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Review: SingStar Guitar

October 20, 2010 Leave a comment

This is a re-print of an article originally posted on another site, included here so that the blog is a complete repository of my written work. The article is reproduced without pagination, formatting, images or editorial changes made on the original site prior to original publication.

I know what you’re thinking. When SingStar Guitar arrived, I was thinking the same thing. We have Guitar Hero and Rock Band in a billion incarnations, is there really any need for this? How can SingStar Guitar possibly compete with an existing line-up of thousands of songs, full instrument sets and the impending release of what will likely be the all-conquering music game of all-time with 17 fret guitars and MIDI keyboards that is Rock Band 3.

SingStar Guitar

SingStar Guitar (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The answer is, SingStar Guitar is aimed at a different market, and I was shocked and dismayed to discover that the game is really rather fun.

The gameplay is the familiar highway that you would expect, with the chaff stripped out: there is no star power, no multiplier and only three difficulty levels (using 3, 4 and 5 of the buttons respectively). The presentation is very clean and SingStar-like and I actually prefer it to Rock Band’s highway. Obviously, the emphasis is more on pop music.

Regarding the logistics, SingStar Guitar is basically like any other SingStar disk: you get 30 songs you can sing, but this time you can play them on the guitar as well. Wisely, London Studio have implemented support for all existing Guitar Hero and Rock Band guitars so you won’t need to gunk your house up with even more plastic junk peripherals. The SingStore has been enhanced to allow selected songs you already own to be upgraded for guitar playability for a small fee. These upgrades are being released fortnightly along with the regular SingStore song releases. If you already own SingStar, your game will be patched to version 5.0 next time you play, which will allow you to use your guitar, so there is technically no need for the disk. The only difference between SingStar Guitar and other SingStar disks after patching is that the Guitar disk includes 30 guitar-compatible songs out of the box.

Now that’s out of the way, why should you bother to buy this, or upgrade your existing songs?

  1. Roles: any combination of one or two players can be assigned to any combination of instruments, ie. One player can both sing and play the guitar at the same time, or two players can sing, or play the guitar, or both. The single player singing and playing guitar simultaneously mode makes for some very tough challenges and is a lot quicker and less hassle to set up than in Guitar Hero or Rock Band which requires you to fudge it by creating two players. Also it’s not possible to have two people singing at the same time except in the latest Guitar Hero and Rock Band releases supporting 3-part harmonies.
  2. Load times are instant – load times in Guitar Hero and Rock Band are considerable.
  3. You get the music video. Which turns out to make quite a difference.
  4. Every song is scored out of 10,000. This means your scores are comparable across songs – something you can’t do in Guitar Hero or Rock Band, which may be important to you if you are competitive like me.
  5. You can’t fail. The song won’t stop if you play poorly, which is much better for social players and parties.
  6. No need to change disk during parties.
  7. If you prefer pop music, SingStar is clearly going to be a better choice for you, musically, than the other games.

Of course, there is no career mode, no character customization, no bass play or drums, no challenges. And right now, there are only the 30 songs on the disk plus another 8 or so released on Wednesday 20th October on the SingStore which you can actually play – however this will change pretty quickly in the coming months. Your desire to play therefore will have to come from self-motivation to beat your own scores and those of your friends.

There isn’t much more to say. As usual it’s another solid SingStar disk release, more of the same, but with added plastic. I didn’t think the guitar element would be much good, but in fact it was, and made me inclined to upgrade some of my other songs for guitar play.

You can find the full track list here: http://www.totalmusicgaming.com/vbulletin/showthread.php?t=1158

7/10

Review: Karaoke Revolution

April 26, 2010 Leave a comment

This is a re-print of an article originally posted on another site, included here so that the blog is a complete repository of my written work. The article is reproduced without pagination, formatting, images or editorial changes made on the original site prior to original publication.

SingStar. The juggernaut of karaoke games. Lips. The tinker toy truck of karaoke games. Now there’s a new kid in town, Konami’s franchise reboot of Karaoke Revolution.

Karaoke Revolution (2009 video game)

Karaoke Revolution (2009 video game) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The first thing to note is that this game is absolutely crammed with features, including more or less everything SingStar should have had years ago: savable playlists, savable teams, multi-round rulesets for party play which can also be saved for later re-use, a jukebox mode where you can just listen (although it is limited to a maximum of 5 queued tracks at once), online play – both single games and tournaments – customizable characters, a venue creation tool and so on. There is pretty much everything here you could possibly want to customise your karaoke experience, and that is excellent.

The disk comes with 75 tracks (50 in NTSC regions), which unlike previous incarnations of Karaoke Revolution are all master tracks. There is quite a lot of overlap with SingStar but there are a number of oft-requested tracks on here like Katy Perry – I Kissed A Girl, Miley Cyrus – 7 Things, Rihanna – Disturbia, Taylor Swift – Love Story, Lily Allen – Smile and Lady Gaga – Just Dance that may nudge you into a purchase if you like that sort of thing. It’s not all cheesy pop though; Seal, REM, Pulp, Rod Stewart, Talking Heads and many others are featured.

There are no real music videos in Karaoke Revolution; instead you get a Guitar Hero-like stage and mo-capped performances. The menu interface is simple and does the job, but looks quite retro. The game graphics are similarly underwhelming, but this ultimately doesn’t really affect the experience.

The actual singing interface looks like an almost direct clone of Lips – which probably means that Lips is a direct clone of Karaoke Revolution. Fortunately you don’t need to bang or wave the mic or clap like an idiot here – instead you get multiplier boosts for singing particular phrases perfectly, with no multiplier limit. This is both good and bad, because unlike SingStar (but like Lips) there is no way to compare how good you are at any one song against any other except via the slow and cumbersome online leaderboards. At the end of the song, you are however told the percentage of notes you hit.

Unlike both the other games, Karaoke Revolution has a fairly expansive 130-event career mode based on unlocking platters. You start off at the centre of a platter and as you complete an event successfully, the adjacent sections of the platter becom unlocked. Therefore you can progress in a branching non-linear fashion if you want to. Each event has certain targets such as reaching a certain minimum notes hit, multiplier, limitations on song or genre and so on. It’s not particularly exciting, but it is another oft-requested karaoke game feature and it does at least give you the impetus to try every song a couple of times – and the ability to skip something if you really don’t like it.

It has been reported to me that online play works fluently, unfortunately I tried several times to start a match and was never able to find anyone online, so don’t expect too much online action until more copies have been sold.

One issue is that it takes quite a while for songs to load – longer than they take in Guitar Hero or Rock Band. The other karaoke games have more or less instant start.

SingStar and Lips mics are both reported to work – although the Lips mics only have a 20% gain so they are not recommended – and I’m pleased to say that both my SingStar wireless mics worked fine in battle and duet modes, despite claims to the contrary in Konami’s own FAQ.

Moving onto the store, here we have problems. Konami are pushing updates every other Thursday in alternation with SingStore updates, and the range of tracks is excellent, plus they only cost 79p each compared to 99p for SingStore tracks. Of course you don’t get the video, and the big issue is that they are all covers. However, this apparently is not as bad as one might imagine. I tested it out with the cover of Michael Jackson’s Beat It and it was almost indistinguishable from the original song. The singer was of course, a little rougher, but the rest of the song used the same samples, instruments and melody. It did not negatively impact the gameplay experience at all.

Unfortunately, the store does not allow you to preview tracks, and it also presents only the title of the song and not the name of the original performer – so unless you’ve got a very keen eye for song names, it is pot luck whether you actually get the right song or not. This really needs to be addressed. Most of the store releases so far have also been regurgitated tracks from older PS2 disks, so we really need to wait and see what Konami brings to the table when their back catalogue runs out.

And that’s the rub: the success or failure of this game will ultimately depend on its DLC. Guitar Hero has now more or less flopped against Rock Band in part due to its overpriced and niche appeal DLC. Karaoke Revolution may flop against SingStar in the same way. SingStar currently has about 1250 English language tracks available on its store – many of them are arguably chaff but there is nonetheless plenty of goodness to be found. If Konami roll out well-known songs with master recordings, this game easily has the credentials to trounce and destroy SingStar due to its much richer feature set. If they don’t, Karaoke Revolution will likely fade into oblivion – which would really be a shame.

Pros:

  • Good well-rounded track selection for most people including previously unlicensed tracks
  • Huge wealth of gameplay and customisation options
  • Jukebox mode lets you listen to your songs without playing
  • DLC is cheap

Cons:

  • Retro graphics
  • Long loading times
  • Difficult to find an online match
  • The longevity of the game hinges on future DLC which is currently uncertain

In rating Karaoke Revolution, I have taken the game on its own merit as a standalone product and ignored the DLC issues, so you should take that into consideration when mulling over the purchase.

If you like karaoke games, Karaoke Revolution is a no-brainer even if you already own SingStar. It doesn’t have the polish or refinement of SingStar, but it does have heaps of potential, and the career mode will keep you busy for a while, especially when you consider a SingStar disk usually ships with 30 songs and a Lips disk with 40.

8/10


The Gaming Rant 5

April 2, 2010 Leave a comment

This is an unedited, uncensored re-print of an article originally posted on another site, included here so that fans can read the uncensored versions.

WARNING! This article is intended as a piece of satirical diatribe. Some readers may find the language and themes within extremely offensive.

Note: Contains strong language and drug references, but strangely no sexual references this week. This article is satire and does not reflect the opinion of TheSixthAxis or myself. The truth is, I’m deeply in love with all the people mentioned below.

Choosing between Labour and the Conservatives is like having to choose between Tetris and a hooker. Tetris is familiar, but eventually spirals out of control and you get bored of it. The hooker is exciting and initially pleasurable, but can have deadly consequences. Overall, they’re both risky choices, and all things considered, you’d probably rather be playing Modern Warfare 2 instead – and that’s where Lib Dem comes in. No I’m just kidding, they’re more like Noby Noby Boy: mildly amusing for a short period, but unlikely to ever gain significant market share. They’d probably ban violent video games too.

So on that tenuously constructed link, let’s proceed with some common all garden controlled rage.

DJ Hero pricing

This week Activision briefly remembered they had a DJing game out a few months ago and released some DLC. £6.29 for 3 songs, not available singly. What kind of music? A little dance, house, trance, techno or drum & bass you say? No. It was Jay-Z and Eminem.

Again.

If I wanted to shake yo ass, I’d put you in a washing machine and set the spin cycle. If I wanted to bust a cap in yo ass, I would take the aforementioned garment, roughly insert it into the aforementioned orifice, then proceed to cut the protruding section in half with a knife (I’ll wipe my hands on a copy of Guitar Hero Van Halen afterwards).

When I am spinning ch00ns, that’s exactly what I want to do: spin CH00NS. Phat beats. Driving basslines. A woman high on ecstasy singing about how beautiful the world is. I do not want to hear how bootylicious you think you are in the rhythm of a drunken cow with one prosthetic leg walking down a staircase.

I also don’t want to pay over £2 per song. The makers of DJ Hero did explain some months ago that the reason it costs more is because their in-house team of super-expert DJs who we’ve never heard of making “teh master mixez” makes it take longer and cost more. Perhaps if you licensed songs people wanted to actually play rather than spending a fortune on licenses for crap, they would be cheaper?

SingStar … the saga continues

Wow. The arrogance is staggering.

The SingStore update was finally released – 12 days late – on 6th April. I’ll say that again: twelve days late. When it did go up a couple of songs were in the wrong place or misnamed, and all songs were locked against purchase for some hours that evening – the classic SingStar QA process in full effect.

On 28th March I wrote on the totalmusicgaming.com forum:

“Who wants to wager a bet that if this update doesn’t get pushed by Tuesday that they won’t be ****ed to release anything on 8th? I’ll start the bidding at $100.”

Well, somebody at London Studio owes me 100 bucks, because on 6th April, SingStar Team wrote on Facebook:

“Okay sorry guys but the April 8th update will now be released on the 22nd of April. We are still not quite meeting your expectations I’m afraid. :(“

Gotta love that euphemism, quite. Saying you’re not quite meeting the customers’ expectations is a bit like giving North Korea a nuclear warhead with the uranium removed and saying, meh, you can have the payload later. When we can be bothered. Only in business hours. Not over Easter, we’re on break then. Then, when they get the uranium, it turns out that it’s old and stale and they just use it to grit the roads instead.

Content Manager Nina Scherer said she couldn’t comment on the delays but “let’s just say things have been at a standstill over the last few weeks”. Nina, how many times have I told you not to give the staff weed during work hours. Try Speed instead, maybe they’ll get something done then.

It was, however, their response to the subsequent complaints that was truly awe-inspiring:

“We didn’t like to give you too much good stuff in one week :)”

I shit you not. They actually had the audacity to say that. For those of you not in the know, the 25th March delayed update included such classics as Edwin Starr – H.A.P.P.Y. Radio and Kisschasy – Opinions Won’t Keep You Warm At Night. Yeah, I know, I haven’t heard of them either. That is some seriously depleted uranium right there.

8th April was supposed to see the release of – among other things – a Lady Gaga song pack, announced over a month ago, and would have put them on par with Rock Band which, as a testament to how bad the SingStar licensing team are, already has more Lady Gaga tracks than SingStar.

At the same time, they told us there would be an “exciting announcement” on 8th, which turned out to be the online battle beta. Nina no doubt wasn’t too impressed when I said the only announcement that would excite me right now would be some involuntary redundancies. Pretty strong coming from a staunch SingStar lover.

A lot of people are excited about the beta. Hold your horses. Do any of you remember a time when SingStar Team released a feature that worked properly? Think hard… no, that’s right, you can’t. That’s because they never have.

Voice control made you turn it on or off every time you went to sing, which wasn’t fixed for 6+ months, and ultimately the best use for it was to swear into the mic and see what song it selected. The video editor crashed people’s machines, wouldn’t save, corrupted people’s videos or wouldn’t upload for a further 8 months. SingStar Clubs is missing most of the features that would make a guild feature useful. The PS2 disk compatibility patch didn’t actually make all the PS2 disks compatible – that one took a year to fix. The 4.3 patch, billed as the answer to all our problems, locked people out of singing portions of their DLC for several weeks, with a “no access rights”-type error when selecting a song.

Imagine how happy I was to load SingStar and find that I couldn’t sing 140 of my paid downloads, then multiply that by a couple of million users. That’s a lot of uncontrolled rage my friends.

If you really think they are going to do a good job of this new feature, well, let’s just say I admire your optimism.

Beta buffoonery

What is going on with the beta scene this week? First of all Future gives me a FirstPlay beta after I ravaged them on TSA last month, then says I can’t have it because I live in Norway even though I had the previous one. Then Ubisoft has the gall to tell me I have to download the R.U.S.E. beta from Steam.

Steam? STEAM?! Do I look like I have a PC that can play video games to you? I spent all the upgrade money on Ubisoft games for my PS3, so now I have a P4 3.2GHz, which is a technical way of saying I have at my disposal the processing power of a small calculator that can also fry eggs as a bonus.

The last time I upgraded my PC to play video games was in 2005 when EverQuest 2 came out. I know, I know, I should’ve bought Warcraft. I knew VHS was gonna win, but I had to support Betamax anyway. Bygones. Eventually I realised it was much better to sit on a sofa which a huge f*ck off TV and home cinema sound, and bought my consoles instead.

And besides, there’s something sort of pride-damaging about being told to go get the beta from where all the other plebs get it. I feel demeaned. This must be what it’s like to be a ‘normal’ user. *cries* Yes, I know, QQ Katy.

Blur beta only on 360, and not really a beta

The real kicker this week though was the Blur beta not being released on PC or PS3. Here it is the use of the word beta itself that bothers me, since Activision were kind enough (ie. they made an administrative error) to send me 2 beta codes for the 360 version.

The purpose of a beta is to test a game for bugs and get user feedback. The Blur developers stated that their purpose with the Blur beta was to profile player activity. Well, not really a beta then is it? There was no channel to give them feedback on the game itself or report bugs.

I also took exception to the fact they stated they used the 360 because it was the biggest platform. So there are more 360 gamers than PC gamers? Excuse me while I go back to primary school, I obviously need to learn to count again.

The really annoying statement though was lead designer Gareth Wilson’s: “Really because when we were doing the beta it’s hard enough to try and get a beta out that doesn’t crash every five minutes while trying to finish a full game. Trying to do that on multiple platforms at once, so trying to do a PS3, Xbox and PC beta release at the same time, it just isn’t possible.” – “It was enough of a distraction doing it for one platform,”.

Orly? Cry me a river Gareth, no offence intended of course. I know it is such a hassle to prepare something for three platforms for simultaneous release, it really does make you wonder how Assassin’s Creed 2, Borderlands, Modern Warfare 2, Aliens vs Predator, Dragon Age Origins, Bioshock 2 and Battlefield Bad Company 2 to name just a few recent releases managed to get published on the same day for all platforms. They must be miracle workers! Or, maybe their lead designers are just better at giving interviews.

I also love the idea that their code was crashing every 5 minutes, therefore they only felt it necessary to make a beta for one platform. No need to test the PC or PS3 versions – we’re sure all the bugs will be found in the 360 beta and that there are no platform-specific issues with the other two. Mhm. Anyone remember the 360 release of Need For Speed Shift? That tried to sign into PlayStation Network to download content. I rest my case.

Gareth will come back on this and say that the purpose of the beta wasn’t to test bugs. So, don’t call it a beta then. Thanks.

LG5Tool sucks

If you don’t know what LG5Tool is, I’m not going to tell you – although Google probably will. Suffice to say it was clearly put together by a script kiddie still in nappies because it doesn’t work for more than 5 minutes at a time and fails 100% of the time when you change PSN account. And it runs on circa-1995 Visual Basic DLLs. A genius h4x0r, this guy is not.

As luck would have it, my personality is based on being evil and having no moral compass, so I made my own solution. Being evil is, of course, a pre-requisite to getting the original features from a device that you paid for, because obviously no good person would ever take steps to prevent a corporation from illegally removing functionality from a device they paid good money for.

Cable Management

Speaking of Sony insulting me, today I just learned that I have less than 64 USB ports on the PS3. I had to resort to an 8-port USB hub and it’s woefully insufficient. Consider what you’re asking me to do here: keyboard, mouse, EyeToy, steering wheel, charger, Buzz dongle, SingStar dongle, DJ Hero dongle, GH3 dongle, GHWT dongle, drumkit dongle, headset charger, PSP data cable, external hard drive. These are all basic human rights and you deny them. 2 USB ports is like saying you can only have half a shandy when you’re out on the razz, or you can only eat one frozen pizza per week. Shambolic.

And why wasn’t all this stuff built into the PS3 in the first place? Everyone knew we’d be spinning on our plastic turntables 4 years ago, I don’t believe for a second that DJ Hero has been in development for less than 4 years – especially given its superiority compared to games like Uncharted 2, God of War 3 and so on. This is nothing but a conspiracy to make me spend money on accessories. If you wanted me to do that, maybe you should’ve thought about that and released the hairdressing game before I went to the salon eh?

The PSP should come with the PS3 and be built into a little flap next to the Bluray tray that pops out. The guitars and drum kit should be inflatable, and the headset should be like an ear piercing: staple that sucker in once and forget about it. Finally the plastic skateboard should rise up through the living room floor when you want to use it. In fact it should be on a CD-style changer along with my Wii Fit and dancemat, and all this should come free with the console. We all know how poor value for money the PS3 is after all.

Also, why do some things work in the USB hub but others have to be plugged directly into the console? What is the point of a USB hub that only works with 75% of the devices? That’s like giving me a kebab from one of those dodgy downtown shops that’s just a front for immigrant cocaine dealers and saying ooh well, I wouldn’t eat that last 25% if I were you. Also, why aren’t all the dongles a standardized shape? Terry’s Chocolate Orange wedges, lollipops and the SingStar wireless one, well, it’s curvy, it doesn’t stand up straight, and it’s a huge empty box with a tiny chip inside. Very badly executed, much like the SingStore updates. At least they’re consistent.

So, with more cables on my floor than in the Large Hadron Collider, and more flashing dongle lights than a Las Vegas wedding chapel, I decided to clean up. Why the hell aren’t there any USB ports on the back of the PS3, or on the side? Imagine if my TV and home cinema amp only had inputs at the front. Getting to the sofa would be like trying to walk through the Amazon basin in flip-flops. People would mistake my amp for a heart and lung machine. Step 2: Range. I press blue, red, blue, orange, orange. Rock Band says: blue, orange. Now I will admit, there’s a lot of RF noise in my living room, but 10 feet? Come on people. When I come to power, my law will be that if a wireless device has a range less than the distance a drunk man can piss, it shall be deemed illegal.

The Sadness of Finishing A Game

Some games – like Echochrome – you finish triumphantly, throw your controller down and proclaim: “I am NEVER playing that <long string of expletives> game again!”. Other games, you kinda feel sad when it’s over.

I went back through a few of my older games this week to finish them off – in particular Mirror’s Edge and EndWar. EndWar is an under-rated game by the way, if you haven’t played it before and you’ve got a microphone it’s a fun little purchase (it’s a voice-controlled RTS). Of course I spent 75% of my playing time cussing out those damn near-impossible wall-run jumps and the fact I could win 4 matches in a row on EndWar and still only be controlling the same amount of territory. Yet, when each game was over, I took out the disk and a little part of me died inside as I put it back on the shelf knowing I would probably never take it out of its box again because I’d seen all there was to see. Fortunately I have a lot of parts so I probably won’t run out until next year at least. I’m keeping my boobs til last, they’re too much fun.

So, will I trade them in? Hell no, don’t be ridiculous. That would be blasphemy. A true gamer never trades in her games no matter how broke she is. It’s a status symbol thing. I even still have all my Wii games and that went obsolete 20 years ago – just on the off chance I ever want to play them. Which I won’t, obviously.

Finishing off all your old games also raises new dilemmas. Now you have to start a new one from scratch. But when you have every major Bluray and PSN release between the release dates of Dead Space and God of War 3 to mull over, that’s an agonizing decision. Do I slap in Oblivion for a quick fix, to look cool on my friends list with the latest games and know that it’ll be over in half an hour or so? Or do I try to catch up by finishing my oldest games first that I paid £50 for and are now worth £5 so I feel like I got value for money? Or do I get my teeth stuck into something really long and involved like God of War 3, knowing it has at least 100 hours of gameplay and this will delay my ability to finish some other games? Or, do I just give up and play Uno?

So I did what all the most intelligent people do: nothing. I procrastinated, didn’t select a game then realised it was after midnight and I couldn’t play my drums either.

Some days later: In the end the choice was made for me, much like in the case of Goza The Destructor. The merciless slave-drivers at TSA Towers ordered me to review Resonance of Fate; hopefully it will taste as good as a marsh-mellow man. I can’t refuse free games of course – when a TSA editor asks if you’re a God, you say YES!

Categories: Satire (Mature Content) Tags:

The Gaming Rant 4

March 22, 2010 Leave a comment

This is an unedited, uncensored re-print of an article originally posted on another site, included here so that fans can read the uncensored versions.

WARNING! This article is intended as a piece of satirical diatribe. Some readers may find the language and themes within extremely offensive.

My goodness, I never realised the word satire was so complex and multi-faceted. And I’m sure if you’re, ehm, “special”, then it is.

Your sense of humour has been conditioned into you over time, which unfortunately means you can’t be cured if you find this kind of trolling with mild undertones of truth hard to stomach. I could’ve swore I wasn’t holding you at gunpoint forcing you to read my childish banter over the last month, but then my memory is not what it used to be. Besides, if you do have an under-developed sense of humour, how did you get out of Germany in the first place?

For everyone who’s left, you should be working and so should I, but it’s Friday and you deserve a break, so I’m going to spend a few hours putting together something topical that I hope amuses you. It will be brutal, unfair, patronizing to everyone involved, sarcastic, immature toilet humour that has no place on any respectable gaming site. Enter TSA to come to the rescue. Damn, that was controversial. Such betrayal after all the Russian brides they sent me, I should be ashamed of myself. (Note: if TSA wasn’t respectable, I wouldn’t write for it – just checking you got the satire. If we can’t laugh at ourselves, who can we laugh at? Oh, right, Edge. Yeah, forgot about them)

*hands out a cache of guns to the TSA staff* Point these at the little rat bastards for the next five minutes – thanks.

Final Fantasy XIII: The Voice of Rationality vs My Best Friend

Friendly fire has been brewing. My best friend is a long-time Final Fantasy fan and complained that it got low review scores, then pointed the finger directly at me for being one of the ones responsible (I wasn’t) and asked what my problem is with it.

I told him all the reasons I could think of that reviewers may have marked it down: linearity, non-replayability, shift away from towns and friendly NPCs, no Japanese audio, slightly dodgy animations of Vanille and iffy camera panning, plus a lot of other things – all of which I noted were not problems I personally had except for the minor camera issue.

But here’s the real crux of the problem I have with Final Fantasy XIII: Snow. He’s such a petulant little pain in the ass, every time it’s a cut scene with him it’s like “OMG Poor SAAAAAAAAARAHHHHH!!!111oneoneone!!! BBQ!!”. Snow, she’s gonna turn to crystal, and I don’t think your crummy little knife is gonna magically fix that. Let it go buddy. What are you doing proposing to a 12-year old anyway? That kind of conduct is exclusively my domain. And have you seen the sand when he runs across it at the start of chapter 6? He doesn’t leave any footprints at all. Then when his spaceship crashes he gets up immediately and there’s not a scratch on him. What does he think he’s Jesus or something?

Do you know what I do with Snow? Walk all over it. Listen to it as it crunches into the ground. Break it into pieces and throw it at the nearest car. That’s all Snow is good for.

My friend’s real beef though was when I may have inadvertently used the words “RPG” and “niche market” in the same sentence. Now I know that is an argument with both truths and falsehoods, but as he started throwing review scores and sales statistics at me I knew I couldn’t admit I was wrong even if I was, so a game of statistical musical chairs ensued. This went on for almost two days. Finally he epic failed by pointing out that Final Fantasy and Tetris were the two best-selling games on the PSP last month; that really backfired on him because I bought Tetris for PSP last month, proving beyond doubt I was right.

Nintendo DS is not useless after all

Same friend again:

(04:58:48 PM) ******: hmm
(04:58:52 PM) ******: I might need to get a DS
(04:58:57 PM) Katy: o_O
(04:59:04 PM) Katy: *cracks your head open on the desk*
(04:59:05 PM) Katy: grow up
(04:59:08 PM) ******: Chrono Trigger was released on it last year

Damn, this guy knows too much.

This.. err… week’s… SingStore Update

You’d think after the extensive limb dismemberment I gave them on these very pages about that piss poor non-English update from a few weeks back that they would’ve learned their lesson, right? Wrong. SingStar Team never learn. History has shown this repeatedly. You can think of SingStar Team like monkeys trying to write Shakespeare: they’ll get it right eventually, but only by random chance since they don’t have the capacity to learn from their mistakes, and OnLive will be rolled out in Cyberia by the time they figure it out.

The “March 25th 2010” update as it is now known in historical terminology has not yet surfaced. It’s 30th March at the time of writing. Have you ever heard of a Rock Band, Guitar Hero or Lips update being a day late, let alone six with no word from the team?

So I figured they deserve some additional public humiliation as if they haven’t already got enough on their Facebook group, to spur them along in firing some people. And I am being a bit serious here because this is actually pathetic. I did some research. Here is what happened with SingStore updates in the last 12 months (I’ve left out the on-time ones to save space):

25th March – no release date announced yet as of 31st March

11th March – on time but update consisted almost exclusively of non-English songs

25th February – delayed til 20:00

31st December – decided not to bother releasing an update this week at all

10th December – decided not to bother releasing an update this week and deferred it by 1 week

12th November – on time but some songs were locked and unpurchasable til the next day

15th October – delayed for 1 day

17th September – delayed for 1 day

3rd September – delayed til 17:30

20th August – delayed for 1 day

6th August – delayed for 2 days in the US, released 1730 in the UK

23rd April – decided not to bother releasing an update this week and deferred it by 1 week

9th April – delayed for 5 days (released on 14th April)

26th March – on time but some songs were locked and unpurchasable until the late evening

So, 16 out of 29 updates passed without a hitch. Of course, there should have been 31 updates. I also noted that for both the case of patches and broken songs or updates, at no point in that time period did SingStar Team ever work on a Saturday or Sunday to fix it. Whatever happened to dedication? You know what me and nofi do when our web sites get screwed up? We bloody well sit down and fix it as soon as possible to keep our users happy – and we’re not even making any money.

I know some idiot future employer of mine is sitting in London Studio reading this now going: “God I hate Katy she’s such an arrogant bitch always whining about SingStar.” Yes, I am. Why? Because I love the game and whine on behalf of the people – your customers – for better service. How often have you seen me slag off Rock Band? Pretty much never. Why? Cos they do their friggin jobs properly.

Another smug idiot over there is also reading this going: “Well if you think you’re so good, let’s see if you can do a better job yourself”. Yes, well, let’s see shall we – because I’m pretty bloody sure I can do a better job, actually. The first thing I’ll be doing is a performance review of all the team members, re-evaluating their skill sets and firing the ones who aren’t up to the task. Something you should be doing instead of reading this.

The Tester: Episode 5

This week the contestants played Buzz. Except they didn’t. It was, in fact, a completely unrelated quiz show with the Buzz brand slapped across it, creating a link so tenuous that the only thing I can conjure up that’s more dodgy is putting people in plastic bubbles and calling it a test of communication ability. I’ll spare you the details. Pre-game interview extract:

Doc: “I know a lot about PlayStation. This is going to be totally one-sided, it’s time to dominate.”

First question:

Meredith: “On the PlayStation controller, what colour is the triangle button?”

Doc: “Pink.”

You think I’m joking. I’m not joking. If you think I rage on here, well, I suggest you become a fly on the wall of my living room for the remaining episodes, because despite Peter letting me get away with the occasional F-word, what I shouted at that moment cannot be reproduced in print. Word would flag me as a terrorist and send a report to Microsoft.

Third question:

Meredith: “Who is the father of PlayStation?”

Me: “KEN KUTURAGI!!!! KEN KUTURAGI KEN KUTURAGI!! ANSWER DAMMIT IT’S KEN KUTURAGI!”

Silence falls across the studio. Brent Gocke – the global Release Manager whose job title has been announced in every episode and which Star forgot when she was asked at elimination – isn’t looking too impressed. I feel your pain, Brent. I can see now you’ve been put in an impossible situation: someone in marketing thought this would be good PR, and you were the unlucky bastard who drew the short straw and had to sit through this. And I can see why, I mean, you’re a release manager, and as we all know there’s hardly been any games released lately so you probably have a lot of spare time.

Here is a little tip for anyone going for a job interview: know your target audience. Going to apply for a job at Activision? Check their corporate web site first. Find out what franchises they own (Rock Band, Gears of War) and who their key executives like the CEO are (I’ll save you the trouble, it’s Bill Gates) so you at least sound like you know something.

You may be thinking I’m being unduly harsh given the pressure they were under in that room full of ten people, of whom 6 were contestants. You’d be wrong. I was the only female contestant in the Buzz Brain of The UK championships in London last summer, which was conducted in front of a live audience with plenty of execs, events organizers and magazine journalists hovering around. I finished 5th out of 28 – stupid Tour de France questions. But I’m pretty freaking sure if they had asked me what colour triangle was, I would’ve got it right. The point is, I didn’t crack under pressure when there was a ton of lights, people watching me and a £20,000-value prize at stake – and the gaming industry is a pressure cooker. If you crack under less pressure than that, I don’t want you testing my games. It’s that simple.

Thank God Big D got eliminated and not Star. Are you reading this Star? Are you into girls? Can I give you my phone number? I’ll even let you beat me at Guitar Hero.

I can’t play my drums after midnight

Which is a problem when you only get up at 7pm. Plus I have to get ready, so immediately it’s 9pm before I can do anything, by which time I’ve been powered only by coffee and cigarettes for 2 hours and need to make dinner – which leads to watching TV, then it’s 10pm. When I say dinner I mean microwave food, obviously.

Technically I could play them whenever, but I have a downstairs neighbour who is very good when I need help so I try to be a bit considerate. So on that note, why does the green drum-pad make a thud three times louder than all the others? Anyone else got that issue? And who thought making them out of rubber was a good idea? Rubber – possibly one of the least force-deflecting materials under compression known to mankind. There are a few exceptions of course – Jane Goody’s brain for example (that’s so non-deflective if you hit it with a drumstick it would land on Mars) – but I want my drumpads to go bang, not ba-ba-thu-thud every time I hit them.

And oh my God the drum pedal. Someone please tell me how to keep it in one place on the floor! Doesn’t matter how I sit or use it, the bloody thing always ends up sneaking away slowly like a summer’s day ice-cream you’ve given strict orders not to melt. Then you’re playing the song and the bloody bar under the pads is chaffing into your shin as you stretch your legs out like the girls in Split Tail Lovers (thanks to reader Amphlett for the movie tip) desperately waiting for a quiet bit in the song so you can drag the pedal back to its proper position again with your big toe. Indeed, the drum pedal is more slippery than an eel covered in Astroglide (thanks again to Amphlett for the info – no wonder you use Astroglide hun, I didn’t even know you could do that with a live eel).

As for the pad material, there is in fact only one choice worse than rubber: air. Which makes Guitar Hero on drums the perfect way to show off the power of Natal. Think about it: they’ll make no noise to annoy the neighbours and you can have as many drums and cymbals as you want. Just imagine how much more accurate you’re gonna be and how much less strain there’s going to be on your wrists once Bob goes Natal. Although, I guess it’s his wife going natal we should be more worried about.

PSN Spam

We’re all familiar with it. “OMG they’re gonna start charging for PSN, send this message to 1000 people in protest, Sony are watching and if the message is sent over 1 million times they will change their plans.”

Riiiight. That sounds like a surefire business model doesn’t it? And people actually believe this. Of course, you should use the following canned response:

“Yes, yes that’s right. Sony are going to start charging for PSN. In fact your first payment is now due and should be made to <Sender’s Name>, <Sender’s Bank Account Number> within 7 days or your account may be suspended until payment is received. Also, please send this to 1,000 of your friends in case they haven’t received the email.”

But, this week I thought I’d share with you a nice gem I got in my PSN inbox today that lightened up the spam parade a little. It reads as follows:

“message this to 10,000,000 and you will get a free lolli pop dats right 1 whole chubba chub baby omg its insane right and dats all u have to do….this is been tracked by a panda in hong kong so get sendin”.

Genial.

OtherOS removed in new firmware update

This one got me pretty angerz. Let’s clear the obvious issues first. I can no longer pirate PS3 games, and let’s face it, every single user of OtherOS is nothing more than a seedy pirate. Why pay £40 for a shiny game when you could download a 30GB torrent, decrypt it, buy some blank bluray and a bluray writer, burn it, install an OtherOS, mod chip your PS3, then buy some bluray movie cases, print out the cover and a CD label, get one of those little things that sticks the labels onto the disks, then download the game manual and print it on dirt cheap gloss paper? No reason at all – pirating is obviously a lot more convenient, and that means better for the consumer.

Another big problem is that I can no longer run an extremely slow and feature-deficient Linux desktop on a machine with limited memory and arbitrarily-limited processor and disk space availability. Why on Earth would I want to surf the web and do my email on a perfectly good PC when I can jump through a million hoops to do it on my PS3 instead? This is a major restriction of consumer choice, again. It is bad enough that the PS3 browser won’t run Silverlight scripts or play Windows Media streams, let alone taking away the option of spending 15 minutes waiting for Linux to boot and Firefox to start as well. Bad form, Sony *tuts*

This is a classic example of current political thinking and it’s worrying. A man sews explosives into his trousers and tries to blow up a plane. Result? I have to be visually raped every time I want to leave the country. GeoTwat makes a PS3 say Hello World, and as a result I have my freedom stripped down a little bit further again. Did anyone overlook the fact that he didn’t actually do anything wrong? Although the UK isn’t a free society anymore, in Norway we have a legal right to know what the things in are own home are doing, and terms of use that forbid reverse-engineering do not apply. It’s not reverse-engineering that kills: it’s the idiot who posts about it on his blog. Hm? Oh, right.

PSN store updates moving to Wednesdays

Why? It has plagued me for ages that the 360 always gets Rock Band DLC and such two days before PS3. So what stroke of genius do they come up with? Reduce it to one day. What is this 1992? Sure it gets the job done, but come on! Business tip for the uninitiated: releasing content later on your platform than a competitor’s platform = less sales on your platform. Even Steve Jobs knows that, and what did he ever do right?

PS3 was lead platform for Sega & Sonic All-Stars Racing

Oh reaallly… so why is the framerate so shit then? I saw some PR spin about it having to do with reflections and lighting effects. Yeah. Gran Turismo does 1080p in 60fps constantly – the fanbois told me so it must be true – and yet, a Sega game once again suffers framerate problems on PS3 despite the fact the cars in All Stars Racing only have 2-3 times the number of polygons as the ones in GT5. Did you know each car in All Stars Racing took 3 months to model, but there are only 8 so it sort of balanced out?

I blame these problems on the simple fact that the game was released on its original scheduled release date. If they had waited, say, 2 years, and spent the time making trailers and watching NASCAR, these problems would have all solved themselves automatically. And why doesn’t it have head tracking and 3D? That completely ruined the gameplay experience for me. Sega, take a lesson from Polyphony Digital: never release a driving game until it’s perfect. My friend and I only had heaps of fun with it when it could have easily been mountains of fun instead, and that shoddy TSA review score of 8/10 was a direct result of your promptness and lack of attention to detail.

Gran Turismo 5

Speaking of which, Gran Turismo 5 is rubbish. Or brilliant. Whichever will make you leave angry comments so I can taunt you more accurately next week. You shouldn’t have skipped the first two paragraphs of this article, tut tut.

No, seriously it’s gonna be brilliant. Hah, April Fool’s! It’s gonna suck.

I wish you all a very pleasant Easter break!

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