Splinter Cell Rocks

The wait for the PAL version of Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory is killing me. I should be able to get it tomorrow, in advance of the official UK release, but it’s still too long. I wasn’t even looking forward to it that much until it started getting incredible reviews but now I’ve gone back and finished Pandora Tomorrow (got pissed off with the Jakarta level on my original playthrough), played the demo a couple of times, and watched every video I can find of it.

If you don’t hear from me for a few days chances are I’m somewhere behind enemy lines. This whole series is brilliant.

Bored of PC Gaming

I’ve realised that I’ve completely gone off PC gaming. The whole thing is too much about how big your ePenis is and there’s far too much emphasis on the technology of gaming rather than the artistic side. The community is, in general, full of supercilious arseholes that have nothing better to do than complain about people who don’t know as much about the hardware as they do.

You can drop £800 on a great gaming PC, and it might be able to run a game at 1600×1200 at a solid 60fps+, but can you come home with a new game, drop it in, press a button, and be playing? Can you kick back on a comfortable chair and play without having to jump through hoops (modding controllers, finding homebrew drivers, running cables to a TV, finding TV adaptors, etc)? Is there anything truly original coming out? What was the last new 2D PC game you saw? How many of the anticipated PC games that you’re looking forward to this year are FPS? How many of them are hyped up based purely on their graphics? Is a mouse and keyboard really as intuitive as a decent console controller?

The whole PC gaming market is just stagnant; it’s completely saturated with first person shooters and MMORPGs which get old when you realise that you haven’t played anything else in months. Since I got my iBook in October the PC hasn’t even been on because I find OS X so much better for general applications, and that’s why I’m thinking of getting out of PC games completely and coming back in a year or so when things might have moved on.

Is The PSP Too Expensive?

New consoles are always expensive, but I don’t remember even seeing an uproar on the scale that the PSP is getting for its $250 price tag in the US. For some reason people seem completely averse to paying that amount of money for a portable, no matter how much technology it’s carrying inside that little plastic shell. Admittedly your average $300 home console is more powerful than the PSP at launch, but it also doesn’t have size and weight as a real issue (miniaturisation doesn’t come cheap), usually can’t use an existing storage format, and doesn’t have to pack its own display. When people stick their new console into their $2,000 HDTV they tend not to factor that into the price.

From what I’ve seen of it the PSP is comparable to the PS2 with regard to power, and you can get one of the new PStwos for $99. If you’ve seen one of those you’ll probably agree that it’s pretty amazing how small they managed to make the hardware, but for the PSP they got something similar into around a quarter of the size. It’s also the only machine to use the UMD as storage which had to be developed from scratch, and so it needs to cover the cost of R&D on that. The mechanisms on it are probably only modified MiniDisc hardware (another proprietary Sony format), but adapting a high-speed optical drive for a new format is more complicated than Nintendo’s steady-state cartridges that all their handhelds have used.

Of course, there’s “that” screen. Seriously, the PSP display is one of the nicest ones I’ve ever seen. It puts any other portable console that I’ve seen to shame and it’s better than many portable DVD players that cost a similar price. The colour and clarity is better than I’ve seen on a lot of expensive laptops, and for something of the PSP’s size it’s absolutely massive. If nothing else, Sony has set the standard there.

Why is it that people will think nothing of spending $300 on an iPod and yet $250 for something which does a lot more is too much? Admittedly it doesn’t play MP3s as well as the iPod or with as much storage, but it plays high quality videos very well (the PSP and the Revenge of the Sith trailer were made for each other) and from what I’ve heard, UMD movies look even better, pan-and-scan aside. You can view your photos on it at a size and quality far preferable to that of the iPod Photo, and of course you can play PSP games. It suffers somewhat from “jack of all trades” syndrome in that it does everything adequately and nothing spectacularly, but it’s incredibly impressive what they’ve crammed into it. Bear in mind that the firmware can be upgraded to give features beyond the initial capabilities (web browsing via wi-fi is supposedly on the way) and it gives the PSP the potential to give even more for what I feel is a very reasonable price.

Maybe it’s just the fact that I’m used to paying the equivalent of $500+ for a console depending on the exchange rates, but I can’t help but laugh at people calling it too expensive in the same way that I want to punch them when I hear Americans complaining about the “ridiculous” $2/gallon fuel prices (we pay over $6/gallon) as they trundle along in their 9mpg SUV. But that’s another story.

I Love Pixar

Continuing my procrastination around writing a review of The Incredibles, I just read Moriarty’s story on AICN about his tour of Pixar. I don’t really like AICN, partially because it always looked like an anachronistic Geocities site straight out of 1997 and was almost actually offensive to my eyes (less so with their new design), but also because of their annoying tendancy to get worked up on every little fallacy that they post while bashing anything that doesn’t meet their strict criteria on what to like – part of the reason why I found Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back’s idea of tracking down and kicking the shit out of the Talkback kids so funny. Plus there’s the fact that Harry Knowles is like a fat lion-man doing a Michael Jackson impersonation. Seriously, he scares me.

Anyway, Pixar. Reading that just reinforced my idea that it would be the ultimate place to work. There was a story in our local paper the other day about how a former Bournemouth University student is flitting between them and ILM (I forget which way) and all I can feel is raw jealousy. I’m loathe to go back to making obvious allusions to EA’s practices, but the sheer quality and popularity of Pixar’s output just shows that a free and relaxed working environment such as theirs will produce something far better than a production line/battery farm mentality.

It’s too bad that I have absolutely none of the skills that could net me a job at Pixar. I want my own cottage in the dwarf town…

Sequels Biting The Hand…

The definition of irony? EA blaming sequels for poor Christmas sales, and they’re audacious enough to blame other people’s sequels. Still, at least they know how it feels to have their market share sucked up by a competitor’s franchise. I just wish it could have been mediocre franchise sequels to blame instead of actual good ones like Half-Life 2, Halo 2 (it was a great game!), and World of Warcraft. Those games actually took a lot of work and originality to develop, unlike Need For Speed Underground 2 and NFL Street 2. Maybe that NFL licence isn’t the licence to print money that they thought it was going to be, and it’s good that the NBA avoided the same fate.

It’s amazing that they can pour out their shit and treat it as the default outcome that it will be bought up by everyone, giving them millions more to spend on slave labour. How can someone be surprised when the same games they brought out last year don’t sell? Do I smell fresh acquisitions in EA’s future?

In other news, I really want a PSP. I don’t know if I’ll manage the wait until September for a superior Japanese model.

Learning PHP

Yeah, I know I haven’t written the review of The Incredibles yet. I’ve been working on other projects and promise that it will be soon.

Since I moved this site to a WordPress system I’ve been on something of a web design kick, taking my messy but functional HTML into the realms of XHTML, CSS, and standards compliance. Things like the CSS Zen Garden have become more than just a quick curiosity – I’ll actually take the pages apart and look at how they work. I’m also in the process of taking a WordPress install for someone and integrating it with Walrus to make it into a webcomic system. There have been a few bugs to squash along the way but it’s progressing well, and doing this inspired me to take the leap and begin learning PHP.

Tinkering with WordPress has given me an idea of how PHP works, but I’ve never actually learned a proper programming language. Markup languages like HTML are comparative pieces of piss, but I’ve tried and failed at C and (don’t laugh) JavaScript alongside short-lived dabbling in others. For some reason PHP seems easier to learn, and seeing what can be done with it in making dynamic web pages makes me think that the possibilities for what I could do on future sites are huge. I suppose that web applications just hold more appeal to me than making some computer program which needs months of work to be able to create something even approaching elaborate.

I’m working through the PHP Wikibook (I wrote the section on running PHP under OS X, incidentally) to get a grasp of the basics and then I’m going to check out what Borders have and will probably pick up the PHP and MySQL Bible if it contains my level of information.