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  • Ch-Ch-Changes

    Posted on June 7th, 2006 Finster No comments

    I have decided to join forces with as a staff writer. I probably won’t be updating here as much as a result, and it also means that my video game related posts will almost exclusively be posted at for the time being, and posts here will probably be at a more personal level now.

    I won’t be gone, I’ll just be… you know… posting over there, now.

  • Sony Suicide Watch: PS3 hardware… not looking good

    Posted on June 5th, 2006 Finster 3 comments

    The rate Sony’s going, heads are gonna roll.

    Now, the problem stems from the PS3 hardware itself. Look at this image, taken from a recent conference (by Sony) for PS3 developers:

    PS3 Memory Bandwidths

    The Inquirer explains the problem thusly:

    If you can write at 250x the read speed, it makes Cell local memory just about useless. That means you do all your work out of main memory, and the whole point of local is, well, pointless. This can lead to contention issues for the main memory bus, and all sorts of nightmarish to debug performance problems. Basically, if this Sony presentation to PS3 devs shown to us is correct, it looks like PS3 will be hobbled in a serious way.

    The next slide goes on to say “Don’t read from local memory, but write to main memory with RSX(tm) and read it from there instead”, and repeats the table numbers. This is very very bad. The number of times the presentation goes on to say that it is correct, and the lack of anything like “this will be fixed by production steppings, so take measures X, Y and Z” say to me that it is not a fixable snafu. Remember at E3 when I said that the PS3 demos there were object sparse? Any guesses why?

    If the above explanation makes about as much sense as the physics of cream cheese, then allow me to break it down for you.
    The PS3’s architecture is BROKEN. The whole point of the local memory is to give the CPU it’s very own personal scratch pad. The faster and bigger that scratch pad (emphasis on faster), the more useful things the CPU can do each second. For some reason, the speed at which the CPU reads from local memory is… well… crippled. And it takes nothing less than a herculean development effort to work around such a bottleneck.

    I keep wondering what Sony is thinking. Look at Everquest II. Back in “the day”, Everquest was the end-all be-all of MMORPG’s. With World of Warcraft’s 5 million+ users, does Sony really think they are doing a good job with EQII’s 500,000? (Granted, compared to any other MMORPG, that’s still not bad.) Is Sony really going to be content playing second fiddle to the Xbox 360? Well, they better get used to it, because as more and more details about the PS3 are released, it looks more and more grim.

  • Choosing My Own Adventure

    Posted on June 2nd, 2006 Finster No comments

    While surfing the Wired RSS feeds, I noticed an article about the return of the “Choose Your Own Adventure” series of books. Apparently, they are updating and releasing eight of the original titles. I am happy, yet saddened at the same time.

    What saddens me is that these titles are getting “updated”. Maybe it’s just the nostalgic part of me, but this would be like someone rehashing William Gibson’s Neuromancer to make it more compatible with how the future really unfolds. I don’t like it. Leave the classics be. I don’t have a problem with releasing new CYOA books. A kind of TNG for the CYOA series is fine with me. But let’s leave TOS alone, please. I would prefer there not be a “Choose Your Own Adventure: Special Edition” where the guns are replaced with walkie-talkies or whatever.

    On the other hand, I am overjoyed that these books, which apparently sold half a billion (as in billion, with a “B”) copies, will be re-launched and make it that much easier for my future children to enjoy these books, as I did when I was l’il squirt. This series and the Encyclopedia Brown series were the books that kept me busy until I started moving onto the “hard” stuff like Asimov and Brin. (I, like my father, plan to introduce the Foundation series at an early age.) The great thing about the “Choose Your Own Adventure” series is that they were also my first experience with a truly interactive media experience.

    The great thing about these books was that I think they really built the foundation for my love of video games and PnP RPG’s. Interactive Fiction built the bridge from normal literature and mindless shoot ’em ups to games like Wasteland and Adventure Construction Set.

    The similarities between CYOA and CRPG’s should be pretty obvious. In fact, I’d be interested to know how many game designers have been influenced by these works. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if these were the first foray into interactive fiction for most gamers.

    So, I for one welcome our new “Choose Your Own Adventure” overlords!

  • Backwards Compatibility Is For Chumps

    Posted on June 2nd, 2006 Finster 1 comment

    Our goal is to have every Xbox game work on Xbox 360.
    –Xbox PR manager Michael Wolf to in May 2005.

    We are chumps.

    Well, at least that is the message from head Xbox marketing wonk over at Microsoft, Peter Moore.

    Nobody is concerned anymore about backwards compatibility. We under promised and over delivered on that. It’s a very complicated thing… very complex work. I’m just stunned that we have hundreds of games that are backwards compatible.

    Frankly, I’m just as stunned as he is! I mean we have such great titles as Barbie Horse Adventures and Fuzion Frenzy. Wow, I’m simply stunned that MS even bothered compiling backwards compatibility updates for some of these titles. I mean, everyone had better dust off their copies of Kabuki Warriors! You might as well trash those old crapfests like Panzer Dragoon Orta and JSRF. Amateurs!

    Well, not to fret, because to the rescue comes Microsoft’s very own Pravda, GamerScore Blog! Yippee! Tell us, GamerScore Blog! What is in store from the hardworking EMULATION NINJAS?

    Lots of talk about backwards compatibility online today. We wanted to get to the bottom of it all, so we went right to the team working on the next back compat update. We hear directly from them that they’re in the testing phase of another update, and it should be out in the next few weeks. We saw the list they’re testing, and it looks like they’re hoping to add at least a dozen titles.

    Golly gee! A dozen titles! WOW! That completely blows the last update (of three titles) totally away! Thank you, oh great Microsoft, for your unending benevolence!


    In all seriousness, it’s a good thing Gamerscore Blog is around to continue the farce that Microsoft still cares about YOU the customer. You know, the people they made these promises to about backwards compatibility. Even though it’s obvious Peter Moore doesn’t give a crap about you, because he’s too busy kissing butt over at Rockstar Games in order to get the next Hooker Beat Down Fest Grand Theft Auto.

    I dunno. I’d rather have a little less Grand Theft and a little more Jet Set Radio.

  • Atari makes me laugh

    Posted on June 1st, 2006 Finster No comments

    There has been a mild uproar in the gaming community over Atari pulling the plug on Bioware’s Neverwinter Nights support. Apparently, this was done with several premium modules still in QA and almost ready to release. Atari was asked about this and responded with some marketing tripe hype about NWN2 and the new editor in NWN2 blah blah blah.

    A lot of people have also been quick to rip on Atari for this, and I don’t see the point. People are still going to make mods for NWN1. For crying out loud, there are still people out there making Quake 2 mods. I’m not really worried about this at all. No more official updates? Oh well. If the major bugs haven’t been squashed from the game after 4 years of updates, it’s not going to magically happen in the next year or so before NWN2 is released.

    What tickles my funny bone about this is Atari’s seeming inability to make any kind of positive contact with the gaming community. When given the chance to issue a salient response to why NWN is no longer being supported, the best they can come up with is, “Our goal is to make Neverwinter Nights 2 one of the most compelling RPG experiences seen in years by also making it one of the most mod-friendly games ever.”

    Seriously. Atari. Free advice for ya: fire your PR department, because they SUCK.

    In other news, I went over to to check out this whole GamersFirst program they’re doing, which really just boils down to cutting prices on all of their back catalog to $20 and then supposedly offering it for download through Direct2Drive and “Valve”. (I guess they meant Steam, but who knows.)

    I’ve checked out Direct2Drive, and my Steam client, and so far there is no sign of any of the newly priced $19.99 titles. I wonder if Atari even talked to Valve, because typically Valve has been pretty eager to announce new Steam platform product offerings.

    Meanwhile, if you go to the GamersFirst site (supposedly the one place these games should be available for download today), and click on any of the titles they have listed as “available for download” (I use the term available loosely, here). You will have the title added to your shopping cart. Unfortunately, Atari appears to be charging $5 shipping and handling and teh delivery method is defaulted to “Physical Shipment”. Yeah, I was a little surprised. I’m sure it’s just a bug in their system, but it’s one more thing that makes me chuckle at Atari’s complete ineptitude.

    It’s like they’re being managed by a team of monkeys or something. All of Atari’s problems remind of the last dying actions of another developer/publisher… Interplay, who, oddly enough, is still filing financial reports with the SEC. And in case Atari doesn’t know, here’s a graph showing how much $100 spent investing in Interplay 5 years ago is worth today.

    Interplay Performance

    Translation: $0

    Good luck, Atari!