Tag Archives: console

Internet Killed Console Gaming–Point 2

 

Oh, Internet… It’s a love and hate relationship. I’ve become so tied to the Internet, like most of us, and it’s hard to live in a life where you don’t exist. I also can’t stand what you’ve done to one of my most precious loves: console gaming. There’s nothing like hooking a system up to my T.V., holding that controller pad in my hands for the first time and wasting away in the glow from the television set for hours on end. But you have to stop!

Point 2 – Broken games

nes360

I’m a firm believer that it’s about the game play not the graphics which decides the top performers in the gaming world. Shiny cutting edge graphics are no match for great story telling and compelling character arches. You can have the faster processors and load times, but I will not play it if the game just down right sucks. And the Internet has allowed more of these shitty games through the gates with the idea that “We’ll make it better!”

A.

The Internet has made game developers of all kinds lazy. They release broken games with slapped together physics just so they can hit their delivery date to get full exposure for important dead lines such as a system launch date. By doing so, we as gamers, are now teaching these corporations that it’s OK if your game is broken, we will wait for updates and sometimes, even pay to get them. What has become of us?

A perfect example is the newly released The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim for the Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC. Developed by Bethesda Game Studios, Skyrim quickly become the number 1 game at the top of many reviewers charts. The crowd was unanimous: this is an amazing game. Or is it?

Released on November 11, 2011, the first patch was made available for download on November 29, 2011. 18 days after the game was released to stores. 18 days! Now, what did the patch do? Well let’s see what the book of knowledge has to say:

Patch 1.2 was released on November 29, 2011 to fix some of the game’s issues;however, some players reported new bugs in the game following the patch, including more frequent game crashes.

wikipedia.org

18 days after it’s initial release, the game was already broken to the point of the system crashes deeming it completely unplayable. What happened? Well, I will admit that Skyrim is a fucking huge game. I’m talking big. But, the thing you need to remember is that this is the fifth in the series. This is not the first game released by Bethesda Game Studios. With the reputation they have created for themselves, they are vets even gods among game developers. 18 days… it only took players 18 days for them to realize that the game was broken to the point of it being unplayable.

So, they released a patch. To fix things. But that didn’t help. So they released 5 more patches to get the game into fighting shape, the last of which was pushed out on March 20, 2012 again to fix the bugs and system crashes. To me, this shows that Bethesda released a broken game, an unfinished product, a worthless attempt to get my money.

My point is, if the game isn’t ready to be released then don’t release it. There’s a reason that every game company has play testers. They are there to find issues with a game that wouldn’t be found by someone who is making the game.  A new set of eyes if you will. Now, I’m not saying that these play testers will find “every bug imaginable” but if it’s crashing your system… that’s a problem… especially if they need to release 5 different patches to fix the problem. Only with the ability of the Internet can a game company get away with this and make it the norm.

If you have the ability to fix an already released product months if not years after it’s release date, then where is the bar? What would stop a company from releasing a game that just consists of an environment and few if not any actually playable game aspects? I mean, couldn’t the definition of a game be ripped down to just an avatar running around on the screen with no real objectives? Anything is possible.

The lack of updates throughout the life of a video game has forced some game developers in the past to really go that extra mile to do something amazing… Case in point —

B.

Final Fantasy

250px-FF1_USA_boxart

Some of you have heard of a small company called Square (now known as Square Enix). But a few of you may not know that Square was, at one point,  becoming a distant memory. Yes, they were at their wits end ready to call it quits.

Square was at the bottom of the barrel with it came to video games back in the mid to late 1980s. They just couldn’t put anything together to turn a profit. They had one more game in them and if it didn’t work out, well… that was it. Close the doors, pack up all of the Japanese porn and call it quits. It was literally their “Final Fantasy”.

The idea came from a similar company called Enix (which they ended up purchasing, I’m sorry “merging” with later in 2003). The game was called Dragon Quest: an RPG for the Nintendo Famicom. It was a hit, but Square thought they could do it one better. Final Fantasy was released in December 1987. It spawned many squeals and is easily the only reason why Square still exists.

Now, let’s fast forward to today. With all of the technology we have available, what would be of Square if they decided to start today? If those dead drop games they released before Final Fantasy were able to be updated, to fix bugs, in short, to make the game better, would Final Fantasy ever be? Without getting too philosophical, yes, someone down the road would have created the game sooner or later. But would it have been Square? Probably not. Because they weren’t faced with that moment of terror that could close them down forever. They didn’t have the ability to fix a crappy game like game devs do today. Once it was released it was up to the players to decide if the game be worthy or not. If not, that was it. No second chances. Nothing. You’re done. Thanks for playing.

Let’s look at today’s games. What if a company, that released a crappy game, who now has the chance to fix it a second time, does instead of scraping the entire project and go for something different? We’ll never know for sure what amazing games we could be playing other than the 20th version of Call of Duty. But I can tell you, you back someone into a corner with one last chance, the possibility of doing something wonderful and beautiful is more likely than not. Think about that…

Join me for point 3 where I discuss the losing game of…. TROLLS!

Point One

Internet Killed Console Gaming — Point 1

 

The Internet (it is capitalized right?) has killed console gaming forever. It wasn’t something that the causal gamer saw coming, and in fact, very few gamers of any age can really see the implications of how gaming was infected and destroyed by the Internet.

Point 1: Physical Media

Classic_Game_Carts_by_NoSmokingBandit

Ew… gross… what are those disease carrying, oddly shaped things?

Those, my ignorant gamer of the future, are called “game cartridges”. Those use to be how we played games. They weren’t beamed down from a space station, through your body, to your T.V. set. No, the information was placed on these “carts”, we plugged the “cart” into the game system and played until our hearts content.

This might sound silly now, but I’m telling you, in no more than twenty years from now, no major game company will think about the possibility of placing their cutting edge game on any kind of physical media. Physical media has some major flaws that a business doesn’t want to be apart of anymore.

A:

netflix-wii

I have to buy them again!? But I can get the cart for $2 at my local game shop!

It’s a one time buy – Companies don’t want you to purchase their content once. They want you to purchase it as many times as possible. A game cart, if taken care of, can last the life of the player. Look at the some of the oldest games that are available at your local game shop (i.e. Atari 2600 games). These carts are decades old, but with care, they will still function. This is bad news for companies. The media has to be disposable, forgotten about, or unreliable so that, years down the road, when you want to play that “retro game for the Xbox 36o” you will have to buy it again via an software download.

Look at the popularity of the Xbox Arcade, Playstation Network, or Nintendo’s Wii Shop Channel. The games that are on these services already exist in one if not multiple versions stretch across many consoles and PC set ups. Game consoles you probably already own, maybe even the game itself, but people will buy it yet again for many reasons: convenience, minor updates typically in a graphical nature, rare if not impossible find, etc. The issue with this is that we are feeding the monkey. And it’s not a nice monkey. It’s an evil, evil monkey. By buying into this program, we are telling these game companies that it’s OK to release the same game year after year with little to no incentive to us and we will keep on buying.

B:

Stacks_of_money

Money – placing any kind of information on a disk, whether it be a cartridge or compact disc, is expensive and prone to failure over time. After coping so many discs with the same application, there is always a testing phase to make sure that the games actually work on the console.

Now you might be thinking, well I can get 50 CD-Rs for 10 bucks surely a major corporation can get a better deal on media than I can and I’d say you were right. And they more than likely add that additional cost into the price of the game itself at the point of purchase. But if we are so use to paying $50 and $60 dollars for the latest Xbox 360 game, why would we shake a stick at paying the exact same amount for the same game only to have it downloaded to a hard disk that’s attached to your console? With the blazing speeds that are available for the internet now-a-days including broadband and fiber optics, to download a 4 GB video game would be done in minutes not hours like in the past. Which would cut their production of developing a physical media all together. Less work means less workers means more money in the business’s pocket. Because the games sure as hell won’t cost less.

This type of model has been around for ages really pushed through by Apple’s iTunes app. Here’s my story. Many years ago, I purchased an album from iTunes that was recorded locally and was no longer in production for a physical copy. A few years later, my iPod had crapped out on me, so I went back into iTunes to download the album again. To my amazement, I had to purchase it again since so much time had gone by. But I bought it already didn’t I own it? No. I didn’t. Most digital media that is purchased online is actually only being “rented” from the company for an unknown amount of time. Meaning, if I lost my copy, I will have to buy another.

Now, this is similar to a physical copy as well in some small cases. If I own the CD, and I lose it, I no longer have that copy and I will have to purchase a new one. The difference is I have the ability to make a software “back-up” copy of the hard copy for just this case. Now, the laws of copyright can be read in either direction pertaining to “back-ups” but at the time I was allowed to have one backed up copy of any physical data that I owned.

Apple, and many other companies, use a security called DRM or Digital Rights Management that will only allow you to have one copy of the medium. You are not legally allowed to copy that DRM media from one source to another. Many other companies and just about everyone else is against this model of security but that doesn’t stop deep pocket companies from using it. And the only advantage is to the company not to the user.

In part two, I will be discussing the issue that has cropped up with console games that are just down right broken and how it’s considered “OK” now to release such titles.

Stay tuned!

Point Two

FIGHTWARE–The Ultimate Gaming System–Part 3

software

Software is were my strengths lie. And since this console is based mainly on software (you can pretty much use any kind of hardware to make it go) this section will be quite a big larger. First off, what would be the base system? Well, Linux, of course.

It’s so beautiful…

Linux, for those who don’t know, is an operating system much like OSX or Windows. It’s considered a replacement to bulky and expensive OSs to preform much of the same tasks that you can do on your current machine such as web browsing, photo editing, and word processing to name a few. What you might not know is that LINUX IS EVERYWHERE!!! Not only running your phone (Android), but in the customer service industry, mainframes, and believe it or not, popular video game systems (Wii). The name “Linux” usually brings a bad taste to many a mouth. Images of the command line, incompatible Windows programs, jacked up graphics cards, and old guys with neck beards recompiling their kernels to be on the bleeding edge of technology. All of this is true. I also had a neck beard for quite some time and hung out with my local LUG discussing the finer points of reconstruction and free as in Free Beer not Free Speech. Oh the good ol’ days…

Linux proves to be the perfect base system for FIGHTWARE. It can be as big or as robust as a heavy hitting gaming machine to a simple, elegant top box for your T.V. or something has convenient as Raspberry Pi. Linux is beautiful and sexy and you should embrace the beauty and sexiness.

Many Linux systems with the minimal of the minimal already exist like Puppy Linux, Crunch Bang, and Damn Small Linux coming in at a whooping 50MB or less. Simply amazing. The reason these systems are so small is because they are not flooded with apps and processes you just don’t use or need.

Now with FIGHTWARE, even the smallest distro can be adjusted to fit just for what FIGHTWARE needs. Again this is a simple process especially with help from the Linux From Scratch or Reconstructor or by taking an existing distro and stripping it. So, what do you need? Other than what is required to run the hardware that is.

the driver

The main driver behind the entire FIGHTWARE system would be Python. This programming language uses plain text and has the ability incorporate pretty much anything: C++, C#, SQL, Java. You name it, there’s a wrapper for it. Python is also nice because it’s easy to learn and easy to change or modify. The driver will be the running everything that the player can see. From the icons on the dashboard to running the emulators or other launchers. I know that you could probably be better off using a more “down to the hardware” language such as C++ and C# but those are super hard to get into and not easy to get up and running right away. Remember, this is suppose to something that’s fairly simple that basically “anyone” can do.

dashboard

The dashboard is what will run on top of the Linux base system. It’s the graphics that launch everything you need from NES emulators, to the web, or even a social network like Twitter or Facebook. Every modern console has some type of dashboard.

Microsoft Xbox 360 dashboard

Nintendo Wii dashboard

The dashboard will connect the player to the different apps that are available to be used much like the existing consoles have. FIGHTWARE’s dashboard would be similar in that it will allow the player to select a certain type of emulator or game and play to their hearts content. While in game play, if the player would like to go back to the dashboard either to check updates or play another game, a simple button combination could be pressed to bring up a “submenu” of options such as powering off, reset, or back to the dash. This button combination would be similar to Sega Dreamcast’s soft reset (A+B+X+Y+Start).

The customization, or skinning, of the dashboard will be scripted using XML. Again, XML is super easy to read and change and will allow anyone to create skins from their favorite games as the base or copy another popular dashboard that already exists. This is super popular with a modded Xbox from the past. There where all kinds of “skins” you could download from the web and slap on your dashboard. Customization is awesome and allows the user to make their system whatever they want it to be. Which is the point of FIGHTWARE. It’s yours. Do whatever with it. I don’t care.

updates

Every system needs updates and FIGHTWARE won’t be any different. Again, we would have testers testing the shit out of a new update to make sure that it doesn’t break or crash the system. After that the update goes to the web. If the system is connected to the internet, a simple “Update Ready” message would appear to allow the player to update or not; your choice.

For those who do not have an internet connection to FIGHTWARE will be able to download the update and save it to a flash/thumb drive or even burn to a CD-R. Slap that bad boy into the system, click a button that says something like “find new updates” and bam! update done without an internet connection. You can’t do that with an Xbox 360. At least I don’t think you can.

emulation

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Eric, there’s a ton of emulators out there. How are going to decide on just one?” And to that I will say “Why chose one? Let’s use them all!” At the moment of this writing there are roughly 17 different NES emulators. 17! And more than 90 per cent of them aren’t even updated or in active development anymore. They are left to die in the depths of the dark corners of the internet sitting alone until a hobbyist decides to pick them up one day and play.

Speaking just to NES emulators, every emulator has some feature it excels at but lacks somewhere else. It may either be great at processing pure 8-bit sound but have a small library of games it can run. Or it’s great at clarity and Netplay but there’s a ton of bugs in the software that makes the system crash periodically. All of this is OK. We take every emulator that’s available, whether it’s outdated or not, and test every game on every emulator. After that we make a list. Let’s say that Emulator A is over all better playing Legend of Zelda than Emulator B. When the player wants to play LoZ, Emulator A will be the one running. On the other hand, Emulator B is better playing Metroid than Emulator A. Well Emulator B will be the one that is launched with that particular rom. To the player, it will never be known which emulator is running because each game will be ran in full screen mode from the dashboard. Cool right? Seamless.

The game list will stay as current as possible with feedback from players throughout the world who are actively testing the roms on different emulators. With this type of fan base that will running these emulators, I would think that some of the projects would become active again to make FIGHTWARE it’s number one choice in emulation. I know I would.

As time goes on, there will be obvious emulators that just don’t keep up with the rest and if it doesn’t hurt the cause of “purest emulation” it’ll be dropped to make way for one that is succeeding. But if it does everything wrong except for running the closest equivalent of Earthbound on the Super NES, you better believe it’ll stay.

By using every angle from multiple emulators to different types of roms for one particular game, it will allow the player to experience the closest possible emulation of the game. Which is the whole idea of course.

apps

Everyone loves apps. All kinds of apps and FIGHTWARE will be no different. Apps can range from the very simple like a Twitter app to monstrosities such as a web browser or email client. Things like this are huge suckers on computing power and is sort of out of the scope of FIGHTWARE in general, but the possibility to have an “App Store” available for players to download content over the internet will give it more than just a gaming console. We are already seeing this with the XBox 360 allowing people to download movies, Netflick, Pandora, and others to make it more than just a gaming machine. It would be possible but probably would not be preinstalled on a basic system.

Every app in the “App Store” would be tied to a special FIGHTWARE ONLY! repository. For those who don’t know, a repository or repo, is a sever that has software up for download for a particular Linux distro. Ubuntu, Red Hat, and Suse all have different repos for their systems. By having a FIGHTWARE ONLY! repo will allow testers to test the app before releasing it to the general public. This helps keep down system crashing and virus or malware products. JoliCloud OS, a Linux netbook distro, uses something very similar and works like a dream.

The next part of FIGHTWARE will be based on “extras”. Stay tuned.

FIGHTWARE–The Ultimate Gaming System–Part 2

hardware

All right, let’s get down to the nuts and bolts of the machine. The idea here is to be slick and tiny. The motherboard, ideally, would be a mini-itx. They are small, cheap, and full of power. Preferably one with HDMI or RCA out. That way you could hook it up to a normal T.V. and play off your couch. USB ports on the front and back, built in Wi-Fi or Ethernet port (would be nice more on this later), fans and all that jazz. Hard drive would be a flash HDD. Less moving parts means less things to go wrong. Anything from a 4 GB to 1 TB would be more than enough to support the actual software running the system and space for games, DLC, etc. Built in Bluetooth would also be a plus for more choices of game pads to use or even your mobile phone. Cool idea right? I’m full of them.

Now that is a sexy piece of hardware.

The case itself again would be slick enough to put next to your DVR or your DVD player or even your other consoles. Then the normally stuff like a power button, reset button, USB ports on the front for controllers (4 for multi-tap play) and a DVD drive for games, updates, etc (More on this later).

Now, ideally, everyone could purchase the same unit so everyone has the same type of hardware. But, more or less, people want their machines to do different things. The average gamer probably won’t need 1 TB of space. I mean, that’s a ton of space. The software of FIGHTWARE can be placed on basically anything. The software portion will cover this more, but FIGHTWARE should be able to run on the minimal of hardware of any kind.

controllers

Ah, controllers. There are so many to choose from. And you can choose which ever one you’d want! By placing 4 USB ports on the front of the box will allow up to USB gamepads for 4 player action. Or with the built in Bluetooth adapter, it’s possible to use even wireless controllers with the same capability or even your mobile phone!

I chose you!

There have been great advances in pc gaming with Linux. There are even libraries that will allow you to use your Nintendo Wii Remote to controller your mouse. You can’t tell me that someone wouldn’t be able to mash this over to a gamepad for Duck Hunt, Time Crisis, or House of the Dead. Don’t you tell me that! Because it is possible.

Another great thing with Linux, is it’s able to name every bit of hardware that is plugged into it even if it has no idea what to do with it or what it’s suppose to do. Let’s say you plug in a Retro NES USB controller. Now FIGHTWARE has no idea what this is. Linux is able to at least name it something that’s legible such as “NES USB controller”. With that, it’s just a simple script to run and try to figure out what the hell it is. For instance, the NES controller has 4 face buttons and an 8-way directional pad. That’s 12 total buttons. Everyone of those buttons has a name as well such as Button 1, Button 2, Button 3, etc. Every emulator has a “map controller” feature to allow the program to assign what each button will represent on an actually NES controller. The script would do the same thing, save it in a text file somewhere that way when another emulator needs it to map the controller to the system it’s emulating, it’s just a small load away. On top of that, this text file can be uploaded to a main server and the next time that a player somewhere else plugs in the same controller, the user won’t have to map it again. Just select it from a drop down menu or list. Done and done.

online? not online?

You crazy kids and your online gaming. When I was a hardcore gamer, we spent weeks, saving up our allowances, finishing up homework, and begging parents to allow me and 3 of my friends to hang out on a Friday night, rent Goldeneye 007 for the Nintendo 64 to toss proximity mines all around and sit in a corner while my friends would  look for me only to kill themselves. Well, that wasn’t me actually it was another friend of mine but still!

Online gaming has defiantly taken a crazy leap forward with games such as Halo, Madden Football, and Call of Duty. I have also taken part in these crazy marathons and it’s hard not to consider a system that isn’t online.

As I have already stated (or will state. I’ve lost track already) most of these emulators have Netplay. Basically Netplay allows you to play 2 or 3 or 4 player video games online with friends or foes. With the invention of TeamSpeak, a software that allows you to chat with others, it would be a simple switch to set up an online game through the emulator, create a chat room in TeamSpeak and be able to play and chat with the players.

I’m not too big of a hardware guy so other than the above, I don’t have much to add. Hardware’s boring.

The next installment will focus on the software. Oh yeah.

FIGHTWARE – The Ultimate Gaming System–Part 1

what is FIGHTWARE

FIGHTWARE is an idea that can create the ultimate gaming experience in emulation. It combines the love of retro gaming with the computing power of today to allow the player to replicate the gaming experience of conventional consoles in a all-in-one tight, cute little package.

Basically it’s a computer. Just like all modern consoles, it will consist of a motherboard, hard drive disk, controllers, etc. But the beauty of FIGHTWARE is to strive to feel exactly like you are playing on the actual console with real controllers rather than on a computer keyboard. With today’s technology in emulation, anything is possible.

why “FIGHTWARE”

A name is just a name. Actually, my original name for this console was “Agent Orange”. I just thought it was a sweet ass name. Could call it AO for short. But after some serious thinking, and realizing that it might upset some people, I decided on FIGHTWARE. It has a better ring to it than AO does. When you ask someone what they’re doing  they would say something like “I’m playing Xbox” or “I’m playing Playstation”. I’m playing “Agent Orange” doesn’t really sound good. I’m playing FIGHTWARE sounds way better. Then again it might just be me. I can go either way.

is FIGHTWARE legal?

Short answer, No. According to the law of copyright, you are allowed to have one soft copy (in this case a rom) if you own the hard copy that you’ve legally paid for. This is an old law and more often then not, this is also against the law. The main purpose of FIGHTWARE is to play through emulation, but there can be so much more you can do with the system which will be outlined in later installments. So no, it’s not legal. With that in mind, let’s continue shall we?

origins

FIGHTWARE was created out of my lonely days of trying to mod my original X-Box console. The idea that I could put emulators and roms on the system and play them without having to blow into cartridge slots, wiping smuggie discs on my white tee, or placing a Coke can on top of the console to play got my heart pumping. A modded X-Box. It was heaven to a retro gamer like me.

But… talk about a pain in the ass to get working. You need the correct game to load the installer, a Memory Card with the files on it. Just getting the files over to the memory card was a pain. Or you could get an Action Replay which is fine, back then, but now finding one is almost impossible. Most people at game stores have no idea that an Action Replay was made for the original Xbox. Then I get those dumb looks and crazy questions of “Why? Original Xbox? Just buy a 360.” I don’t want a 360. I want to mod my Xbox. Back off nerd so lame that even I wouldn’t talk to you on the street!

And updating the system or adding anything new was a pain as well. You had to connect a patch network cable to your computer, run a certain kind of FTP software because NO OTHER FTP PROGRAM WOULD WORK CORRECTLY!!! make sure that HDD was “unlocked” and that the system defaults were set to even be able to connect to your computer. Pain in the ass!

So you might be thinking “Well, I mean yeah it’s a pain, but it’s got to be easier than creating your own custom console.” And to that, I would say you are correct. At least in part. The hardest part of this whole idea of FIGHTWARE is the beginning stages. Getting everything together, connecting hardware, making sure everything works correctly. But after that’s all good, it’s a simple plug and play concept for everything else. And you will be much happier to use an original NES controller to play those roms rather than the bulky X-Box controller. Even the S version doesn’t feel well to the hands. Plus you wouldn’t be restricted to out-dated hardware to make things happen. Still with me?

The next installment for FIGHTWARE will be about the hardware.