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Author: Blackshawk Send Me Email
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I Can't Feel My Torso

400,000 vs 4,000,000

I few months ago, I praised Sony for their decision to push the release of the PS3 back until this winter. I believe my stated reasons were for solidification of technology and longer production time for launch-day stock, reasons that I stated as sound and intelligent business decisions.

I now publicly apologize for these hideously false guesses.

It is amazing to me that a company can be so ahead of its time but at the same time be so far back. Sony has built probably the most ambitious system of all time, but it has now become clear that they have overpromised and underdelivered. So maybe my assumptions were correct, but they've squandered the time they said the needed.

Now, I predict a crushing, terrible humiliation for the system. To illustrate why, let's look at the "advantages" Sony has touted all along..... and subsequently squandered.

Hard Drive
What system doesn't have this? And to be perfectly frank, what in the heck am I going to do with 60 GB's of storage space? I don't use that much on my computer.

This is probably the only real leverage Sony has left. Unfortunately though, Blu-Ray is one of the reasons why the system has been delayed so long, and the reason they are only able to ship with a paltry four hundred thousand units.

HDMI Capabilities
The Xbox 360 has this, and it hasn't exactly been an ace-up-the-sleeve strategy. The Wii will ship without HD capabilities, and its expect to come close to matching the 360's total sales figures this holiday season alone. Why should the PS3 be any different?

Wireless Controllers
The 360 also has this, but neither Sony nor Microsoft can really shout their achievements in this area when the Wii completely dominates this sector.

Only available on the $600 model, Sony trumps the XBox 360 here, but once again only matches Nintendo. Both consoles feature wireless internet access and a free online matchmaking service. But with Nintendo having a more solid launch lineup, and the weight of Virtual Console behind it, how can Sony compete here?

This is the only area where the PS3 reigns supreme, but will it be enough? Look over the launch lineup, and you'll see why I'm unimpressed. A handful of Xbox 360 ports, racing games, and sports titles. Sure, Madden 07 will sell like hotcakes in an Alaskan winter, but this looks suspiciously like Microsoft's launch with the 360 in Japan (need I say more?). What game in the lineup truly captures the power of the PS3? Blazing Angels, Call of Duty 3, Madden, Sonic, all of them are great games but all of them are available on the Wii too! What does that say for the graphical capabilities? Here's another example. Assassin's Creed, a truly breathtaking game when it comes to graphics, was unveiled as a PS3 title. But now? Its going to be available for the Xbox 360 as well! So what game is there that really pushes the PS3 to the limit, surpassing even the 360's capabilities to render? According to specifications, the system can do it, but we don't see any indication of it.

I think I've proved a few points here tonight, and if anything else success will be measured by the sheer number of units you sell. And remember, the number of games you sell is proportional to the number of systems you sell (AND, how much money people have left over after buying said system!).

Wii: 4,000,000 x 250 = 1 billion dollars
*PS3: 400,000 x 600 = 240 million dollars

*for the sake of argument I'm using the $600 model, to be fair

Both systems are going to sell out. That's a given. But what do we see? Nintendo is going to make nearly four times what Sony will make off the PS3. And remember, Nintendo is going to take far less of a hit with what they sell. Not to mention that with nearly ten times the number of systems in circulation, they are going to have more of a cash cow with games sales than any other system.

Call me a fanboy but the numbers don't lie. Every person in America could want a PS3 and they still wouldn't make more money.

Posted on October 9, 2006 at 10:19 pm
The Flagship

I noticed the other day that somehow I have over nine thousand page views on my blog. I haven't checked it lately, and I certainly haven't been updating it with any sort of frequency. So to grant some reading material to those of you who think I actually have something to say, I submit this short article for your reading pleasure.

Its an established fact that I could classified as a Nintendo fanboy. I buy every system on launch day, defend it gallantly when critisized, and keep tabs on everything the company does. Now don't get me wrong, I enjoy the other systems immensely (Halo is one my favorite game franchises) and I generally buy the competitor's products on or close to their launch days as well. Back to Nintendo.

The Wii is set to launch on November 19, 2006 here in America. You poor Europeans will have to wait until December 8th or 9th, I believer. In any case, I thought I would examine Nintendo's flagship game for the Wii, Twilight Princess, the next installment in the insanely popular Legend of Zelda franchise. In this post, I'll be focusing more on the technical aspect of things, rather than the storyline. I have yet to play a Zelda game with a bad storyline and so I'm not particularly worried about Twilight Princess being a bad egg.

Twilight Princess (TP) began life as a Gamecube game, and it shows. The graphics, while by no means subpar, are decidedly late sixth-generation, perhaps early seventh. The engine is from The Wind Waker, albeit a heavily modified one (with the cel-shading stripped out). Now, on to what we can expect from this new iteration of the Zelda franchise.

The Wind Waker was cartoonish in style, and while most people grew to like it (or at least accepted it) there remained a firm base of fans who hated it with a passion. Now, Nintendo is returning to its Ocarina of Time roots with a more realistically styled game. It has a gritty, dark tone to the graphics and has been very well received by the gaming community.

So think back to The Wind Waker. While people were moaning about the graphical style, a lot of people ignored what this game accomplished. What was your reaction when you first saw the glittering ocean, stretching out across the horizon? Or the tiny islands, barely visible in the distance? The draw distance for this game was incredible, and the Overworld was huge. The game had a loading time that was virtually nil, and you could go from one end of the map to the other without ever experiencing a hitch or delay in the game. The only thing possibly approaching a load was when objects in the distance would "pop" in and out. But when I say "in the distance" I mean WAY in the distance, most of them so far away that when they do pop in they appear as little more than blips on the horizon.

So let's see how this will affect TP. The Wind Waker was based out on an ocean, and as you know oceans are flat. If the earth wasn't round, you could stand on the coast of Florida and see the coast of Africa in the distance, some thousands of miles away. So its not an easy thing, graphically representing an entire ocean, because distant objects are visible from so much farther away. Out on the sea, you can see about 40 miles in the distance, depending on the time of day. On land, you're restricted to maybe ten, if you're on relatively flat ground and the air isn't too hazy.

TP is land based, and we know that it is drawing on the same technology as used in The Wind Waker. That said (and I know Nintendo has already said this) the world of Twilight Princess is going to be huge. Various interviewees have stated that foot travel will be impractical while traveling, and I tend to agree when I think about the distances they were capable of representing in The Wind Waker.

Assuming that each Wind Waker grid (there were 49 in all) was one mile, Nintendo was creating a possible travel distance of 49 square miles without graphical hitches. Now, I don't expect TP to be anywhere near 49 miles. After all, an entire ocean could probably be rendered with less than a hundred different textures. Dry land represents more of a challenge and will eat up more game resources because of all the various things that reside on land. All of the flora and fauna will definitely take up a signficant chunk of ingame capabilites, not to mention all of the subtle lighting differences that are present in land situations.

But even with the extra stuff thrown in (rocks, trees, birds, grass, dirt, etc.) its evident that we're going to see a pretty massive game come November 19. Massive? I mean epic.

Thanks for reading, and I certainly plan to update this blog with a modicum of frequency in the future.

Posted on October 7, 2006 at 8:31 pm
Great Expectations - Fulfilled

If some of you noticed me being on hiatus somewhere, it was because my ISP decided to pick this week of all weeks to shut down the internet for general repairs to their system. E3 was this week. And my internet was off. Needless to say, everbody at the office has been on pins and needles about whether I'm going to go insane and blow them all away from not being able to read the E3 coverage coming in.

However, I'm glad to say that my internet is FINALLY back on, and my email had about 50 messages waiting for me from contacts at E3 with information and links to video clips. I skipped work today, sat down at home and waded through everything I should have been taking in since Monday. Here we go.

A few days ago I made a wish list detailing what I wanted to see at E3. Mostly games, but also a few specific things inside of games.

I've just watched some amazing Twilight Princess feeds, and I have to say that I'm nothing short of blown away. I never expected the Gamecube to be capable of such breathtaking beauty. Apparently TP will be dual-launching along with the Wii, debuting alongside Wii as a launch title and also as a Gamecube title.

I did notice a few people complaining that Zelda on the Wii looks like a GCN title. Well, don't forget people, that it is a GCN title. The code is optimized for Gamecube. The graphics are designed are the Gamecube's limitations. The Wii is backward compatible, so really what you'll be playing is a crossover title thats had its controller style tweaked. And from all accounts that tweaking is the most amazing thing ever accomplished. For awhile there I had told myself I would be playing TP on the Gamecube, but Nintendo just secured a launch-day sale with me (I call it, Revolution Day, in honor of the Wii's original codename).

Red Steel also had a fair amount of presence at the show, and I'm mildly impressed by it. I realize that its an ambitious project, since they are the first developers outside Nintendo to really try and bring an original title to the Wii making full use of the revolutionary controller. Some people were complaining that the controls weren' tight enough for a 1st person shooter, but Revolution Day is still months and months away, so there's plenty of time for fixing things.

Now I could talk about Nintendo and its holiness all day long, and I know that they easily stole the entire event, but there are other great games to behold.

Halo! Can you believe, every single wish I had has been fulfilled! I got to see the trailer, it looks like its going to be a huge game, an epic game, and in the video what else do you see but Master Chief holding the assault rifle! Hoo haa! The storyline looks like its about to get more indepth and complex, and I noticed a few substantial twists in the short trailer alone.

Medieval Total War 2 generated some news, but nothing really ground breaking or anything I couldn't guess. The Total War series has really just consisted of one upgrade to the engine after another, but that doesn't stop them from being fun games. Rome Total War still has a hot spot right next to my computer.

Unreal Tournament 2007 is something of a head scratcher for me. Every time I look at the screenshots for this game its like I'm looking at some.... half breed.... between gaming generations. Its hard to explain what this phenomena is; the graphics are definitely better than anything we saw on Xbox, GC, or PS2, but..... they just don't look next-gen. Its like they were shooting for next gen but the bullet landed somewhere out in the middle. However, I've always been a big UT fan, and I'll be picking it up when it comes out.

I wanted news on the PS3 also, and I got it............ Unfortunately, this news warrants a post of its own. Check back in a couple of days to see what I think about their current situation.

Posted on May 11, 2006 at 7:25 pm
E3 Time!

Its that time of year again! E3....... I can almost hear the name being whispered on the wind back and forth as the excitement mounts. Its go time. All those game designers who insist on absolute secrecy finally have to show their upcoming jewels to the world.

If you've read this blog before, you probably know that I'm a Nintendo junkie, although I do own a PS2 and an Xbox. I like games from all systems, its just that most of my favorites happen to reside exclusively on Nintendo's sweet sweet deck. Here's a list of some of the top upcoming games I'm really looking forward to details on.

This simply HAD to be on the top of my list. This game was due me over a year and half ago, and its payup time Nintendo. I want to hear three things from the Zelda booth: "Finished game. Awesome Wii support. 100+ hours of gameplay." (I would also appreciate a few tidbits on the next Zelda installation in the series, which I've heard is already in development.)

If you haven't heard of this game you must live under three or four rocks. Microsoft has been hyping this game since before the 360 came out. A must buy.

See previous blog posts for why I'm a Halo fan now. Its time to lock and load Master Chief, and I want to hear three things from Bungie too: "More open-ended environments. Fewer one-man-army levels (I want HUNDREDS of Covenant and Flood and Marines on screen at once!). Bringing back the assault rifle!

PS3 (in general)
This system has been kept in the dark long enough. If you're still having technical delays now Sony, you're going to lose a ton of market share to Nintendo and Microsoft for not offering up a sacrifice of demonstration to the hordes of gaming demons.

Go watch the trailer for this game. No more needs to be said.

If I don't see SOMETHING at E3 about this game I'm giving up on it entirely. This game was supposed to come out eons ago.

I just heard about this game today in fact, and I'm already excited. Remarkable looking screen shots. Hopefully this one will equate more with its beloved N64 debut rather than the pitiful PS2 farce that came out a few years ago.....

Oh happy day! One of my favorite games souped up and refreshed, ready for war. I'm hearing lots of good things about you Creative Assembly. Apparently my soldiers will no longer be mindless clones, but will actually look different from each other. Its about time you implemented technology that's been on the market for FIVE YEARS.

I know nothing about this game............. Except that it will be one of the first shooters to debut on the Wii, and wii all know how swiit that will bii.

Its been too long since we've had a good Mario game to play. Hasn't been one since Mario 64 came out. (I think most of you will agree that Super Mario Sunshine was dumb).

Posted on May 4, 2006 at 12:15 pm
48 Hours of Zelda - A Marathon

The Legend of Zelda is probably one of the greatest franchises ever to grace the gaming world. It has developed an almost cult-like following, and hundreds of thousands of gamers meticulously follow rumors, hints, and news about upcoming installations in the franchise. I've had a lot of good times playing as Link, and for the most part I can remember every trick of every game ever released.

About two weeks ago I came up with the idea of playing through the three latest console installations of Zelda: The Ocarine of Time, Majora's Mask, and The Windwaker. All at once. All three, straight through, no stopping except to switch systems and pop in the new cartridge/disc. The idea of doing this excited me greatly, and I started to plan my little escapade. Trust me, I was VERY scientific in planning this. For Ocarina of Time I did a sample of how long it took me to beat certain levels of similar length to others, how much time I spent running around the field, and I projected it out across the the entire game. I am (forgive me the lack of modesty here) a perfect player when it comes to Ocarina of Time. Like I said, I know every trick, every key, every door, the next step in every situation.

After much scientific ado, I calculated that Ocarina of Time would take me anywhere from 11 hours and 45 minutes to 12 hours and 16 minute, roughly half a day.

I next performed the same experiment on The Windwaker: how long I spent in various places performing tedious but necessary tasks, how long I spent sailing (I actually timed how long it takes to sail across one grid of the ocean with the wind at my back). Dungeonwise, the Windwaker is shorter than Ocarina of Time, but I ended up projecting a longer completion time with a much higher margin of error: 14 hours 26 minutes to 15 hours 55 minutes. I allowed for that higher margin for two reasons: 1) I don't know the Windwaker quite as well as I know Ocarina of Time, and 2) there are several more variables left up to chance in Windwaker, and so I plotted accordingly.

Majora's Mask was much tougher to ascertain. I haven't played through the game in several years (though I still remember it quite well) and it is VERY difficult, especially in the later dungeons. Even perfectionist players can have trouble just zipping through it without any major setbacks, and I ended up projecting 20 hours 11 minutes to 25 hours 39 minutes. Remember, you have to collect all of those blasted masks in addition to defeating the dungeons.

And so, I ended up with a final projection time (assuming the worst times possible) of approximately 54 HOURS to complete all three games, back to back, nonstop. I was aghast. I was thunderstruck. I was challenged.

Being the fearless gamer that I am, I boldly set my sights much lower, and vowed to complete all three games in just 47 hours and 59 minutes. The moment the clock struck 48 hours, I would hit the switch and the stop, and accept defeat.

The only problem with all of this is that I'm old man, in my late thirties, at least, and I simply cannot keep myself awake for 48 consecutive hours. It would be physically impossible for me do, short of taking some sort of drug. So, I enlisted the help of my brother, and his life-long friend Ryan to run the marathon alongside me. Both of them are Zelda masters, and we all agreed to meet on Monday to begin the marathon.

I called the office early Monday and told the secretary I'd be gone for three days, and my brother and Ryan did the same with their jobs. We've allotted ourselves Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday to complete the task. We'll start at 9 AM Monday morning, and (hopefully) finish before 8:59 AM on Wednesday.

Monday, April 3rd: 9 AM

I have graciously volunteered to go first, and we agree that I'll play for an eight hour block through Ocarina of Time, and then my brother will take his turn. We all agree that in the event one of us gets stuck or too tired to continue, one of us will always be on call to take over.

Ocarina of Time begins, and at exactly 9:02 AM I've gotten control of Link and am heading for the cave entrance to retrieve the Kokiri sword. All is underway.

Monday, April 3rd: 5 PM

Eight hours has gone by in a total haze, and I'm almost ready to start sleeping right now. I've had nothing to eat since breakfast, and nothing to drink except a glass of water once in awhile. There have been no bathroom breaks. In the eight hours I've played, I've made it up to the beginning of the Water Temple, and I've completed several various aside quests as well (like getting Biggoron's Sword and the Lens of Truth). While a cutscene is rolling I quickly hand the controller off to Ryan, who takes over for the next eight hour block. If all goes well, he should complete Ocarina of Time well within his block, and make a decent headway into Majora's Mask as well.

Monday, April 3rd: 7:46 PM

Ryan has, in less than three hours, completed the remaining levels of Ocarina of Time, defeated Ganondorf, and has now moved on to Majora's Mask with very little gap between games. We decided that the moment you deliver the deathblow to the final boss that the game is over. I stepped out for an hour to go get some takeout food, and I'm pleasantly surprised to see Ryan already churning away at getting to the swamp temple in Majora's Mask.

Tuesday, April 4th: 1 AM

Ryan, like myself, has completed his full 8-hour block, and now my brother takes over. In the five hours he spent playing it, he's just completed the second dungeon and grabbed us the gilded sword as well (we have absolutely no bonus masks though). Both he, and myself are ready for some sleep while my brother plays. I'm hoping he'll be able to put away the last two temples in his eight hours, and I'll be able to finish it up come sunrise.

Tuesday, April 4th: 9 AM

24 hours have passed now, and as I make my way down into The Room, I see we've experienced our first setback. My brother got stuck at some point during the fourth temple, and instead of coming to get either myself or Ryan he simply let the 3rd day expire (which resets all the temples) and went off collecting masks. I groan at the thought of that asonine temple waiting for me. Luckily for him, he's managed to get all of the bonus masks that we need to face Majora come D-Day.

Tuesday, April 4th: 4 PM

I have only completed seven out of my eight hour block, but I am simply too tired to continue. I've finished Majora's Mask and made something of a headway in Windwaker, but I was playing in a daze by my fifth hour, and I've only just managed to reach the first dungeon, on Dragonroost Island (second, if you count the Forsaken Fortress as a dungeon). Ryan takes over and I head upstairs for some sleep, and set my alarm for midnight. I want to be there for the final hours.

Wednesday, April 5th: 1 AM

My brother has taken over now and we're starting to get excited. We've completed all but the last dungeon, and my brother is almost halfway through it now. The master sword is half-charged, and we know that it can't possibly take the remaining eight hours to finish off the game.

Wednesday, April 5th: 4 AM

I'm playing again now, but finding the Triforce took MUCH longer than I thought it would. Since we've been blazing through the game, we haven't collected many rupees, and paying that stupid Tingle four hundred rupees per translated Triforce map starts to add up after awhile. We're still way under our budgeted time though, and after a few quick calculations I project we'll finish up around 5:30 AM.

Wednesday, April 5th: 6 AM

Its taken longer than I expected, but we're all so dog tired now that its no wonder we're actually crawling through the game at this point. I've long since taken my contacts out, and I'm playing with glasses on. I'm dueling with Ganondorf atop the dark tower now, flinging my sword as quick as can while trying to stop the maniac from gutting me with those Samurai Jack blades he's carrying.

Wednesday, April 5th: 6:09 AM

Its official. Ganondorf is dead, turned into a big piece of granite by my sword, and in addition to the King of Evil our marathon is also over. There's much fist pumping going on and "I told you so's" being thrown around. We're all dead tired and ready for bed, not to mention some real food (my wife refused to feed any of us while we carried on with our "crazy idea").

TOTAL TIME SPENT RUNNING THE MARATHON: 45 hours, 9 minutes, 22 seconds.

Thank you for reading.

Posted on April 11, 2006 at 1:24 pm
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Ian Beck
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