to solve a problem. If they can’t get past their differences, then the mission will fail.
Most people, however, don’t take the game too seriously. And, if played with a group of friends, then the game can be hilarious.
Now’s the time to give D&D a second chance: Wizards has announced that the game’s fifth edition will be tentatively play-tested May 24th. They utilized player input in crafting new rules, characters, and classes. But they also attempted to further streamline the game in order to maximize the experience.
The release is important because there would be no video games without Dungeons and Dragons. As Mike Mearls notes on the Wizards website:
D&D is more than just a set of rules for fantasy gaming. It launched an entire gaming genre and played a pivotal role in creating the entirety of the gaming industry, both analog and digital. The game has lived and thrived because it has awoken a spark of creation, visions of daring adventure, wondrous vistas, and untold horrors that pull us all together as a community of RPG fans. It is the countless players and DMs who have brought it to life over the years. The game is at its best when it is yours.
Anyone interested in gaming should try it at least once. Forget the stereotypes. Grab some friends, create fascinating characters, craft a story, grab a few beers, and you’ll have a wonderful weekend. To wit: some of my best memories in college involved Dungeons and Dragons.
And yes, I still went to parties, had relationships, and made many friends.
*Correction: A previous version of this post erroneously noted that Wizards would release the Fifth Edition on May 24.
Apple Computers is like Hobbes’s Leviathan: it has extended its tendrils into the far-reaches of the electronics market. But it has yet to move into console gaming.
That, however, appears to be changing.
David Murphy, of PC Magazine, writes:
The news almost seems too good to be true, a perfect storm of events for the future of one’s living room. Numerous websites are reporting that Apple CEO Tim Cook met recently with representatives from Valve Software – the very Valve behind the popular Steam digital distribution platform and the subject of many a rumor about home gaming consoles and the like. And don’t forget the wearable computer concept either, the latest batch of, “crazy things Valve might be working on” to hit the digital airwaves.
One wonders about the effect it would have on a company like Nintendo, which has comfortably settled into making cheap, easy-to-produce titles that cater to families and young children. It long ago stopped releasing anything serious. It did this in order to stay afloat.
Apple could put Nintendo out of business, which would certainly make things interesting.
Especially since the gaming world is overdue for a major shakeup.
Electronic Arts and Maxis have announced plans to release a new installment in the popular Sim City franchise, currently scheduled for 2013.
Tilted Mill Entertainment, rather than Maxis, developed the previous title, Sim City Societies. The game moved away from the traditional “city building” that fueled the original’s popularity. Thankfully next year looks to be a return to the series’ roots.
Featuring an engine called ‘GlassBox’ the new title will render virtual cities in 3-D to highlight the prominent issues of city life: traffic, pollution, and economics.
One of the Sim City series’ values has always been its focus on serious civics. While an aspect of all the franchise’s games some emphasized it more than others. SimCity 4, for instance, earned complaints of “too difficult” from many players, as it utilized a complex management system.
Regardless of the level of difficulty, the game forces the player to be fiscally responsible, to make deals, to pass good ordinances. It tests the player in times of crisis.
In an ageof civic ignorance, a game like this is a necessity. One can hope that it will inspire a younger — or perhaps older — player to study government. It could even pique an interest in politics.
It certainly did for me — though, at the time, I didn’t realize it. I started playing the game at age six, after all.
Pace, Kathy Shaidle. That a few large, hirsute, awkward men enjoy things like video games does not mean the medium can be dismissed. Video games continue to approach the artistic quality of films — and they should be taken seriously.
For example: L.A. Noire premiered one year ago at the Tribeca Film Festival, and it received “Official Selection” honors.
Heavy Rain, released two years ago by French developer Quantic Dream, received rave reviews. Yet some hesitated to refer to the title as a game. They instead thought of it as a movie.
Both Rockstar, which developed L.A. Noire, and Quantic Dream lead the industry in producing soaring, serious titles. And they utilize the latest technology in order to give gamers the best possible experience. Rockstar’s latest release Max Payne 3 already received recognition for its expectation-twisting use of technology. Quantic is developing an innovative engine that utilizes motion-capture technology.
These companies and the work they produce push the boundaries as to what constitutes a mere “game.” Some in the film industry appear to be taking notice. BAFTA — the British Academy of Film and Television Arts — recognizes achievement in the video game industry, which they started to do in 1998.
But games still struggle to receive wider recognition from critics. Roger Ebert, in a piece that responded to a TED Talk by Kellee Santiago, noted that games “can never be art.” He said that art should properly imitate life and video games, as they have ends and objectives, do not. He wrote:
One obvious difference between art and games is that you can win a game. It has rules, points, objectives, and an outcome. Santiago might cite a immersive game without points or rules, but I would say then it ceases to be a game and becomes a representation of a story, a novel, a play, dance, a film. Those are things you cannot win; you can only experience them.
Is life not ordered? Do we, as men, not have ends? These are the questions one might raise in response to Ebert, and other, critics of video games — especially since most of today’s games begin as screenplays.
But the criticisms, though shaken, still stand. The game industry needs to grasp something revolutionary before designers can begin taking home awards like ‘Best Picture’ and ‘Best Director.’ With the latest pushes in technological development, though, that might be soon enough.
That’s The Iron Lady — an odd representation of the former British Prime Minister.
Some thoughts for those considering purchasing the film:
1. The movie mostly focuses on Thatcher at the end of her life. It shows her suffering through dementia — which is fine, but this woman was, of course, one of the most influential Prime Ministers in modern history.
Look at this: