4 Archive


The Only PlayStation 4 Piece You Need To Read

John Teti for The Gameological Society:

Creativity thrives under limitations. People who love games understand this implicitly, since the best players find the most creative ways to succeed within the confines of the rules. The Great Train Robbery is a masterpiece not in spite of its limitations but because of them. So if David Cage doesn’t think he can produce an emotional work of art with a PlayStation 3 and an eight-figure budget, maybe he shouldn’t be in the art-making business.

Expanding the technological capabilities of our game machines is not inherently bad, but treating new tech as a magic bullet is a self-destructive delusion (if a familiar one). The reason that so many games suck is not because the technology is too modest. The reason that so many games suck is because so many games suck. Making art is hard. No microchip changes that.

This is the most spot-on, insightful piece I’ve read about the PlayStation 4. It may be a little cynical, but the pretentiousness of these kinds of presentations is just too palpable to ignore.

via More, More, More—How Do You Like It? | Gameological At Large | The Gameological Society.


The First Halo 4 Info Dump

Color me unimpressed.

Don’t get me wrong, I still hope 343 Studios comes out with a banging new Halo game, but after the debacle that was Halo: CE Anniversary edition, I’ll need first-hand proof that Halo 4 isn’t a dud before I believe it.

I mean, look at the stuff they highlight in this video (with my commentary in bold):

  • A clever reason why there are red and blue Spartans fighting each other. (Who CARES?! Is an elaborate backstory going to make up for subpar gameplay? Because that’s the first thing I’m going to think of when you draw attention to things like that.)
  • The story being integrated into the multiplayer experience. (Competitive Halo multiplayer has never been about telling a story. If it’s there and doesn’t detract from the gameplay, sure, I’ll take it. But it’s not something anyone has been clamoring for.)
  • The sound effects have been completely redone. (Whoopty ding-dong)
  • Players will be able to customize their loadouts and unlock gameplay changing features ala Call of Duty. (This is the biggest red flag for me. To me, one of the most elegant parts of a Halo deathmatch is that it starts everyone off on equal footing equipment-wise. You start giving players who have spent the time to grind out enough XP to give themselves a discernable starting advantage, you start going down a slippery slope of game balance issues. I’d rather lose matches to people who outmatch me with skill, rather than unlocks. This is an especially big issue for a game like Halo, where people don’t die in one hit like other modern war shooters.)
Now, I know it’s still early in the information dissemination cycle for the game, but the stuff 343 Studios has decided to tout in its first public information release is curious at best. It’s as if they were running out of ideas to improve the franchise as is and are grasping at any sort of “improvement” feature checklist features they can. I just hope my intuition pans out wrong on this one because Halo truly is my favorite big budget gaming franchise.

Cutting Through The Potty: ‘Antennagate’ Apple iPhone 4 Keynote

Cutting Through The Potty is a new segment where we break down large announcements into TL;DR takeaway points, provide real world-based conclusions, and posit some nitpicky snark (if applicable)

The issues surrounding the iPhone 4’s antenna have been fodder for one of the biggest product backlashes in recent memory. I’m sure most readers are aware of the fact that the iPhone 4 seems to lose cellular reception if you hold the phone in a “natural way.” Today, Apple addressed those concerns in a 30 minute presentation along with a Q/A session.


  1. Free Cases – Every iPhone 4 owner gets a free case until Sept. 30. You can choose from Apple’s Bumper or other unspecified 3rd party ones. If you bought a bumper already (but not any other case) you’ll get a refund.
  2. No Restocking Fee Refunds – If you continue to be dissatisfied, Apple will allow you to refund the iPhone 4 within 30 days of purchase with no restocking fees. You will also get your AT&T contract refunded too.
  3. There Is A Reception Problem, “But It Only Affects A Small Percentage of Users” – Though it was obfuscated in the presentation at first, Apple did acknowledge that the iPhone 4 did seem to suffer from a real issue of losing cell reception when gripped. Jobs wasted no time in pointing out that Blackberry, Android, and Windows Mobile phones also exhibit the same behavior. He then concluded that this issue only affected a small percentage of users.
  4. The Stats Support That Conclusion – Lots of statistics were presented to put the problem in Apple’s perspective. Out of the 3 million iPhone 4’s sold, only 0.55% of those reported problems to AppleCare. 1.7% of iPhone 4 users have returned their phone, compared to the 6% return rate of the iPhone 3GS. 5,000 people have emailed Steve Jobs personally saying they have no issue. iPhone 4 drops less than 1% more calls than the iPhone 3GS.

My Take:

Let me start by disclosing that I am indeed an iPhone 4 user and that this antenna issue did affect my phone. I can make the bars go down on the display by covering up the antenna at the right spots. It’s a neat parlor trick that you can do at parties and bars, but honestly hadn’t noticeably affected my real world use of the phone. However, I don’t like the nagging feeling that the way I hold my phone could cause decreased usability. It’s a crappy feeling to be lurking in one’s subconscious. Hence, I bought a bumper not only to prevent reception problems, but also because i liked the gripability of the case and the buffer it creates for putting the phone down on public tables.

Nothing in the presentation was especially surprising. The announcement of free cases to given away (and refunds for previous bumper purchasers) was certainly welcome and a sigh of relief that I didn’t just get jacked $32. The restocking fee waiver seemed like a no-brainer too. I doubt most people would return their iPhone 4’s over this, so it’s an easy bone for Apple to throw.

All the stats Jobs rattled off were a nice way to shift perceptions away from the “overblown” media hype. I mean what looks better: 16,500 people have complained about the issue to AppleCare or that 0.55% of all iPhone 4 users did? (Hint: they’re the same) Can’t blame them for doing this though, the tech bloggers and mainstream media have made this out to be a “doomsday”-like scenario. Even non-techies know about this issue. It’s only fair Apple gets to frame perceptions too.

Troll all you want on the web about principles and Apple apologists, but the antenna is simply not a deal-breaking issue. If you’ve decided that the iPhone 4 is the best phone for you, go ahead and buy it. Yes, it’s an admitted issue. No, you shouldn’t interpret that as the Scarlet Letter and avoid the phone solely because of it. Shit, take advantage of the 30 day grace period Apple is giving you now. You can always return it if the antenna issue bugs you so much.

Ultimately, both the media and Apple can be attributed blame for this mess. Consumer Reports’ “non recommendation based on the antenna issue” was simply a shameless attempt at retrieving relevancy again. Apple’s an easy target now because of their success and prominence. It doesn’t hurt that people love reading this stuff too. We’re a society that delights in schadenfreude, especially when the most successful are involved. While it’s easy to poke fun at Apple’s egomania and hubris, there has to be some sort of journalistic restraint involved.

Apple also fucked up in not addressing this as a problem sooner and by initially blaming the user for “holding it wrong.” It’s one thing to stay silent, but it’s another to dismiss a clearly demonstrated problem by blaming the customer. Had they been more transparent and admitted the issue earlier, the media may not have been able to reach the fever pitch that it has in recent days. The issue may even have been contained and forgotten by now.

The Snark:

  • So Steve Jobs rattled on about “working their butts off” over the last 22 days to find solutions and the solution was “show videos of other smartphones dropping bars when gripped”? That’s the best their $100 million testing facilities employing more PHD’s than a full NBA roster could come up with? Come on, at least show us some “hard numbers” as the fruits of your labor. Anandtech has written up two very detailed and articulate reports using less than $100 million of equipment. Tell me why Apple can’t provide us with something similar instead of talking down to us like we’re Luddites (or the New York Times).
  • Along those lines, I got why they showed one of each Blackberry, Android, and Windows Mobile phones, but why the Droid Eris? Why not show something more relevant, like an EVO or Incredible or even a Nexus One? Maybe these phones didn’t exhibit so many dropped bars…
  • image courtesy of Engadget.com

  • Think someone failed on the slide showing the table with the 3 other phones’ “Min” and “Max” bars. Those columns on the table seem to be flipped.
  • Gruber asked the Apple execs if they used bumpers or cases for their iPhone4s. Each of them whipped out their phones to show that none of them do. That’s a  pretty telling image.
  • Steve Jobs explained the delay in making a public stance by needing to collect “hard data”. It’s understandable, but there’s no reason to let this fester without comment for so long or blaming the customer for “holding it wrong.”
  • Steve Jobs gives himself plausible deniability on his public email replies by saying that “some of them are made up!” Great, now we’ll never know which assholic dismissals are real or not.
  • On the topic of the iOS 4.0.1 update yesterday that “fixes” the reception display algorithm: Someone brought up the fact that Apple supposedly “fixed” the reception bar display algorithm two years ago. Jobs feigned ignorance at this. Uh huh. I still think two years ago they updated the display to show 5 bars even when reception wasn’t that good and now that it’s bit them in the ass, they’re changing it again. Cell phone reception bars are such a load of crap. Personally, I’d love an option to show real dB readings.

E3 2010 Preview: Sonic The Hedgehog 4: Episode 1

Sonic the Hedgehog’s gone through a rough time since the glory days of the Sega Genesis. We’ve been given so many unfulfilled promises of “This is the return to the Sonic you know and love!” each year that the announcement of a new Sonic game is akin to an announcement that there’ll be a new Madden game out in the fall.

Well, after having checked out Sonic 4: Ep 1 at E3 this year, I’m gonna go ahead and say this is the return of the Sonic you know and love!

All joking aside, if there were a game for that cliche to actually hold, it would be Sonic 4. The developer I sat down with reiterated that they tried to keep the feel of the old Genesis-era Sonic titles and that if you were to put this game in the timeline, it would fit in right after Sonic and Knuckles. (yes, the one with the crazy add-on cartridge) Since that’s the last time I remember having actual fun with a Sonic title, I’m gonna go ahead and say that’s a good start.

The game certainly plays as such and is a fairly delightful (if not entirely familiar) romp down memory line. I can say the game looks sharp on the iPhone and will probably look better on the iPhone 4. It’d probably be my platform of choice as it’s a great game to play on the go in bursts. The tilt controls were pretty awkward and difficult, though. You can check out the video walkthrough further down for a better idea on how the game looks.

An interesting thing you may notice about the game is the ominous “Episode 1” subtitle attached. Sega promises 16 levels in EP1 with more episodes to follow after. Now, I’m not so sure why a platform game that’s light on story needs the episodic title treatment. One reason might be to release new level packs soon after, but my efforts to narrow down the timeframe for new episodes were unsuccessful. The best I got was tentative agreement that they would come out faster than Half-Life 2 Episodes. I think we can all agree that’s not saying much.

Regardless, if you’re in the mood for a nostalgic 2D platformer, this game should excite you. Sonic The Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 will be released on the iPhone, XBLA, PSN, and WiiWare “later this year and priced competitively.”

Developer Gameplay Walkthrough:


Some iPhone 4 Thoughts

It’s kind of a shame we had so many iPhone leaks before Steve Jobs’ keynote today at WWDC. He may not admit it, but it definitely took some wind out of  the announcement sails from a consumer perspective. That being said, it’s still an impressive looking device on paper. However, like the iPad, it’s beginning to look like hands on exposure to the device is what’s really going to determine it’s necessity.

My initial thoughts on the words and pictures sent forth from WWDC today:

  • Design – It looks great. A logical evolution of the “iPhone shape”. I definitely would not be embarrassed to be carrying it around. The one “unknown fact” about the device was that the aluminum siding on the phone is actually the antenna. Hopefully, this will help network usage out. (I’m not holding my breath on AT&T, but will be open to pleasant surprise.)
  • Screen – Looks to be the best mobile screen on the market. IPS LCD means the highest consumer quality panel tech, while still being fully readable in direct sunlight. The pixel density of the display is almost unheard of for a device so small. It’s approaching native 720p on a 3.5″ screen! However, all the slides, videos, and words in the world can only convey so much. According to everyone at WWDC who’s handled the device, you have to see this thing with your own eyes to really appreciate it.
  • Faster processor(A4 chip, same as in the iPad) – This doesn’t sound very exciting, but it’s HUGE if you’re upgrading an older iPhone. If it’s one thing i abhor about my current iPhone, it’s that it takes so damn long to load almost anything. Not to mention sluggish frame rates in games and app animations.
  • Gyroscope – Ok, can’t say this excites me greatly. I mean, Sony had SIXAXIS movement 4 years ago and everyone pooh pooh’d that to oblivion. I’d love for there to be awesome new games based on this, but the pragmatist in me worries that this might be a Wii MotionPlus situation where most developers are just going to develop for the lowest common denominator (iPhone 3g tech).
  • Camera – 5 megapixels with LED Flash. Finally. This is probably the biggest feature for me. I find myself increasingly unwilling to carry a separate camera around with me to the point of just forgoing photo taking unless I plan in advance. The camera on my iPhone 3G is atrocious in low light conditions and is truly frustrating when I want to take pictures at concerts or dimly lit bars.
  • Video Recording– 720p resolution recording at 30 fps. Fuck. Yes. Flip who? We’ll see if the quality is up to snuff, but if the iPhone 4 can really obviate the need for a point and shoot camera and Flip-like video camera, I will be overjoyed. LOVE how you are able to send recorded videos to Youtube/email/mms with 2 taps. Mobile video blogging will also be feasible now with the front facing camera. I may have to try my hand at that.
  • iMovie – At first I was like “WHOA!” Then I was like “Ehh, would I really use my phone to edit videos when I already have a Macbook Pro.” But now, I’m thinking that it might actually be a godsend. If it’s one thing I hate about the current iPhone/computer syncing paradigm, it’s the plain annoyance of shuffling content from one to the other. If I can do most edits and production on the phone and publish it, well, that would definitely be worth $4.99.
  • iOS4 Stuff – Multitasking, folders, iBooks, iAds, etc. We saw all this stuff in March – it’s needed and will be welcomed.
  • Battery/802.11n antenna/dual mics – Longer battery, faster WiFi throughput, and better sound input. Not exactly sexy-sounding, but who wouldn’t want these things?
  • FaceTime – This is the “WOW” feature of the new phone. I have to admit, it looks to be the best video conference solution out there in that it “just works.” There’s no account creation, no logins, no setup required. Everything is automagically done via the iPhone. That’s going to be crucial in getting video communication widespread adoption with the mainstream. When Grandma Luddite can video chat with little Timmy, then you’ve got something special. That being said, I can’t see this taking off for a couple more years. Communication methods are only truly compelling once everyone is using them and it’s going to take some time for the required hardware to disseminate. I see myself using it a couple of times for the novelty, but probably not on a regular basis.

If you’ve been following mobile technology at all over the past couple months, none of the iPhone 4 feature announcements should come as a big surprise. That doesn’t mean they should be dismissed though. All of the new features are significant and definitely place the new iPhone on par, if not ahead of other smartphone options out there. However, I think the days of Apple with a 2 year features lead on the competition are over.

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