Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Job Abandonment

Going to be brief on this, mostly because it has me worked up enough to babble but not enough to really rant fully on. I really don't get why folks would want to abandon their job, and at least not do the right thing and at the very least email someone (HR, their boss, a friend in the company) that they are leaving.

By leaving with no notice, and leaving clues that folks have to figure out the person that is hurt the most in the end is really yourself. Friends you had can be put off that you just left, past employers wouldn't re-hire you or give out a good reference to a new job. When a new employer checks with HR at the old job, they'll find out you were terminated for job abandonment, and may pass over hiring you.

It definitely feels like to me that it must be a personality thing or something. Guess it's one of those neurosis I can be glad I don't have.

Friday, April 25, 2008

The problem with DRM

Okay, there is no one "problem with DRM", besides that it is DRM. The problem with DRM is that the way it exists is really worthless.

Let's take an example of a system that I think is awesome, but flawed - Amazon Unbox. The biggest issue with DRM is that it cannot handle exceptions that happen in real life. I personally have an unbox account, and I had it linked to a system where the HD is now longer viable, I cannot load the operating system such to "uninstall" my copy of unbox and release the license. Thus I have content that I cannot use on one of my allowed machines, because that machine is no longer viable.

The second is the thought of $1.99 for broadcast shows. Why in the world has no-one thought about adding in-show adds to these, and requiring you to re-download new adds every number of views to continue watching the shows? I mean, it's a great concept to be able to get the ultimate "on demand" for shows you like, but I'm not going to honestly pay $1.99 to watch something I can DVR technically for "free". If I really wanted to watch that old episode of Babylon 5, for example, I'd rather just buy the DVD and not have to deal with download DRM in the mix.

At some point the content providers need to find a better way to provide their content to bring about new revenue models, instead of trying to shove unproven and ineffective ways to bring folks to content down the consumers throat, while having the old models be painless and relatively simple to keep using.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Game Saves

Back when I first got my NES, Zelda had a battery in it, so you could save your game as you went through the adventure classic (somehow I never really have felt that the Legend of Zelda was a RPG). Since those early games, the concept of game saves has been important. Up until the release of theSegaCD, game data was saved on the cartridge itself. If you rented a game from the video store, you lost all your saves when you returned it. Also with age you run into the issue that you loose your save games when the battery eventually dies. With the SegaCD, internal storage appeared: This is great for the rental concept, but horrid for the worst case scenario that your system dies and you have to replace/repair it. Luckily my original SegaCD and Saturn both are still in great working condition!

The PS1, N64, DreamCast PS2, and GameCube all had the concept of memory cartridges. These are neat because you can manage your saves individually. The Dreamcast actually made your VMU into it's own gaming peripheral, allowing for mini-games on the device. While cool, these were typically expensive propositions that were an additional charge you had to get when buying the system. Yeah, the Dreamcast was a low $99 at one point, but you had to get a $20 VMU and a $50 game just to do anything with the system!

In today's generation storage is by default again on an internal platform. For the Wii this is much like it was for the Saturn of old - an internal flash drive. Enough storage for a few things, but not for extra content. The PS3 and the 360 both use the internal storage for gaming and multimedia as well as game saves, and add an extra bit of goodness called DRM (or Digital Rights Management). This means that your save game cannot be used by someone else that logs into your system, and vice versa. Now not only if your system's hard drive dies do you perhaps loose your saves (and purchased games!), but you cannot use your game saves as you wish with your friends per se. With the 360 there is a bit of reason for this, as there is an "achievement score" that could be "fluffed" by sharing game saves that had certain achievements either easily in grasp or completed for you. That said, is my gamerscore my "fun-o-meter"?

I'm wondering if there is a holy grail of game saves, and if there is if we'll ever see it? Ideally what I'd love to see is that DRM goes away on game consoles, and the USB ports on these systems are allowed to be used for copying of game saves. Although I'd assume that it's mostly a pipe dream.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Arcade Perfect

The Sega Saturn was released on "Saturnday" - May 11, 1995 - in the United States. The system was arguably the most powerful of the 32-bit generation. The sad thing is that this machine literally produced "Arcade Perfect" representations of some of the hottest games on the market, but in many respects was a complete failure. Personally I think Sega bought into the hype that everything had to be 3D, and allowed the system to get bogged down into a type of gaming that just couldn't be matched on the hardware. It was Sega's "Strike 2", after the failed genesis add-on "32x" was canceled quickly after release amid a torrent of bad hardware and limited software releases. Even with the release of what I consider, as well as many others, the best software for the system, Sega canceled the Saturn in 1998. Games such as Panzer Dragoon Saga, which I actually happen to have played at one point and I'm almost sorry I sold, showed the versatility of the system.

To me, the Saturn is one of those systems that wasn't given a fair enough chance to survive in the US. Panzer Dragoon Saga was technically released after the system was canceled in the US, and as such saw a very limited run. The various Capcom games that were released as "Arcade Perfect" in Japan never saw the light of day in the US at all. It's really a shame that it's considered a bad console, as it had a lot to offer. By all accounts it was a difficult system to program for, but the quality games that were made definitely were silky smooth on the system.

I finally found all my old games for the Saturn over the weekend, and got a chance to reconnect with "Bust a Move 2", "Marvel Superheros", "1942" and I attempted to get "Marvel vs StreetFighter" working, but it looks like my 4-in-1 cart needs to be replaced.

It's just an amazing system, with games that many never will know how good they ran in a home console, or how impressive it was to get that kind of system in the home.

Friday, April 11, 2008


The Sega Dreamcast was released on September 9, 1999. Sadly, this is a system I didn't get "Fully Involved" in until Phantasy Star Online was released in 2000. Shortly thereafter the system was canceled, and much like my Saturn collection, I picked things up on the secondary market.

Games like Sonic Adventure, NFL 2k, and PSO made this a great console that died well before it's time. To me the Dreamcast is much like the Wii, only it didn't have a gimick to help keep it afloat. The Dreamcast was very underpowered in comparision to the PS2 or GameCube. And with their partner for the project getting fully into the console scene with the XBOX, 4 consoles on the market was just too much for Sega to bear.

Also, issues arose with the copy protection on the box, and it was found out that every model produced could run non-signed games with relative ease. This was a big problem because of piracy, but it was also a major boon to the emulation and homebrew scene. Site such as DCEMU got their start as being a resource to learn about how to create and publish non-signed Dreamcast games.

Last night I finally decided to pull out ye' ole Dreamcast and fire it up. At first I tried out my copy of Daytona USA Championship Circuit. I will tell you that the feel for this game is non-existant: Basically even with the rumble pack in the unit, you cannot "feel" the games mechanics while driving. I only had a chance to play one other game before packing the unit up for the night, so I chose Marvel vs Capcom 2. Boy I've forgotten how much I miss those 2D fighters from Capcom. I happen to have a Saturn to Dreamcast controller adpater, so I used my Saturn arcade stick. The game was silky smooth and fun to play, but I'm going to have to find my import copy of Marvel vs Capcom for the Saturn and try it out soon enough to compare it for gameplay feel. For some reason it almost felt too smooth, and I still had a feeling of disconnect with the system.

Even with only the RGB inputs, the graphics were definitely nice. I tried out the VGA adapter that I have, but my TV wouldn't accept the video mode that the system was trying to use. Once I find more of my games, most of them are boxed up since we're hopefully moving in the near future, I'll have to get an S-Video cable and try out the system with that as well.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Camera Angles

It's been over 10 years since the advent of 3-dimensional gaming. Games like Tomb Raider "redefined gaming" back in the day. Since those times the concept of the camera angle has plagued me. I personally hated "Tomb Raider", because I could never get the camera where I felt that I had a good view of the obstacle and could work with it. These games were early in the genre of 3D gaming, so a little bit of that has to be allowed. Some experiments work, some do not.

Now that it's 2008, I would expect that "modern" games would have been able to take what works, and make it work better. But it seems that most of the games lately that I really enjoy end up being plauged by the "camera angle" monster. Games like Lego Star Wars - one of my current favorite games to play - is horrific with it. In Co-Op it can become frustrating enough to make you not want to play anymore at times, when you get locked in an area because your partner and you are running in opposite directions. Crackdown is a lot of fun, but every so often the camera moves to an impossible angle and trying to jump, move the camera, and position your guy so he lands on a 2" wide pipe so you can get through a rooftop race is.. frustrating (not to mention requires you to use extra appendages somehow).

In years before the birth of "3D gaming", the camera angle was generally fixed - you had top scrolling and side scrolling, or top down, or mostly top down views of the field, and they were relatively static. Sometimes the angle kinda sucked, but it was what it was, and you dealt with it. Now you have a roving camera that is following you, it dynamically changes what the field of vision looks like and how you are looking at an obstacle while you are trying to get around it. Sometimes just being "too close" to the focal point can make the rest of the field almost obscured to the player. Star Trek Legacy is plagued by this issue.

It seems that the 2D games came out of infancy rather quickly, and had AAA titles to the point where they were cliche. 3D games are still trying to find the camera angle to properly view what a AAA title can really be.