Thursday, August 31, 2006
However not all views on the format have been doom-and-gloom. Several developers we contacted were eager to tell use why they thought Blu-ray was not only important, but imperative for the PS3 and Sony, and a genuine edge over Microsoft.
“Consider that games of the current generation have to use DVD5 or DVD9 for all of their content,” points out Mike Ball, Co-founder and CTO of Ninja Theory, the studio behind the anticipated title Heavenly Sword. “So roughly the storage medium is 100 times larger than the main RAM of the unit. Although they could, it's rare that a current gen title would take the option of pressing on CD for example. Next generation machines have ~512MB RAM on board, so a DVD5 or DVD9 is only 10-20 times the size of main RAM.
“Why is the ratio important? Many games use streaming, so a single level can require many times the amount of data needed to fill the main RAM of the console.” Mike goes on to point out that the quality of the content in the future is only increasing, and that the filesizes will follow. “Don't forget the streaming audio too. Dialog may be translated to multiple languages especially if a title is for multiple territories. Some audio may be surround sound, so that will push up the size. It's also worth considering HD video especially if it's 1080p @ 60Hz at high quality".
The problem this presents is that the current DVD formats use a larger laser, allowing them to store less data in the same space a smaller laser, like the one in a Blu-ray player, can store and read. Mr. Ball says he thinks “it's not a problem for the current titles, [but] I'm sure that many will soon find a single DVD9 to be quite tight. In fact I'm sure it won't be too long before we see multiple disk games being released".
Other developers have said that they value the improved data streaming that Blu-ray provides them, and the ability to create a game without worrying about distributing content between multiple disks. “With a single Blu-ray disk, you know that all the data will be there".
While some think that the ability to put games on a single disk is not worth the cost of Blu-ray, the developers clearly disagree. We won't be able to make a completely educated judgment until the system is released, but we are looking forward to seeing the technology in action.
Although no games were shown, a PlayStation 3 was used to show off Blu-ray discs containing film and music clips, alongside Blu-ray players manufactured by Matsushita, Pioneer, and others. One perk of the format, BD JAVA, enables the browsing of information such as actor data and profiles during playback and was also demonstrated. Another feature, called BD Live, lets the viewer participate in interactive events over the Internet.
Blu-ray trends will bear watching, considering that in Japan during the early days of the PlayStation 2, the console's ability to play DVDs helped to drive sales of both the system and DVD movies. Sony is relying heavily on Blu-ray to be a success, as the company's decision to include PlayStation 3s with Blu-ray drives as standard has driven the console's cost up. The Blu-ray technology is currently competing with the Toshiba-backed HD-DVD format to be the next-generation format standard. Microsoft has announced that it is working on an external HD-DVD attachment for the Xbox 360.
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
On the subject of the PS3's $600 price tag, the Sony president had the following bit of consumer advice to impart:
"I think that we are offering a very good value for the consumers. We look at our products having a 10-year life cycle, which we've proven with the PlayStation. Therefore, the PlayStation 3 is going to be a console that's going to be with you again for 10 years. We're not going to ask the consumers to suddenly buy another PlayStation console in five years time, and basically have their investment go by the wayside. So for all those reasons, I think at $599 we're offering a very good value to the consumers".
No PS4 for 10 years, hmmm? Can I get that in writing, Kaz? In fact, how about Nvidia's CEO Jen-Hsun Huangand and that Kutaragi character do the same thing, too.
Objectively, that $600 investment doesn't seem quite as big a boot to the head if you think of it farmed out over the course of a decade -- heck, that's only a little bit more than Xbox Live! 'Course, you still need a game or two.
Kaz went on to restate Sony's official position as being a company dedicated to maintaing a "10-year life cycle" for all its game platforms.Which naturally begs two questions: a) When was the last time that you bought a new PS1 game, and b) Why is the PS3 launching after only 6 years of active service from the PS2?
Personally, I prefer the more succinct rationale that followed shortly thereafter:
"...my message is that once you become a family in the PlayStation family of products, you become a family member. We make sure that we take care of you".
Yeah, I've heard that one before,in The Godfather.
Sunday, August 27, 2006
Saturday, August 26, 2006
"Our goal is to apply this new technology to push Folding@Home into a new level of capabilities, applying our simulations to further study of protein folding and related diseases, including Alzheimer's Disease, Huntington's Disease, and certain forms of cancer," said the release by Folding@Home. "With these computational advances, coupled with new simulation methodologies to harness the new techniques, we will be able to address questions previously considered impossible to tackle computationally, and make even greater impacts on our knowledge of folding and folding related diseases".
In the article, Yamauchi called Gran Turismo HD a "port" of the data from Gran Turismo 4, upgraded to take advantage of the PlayStation 3's graphical capabilities. He also said it is "a step in the process of developing a next-generation GT game."
Yamauchi also implied that development on that next-gen game is already under way, albeit at an early stage. "We are working on a version of GT that supports the full PS3 specification," Yamauchi said, adding, "but in this transitional version, I think you'll get a taste of the potential that next generation games hold."
Yamauchi said the idea for the game actually came from an unlikely source, the Photo Mode in GT4, which allowed players to take high-resolution stills. "I thought it would be incredible to see these stills animated in real time," he said. Running at 60 frames per second in 1920x1080p resolution, Gran Turismo HD supports the very highest resolutions available to Japan's newest HD televisions, according to Famitsu.
Today, though, 360 and PS3 owners who had been hoping to ring in the holidays blasting headcrabs got a preemptive lump of coal in their stockings. In an interview with Eurogamer, Valve director of marketing Doug Lombardi flatly said that all three versions of the game would not launch in 2006.
“It’s just sort of classic Valve being overly aggressive on our dates,” the usually tight-lipped executive told the site, referring to his company’s long history of missing release dates. “But we’re aiming for Q1  right now, and we’re really far along in the play test stage.” Attempts to directly contact Lombardi, who is currently in Europe, were unsuccessful as of press time.
Lombardi also confirmed the PC Half-Life 2: Episode Two would launch alongside the 360 edition, which Valve is developing internally, and the PS3 edition. Lombardi also told Eurogamer that the PS3 Episode Two is being codeveloped at an unnamed internal EA studio, as well as at Valve’s Bellevue, Washington, headquarters.
Lombardi also reportedly reiterated that both console versions of Episode Two would contain the original Half-Life 2, the Episode One expansion, the revamped version of Team Fortress 2, and the all-new game Portal. A similarly all-inclusive PC edition would also be available, and all three would “end up being around standard full price as a console title and a PC title.” It was unclear if Lombardi meant current or next-generation consoles.
For those that already own Half-Life 2 and Episode One, Lombardi reportedly said Valve was prepping a version of Episode Two that only had the expansion, Portal, and Team Fortress 2. He said that version would “probably be somewhere in between Episode One [pricing] and full price.” In North America, Episode One currently retails for $19.99.
We were able to pull just one new tidbit from the site. The Eye of Judgment, the PS3's first EyeToy game, now has a subtitle: Conquerors of 9 Fields. The game is said to support 1 to 2 players. Separately from the Sony site, the latest issue of Famitsu Weekly reports that Sony is planning on releasing the game as part of a bundle with the EyeToy and a deck of cards.
The site lists "Gran Turismo Series" as being set for display at the Tokyo Game Show. The site seems to definitely be refering to the actual next Gran Turismo retail product, as it lists a release date and price (both TBA). However, the screens shown at the site are from Gran Turismo HD, an E3-only demo that Polyphony prepared for the May show, and are marked as such. Will we get actual hands-on time with the true next generation GT at TGS, or will Sony give Japanese players a chance at GT HD?
Finally, we were able to get some neat quotes from Sony's Phil Harrison via an interview conducted in the latest Dengeki PlayStation. First, rubber ducks! Given Sony's tinkering with rubber duck demos at its last two PS3 press conferences, one might have walked away with the impression that Harrison likes ducks. The tall Brit addressed the issue straight forward, telling the magazine, "To be honest, I don't like rubber ducks!"
Harrison also made some comments on Sony's PS3 lineup, saying, "The common area for all the titles is that they're scheduled to have functions that use the network in some form, be it large scale multiplayer play or downloads." Looks like PS3 will indeed be online from day one!
However, Sega has since clarified that it was indeed a 'small error' and that the game still remains to be a PS3 exclusive.
Player's clothes now flowed realistically with their movements and the clipping errors we witnessed a few months ago are nowhere to be found. Sega also placed the PS3 version directly next to the Xbox 360 build allowing us to see the slight differences between the two. This was made more interesting by the fact that the two games are being developed by separate companies with AM2 working on the PS3 title and Sumo Digital developing the 360 version. Plainly put, the PS3 looked a little better with sharper textures and incredibly detailed player models. It was almost eerie when we noticed the veins sticking out in our character's forehead.
Sega also announced that there will be 10 brand new mini-games included in VT3 along with two returning challenges from series. And because these short diversions are one of the best reasons to play Virtua Tennis we were delighted to hear that developers are currently working on some type of multiplayer mini-game mode. We're not sure exactly what this refers to but lets hope for some competitive split-screen action. We'll have more tennis news as we draw closer to the launch of PS3.
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Confidential documents seen by vnunet.com reveal that Taiwan-based Wistron, one of three primary X360 manufacturers under contract to Microsoft, expects its shipments of the console to slow in the third quarter and adversely affect revenues.
Wistron privately expressed its concerns over an X360 sales dip to financial analysts in Taipei, who have disseminated them in briefings to their clients.
The size of the potential shortfall was not disclosed, but the manufacturer still expects its overall sales revenue to rise thanks to product lines other than the Xbox.
As a storm of marketing hype builds up prior to the release of Sony's PS3 and Nintendo's Wii, consumers will begin delaying console purchases to compare the competing products.
Simultaneously, the same sources have suggested that Microsoft is planning X360 price cuts to undercut the newcomers.But Microsoft have already stated that there will be no price cuts.
Even committed Xbox buyers are likely to delay purchases if they believe price cuts are imminent. Sony's PS3 will be considerably more expensive than the X360, analysts say, while Nintendo claims that the Wii will be significantly cheaper.
In addition, more knowledgeable gamers are awaiting a revision of the X360, including a CPU upgrade which is expected to resolve overheating issues and help Microsoft cut costs.
Singapore-based Chartered Semiconductor, which makes the X360 CPU, announced in April that consoles using the new CPUs would be ready by early 2007.
Despite the expected dip in X360 sales, Wistron is positive about its prospects for the third quarter.
Executives are looking for an increase in sales of close to 15 per cent over the previous quarter, in which Wistron generated almost $1.5bn. Analysts generally agree with these guidelines.
The giant contract manufacturer, which is affiliated with Taiwan's Acer Group, builds a wide range of computing and consumer electronics products for brand name vendors at a network of factories and assembly plants worldwide.
Wistron rarely comments publicly on details of its relationships with specific clients. The company did not reply to a request for comment on its X360 sales forecasts.
Monday, August 21, 2006
Rather than show off the PS3 which it won't be doing at Leipzig later this week, instead consumers will be greeted by this rather bright console which will grace the Sony stand. The company is hoping to attract the niche female market in the same way Nintendo has successfully managed too with the Pink DS, when the Pink PS2 launches later this year.
"PS2 is the accessible, affordable way to enjoy new social, communal and interactive entertainment experiences, through software titles like SingStar, Buzz and EyeToy," said Dan Hill, PlayStation 2 European Brand Manager. "The Pink PS2 is funky, fresh, and fashionable, and will further broaden the console's continuing popularity and relevance with a fun new twist"
The console will cost £129.99 when it launches on November 8th, and will come with two Dualshock controllers and a memory card, all in pink with a copy of SingStar Pop thrown in for good measure.
Sony has had an overdose of pink. Pink paint that is. Not only have they revealed the Pink PS2 Shown above, but a Pink PSP is also being released on October 27th in Europe.
The pack will go on sale at £169 and you'll get the pink PSP, battery pack, AC adaptor, white headphones, pouch, wriststrap, 32MB Memory Stick duo and a bundled UMD which features plenty of pink content.
The pink Sony items comes as they team up with music star P!nk.
"The P!nk PSP launch is much more than just launching a new colour. It is about a confident and powerful attitude for young women.
The association with P!nk, a worldwide icon and musical chameleon, will enable PSP to push new boundaries," said Stephane Hareau, PSP Senior Brand Manager for SCEE.
The UMD content will be avaliable via yourpsp.com for those who don't buy the pack.
No matter what the price of the PS3 is, demand among the hardcore early adopters is such that it will sell out regardless. What really matters, then, is how much stock Sony is going to have. Now it seems Europeans and Japanese have another concern.
Sony said at E3 that it would have 2 million PlayStation 3s ready for the launch of the console in November. The plan is to have another 2 million good to go by Christmas and another 2 million by the end of March.
Recent comments from one of the biggest games retailers in the US suggest that Europe and Japan are being sidelined in the early days of the console's life.
"...We're looking at around a million units of PS3 in the US, which is somewhere around half or less than what Sony has said [would ship worldwide]," David Carlson, vice president of games retailer GameStop said in a conference call this week, as reported by Next Generation.
It's testament to the cautious approach many retailers are taking to this launch that even with the lion's share of the early shipments, GameStop is still reluctant to take pre-orders for the PlayStation 3.
Retailers got burned last year when they couldn't fill all the orders they had for X360's because Microsoft couldn't make them fast enough.
Sunday, August 20, 2006
Sony today said that it has started shipping 50 GB Blu-ray recordable media in the U.S. The dual-layer discs double the capacity of the single-layer 25 GB media. So far, the 50 GB versions are only available as BD-R write-once discs; Sony said that it will be offering rewritable media (BD-RW) "later this year".
The capacity increase foremost means more storage space for data or movies. However, the new media will be important in for the Blu-ray group in promoting the technology against the competing HD-DVD format: The higher capacity will allow movie studios to put more data on a Blu-ray disk to increase the quality of Blu-ray movies. Sony claims that a 50 GB disk can hold four hours of 24 Mb/s video substantially higher than the VC-1 compressed 15-18 Mb/s the first HD DVD movies and the estimated 10-12 Mb/s currently available Blu-ray movies are using.
The 50 GB media should be available in stores within the next few weeks and will carry a suggested retail price of $48 per disc.
Although neither company has commented on the rumours and Gemtek has only said that it has several WLAN customers, DigiTimes reports that Foxconn has a higher chance of getting the orders due to its “solid relationship with Sony”. Sources also claim that Foxconn is able to integrate memory card interface with the WLAN module.
Another company, CyberTAN is also in the running, although the chances of it winning Sony's orders are slim. CyberTAN now provides the WLAN module for Sony's PSP.
Scheduled to launch this November, Sony's hopes to win the next-gen console war through the inclusion of multiple features, such as WLAN and Blu-ray. The PS3's main competitors include Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Nintendo's Wii.
Saturday, August 19, 2006
In a recent interview with Gamespot.com, Sony Computer Entertainment president Kaz Hirai said: "My plan basically is to make sure that we keep at least as much market share as we have had with the PS1 and the PS2. We don't plan on ceding any of the market share to our competitors, especially after the cycle has gone deep." This comments were about the Yankee Group report that puts PS3 on the top by the end of the next-gen race.
As a PS3 supporter we can't be more pleased. Sony commitment to keep or surpass their market share as it is right now, just confirm how serious they are taking the next-gen race, taking in consideration that X360 got 1 year head start.
Right now, they are keeping a low "PR" profile, saving the big guns for October I predict, 1 month before the worldwide launch of PS3.
Kaz comments about that: "Everything's pretty much on track. I just came back from Las Vegas where we we're still actually having our internal sales and merchandisers gather for basically four or five days of intense meetings. Everything from retail strategy to talking about the interactives, and how you can reboot it if your power goes out, so everything from nuts to bolts all the way up to the retail strategy. So we're internally really getting geared up to go to market with this beautiful console in three months' time, and at this point in time all signs are good to go."
Playstation Network Platform on-Line at launch
In other part of the interview, Kaz Hirai confirmed what was hinted when the people of Sega and Pseudo showed part of the multiplayer funcionality of Full Auto 2:Battlelines, using the Playstation Network Platform: "The plan is to take the console online on November 17th as we launch and I also assume as we launch in Japan on November 11th."
No PSP price drop
In what will make sad a lot of people, including myself, Kaz affirmed that no price drop for PSP is planned: "Again, [there are] no adjustments on the horizon as far as PSP goes. We're happy with the pricing, we're happy with the value proposition and we also just recently introduced what we call the core pack. I think that's a great value proposition to the consumer. So we have no plans to revisit the price at this point in time."
It's public knowledge that the only thing the keep PSP getting above DS is the price. PSP got the games, the style, the games again; it's a mp3-movie player, an emulator for older platforms,etc and I think that a price drop could benefit both PSP+PS3 getting in every house in America, Japan or Europe, like a perfect duo.
Friday, August 18, 2006
We were also told that the dev kit seemed to be extremely adaptive and easy to program for. In fact, Pseudo talked about how they hadn’t put in their planned tilt sensitivity, but had literally dropped in the wireless support for the controllers on Tuesday. The controllers, which feel much lighter thanks to the removal of the rumble feature, nevertheless were solid and extremely responsive. While those weren’t the finalized controllers for the PS3 itself, they felt much better than the ones that were at E3 (and were extremely easy to toggle between wired and wireless play).
By unplugging the cable and pressing the PlayStation button on the controller for a second or two, we were able to engage the wireless feature. In fact, we also discovered during our multiplayer session that each controller was “smart” enough to recognize which system and what player it was initially connected to, regardless of the number of other controllers or systems in the room. This bodes well for massive LAN party play or co-op play with multiple controllers on the same system.
Speaking of LAN play, all eight dev kits were connected over the PlayStation Network in real time, which exhibited no lag whatsoever. Part of that could’ve been due to the massive storage capacity of each system streaming game information in tandem: each dev kit held 80 gigabytes of storage, so the multiplayer match had approximately almost a terabyte of storage synched up over the Network to stream the alpha build and accurately model the multiplayer destruction of Full Auto 2. As for the PS3 menu, it was easy to pull up in-game by quickly pressing the PlayStation button, which popped up an overlaid menu on top of the screen. The PS3 menu seems to have taken a lot of its cues from the PSP, with user features, settings, friends and game menu items. The menu appears to be a lot cleaner and sharper than the PSP but has fewer icons on it. Granted, that could also be because it was still relatively early, but it doesn’t mean that, like the PSP, other features could be added to it at a later point.
Blu-ray Disc players and movies expected on sale later this year in Japan and the U.S. will share the same region code, Sony said Thursday.
Current DVD discs and players on sale in the two countries use different region codes so that software bought in one country will not work on players purchased in the other country. The system was designed to allow content producers to better manage release and sale of content around the world.
Targeting (and Missing) Pirates
The theory is that a movie can go to DVD in the U.S. before it hits movie theaters in Japan with little impact on Japanese box-office takings because the U.S. discs won’t play in Japan. In practice, the system has proved easy to hack, and multi-region players that accept software from any region are readily available and popular among consumers.
In all, there are six DVD regions but content producers and hardware makers have been discussing changes for the new Blu-ray Disc system, which is being positioned to replace DVD for high-definition content. Backers of the competing HD-DVD format are waiting on a decision by the Blu-ray Disc Association with the idea of using the same region coding system to avoid confusion among consumers.
Monday, August 14, 2006
The Leipzig Games Convention, a game show hosted in Germany, formally opens on August 23rd this year showcasing media for upcoming game titles and events. The public may attend the show for four days starting on the 24th and ending the 27th.
Get set for some festive finger-twitching – Sony’s planning a price cut for the PSP, and reckons they’ll sell by the bucket load in time for Christmas.
At least that’s according to eagle-eyed analysts, who say Sony’s stockpiling thehandhelds ready for increased demand at the end of the year".
There is a price cut coming in the second half of the year," says P.J.McNealy, an analyst for American Technology Research, who says the PSP has “lost momentum” in the face of a “great run” for Nintendo's DS Lite.
Hopefully there’s some truth to the latest murmurings. The PSP’s cheapest package currently costs around £180 – that’s £80 more than Nintendo’s titchy touch screen, so it could clearly stand to shed a pound or two.
McNealy reckons Sony could price the PSP at $149 to boost demand, and that translates to a shade under £80 – the perfect challenge to Ninty’s palm-sized portable. Merry Christmas indeed!
Sunday, August 13, 2006
Why? Well for one thing, Assassin's Creed is the latest brainchild of the talented chaps behind both the Splinter Cell and Prince of Persia games. And for another, Assassin's Creed is a stealth game that takes everything we know about the genre already and blows it out of the water. With an atom bomb. It's not often we say this, but Assassin's Creed is a genuinely new concept.
The story puts you in the soft leather boots of Altair, a young, 12th Century assassin tasked with stopping the holy war currently tearing up his home city of Jerusalem. Only, and here's the twist, rather than simply picking sides between Richard the Lionheart's Crusaders or Saladin's Saracens, Altair must instead assassinate key members of both forces and bring down the armies from within.
It's here where the clever bit starts. Firstly Altair must stalk his victim through the busy city streets - usually during daylight hours and through huge milling crowds - then, once the deed is done, often via a deadly looking retractable blade attached to Altair's wrist, the trick is to escape at all costs from the city guard by melting back into the crowd. It's literally stealth in the streets.How you go about this depends on how you interact with the crowd. Treat general punters well and they'll hide you and redirect guards as you make your escape through dimly lit back streets.
But barge them about too much and they'll shop you quicker than a playground prefect. Courtesy of PS3's highly advanced brain, dozens and dozens of onscreen folk will swell and sway intelligently around you as you make your bid for freedom.
Throw in Prince of Persia-style environment puzzles, a unique combat system and a plot with more secrets than Dan Brown's brain and you'll see why this is easily one of our most wanted PS3 games.
Friday, August 11, 2006
According to reports, Maxell along with InPhase Technologies will be bringing holographic storage technology to the market at the end of this year. Maxell's director of technical marketing Rich D'Ambrise said that 300GB holographic discs will be available in November or December of this year. Maxell also indicated that sometime in 2008, the company will be introducing second generation disc that store up to 800GB of data. By 2010, Maxell is hoping to introduce 1.6TB holographic discs.
In a report, D'Ambrise said "We're happy so far that we haven't hit any obstacles with the drive or the media, and that we're on schedule to deliver to the market". Maxell said that while the technology is currently limited to enterprise customers, producing mass market holographic media and drives shouldn't take long. The company is currently working on producing media in several sizes, including stamps, credit card and regular CD size cartridges. Consumer media will range from 75GB to 100GB in the first generation said D'Ambrise. The new 300GB discs will transfer data at roughly 20MB per second, but Maxell indicated that we should see faster rates as the technology progresses.
According to InPhase:
High-definition video. Data archiving. Medical imaging. Massive databases. These are just some of the applications driving the need for faster, higher capacity storage. Regulatory compliance requirements have also pushed this need into the forefront for many IT departments. InPhase’s holographic storage solutions meet the rapidly growing storage demands of business, government, medical, and educational institutions.
According to Maxell and InPhase, two companies have picked up the technology: Pappas Broadcasting and Turner Broadcasting. InPhase sampled out its technology earlier this year around CES time. Many industry experts expect holographic technology to take off in a big way after 2008. Because data is stored volumetrically throughout the depths of the disc, the technology is able to achieve capacities beyond conventional surface recording techniques used in technologies such as Blu-ray and HD DVD.
Earlier this year, InPhase told the press that holographic storage will be available commercially this year,and the company has stayed true to its claim. As of now, the new holographic drives will cost roughly $15,000 to enterprises and media will cost roughly anywhere from $120 to $180 per disc. The media is currently a write-once only media, with a lifetime of roughly 50 years. Maxell hopes to improve these figures by the time 2008 comes around.
So far, the preliminary line-up looks like this:
- Elton John - Rocket Man
- The Beach Boys - Surfin' USA
- The Police - Roxanne
- Johnny Cash - Ring Of Fire
- The Jackson 5 - I Want You Back
- Tina Turner - What's Love Got To Do With It?
- John Lennon - Imagine
- Nirvana - Smells Like Teen Spirit
- Ben E King - Stand By Me
- David Bowie - Life on Mars?
- The Righteous Brothers - Unchained Melody
We'll have more news shortly...
Sony Online Entertainment has acquired key assets of indie developer Worlds Apart Productions to form SOE-Denver.
Worlds Apart is a developer of online trading card games based in Denver, Colorado. Core members of the studio, which is responsible for the game Star Chamber, will form the new SOE-Denver. SOE president John Smedley said that the acquisition will help broaden his company's gameplay offerings.
"This is a way to expand SOE's business into a very attractive market that is consistently growing at a fast rate," he said. "With this acquisition, we've expanded the range of online games that SOE can offer, as well as offering entirely new play mechanics and activities that could be built into both current and future titles".
Worlds Apart's Collect! Trade! Play! platform also has the ability to integrate board or card games into existing SOE games. SOE could choose to publish standalone online board or card games from SOE-Denver as well.
Thursday, August 10, 2006
The PlayStation 3's release date may be only a few months away, but information continues to trickle out at a slower pace than we'd like on the upcoming megasystem's launch software. Dynasty Warriors maker Koei will provide its own addition to the PS3's initial lineup with Fatal Inertia--a futuristic hover racer in production at the company's new Toronto development studio--and the company was kind enough to give us an illustrated rundown of the arsenal you can expect to see when the game ships along with the PlayStation 3 in November. The Unreal Engine 3-powered game promises a set of weapons that uses physics in some creative ways to provide a more unique combat experience than you might be used to seeing in games of this type.
The Weapons of Fatal Inertia.
There are eight different weapons that can be picked up during a race in Fatal Inertia, and these weapons concentrate on affecting the physical performance of other vehicles in the race, rather than relying on standard conventions such as simple explosions. The player will use the weaponry at hand to either hinder the movement of enemy vehicles or to provide themselves with the edge that can take them to the head of the pack.
As in many racing games, you'll pick up weapons by flying over any of the weapon pads that are scattered throughout the course. One of the eight weapons described below will be randomly assigned to you each time you hit one of these pads.
Magnets are the archetypal weapon of the Fatal Inertia racing circuit. Shoot them toward your rivals, and watch as the magnetic properties of the other ships are attracted toward your target like a homing beacon. These magnets are oversized and add weight that adversely affects factors such as speed, handling, balance, and drag, making it that much harder for rival pilots to steer their ships. Stick a magnet on the right wing of a vehicle, and watch it veer off to the right; stick one on its tail, and watch the extra rear-end weight force the ship's nose upward. Based on real-life physical properties, the magnets will affect the performance of vehicles in exactly the way you would expect.
Most weapons, including the magnets, can either be shot forward at an enemy or dropped to affect enemies trailing close behind. Dropping a weapon at the right time can effectively throw a pursuer off your tail and can be the difference between victory and defeat.
A cluster bomb is equipped with proximity sensors that detonate when any metal object (including weapons and vehicles) is detected close by. Each cluster bomb consists of 10 magnets that fly out toward enemies upon detonation. This storm of magnets, if used properly, can be a devastatingly effective force against other vehicles. As the cluster itself does not have any magnetic properties (they fly in a straight line), the player will have to aim with precision to get the bomb close enough to the enemy.
The cluster bomb can be dropped on the ground, as well, where it will remain as an obstacle until detonated. Any ship getting too close will trigger the proximity sensor and be hit with a barrage of magnets.
Rockets are essentially magnets with rocket boosters strapped to them. When attached to an enemy vehicle, the booster ignites, exerting a huge force at the point where it's attached. The impacted player must try to compensate to avoid careening into canyon walls or spiraling off a cliff. The ship shown here has been hit by a rocket and is spinning out of control.
A twist on the standard weapon drop will let players "drop" rockets onto their own tail, providing a sudden and massive burst of speed.
The force shield temporarily protects your ship from all enemy attacks, but it also deactivates your other weapons. It lessens the effects of bumping into objects or walls, as well.
All damage suffered by your vehicle during a race will be accurately reflected both visually and in performance, with the ship-control dynamics constantly changing depending on the condition of your ship. For example, clipping a wall too hard (such as when traveling at top speed) may cause a wing to break off outright, forcing you to fly with a reduced horizontal balance for the remainder of the race. Accumulating too much damage will cause the ship to explode, eliminating you from the race. However, damaged ships can be repaired by visiting the pit stop, located near the starting gates.
The smoke screen releases a dense cloud of smoke from your tail, obscuring the vision of those immediately behind you. If you time it right, such as just before a sharp turn, you can send your rivals crashing blindly into a wall.
The EMP sends out a pulse that temporarily incapacitates all other electronic devices within its immediate vicinity. Primarily, this will incapacitate the hovering capabilities of other ships. No longer able to hover, the ships will drop to the earth until their systems come back online. The EMP also disengages all weapons (such as magnets) in the vicinity.
The force blast creates a powerful wave of energy immediately behind you, which will knock away rivals that are on your tail, provide a momentary burst of speed to your ship, alter the course of any weapons flying toward you, and knock off any weapons attached to your ship.
The time dilator slows the speed of time down to a crawl...for everyone except you. Take advantage of the momentary shift of time to blow past other vehicles in front of you. An extremely rare weapon, the time dilator can change the entire flow of a race in one shot, allowing a vehicle trailing far behind to suddenly leap to the front of the pack. Good players will be able to use the time director to evade enemy fire in midair or to make a slick avoidance maneuver as columns of rock are about to rain down from above.
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
Interesting fact: the games company is listing the title as an "innovative fast-past action platform game," but other than that, info on the upcoming game has been scarce.
Red Tribe also has two more upcoming titles in the works: a sci-fi horror FPS for the Xbox360 & PC platforms and a 3rd person action game for the PS3 & Xbox 360. The latter game is set in a post-apocalyptic world, so we're guessing that there's a bit of a sci-fi undertone there, making both releases have a sci-fi vibe to 'em. If that's the case, maybe the platformer would be sci-fi too? Possible.
Red Tribe has earlier confirmed that they are collaborating with Warner Brothers on an upcoming Wii title. Hmmm. Warner Bros? Will it be a licensed game? No idea.
There's always the possibility that it would turn out to be a bad Looney Tunes/Jurassic Park crossover. Marvin the Martian would probably not be enough to add sci-fi cred to a game all by himself.
Anyway, enough with the daydreaming. Now, having three upcoming releases can be quite problematic if you've only got a few people working for you, so Red Tribe has been advertising for new employees on their website for quite a while now.
Last time we checked in at both Amazon Japan and retailer Tsutaya, the PlayStation 3 looked like it was going to come out on top. Again.
The tables have turned, and the Wii is a few points more desirable than the PS3. It will probably go back and forth like this right up until the consoles drop this fall.
While post E3 Famitsu polls showed a leery Japanese buying public, it seems clear that Sony's new console will be flying off shelves just like the PSP did at launch. Fingers crossed the PS3 works out better.
However, while the Xbox 360 game lets players hit the battlefield in control of a single soldier on the battlefield as well as engage in Mobile Suit mayhem, the PS3 game appears to be larger scale. Beyond the requisite super-heavyweight rock-'em, sock-'em rumbles, the PS3 Mobile Suit game will put players in command of an entire battalion of the titular mechs. On a more intimate level, players can target various parts on specific enemy Mobile Suits, an ability that will play into the tactical aspects of the game.
This gossip was fuelled by the fact that the game was only listed for the PS3 in the Japanese ECGeo.com website, which offers up-to-date information via email about upcoming games. Although it is entirely possible that only a PS3 version is coming out in Japan, given the fact that the Xbox 360 isn't really selling like sushi in the Land of the Rising Sun. So far, there isn't any rumor like this about the games' US release. Well, only time could tell what's really up.
So what's your take in all this? Do you think that this has a tinge of truth or do you think this is just baloney? Whatever your reactions may be, share it to us through your comments.
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
“Made possible by the immense power of the PlayStation 3 system, 'Mobile Suit Gundam' will take gamers right into the futuristic war zones, brought to life by both CG quality high-definition graphics and ultra realistic destruction physics,” said Naruo Uchida, NAMCO BANDAI Games America Inc.’s Vice President. “Along with stylized gameplay and stunning graphics, the opportunity to experience firsthand the epic mobile suit warfare will surely excite any sci-fi fan".
Japanese X360 sales have been catastrophic the past 6 months. During the first two months it was outsold by the GameCube, even the GameBoy Advance. The recent few months have been dominated by the Nintendo DS, selling more than all other consoles combined for the last week of July. Six of the top ten best selling games were for the DS platform.
Sunday, August 06, 2006
“The same makers of the PlayStation-dedicated UK magazine Play now presents you with a magazine that covers anything and everything about Sony's next-generation console. Next3, UK's first and only PS3-only mag, will offer in-depth news, previews and reviews of upcoming games plus a section that will highlight PS3’s multimedia and networking capabilities (i.e., Blu-ray movie reviews, online gaming and cutting edge technology)”, the announcement read.
There will be 13 issues of Next3 per year and the cover for the maiden issue has already been released- the issue will contain a 24-page feature titled “The future has arrived”. A September issue with a bonus DVD is already planned.
Competitors of Next3 will include the recently renamed PSM3 magazine which will feature the PlayStation brand and focus predominantly on the PlayStation 3.
It turns out Midway's aim was off the mark. The company has confirmed that Stranglehold has indeed been delayed. However, the mid-February date GameStop posited was a little too specific, as Midway is only saying that it will be out in the first quarter of 2007.
With its upcoming PlayStation 3, Sony is promising to address those problems. It is aiming at making virtually every original PlayStation and PlayStation 2 game backward compatible on the PS3 from the get-go, and according to a FAQ on the official PS3 Web Site, it has the memory card issue hammered out as well.
"To use saved data on a PlayStation 2 memory card, you must copy the data onto a virtual memory card within the hard disk," the site reads. "This requires a PS2/PSone memory card adaptor to copy the data to your PlayStation 3. A memory card adaptor is designed to edit, up/download game saves to and from EMS flash card or smart media card".
However, the FAQ doesn't mention if Sony will be releasing such an adapter itself. Currently it's possible to move original Xbox game saves to an Xbox 360 with the aid of third-party peripherals.
Saturday, August 05, 2006
FiringSquad: First, was Pseudo and Sega pleased with how the original Full Auto for the X360 turned out and how it was received from gamers and critics?
Mike Gallo: We’ve received a lot of great feedback on game, but like any game there are always things that you wanted to get in that didn’t make it. We felt like it was a great first step in establishing a franchise, and we’re confident that fans will be happy with what we’re doing with Full Auto 2: Battlelines.
FiringSquad: When the time game to make the sequel, what were the development team's main goals?
Mike Gallo: Maintaining and adding on to that core element of fun gameplay was the main goal. One of our biggest pushes is to make the destruction in the game matter to the players. It looks really cool, but what if it looks cool and it has a spectacular gameplay payoff?
Being able to ram into or shoot out support pillars and collapse a train station is good fun, but it’s even more fun when you can collapse it and squash the car behind you that was just about to shoot a missile up your tailpipe. Getting kills is just one of the things that the player can do – collapsing a structure might also reveal a new section of the track / arena that you can explore, or it could give you access to a powerup.
FiringSquad: Why was the decision made to make Full Auto 2 a PS3 exclusive title?
Mike Gallo: We’ve always wanted the Full Auto franchise to live on every possible platform. It’s a great opportunity for us to make it a launch title on the PS3, so that’s what really drove the decision.
FiringSquad: Some of the comments for the first Full Auto game were that the vehicles felt "floaty" in their driving physics. Is this issue being addressed in Full Auto 2?
Mike Gallo: In short – absolutely. We’ve spent a lot of time working on the car driving models for Full Auto 2, and we think that everyone will be pleased with the results. We had two goals – make the cars more fun to drive, and make the cars feel unique. These were especially important given the addition of the new race modes and in particular the arena combat modes.
FiringSquad: What new tracks and environments will be seen in the sequel?
Mike Gallo: We have 13 new race / combat areas for the game (7 tracks, 6 arenas), as well as a new visual style for each of the environments. Since we’re within a city, we refer to them as districts, and each one of them looks unique, and has their own attributes and dangers. For example, in the new Financial district, there are huge high rise buildings, and tons of glass and steel that can be destroyed. The shipping / industrial areas are far grittier, and will have shipping containers, giant pipes, and even a ship that can be used as a weapon.
FiringSquad: What new vehicles and weapons will be used in the game?
Mike Gallo: There are 6 new vehicles in the game and we have over 20 weapons that the player can choose from. The biggest difference in the weapons is the ability for the player to be able to equip the car as they’d like – there are no set weapon load outs. There are still some restrictions of course depending on the car class, and the size of the weapons – but those all add to the different strategies that players can use in races or arenas. Do you want a fast car with long ranged weapons like the titan missile or do you want something a little more personal like a shotgun and a big ol’ truck? We’ve also added the concept of powerups to the arenas. These are items like unlimited boost, unlimited ammo, as well as the new super weapon mortar power ups. We’ll talk about those super weapons more later, but they pack a huge punch, and they are extremely limited in ammo.
FiringSquad: What racing modes will be used in Full Auto 2?
Mike Gallo: There are a few modes that we won’t be talking about until closer to launch, but we will have circuit races, point to point races, as well as team races. In addition, the new Cat & Mouse mode pits you in a team race where certain cars on each team have specific objectives for the race – and you’re trying to prevent the other team from reaching those objectives before you do.
FiringSquad: What can you tell us about plans for online multiplayer in the game?
Mike Gallo: The addition of arenas really expands the multiplayer experience. There are still all of the race modes mentioned above, but in addition there is a deathmatch style mode, as well as team deathmatch. Finally, one of the new modes that we’re excited about is currently called Base Assault, and requires the teams to not only take out enemy cars, but you’re ultimately trying to destroy the other teams’ home base.
FiringSquad: How will the original's destructible environments and vehicles be improved upon for Full Auto 2?
Mike Gallo: As mentioned above, we really grabbed on to the concept of destruction matters. The environments were cool, and seeing them blow up was great fun. The next step for that interaction is to make it have an effect on the race. Blocking paths, causing kills, revealing short cuts and powerups. All of those elements are included as part of destruction matters, and they will be prominent in both the single player game as well as multiplayer. ]
FiringSquad: What other gameplay features will the sequel have that you consider to be important?
Mike Gallo: We’ve covered most of it in the previous questions – the new game modes, new vehicles, new weapons, the addition of arenas – those are all big additions to the franchise. The power ups are another new feature that really make the arenas stand out from the circuit races and other modes.
FiringSquad: How will the sequel improve upon the original's already impressive graphical features?
Mike Gallo: The visual effects in the game have been pumped up in every way – better smoke and fire, more detail when you crash into things (glass, wood, etc), and the biggest thing is increasing the amount and types of damage that the cars can take. We wanted players to really be able to feel the collisions, especially with other vehicles. The cars can really be deformed – we’ve crushed cars like an accordion! It’s a great feeling to literally run over a smaller car when you’re driving something heavier and they don’t see you coming. The cars also take more damage like paint scrapes and scorching from fires – and it all looks really great on the PS3. There are a few other visual touches as well – camera shakes, increased sense of speed, HDR lighting to name a few.
FiringSquad: What is the current status of the game's progress and when will it be released?
Mike Gallo: We are currently approaching ALPHA, which means that all of the features in the game are complete, and we’re adding the visual and gameplay polish to the game as well as fixing major bugs and getting ready for the final push. Full Auto 2: Battlelines is a PS3 launch game, so you can expect to see it out there with the PS3 on 11/17.
FiringSquad: Finally, are there any plans for downloadable content to be supported after Full Auto 2's release?
Mike Gallo: This is a feature that we’ll be discussing later for Full Auto 2. Stay tuned
Friday, August 04, 2006
The awards are judged solely on retail performance in Japan and do not take into account their critical response from either the media or consumers.Although PSP titles are considered for the awards only one title, Capcom’s Monster Hunter Freedom was applicable.
The only Double Platinum Award, for titles which sold between 2 and 3 million units, went to Square Enix’s Final Fantasy XII on the PlayStation 2.
There were three Platinum awards, though, for titles selling over 1 million units, in the shape of Kingdom Hearts II (PS2, Square Enix), World Soccer Winning Eleven 9 (PS2, Konami) and World Soccer Winning Eleven 10 (PS2, Konami).
A total of nine gold awards were given for titles which sold over 500,000 units in Japan. They are: Biohazard 4, aka Resident Evil 4 (PS2, Capcom); Monster Hunter 2 (PS2, Capcom); Monster Hunter Portable, aka Monster Hunter Freedom (PSP, Capcom); Sengoku Musou 2, aka Samurai Warriors 2 (PS2, Koei); Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII (PS2, Square Enix); Dragon Ball Sparking!, aka Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi (PS2, Bandai Namco); Tales of the Abyss (PS2, Bandai Namco); Dai-3-Ji Super Robot Taisen Alpha: Shuuen no Ginga e (PS2, Banpresto); and Jikkyou Powerful Pro Baseball 12 (PS2, Konami).
The Nintendo DS game has six nominations, including game of the year, while role playing game Oblivion is short listed in five categories.
Quiz game Buzz and Xbox Live's marketplace, where gamers can download demos, lead the innovation category.
The winners - voted for by gamers - will be unveiled at a ceremony in a London hotel on 27 October.
Votes can be cast on the Golden Joystick awards website and organisers are expecting more than 250,000 ballots to be cast.
There are 16 different categories, including handheld game of the year, family game, girls' choice and online game of the year.
Other contenders for the title of game of the year include Resident Evil 4, Call of Duty 2, Guitar Hero and Pro Evolution Soccer 5.
Lara Croft, who turns 10 this year, is in the running for the favourite character award. Croft made a successful return in Tomb Raider: Legend this year.
Also nominated are Mario, Agent 47 from Hitman: Blood Money, Alyx Vance from Half Life: Episode 1 and Prince of Persia from the Two Thrones title.
The Golden Joystick awards were founded in 1982 when Atari, Commodore and Spectrum were the dominant players in the market.
The industry is now worth $25 billion (£14bn) a year and the big players include Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo.Game development has grown in complexity to rival the work of Hollywood studios with high-profile titles costing up to $20m (£12m) to produce and involving years of work and hundreds of staff.
This year the awards ceremony will be webcast on the Computer and Video Games website.
Thursday, August 03, 2006
Speaking to The Guardian, San said: "I think the combination of a next-generation games machine and a next-generation DVD player that plays full high-definition movies is very compelling, despite the huge price. Remember price is just a function of time and volume. It doesn't matter what the PS3 comes out at, it's what it gets down to, over time, that's important".
In the same article, market analyst Paul Jackson of Forrester Research agrees with San's comments, saying that Sony stands a good chance because, "Far more people will go for a PS3 than spend $1,000 on a Blu-ray player ...it's a question of how quickly [Sony] gets the price down".
Jackson goes on to echo San's own comments on the importance of price. "You can't get to the mass market until you get down to $300/£200 [mark]".
Jackson then asserts that it's going to be far from an easy ride for Sony, because of the amount of negative press that currently surrounds its next-gen console: "You can't over-estimate how much negativity there is around the PlayStation 3 in the web ...The stories just keep getting worse and worse.
They've got a real fight on their hands."There's only a few months left until the PS3 hits - and most-likely vanishes from - store shelves, and with likely stock shortages ensuring a Christmas sell-out for the console, it's going to be next year before we get the slightest inkling of who's really going to rule the next gen.
But as San points out, the unique appeal of both Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft's machines means it could very well end up being a three-way tie. Whichever way the next gen cookie crumbles, it's certainly going to be an interesting 12 months...
Word recently reached us that the PlayStation 3 has officially entered production, and in an interview with The Guardian, Sony's president of worldwide studios, Phil Harrison has shed some light on the on-going development work on the console.
According to Harrison, "It's all going well. We are in full swing, from a developer point of view, and over 10,000 developer kits have been shipped. Developers now have final [PS3] hardware in their hands, though there will be some upgrades to the operating system - there's nothing unusual about that. The new controller is now in developers' hands, so all the pieces of the puzzle are there".
Also in the interview, Harrison comments on the arrival of working Blu-ray drives in the PS3 dev kits, noting that many studios also have blu-ray burners in their PCs, "so they are now doing their first iterations of games running off discs," he says."Signs are good," adds Harrison, "right now there are more than 100 Blu-ray movies available today, in the US.
More than 100 games are in development [for the PS3], and all the major third party publishers have pledged their strategic support for the platform".
Sony is gearing up for its next big push for the PS3, which will start at the Tokyo Games Show on September 22, where the father of PlayStation, Ken Kutruagi is scheduled to give the keynote speech.
Hopefully with the appearance or some new game titles and a more solid-looking launch line-up, Sony will be able to make up for the mostly-negative reaction to its showing at this year's E3. Stay tuned.
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
Scientists at Lawrence Berkeley Lab in California praised the processor inside Sony's PlayStation 3 as a lower-cost alternative to Opteron and Itanium chips, while being eight times faster and at least eight times more power-efficient.
The scientists have been evaluating the game console's chip, STI Cell, developed by Sony, Toshiba and IBM (the STI in STI Cell) running several scientific-application kernels against other processor architectures.
"Overall results demonstrate the tremendous potential of the Cell architecture for scientific computations in terms of both raw performance and power efficiency," say the LBL scientists who conducted the research. "We also concllude that Cell's heterogeneous multicore implementation is inherently better suited to the [high-performance computing] environment than homogenous commodity multicore processors".
According to an LBL article about the study, the Cell is compelling to the scientific community which has high-compute needs but often with limited funds, because the intended game market for the STI Cell means it will be produced at high volume, making it a lower-cost alternative to conventional processors from AMD and Intel.