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O' 360, How I missed you!
O how I've missed your sleek bone-white case, your silver highlights, and your sleek controller. Your lights may have flashed, you may have broken down on me, gave me the silent treatment, even cost me money to get you back, but I'm ready to welcome you back into my life..
Well it was only a matter of time, but the other week my Xbox 360 flashed it's red lights in protest, and decided it was going to go silent on me. Basically no sound, no audio, and no fun. Unfortunately for me, it wasn't the full 'red ring treatment', and as the console was beyond the 12 month period - so no free fix for me. After a very very painful call to the Microsoft Support Centre (please, do you know how painful those American accent Phillipinos are to deal with?!)..I found out it would cost $130 to have it repaired. A lovely hole in the repair process that doesn't get much coverage - unless it's red ring, it's user pays sucker! Well, unfortunately, it's a bit of a case of $130 or no working console, the former seemed slightly more attractive.
I do have to give credit for Microsoft taking just over one week to get the console back to me, once placed, and postage was free. But during that time it was a long wait of no high-res gaming. I also realised how useful the 360 can prove to be, when wanting to play a CD or DVD without firing up up the HTPC.
While I've now got my repaired console back, to be honest, I very much doubt it will remain trouble-free beyond the next 6 months.. and no doubt it will be taking another little journey soon enough. Sadly, I hope it's the red rings this time, as at least that is free. The option of buying a new, non-broken designed Arcade machine probably seems more appealing. Or maybe it's time to spend the money on a Playstation 3 instead. Cop that Microsoft! I bet you I'm not the only one.
This is your last chance Miss Console. Next time though, you may be not be so lucky!
June game sales
Worth a signup..
Can download some vouchers to get discounts at any EB Games before anybody else.
Think I'll pick myself up some Gears, maybe even some Ghost Recon 2
Why the Playstation 3 costs so much here..
So, looks like Harvey Norman and other retails demanding reasonable profits are the reason why the PS3 is $999 here, and it's around $700 elsewhere in the world...
I guess it's fair to allow retailers to make a profit selling a console (or why sell it at all).. but in the end this effects consumer sentiment and perception here in Australia. Previously, retailers were prepared to take a hit to sell the console at near cost, and hopefully make it up in game sales. Obviously this approach has not worked in the past for the major retailers and they are reticent to do this for the current crop of consoles.
Firefox, you've crashed me one too many times...
Well after watching Firefox crash for the nth time today, that's it.. I'm dumping you officially! Opera Browser here we come!
I've become increasingly sick of firefox just appearing to hang randomly, then suddenly loading the page up to 10 seconds later, the average memory use hovering around 80mb - even with only 2 windows open. Even up to 200mb in some cases! On a machine even with 1.2gb of memory, that's nearly 1/5 of total physical memory. For something as mundane as a web browser, that's too much.
IE7 isn't fantastic (it's not bad), as above Firefox 2.x seems as buggy as ever, which leaves nice compact, Opera 9.2. I did have a quick play with Avant browser, which also is quite nice - but for all round use, and a more established browser, Opera fits the bill.
Opera 9's overall speed at rendering a page, and much lower memory useage at around 30-60mb is one of the main reasons for the switch. Lets hope the stablility is better too.
With some defence to Firefox, I believe it is a lot of the java, flash, PDF, and other plugins it needs to render the average website these days - and these are the items are not reliable. But still, the end result is the same, a memory hog that gets to a certain point, and just gives up the ghost.
I'll still be testing the site primarily against Firefox 2, and IE7, with less reliance on IE6 over time , but for now, Opera will be my browser of choice for day to day browsing.
This is... boring
At $999AUD, the console went on sale here at several hundred dollars higher than the US and Japan. Speaking to most people, this is the key kicker than is stopping nearly everybody purchasing a PS3. At $600 it's not a spontaneous purchase, but a doable one. However $999 is simply another ballpark - some 2 months of expendable income for some people, assuming you have $100 a week to blow on things such as a game console - and then about $110 per game.
Well now it's Feburary..
It's been a while since I've had much time to spend on the site, unfortunately due to very sad recent events. After my holidays down to Melbourne at Christmas time, it was only a couple of short weeks after that I had to fly back down there.
On Tuesday, January 30th, my mum passed away from Acute T-cell Lyphocytic Leukemia (T-ALL). She was 62. It's a pretty virulent disease, and unfortunately she had the worst type where there is no real treatment. From when she was diagnosed, to when she eventually died was only 9 short months. We were hoping for a miracle, however unfortunately she went down hill very quickly in the end. It's hard to imagine it could pretty much happen to anybody, no matter what age.
If you are feeling generous, and want to do something to help - feel free to make a donation to the Leukemia Foundation Australia. You can do it all online - even if it's only $10 or $20, added up, it can make a difference. One day it may well be your own life you're helping to save..
Anyhow, on that sad note, and a bit of time-out from the site.. I am back to work. Hard work on the all new and improved Sliced V.2 will start soon, which will be launched during year.
Things have been set back a little bit, but with some experimentation in December, we all pretty much know which sort of direction we wish to head - which makes the process much easier.
Well I've put of a bit of a Christmas theme onto the site, as you can probably tell :-p 'Tis the time to be jolly and all of that for that week or two.
Speaking of the all important sales for the Christmas period - reports are being reported all around of Wii shortages (why does it always sound a bit like you're a scottsman whenever you mention something 'Wii' related...) in most parts of Australia.
Looks like Nintendo hasn't been able to fully meet the demand - as seems to be the case with every major console release these days! So they're shooting themselves a little in the foot, and possibly even driving a few bored gamers into purchasing an Xbox 360 instead.
Hopefully things pick up next year, as I will probably pick myself up one in February or so -- when a few more games will be available as well.
Otherwise, not much happening around here.. Playing Tomb Raider on 360, and a bit more of Tony Hawk Project 8 as things wind down for the year. The 360 really kicks some ass when good games are written specifically for it - Tomb Raider Legends a great example.
This video over at Channel 9 forums (no not the TV station) is definitely worth the download if you're a bit of a semi-programming geek like me. It shows how Microsoft's homebrew software development kit in action, which will soon be released.
It looks very easy to use (the interface that is, not necessarily the coding) and with it budding developers will be able to create working games within a fairly short period of time without the massive costs of a full development machine. As you can see it supports most of the 360 features, and the games will able to output up to 1080p resolution.
Anyhow, the video speaks for itself. It's quite long at around 45mins and 350mb download, but well worth it if you're curious.
I think we're definitely going to see this take off in the coming 12-24 months on the 360, and is a unique feature that none of the next-gen consoles currently offers. As the video talks about, to start with I think things may be a bit restricted in how the games can be distributed - but if the demand is there, Microsoft may well open up the capability to download binaries to say an external USB key.
The games we may see may not be as complex as some of the games you are used to, but if the right ideas are there, definitely the interface is available to put out some crisp graphics by the looks of things.
I don't really know C#, but the structure isn't meant to be that far removed from PHP5 (which I use to code this site and others), so I may check it out myself some time. Even if it's just outputting a few photos to the screen, and that's about it, it's satisfying knowing you can do it yourself.
'tis easy to get sucked into the hype
An interesting one over at the fellow game blogging site Joystiq... A comparison between the graphics quality of the PS3 game Motorstorm shown during the E3 2005 event, and the actual quality that appeared in the release version...
Just goes to show you can't always believe what you see online. What can go from "wow, that's nothing like you can get on anything today", to simply "hmm, that's pretty nice". While deceptive advertising is obviously easy to prove in printed form, pre-release videos are clearly not subject to the same rules - and many companies seem to exploit this.
Even though I don't dismiss the Playstation3 for what it is, and of course will buy one when I can.. so far from what I have seen there hasn't been too much that has put it any further ahead of the Xbox360 in terms of the graphical processing. Really, at the end of the day, it still comes back down to the games.
Lets crash-test a Wii
I don't think there hasn't been a website somewhere out there that hasn't tried to cash in by bashing up a new games console.. but hey, what the heck, may as well link to another, this one up on 1UP.. It may give you a few minutes of laughs as they put the system through it's paces in some durability tests.
It's not quite up there with the old Youtube video of somebody trying to destroy a Gamecube by dragging it behind a truck. Surprisingly it did take a fair bit of punishment, and even worked the first run, before they totally stomped on it. You can always look that up if you haven't seen it already.
It's web 2.0 baby
Gamer attempts to play Wii non-stop for a week
Yes, of course there had to be one nutcase after the launch, but good for a laugh..
Jump across to Yoshi's Madness, where you can watch him play Wii continuously for a week, with only 4 hour breaks for sleep.
Unfortunately the guy has been battling a couple of black-outs at his home, which has been a bit of a problem, but he's still battling on.
Geez, seems like Sony bashing is the latest cool thing.. but it's a little hard not too, when most of the news is negative.
An interesting post up on Digg regarding glitches in Ridge Racer 7. Nothing too solid yet, but some of the other posts in there are just indicative of people quite ready to dismiss Sony. The issue could be minor, could be due to dodgy RAM in that particular console, or a heat issue - but still a concern never the less- and just not good publicity early on.
Some of the multiplatform games that have been released on PS3, also appear to suffer a few slowdown problems by all reports in Tony Hawk Project 8, and Call of Duty 3, which don't seem to be affecting the Xbox 360 versions.
In fact IGN, and Gamespot seem to be regarding many of the 360 versions a bit better than the PS3 versions, with NHL 2k7 and Marvel Alliance receiving more favourable comments.
Small problems often plague a few titles at a system's launch, lets hope it's only a few isolated examples.
Larger TEXT - Big is *IN*
Back when the original Gamebiz (which pretty much became the Sliced Gaming look) appeared, small fonts, and fitting as much onto a page was the norm. Now things have moved a bit away from that, and simplicity, and ease of use, and ease of visibility is the key.
I haven't had much of a chance to get on the new design lately (which will incorporate a whole new approach to the site, not just the look), but this will be one of the design goals to be integrated into the site.
I'm a bit of a perfectionist, so if I don't think the new site will be leading edge enough, I won't be motivated enough to go through with it. So at the moment, just waiting for all our thoughts to come together, and gather the momentum to push me forward. Once that happens, it shouldn't take too long until it's done.
But as to when that process starts? it's still a few weeks off I think.
Liksang, obviously selling games, consoles and accessories into other territories that Sony does not wish to sell into directly -- has raised the ire of Sony over the years (although admittedly not the only one).. and finally had to gave into lawsuits. The reason is blunt. By offering games, consoles, and accessories to anybody who wanted to wait a little longer, or across language barriers, Lik-Sang gave direct access to titles and items that were not sold directly by companies such as Sony in certain regions (either at release, or often ever).
However, obviously this has disrupted the usual worldwide staggered release schedule of some of the larger companies, missed titles, greatly varied costs, and other issues that gamers in many smaller regions have had to deal with. Australia case in point.
It also seems not-uncanny timing - possibly a move to nip the sale of the Playstation3 console worldwide other than the 'official' Sony releases? increasing their profit margins, and to stop people importing the PS3 in mass numbers. No wonder, looking at the price of the Japanese PS3 compared to that of the other territories. It's not $100, it's several hundred dollars difference between say Australia and Japan, with no plans to offer a lower price anytime soon.
It is true Lik-Sang does not have the best history themselves, having several years ago being temporarily closed down due to selling products which clearly allowed the circumnavigation of copyrights worldwide. However, times have changed, and it has been for several years that Lik-Sang has offered only legitimate official products, and legitimate accessories worldwide, to anybody who wished to pay to import them if they were not sold locally.
To me, a sad day in world corporate politics, and not a good move by Sony really at this point in time. While true, maybe Liksang flouted things which cost the manufacturers a few dollars, at the end of the day they were only providing what the companies themselves did not want to give consumers - choice, lower prices, and variety in their chosen country with their gaming. This benefitted the gamer, and at the end of the day, to me, a dollar is a dollar in Sony's pockets. Whether it comes from Japan, or a Japanese title bought in Japan and sold overseas for instance.
The world relies on free trade to give the end consumer what they want, at the time they want, and prices that are fair - not those dictated by a multi-national conglomerate. Bullying those that do not agree, out of existance, is really a cowardly way to exert control on everything.
p.s. your PS3 commercials are really really terrible..
I've been pretty lowkey on Sliced lately, as I've been busy moving places.. Now I'm about a minute's walk from the beach which has been pretty awesome.
Have been flat out during my day job as well, working on a major project, so haven't unfortunately had much time to spend on the site.
Still awaiting broadband to be connected at home, as also lacking net at the moment at home, which makes it hard to update the site, and post news and things.
Hopefully can get back into it in a few days!
First Playstation 3 commercial - What are they thinking?
I was expecting to see some sort of exciting gameplay footage in that 3 minutes and 20 seconds, you know, extolling the virtues of the PS3 and the next generation graphics - showing things that actually excite people.
Instead what do we see? we see a bland looking guy getting up in the morning, walking down to the gym to do some boxing. Over the top of this we have a rather boring voice stating "life is all about reacting to the environment", "interpreting movements", and catch cry's such as this. Pretty next generation, pretty exciting.. riiiiiiight...
But what the hell is this actually telling anybody? How does this actually make them excited about the prospect of the PS3 ? Yes, we know gaming has evolved, yes, games do use A.I., and react to the player, and they have done for years now - and no longer are we at the first generation of this even on the console format. Yes, it is an important part of gaming. But it's hardly revolutionary or that evolutionary idea with anybody that has sat down and played any recent PC title over the last 5 years. Nor will seasoned gamers not know the importance of this for one second.
There was no explosive punch in the face to appeal to younger gamers (by which I mean 15-30), no razz, no new styles of gaming shown, but a rather dry and boring commercial which just doesn't get the mind racing. I would have thought the job of the lead-up camapign was to get people really hyped up, excited, peeing their pants and falling over themselves to nearly spend $1000 on a games console. Yet, this clearly doesn't.
At the end we see about 10 seconds of actual gameplay footage, none of which on its own sets what the PS3 can do above that of say the Xbox 360, the average PC, or even current gen in some ways.
While apparently this is to be the just the first in a series of 5 commercials, Sony is going to have to do something more interesting than this to capture the interest of the general public. Amaze them, throw them back in the seat, don't try and preach a damn documentary to them about how exciting the PS3 is.. Actions speak a thousand words. Show them Sony!
Just as an aside: you will probably note at the end, the ad is for Europe, where the release has been delayed into next March like Australia.
Playstation 3 disappointment
It's not really outside usual console release pattern, seeing as a console's release nearly always follows 6-12 month after the Japanese and/or US markets - but disappointing never the less.
Time to buy an Xbox 360, and a Wii in the meantime, and quite a few gamers will be doing the same I have a feeling.
On the positive side, it just allows further quality titles to be available at launch time, but another 4 months is a fair bit longer to wait, and Sony miss out on the large-selling Christmas period.
Blu-Ray and Sting-Ray
Today we also lament the death of Steve Irwin - a Queenslander who moved from Melbourne in his earlier life. Even though he was a bit of an idiot at times, it seems he embodied a lot of the Australian spirit of having no fear, and did a lot for tourism overseas and animal welfare. Death by Sting-Ray (not blu-ray!), not the most glorious way to go! Crikey! He's gone.
UT2007 video looks hot
It looks like UT2007 a lot more of the same sort of thing, except it appears the emphasis this time around is further placed on vehicles, and cool items such as players zooming around on hoverboards.
Just in case you missed here, here is a link to our UT2007 news which talks about the video.
Xbox 360 video camera released early
Further news here on joystiq.com
Reading up on it recently, the camera looks like it will offer a lot of the fun Eye-Toy functionality seen in the Playstation 2, and then some. Not strange, as after all - it has been licensed from the same company that developed the original technology. It should also prove a killer feature on XBL, offering a powerful video phone system, and a great way to see other gamers face to face.
Then there is the gaming potential... apparently a few developers have been playing around with things such as waving a plastic sword and things in front of the camera, and the in-game character swinging the sword in the same way. Obviously such plastic swords (or guns, or tennis raquets, or ...) could be manufactured for next to no cost due to the joys of Chinese manufacturing, and bundled with the game at not much further cost.
In many ways it appears to offer what the Wii can, and then some, not restricted to a 'controller' as such. We'll see if it ever eventuates that way, and whether the technology allows it to full effect, but it would be damn fun wouldn't it...
Leipzig .. Yawn
Last night worked on some of what will become Sliced Gaming v.2. It's going to have more of a modern minimalist approach, in the more modern blog-style css friendly which is spreading rapidly across nearly all sites.
I've got all the header, and outer borders, etc sus'ed, it's just getting down now to the nitty gritty of how to improve and modernise the front page center content. So how the news appears, how we present the latest feature articles, and things such as that - which will appeal to the "average" reader. Jump across to the forum topic on the sliced gaming redesign and read further thoughts in there, and feel free to submit your own.
People sometimes don't realise the work that goes into building a website properly. There is the initial design laid out in Photoshop, which can take 10 hours sometimes just mucking around, throwing stuff out - deciding on what does work (the stage I'm at with the design now). Then it's onto the flat HTML and the CSS which can take a few hours on its own to get it right in all browsers. Then there is the programming itself, or changes to the programming, which can many hours again.
Also working on my own site, as want to target a bit of my own work as a web development / design company to get some further money on the side. The design for this is also coming along nicely, and have so far put a heap of hours into that, and some thoughts on what I want to do there.
In a way rediscovering the essence of what makes a great website, creativity.. looking at other sites, feeding off ideas, and incorporating into something hopefully which isn't just the same formula.
Leipzig Game Conference awaits..
Let's hope it answers a few questions floating out there. It looks like the gaming press is awaiting some big news, but I have a feeling not everything will be revealed. It's funny how such a smaller event can attach so much attention, with Nintendo saying they are going to make a major presentation. No doubt, if there is any negative press it will soon flow through to the opinion of the Wii out there, which (so far) seems relatively positive.
The event starts tomorrow, and we'll obviously be keeping an eye on any interesting news as it comes to hand..
Staff Blogs Launched
In case the reader hasn't gathered by now, I do all of the web development on the site, and have been since the days of the former Gamebiz. I write when able, however there is only so many hours I can spend on things - so often here I am relying on other writers to take some of this load off. And they do a great job, because without it, the site would just be in a way my own personal gaming blog.
So why do I do it? All this hard work for pretty much no money..
Really, I think the main reason is just the challenge, and to be able to do something constructive combining two interests of mine - web development, which I now do as my 'day job', and gaming, which I've been doing since I was a kid really (and I'm not young). Actually having a site that means something makes things easier to go forth and create, and there are just so many ideas and opportunities to create the sort of things you see on other sites - but to do it your own way.
There are a lot of gaming sites out there, true, and it is a very competitive market to be successful at, when there are the likes of IGN, Gamespot, and the like where it seems everybody seems to visit (even our own staff). I'm definitely biased, but those sites I don't think are really that much chop these days. Lots of flashy media, but not much actually quality and impartial content. Reading recently, it seems the writers there are very detached from the end-gamer out there, almost looking down at them. And why wouldn't they be? It's their job, no matter how fun it seems, when things have to be done, often the enthusiasm isn't quite the same day in day out. So this is why, even though these sites will always exist for a certain market, there will always be readers out there who wish to find a more unique perspective. And this is where Sliced Gaming (we hope) comes in, and can come in further in future to continue this niche, along with the other hundreds of more independent sites out there that do so.
So why 100% custom PHP code? Doesn't that take a lot of time to program?
Back in the day, working out what to do with Gamebiz it was maybe tempting just to slap up a pre-defined content management system (as do must other more amateur sites), such as PHP-Nuke, which was all the rage back then (and maybe still is?)... but I really wanted to create things in my way, and not be bound down with the restrictions of these packages written to be an all-round tool for any sort of website - which I think actually ends up being a weakness. So I build a mysql database to house what I thought was needed, and then the PHP code to pull out and display that information in an easy-to-use fashion. Back then I was still largely getting into PHP programming, so it was a learning curve to start with - but now it's become easier and easier to do, so it just comes down to "what do I want to add to the site", and just be able to go forth and add it without too much thinking of how to do it.
This blog system is a great example. It wasn't difficult at all to integrate it into the site's structure as is, without moving everything totally around. Putting some thought into the initial design of the site, and how it was structured (code wise, as well as design wise), really has allowed the site to evolve a fair amount without hitting any major development hurdles. Lot's of things were moved about in "Gamebiz v.2" to allow a broad road forward, and again, in the next major revision (possibly towards the end of the year), further areas will be able to be added much more easily.
So there is just a little about me as developer, and why I'm still doing this some 4 years on. For me I guess, in my blog, you'll probably find a bit of general rabbiting on the site itself, and also some thoughts of gaming when I have time. Although to be honest, I just don't have that much time to spend gaming all night. I guess that's just part of growing old. Then again, I feel that would be another blog entry...
Wii games pricing
There is nothing illegal about importing games directly from overseas, and in fact now with the US-Australian free trade agreement, the taxes on importing your games this way are very small.
If it doesn't seem fair to the console manufacturer's selling their consoles locally, you only have to ask - is it fair to charge the Australian consumer so much more then for the games?