Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The technology of Watchdogs

Polygon ran a very interesting video feature today on the technology Ubisofts upcoming game Watchdogs and how close to that reality we might already be in Chicago. Very interesting and though provoking.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Nokia and (mis)targeted advertising

Found this in the latest edition of fast company, perhaps I'm out of touch but I think the cross-section of those who care about megapixels and those that wear skinny jeans is smaller than Nokia's advertisement agency thinks.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Killzone: Mercenary first impressions

As someone who has always enjoyed the Killzone games and even takes a little bit of pride in them being developed in his motherland of the Netherlands. I was looking forward to the first instalment of the franchise on the PS Vita, not in the least because it's indisputably a triple-A title of the calibre we were promised when the Vita launched.

It's here now and it looks absolutely stunning. It really does rival the current generation consoles in graphical fidelity and it's surprisingly smooth with virtually no slowdown. This is also one of those games you kind of need to play with headphones as the sound does enhance the experience and completes the triple-A package. Gameplay wise, after having played the first few levels, it truly is the Killzone experience on a handheld. Which, as I mentioned, for me is a good thing.

I prefer the slower, more "realistic" pace of the Killzone games over for example the gravity defying leaping of the Halo franchise.  One thing new to the series is the ability to take a more stealthy approach and take out a number of enemies without alerting their compatriots. There are still plenty of unavoidable firefights though but the mechanic serves some welcome variety and is a blessing in the earlier sniper infested levels where being able to take out the majority of these instadeath dealers silently is particularly helpful.

As the name implies, rather than fighting directly for the ISA or the Helghast you are a mercenary for hire. Fighting for both sides although the story (so far) favours the ISA. This also gives the developers an excuse to tack on a inventory system where you have to buy your weapons from the black market for credits. These vending points are scattered around the levels and let you kit out your guy as the situation demands. Stealthy section coming up? Swap out your loud assault rifle for a silences SMG, no problem. Credits are handed out liberally too and reward head shots and close combat kills over regular kills. But even looting corpses for ammo, taking out security cameras and releasing hostages give credits.

All in all, I'm enjoying Killzone: Mercenary immensely. Pick it up on the PSN store now!
(Seriously, it's 2013. Save the planet, buy digital!)

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Wii U, the little console that could.

A few days ago, on a whim, I picked up a Wii U. The premium model as you see above this post. With a copy of Zombi U. After spending some time with it, in true internet fashion, I will consider myself an expert and bestow my wisdom upon you...

Let's start off with what I like, which are the exclusive games. Zombi U was kind of meh but Super Mario and Pikmin still have that Nintendo spark. The game that really did it for me however was Lego City Undercover. In my opinion one of the best open world games out there and yes, that includes the two recent Saints Row games who I though were made for people with the IQ of a turnip.

In any event, that Nintendo makes good games is no surprise. It's probably the reason they're still in business as their franchises can carry entire consoles through rough spots.

What did surprise me is how solid the rest of the console's experience is compared to it's current rivals, the PS3 and the 360. This is perhaps the first console I've owned since the 16-bit days that just works and works as you want, even expect. None of the convoluted, advertisement ridden bullshit that the 360 has these days and none of the odd instabilities I've experienced with my PS3. Virtually no startup time and thanks to solid state technology the best possible load times.

Yes, I hear you think, I you've read some Wii U game reviews and all of them complain about the load times. If you think things are bad now, let's look forward to the next gen shall we? Currently the PS3 and 360 have about 512MB of ram that needs to be loaded in, which can be done reasonably quickly from a hard drive. The Wii U has double that, so naturally the loading of that data takes a bit longer. PS4 will have 10x that available to games, which will need to be loaded of that same hard drive technology that you've got now. So please, stop complaining about load times, it's probably the next gen's most unifying feature.

The non-gaming software on the machine is also top notch, it comes with the best web browser on any console, ever. Allowing you to start movies from Youtube or sites like IGN and Giantbomb and then move them to the TV screen for viewing while you continue browsing on the gamepad. The browser also works everywhere, even in the middle of a paused game you can look stuff up.

But, while that game is paused, why not snap a screenshot and share it with your friend in the Miiverse? Features so simple that consoles should have implemented them years ago, but Nintendo is first.

But, you can't talk about Wii U without talking about the huge, almost insurmountable, issue it has.


Well, that's not entirely true, but at least nowhere near the depth and breath of gaming experiences that any other console platform (except maybe the Vita) is or will offer. At current count the two other next gen systems will have about the same number of games at launch as the Wii U has been able to amass in near 10 months.

Will it pull together? I sure hope so. With even Nintendo now acknowledging that, besides the naming confusion, lack of games is the primary factor in the system selling so poorly.

Let's hope big N can turn the tide...

Friday, July 12, 2013

Final Fantasy XIV Beta impressions

In a fit of karmic justice, my main PC's motherboard decided to fry itself. After some troubleshooting and cursing I resigned myself to the fact that I'd be without a PC for a few days while a new mobo gets shipped.

In a foul mood I was browsing through my e-mail and I had received a new one from Square-Enix with the question how I was enjoying the FF XIV beta.

Wait what now? I didn't know I was in the beta?!

A quick search revealed they had sent me an invite for the PS3 version over 2 weeks ago. So some clickety-clack and a 5GB download later and I was in business.

Now my experience with Final Fantasy is extensive having completed pretty much every main series game and dabbling in FF XI on the Xbox 360 back in the day. But I never did get around to playing the original Final Fantasy XIV as tales of its god-awful-ness had reached me by the time I was able to procure it. So I was going in fresh and I must say, so far I'm impressed. Impressed enough to want to sign up for a while when it goes live later in August.

Rolling an Archer I was plopped down into a quaint little town in the middle of a forest and told to pretty much go forth and be entertained. Which 8 hours later I still was. The first 10 levels really breezed by and in a way less linear fashion than games like WoW or even Guild Wars 2. Speaking of GW2 though this game borrows heavily from them with world events and abilities deriving from the equipped weapons going even a step further where your current class is wholly based on what you happen to have in your hands. Letting you swap to any other class simply by picking up a different weapon after having reached at least level 10 in your primary class.

Apart from the combat classes there is an extensive roster of crafting and support classes from staples like carpenter and miner to things like fisherman. If you like crafting you've come to the right place!

The aforementioned non-linearity was a great plus though. At any given moment I could do my class quests or follow some storyline quests (which are okay, but not amazing) or just walk around in the forest doing randoms stuff for random people to get my level up.

If I have one complaint it is that the mission variety is of the same non-variety as other games where it comes down to fetch x, kill x of y or talk to x. I understand this is simply a function of these kinds of games but it seems as if MMO developer just simply burn all their creativity on making these amazing worlds and then go "fuck it" and just have the interns populate it with uninspired quests.

In any event, I had a great time and you might too. the public beta is coming up so sign up at their website now to be a part of it.

Oh yeah, I was playing it on the PS3 and it worked just fine. Controller mapping was pretty inventive so don't let that keep you.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Update: Karma, it's a bitch isn't it. Less than a day after me writing the below SOE finally got around releasing a patch that solved all my problems.
3 hours later, my motherboard died... I'm sure the two aren't related...are they?!

I like Planetside 2, I like it a lot. Having checked it out a few times in the past I decided to give it a proper go this week and I love the epic feel of the battles and the sprawling landscapes on which you and up to hundreds of your brothers in arms fight.

Which makes it all the more frustrating that several serious technical issues prevent me from playing it.

Planetside 2 crashes, a lot. On a bad day it crashes to desktop about once every 30 minutes and nothing I do can prevent that. I've rebuilt the file structure, updated my drivers, removed my overclock hell even underclocked. Nothing seems to be able to prevent this game from just randomly, arbitrarily deciding that I've had enough. It's like Sony has finally started to enforce their "take frequent breaks while playing videogames" policy that I see so often on the PS3.

Then there are the glitches, the worst by far is a constant droning buzz through my speakers. Kind of like what interference sounds like on analog speakers...But they're USB speakers, fully digital, with those buzz only happening in Planetside 2.

After 3 days of getting this all to work. I've given up. There is nothing more frustrating that putting 30 minutes of work in capturing a facility only to have the game crash on you a few seconds before the pay-off. No XP, no nothing and when I log back in I can't even get back to where I was because of the retarded respawn system.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Day One Digital, give or take a few hours...

Dear Sony, I pre-ordered the last of us from the PSN about a week ago. You charged my creditcard a few days ago. So why do I now have to wait another 2 hours to actually play the game? Couldn't you have pre-loaded it like you did when I ordered Bioshock Infinite and Remember Me from you in the same way? 

We really need to figure this day one digital out, as any advantage over brick and mortar sales is lost like this. While the disadvantages are well known.

(2 hours was on my 60Mbit line, I can imagine others may have an even worse experience...)

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Shiny Chromebook?

So I bought a Chromebook...

I'm actually posting this from my Chromebook.

Now granted, I didn't pay as much for this Chromebook as most of my countrymen. The model I got, a series 3 Samsung pictured here still goes for near 300 euros in the Netherlands, which is borderline robbery! But on a recent trip to the USA I picked one up at the local Best Buy for what translates to a mere 180 euros. That's about 1/3rd of what I paid for my iPad.
And so far, I'm pretty happy with my purchase. I was planning to upgrade my Google storage for a long time already anyway and the Chromebook came with a free 100GB for two years which is great value.

If you're like me and have a grandfathered Google drive account (20GB for $5/year) then I can hereby tell you that you will keep this deal when you add the 100GB package, it just adds it on top of the total and you will NOT lose your legacy account status. For those like me this is probably the only way to do this without losing that status, short of getting a Pixel which..well...

For what it is, the Chromebook is a great bargain, it's exactly as advertised, a small, light, fast enough little laptop that runs the Chrome browser as its OS. Anything you do today inside Chrome save for hardcore gaming you can do on the Chromebook. And that is important to note that the more core games like for example Bastion do not currently function on the Chromebook. So if you're heavily into portable gaming you should look elsewhere.

Getting Internet on the go is also a piece of cake, the Nexus 4 I use can tether with the Chromebook through  WiFi, Bluetooth and even direct USB connection. The latter having the added benefit that it keeps the Nexus charged and doesn't add the battery strain of running two radios at the same time on it. Without the Nexus attached I got about 6 hours out of the Chromebook. With the Nexus providing 3G the whole setup lasted about 4.5 hours. With the Nexus 4 still being fully charged at the end of it.

After having used tablets exclusively while mobile for the past two years it's great to have a real keyboard and mousepad again. I would never have typed up this piece of text otherwise. The keyboard is actually better than that of most laptops three times the cost. And on par with that of the MacBook Pro I use for work (well, on par....close enough, the keys are a bit looser but in day to day use you don't notice the difference.)

For the price, it's a great buy if you understand what it is and isn't going in.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

DeadSpace 3 full graphics

Man, it sure looks good, shame I don't like these kinds of games ;-)

Monday, April 22, 2013

Mister Owl

I've been shopping around our new App, Mister Owl.

It's a book discovery App for your Mac, but it's not a best seller list or anything. What it does is create quasi-random bookshelves just like you would find in a second hand bookshop based on broad category or more specific sub-categories.

There's even a random button if you're feeling lucky :-)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Oblivion Review

Watched this in the Amsterdam ArenA IMAX cinema yesterday (sidenote: Wednesday is the best day to go here.)

First off, if you haven't watched the trailer for this yet and are planning to go see it in the cinema, don't watch that trailer! As with most trailers these days it pretty much spoils the majority of the movie. Also don't think that anybody besides Tom Cruise plays any major role in this. Yes, Morgan Freeman is in it but for only a few minutes total and him being Morgan Freeman is in no way integral to the plot. Could have been anybody. Doesn't matter as Mr. Cruise carries the film just fine and proves that he is indeed the right choice when it comes to these sci-fi movies. Probably because he's the only Hollywood star with a true love for the genre.

If you did see the trailer, the major plot-twist has been spoiled for you already and the sad thing about that is that it detracts from the second major twist that you didn't see coming. Which was obviously designed to be a great one-two punch. This has the effect that for the first half hour you are simply waiting for the plot twist you already know about to occur which will detract from your enjoyment.

Either way, what you have here is a pretty good post apoc sci-fi movie that has all the ingredients that fans of the genre crave. And if you are in any way a fan of the genre you really do need to go see it. 

Speaking of, they showed the Iron Man trailer before this movie. So now I don't have to go see that anymore... If you want a prime example of trailers that spoil their movies, look no further than the Iron Man 3 cinematic trailer.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Defiance - the show (after having played the game) review

I liked it, a lot.

You want more? I think that the show sets out to be exactly what it says on the tin. A hardcore sci-fi show that promises mature intelligent television for the fans that are tired of all the paint by numbers shows lately. A show that handles its budget constraints with flair and makes no excuses for that yeah, most of their "aliens" are biped-sort-of-humans. Which I vastly prefer to the lifeless CG puppets from the likes of Avatar.

And the integration with the game is handled very well this first episode, where as a gamer who played the games tie in missions actually feels like they got some background on the characters and the story that those who just watch the show are missing out on. That crystal that the main characters used to liberate the gizmo that saved the day? I know where they got that, I know why they got it and they still owe me 25k scrip for it.

Only time will tell if the cohesion holds up. But I promptly invested in the rest of the season in iTunes.