No I’m not mad, though I do have to admit that it’s almost impossible to be as stupid as Sega were when they released the Saturn (even if they made up for it with their Dreamcast).
Anyway, there seems to be more than a passing resemblance between the situation with the PS4 and Xbox One, and with the Playstation 1 (PSX) and the Saturn.
Here’s my list:
1. E3 1995. Sega announced that they would release a new console on September 2nd 1995 though to the annoyance of both retailers and consumers, secretly shipped the console the night before. In what has become known as one of the greatest stand ups, Sega famously touted the Saturn and its apparent affordability of $399. When Sony took the stage all that was said was something along the lines of “Sony Playstation. $299” to rapturous applause.
Similarities with the PS4 and Xbox One?
PS4 – $399
Xbox One $499
2. The Sega Saturn was notoriously difficult to develop for because late in the development stage having heard about the PSX’s capabilities, they decided to throw in another CPU to try and double its performance output. It turned out that only around 1 in 100 coders had the ability to fully utilise the dual CPU set up, meaning that it was too much bother to develop any games for. Sony’s Playstation on the other hand only had one single chip that was a lot easier to work with.
Similarities with the PS4 and Xbox One?
PS4 – Like the Xbox One, it will feature an x86 84 architecture instruction set, but Sony have learned from their lessons with the PS3 being quite difficult to develop for but giving the PS4 8GB GDDR5 unified memory taking this a step further.
3. Sega began to lose the plot as early as the Mega Drive/Genesis (what with their numerous add-ons).
Similarities with the PS4 and Xbox One?
PS4 concentrates on games, while the Xbox One seems to have a fascination with entertainment and the integration with its Kinect controller. Who cares about entertainment when the main reason we buy these things is to play games? If I wanted anything to do with any other form of entertainment I’d go online, use the smartphone or use my TV and Blu ray player. It’s safe to say Microsoft have lost the plot here. In this sense it actually has more in common with Philips CDi –
multimedia entertainment platform indeed!
4. As previously mentioned, Sega began strapping on as much as they could afford onto the Saturn to match the purported abilities of the PSX.
Similarities with the PS4 and Xbox One?
Microsoft basically cocked up big time when it first announced the Xbox One, leaving many gamers asking questions about the direction Microsoft was taking the Xbox brand. However after this they refused to reveal any more details about the machine until June 2013 (obviously having waited for what Sony would announce at E3 that same year). Following this obvious lack of preparation and thought on Microsoft’s part, they then discreetly started copying Sony’s PS4 overall model, first by denouncing their earlier intention to run hourly checks in order to play any games and the used game fiasco, but then by deciding to make the Xbox One region free. What’s also interesting is that the basic set up is fairly similar (on paper) to the PS4 including the RAM, but it’s pretty obvious Microsoft hadn’t given it as much thought as Sony had.
I wrote an article recently about regional lockouts and how in this internet age (where we can order goods from 1000 miles away) we should be allowed to purchase games from other territories. Well good news. It seems for the first time ever, console manufacturers have decided to allow their consoles to do just that for their major consoles – allow you to play games from other regions. It’s been nearly 30 years coming but they finally got there.
Now I do tell a small lie when I say it’s the first time one of the major consoles has been region free, because the original Xbox did allow gamers to play games from other regions, however it depended on whether the publisher allowed it. In most cases the publisher didn’t though there were a few exceptions like The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind for example.
Though it’s too early to comment on the subject until the PS4 and Xbox 720 is released, it does indeed seem that the Wii U is doing quite badly sales-wise. You only need to look at the number of reviews on Amazon (one of the largest and most popular points of sale for gadgets) to get an indication as to how badly things have become, with a pathetic 28 reviews out of the potential 574 ‘Likes’.
Also refer back to my earlier post that offered my rationale as to a possible Wii U failure – something I don’t usually do as I usually support the notion that only fools try to predict the future course of technology. In the case of the Wii U however it was pretty obvious to me.
Anyway it’s Friday!!! Woo!!
Getting away from the Sega/Shining debacle that is currently going on, let’s move onto some better news!
SYBERIA III! I loved Syberia I and II, and I will hopefully be re-uploading the video Nuri and I did soon in anticipation of this guaranteed third instalment. If you don’t already know, Microids continued to oil the series’ cogs in the hope that some day an arrangement could be made with the original designer Benoit Sokal, who had requested that the resources had to be sufficient before he would attempt a sequel*.
This however wasn’t without its own issues; namely the fact that Microids had asked fans of the series to send emails and messages their way so that they could get some idea of the number of interested parties. Let’s just say that they were blown away by the response! The sad thing is that nothing was actually done after that apparent April fools attempt in 2009 until a few days ago:
I loved this game so much that I wrote my thoughts on this very blog, though I hope there aren’t too many spoilers for those who have yet to sample it:
*For those who may not know, Syberia I & II was actually supposed to be one game but as you’ll no doubt find out once you play, it was far too ambitious for them to accomplish (and while I did have some issues with the second one because of this it’s forgiveable).
This is an article I wrote for ‘Geeks’ magazine back in 2010. This will be to coincide with an update of Kevin’s work, though it may have to wait until after Christmas as I am quite busy at the minute:
Sick and tired of the ‘griefing’ you get in World of Warcraft or any other online MMO for that matter? Well these could soon become a thing of the past thanks to a revolutionary new game being developed by Eight Virtues.
According to co-founder Kevin Fishburne, the company is seeking public funds for the development of Sanctimonia, a new multi-player online game that focuses on ‘building societies that replicate the real-world’.
One interesting point is that the game centres on polar opposites; from the beauty and perils of the game’s natural world, to the arcade-style combat that can occur within a ‘mutable geographical and vegetation’ setting. This Kevin believes, will set them apart from any other game currently in development:
‘It’s flexible enough to be able to create any game world you like, from medieval fantasy to modern times to science fiction.’
Sanctimonia also hopes to reconcile the conflicting mechanics of ‘total freedom’ games and other restrictions players come to expect (such as the laws that govern gameplay) to alleviate “griefing”, something Kevin believes will enable real-world societal behaviour such as cooperation through the enforcement of self-imposed laws.
It is hoped players will take the initiative by forming the building blocks of simple governments, constitutions, bills of rights, police, trade law and inter-village diplomacy themselves.
While the game uses popular elements from “Farmville, Law & Order as well as Grand Theft Auto”, it is nevertheless a gamble given that because of its epic scope, no other developer would have even considered it.
‘Corporate marketing muscle and endless sequels riding the coattails of the same old IP may sell …thousands of titles, but independent game development is now the living heart of modern gaming.’
Sanctimonia is open source which in turn allows players to modify and distribute the game as they please, something the family-run business hope will encourage greater interaction between players.
As an added incentive there are different levels of player ‘involvement’ depending on the amount of money they personally donate to the project, ranging from having your name added to the credits to having support in setting up your own server and content creation for a $1000 pledge.
Eight Virtues have employed the services of Kickstarter.com, an incentive that aims to raise funds for start-up projects.
The game is set for a 2011 release (though probably 2013 now).
A while before the Wii was released I wrote an article on my old blog about how the Wii would bring about a new age in virtual reality; one that was far more accessible and user-friendly though which didn’t exhibit ‘typical’ VR traits. I was so happy because Nintendo’s Wii challenged our perception of what we initially thought were unwieldy headsets and million dollar VR machines, for devices that had a practical entertainment use in the home.
Now you may have noticed that these apparently ‘new’ technologies are actually reinterpretations of what had already been attempted years earlier. These include such things as the iPad being a glorified version of the Microsoft Tablet PC announced in the early 2000s, the shift to 3D imagery today (televisions, movies, games) having already been the rage in the 80s and 90s thanks to IMAX and of course the ‘evolution’ of VR in the home.
In my old post (which I no longer have a link to) I also briefly talked about Lev Manovich’s notion of the ‘screen’ and the idea that regardless of the evolution of the technologies around us, the screen (whether via a computer monitor, a holographic interface or the retina of your eye) would always be an absolute necessity to the experience.
Fast forward to the announcement of Wii’s successor (the Wii U) in June 2011, and Nintendo are once again trying to change our perceptions of what console gaming is all about. This time I feel they have a very real chance of failing.
We already know that Nintendo have adopted what is essentially a ‘pro gameplay’ approach to hardware in the ‘graphics versus gameplay’ argument. Ever since the Gamecube, Nintendo have gradually ridden the wave of downplaying graphical prowess for what really should matter in gaming; how fun a game is to play rather than how pretty it looks. However I feel they will endanger themselves for the simple reason that they were already walking a fine line with its predecessor – the Wii.
Now it’s always wrong to try and predict the future course of technology, but my rather pessimistic approach is not totally without reason. If we look at Nintendo’s most recent outting in the handheld market for the 3DS, we can already see that they have fallen far short of expected sales targets. Yes, Nintendo are fallible even when it comes to their greatest asset – the handheld market which they have dominated for years.
The Wii was a relatively simple idea to get your head around: you grabbed a console, sensor and a controller and started swinging away – no complicated controls to worry about. The Wii U on the other hand is an entirely different proposition because it has the potential to turn away those very same ‘casual’ gamers the Wii had originally attracted. Now to a hardcore gamer there really should be no issue whatsoever in terms of setting the console up, however the screen on the GamePad together with the introduction of an optional controller (known as the Wii U Pro Controller), the actual machine itself and the HDTV is set to confuse a huge number of people.
I came to this conclusion because I was initially confused about it myself. Now if I can be slightly confused about this (having played games for almost as long as they’ve been around), then how do you expect the old pensioners that used to play Wii Sports or parents to be able to cope with it?
Remember I talked about Lev Manovich and ‘screens’? Well I actually feel it is the Wii U’s use of multiple screens that will work against it, because it will always feature more than one for the player (even if only one screen is required to play a game), implying ‘complexity’ for a lot of people. Screens should, together with the player and control interfaces be completely seamless.
Before we go any further however, let’s first take a brief look at the system upon which it is based. The idea behind the Wii U’s Gamepad obviously comes from the Sega Dreamcast’s VMU (Visual memory Unit though sometimes referred to as VMS or Visual Memory System). What the VMU did was to allow gamers to play mini games away from the main game, to collect secrets otherwise unavailable in the main game, to use the VMU as a health bar or radar system for the main game or as an external memory card unit.
While the VMU system was a fun one it had nevertheless been poorly implemented because the batteries didn’t last very long for a standalone machine and not only that, the screen was monochrome (remembering that we already had the Gameboy Color) and displayed graphics that were primitive. In fact I distinctly remember thinking at the time that Sega required the considerable expertise of Nintendo’s handheld division to make the most of the VMU format; Sega’s relative inexperience with handheld devices really showing even if they had previously released the Game Gear and the Nomad to limited acclaim.
Now that we know on which format the Wii U GamePad is based, what does this actually translate as meaning? Well the Wii U’s practicality has to be called into question, for we shouldn’t be fooled into thinking that its use of two screens means it will automatically make the life of a gamer and gameplay any easier or fulfilling (maybe more fulfilling if implemented correctly, but not as a remedy for non existent problems).
Remember that innovations like the Wii Remote are supposed to alleviate some of the issues that would otherwise arise were it not there, and to make life in general a lot easier – in this case freeing the player of the constraints of traditional control methods. For instance if we used the Wii U’s GamePad as a radar screen, then it would free the main HDTV screen of clutter, but then that in itself would introduce the problem of ‘eye travel time’ (which I’ll go into next). Thus it cannot be said to have been worthwhile at all because it created additional problems on the back of something that wasn’t even a real issue to begin with (because the removal of the radar from the main screen wasn’t absolutely necessary).
Having to look up at the HD TV and then back down at the GamePad not only plays havoc on the eyes, but takes the player’s attention away from the main screen. If Nintendo thought they could transfer the idea of the DS and 3DS’ double screen over to the home market, they may have to think again, because on a handheld machine the screens are still within an acceptable travelling distance for the eyes with little to no head movement required while doing so.
Drawing from my experience as a healer in World of Warcraft, I realised that I had to have the health bars of raid members (of people within my team) as near to the middle part of the screen instead of at the corners to minimise eye travelling time. Remember that as a healer you need to keep an eye on everyone’s health bar, and the health bars traditionally used to be in the top left corner. That initially meant that the player’s eyes had to constantly dash from the top left corner of the screen, to the top right corner to see where they were on the map, to the spells at the bottom of the screen and so forth. This was very bad for the eyes and often causes headaches for many people. If everything is more centralised, then the eyes do not need to travel as much.
The Wii U’s GamePad doesn’t have any practical use while playing using a HDTV (let’s be honest even as a radar), but what’s worrying still is the fact they have yet to demonstrate their vast experience in the handheld market for the GamePad. It raises so many questions like – if the Gamepad acts in a similar way to the Sega’s VMU, then what role does the 3DS/3DS XL play with regards to the traditional connectivity of such devices?
Whereas it was a simple matter of having a either GBA to Gamecube, a VMU to Dreamcast, a DS to Wii, a PSP to PS2 or a Vita to PS3 connectivity, now we have a 3DS (and the next successor) to GamePad to Wii U setup. Does this make the 3DS redundant? Does this mean Nintendo are trying to merge the home and handheld markets into one market? How will they avoid the Wii U impacting on the handheld market if this is not the case?
It seems that Nintendo have placed all their eggs into one basket, and you don’t need me to tell you that that is a very dangerous card to play. This is no better demonstrated than through the Wii U Pro Controller which was no doubt created to appease the hardcore gaming fraternity who berated the Wii’s lack of standard pad.
With all this time there is a very real danger that because of the Wii, Nintendo have already alienated the hardcore gaming fraternity who may not even be enticed by the Pro Controller. On the other hand there’s also a real danger that the use of the current Wii U setup will confuse the casual gaming fraternity who were initially drawn by the Wii’s ‘pick-up-and-play’ values.
The most important point against the Wii U succeeding though, are the historical implications for gamers. You see the Wii was hugely successful at first, but the games soon dried up and many (myself included) had the Wii collect dust on the shelf for months on end. I feel that gamers will not be as easy to forget and that many will start to question whether the Wii U and its setup is merely a novelty like the Wii rather than a serious competitor to Sony and Microsoft. I’m not convinced myself. I have already lost faith in Nintendo for the Wii’s poor library of games. Let’s just hope that this mentality isn’t reciprocated by other gamers.
This has recently hit the shelves and apart from the fact that this is for charity, my good friend Dave Gilbert’s game The Shivah is part of the pack. It was a great game to be honest. I was going to do a review on that before I received a ‘Third Party Content’ match for my Gemini Rue review (for the music I had used within the game which had been from the game) which I had the consent from Dave to do, so if anyone deserved to make money from the video (remember I never placed adverts on them and so some greedy mega corporation decided they wanted all the proceeds) it was Dave and Joshua.
Anyway I’ll be buying this and may let you know how it goes.
DailyMail/F Stop Press (click for link)