The PSN is the suckiest bunch of suck that ever sucked (for downloading)

First, let me say thanks to Sony for providing a review code for Papo & Yo. The game is great, and it’s something I’ve been highly anticipating since E3 2011, when I first saw the game. Ok, now that I’ve said that, let me whine for a bit.

The PSN is terrible. It’s absolutely awful. I’d rather get nut punched by a kangaroo than have to sit and wait for a game to download from Sony’s slow-as-molasses network. I have a 20Mbs Internet connection that works great for watching movies, playing games, streaming media, downloading files, and even for uploading poorly edited YouTube videos. It’s awesome for everything, aside from one thing. Downloading games from the PSN Store.

The 1.3GB file for Papo & Yo took over 11 hours to download. I started it around 7:00pm, and when I went to bed at 1:30am, it was not even 2/3 of the way done yet. I got up the next morning just after 6:00am and checked the status. It had 12 minutes to go. I’m not alone on this, either. Most of my friends who have PS3s complain about the same thing.

If Sony fixes only ONE thing going into the next generation, it has to be the ability to deliver content digitally to their console. My Vita downloads faster, though it’s still a fraction of the speed of what my Xbox 360 or even Wii can do. Sony is the company that is working the hardest to push digitally delivered content on their consoles, but the experience is terrible.

Get it together Sony. Please. For the children.

Latest PS3 and 360 updates causing issues with older systems

Update: It now appears that the culprit for the freezes, lockups, and overheating is actually L.A. Noire itself. Sony’s update seems to be safe, and any consoles having issues after that update seem to be coincidental at this point. Rockstar has admitted that L.A. Noire is having issues jiving with some 360 and PS3 consoles.

Both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 have seen system updates lately, and it seems that both updates are somewhat problematic for older versions of the consoles. In the case of the PlayStation 3, the newest update is to address the issues with the PSN security breach, and the update is required to regain access to your PSN account. The problem, however, is that people are reporting that after updating their consoles that they’re starting to have random console shutdowns or lockups. Rockstar has posted in their support FAQ the following in response to people complaining about freezes or shutdowns during L.A. Noire play sessions:

Question: My PS3 turns itself off when I am playing L.A. Noire. What can I do?

Answer: We have received some reports of PS3s overheating while playing L.A. Noire or beeping three times before shutting down/turning themselves off, mostly on older 60GB and 80GB fat models.
Primary reports seem to be that updating to firmware 3.61 will cause PlayStations to overheat. There have been various reports of this on a few different games now, all reporting their PS3s turning off or “Red Lighting” after having installed 3.61. This can range from games randomly freezing to PS3s turning off anywhere between 30 mins use to 2 hours. We have confirmed locally that multiple games (Rockstar and non-Rockstar) overheat or freeze only when 3.61 is installed.
At this time we are recommending contacting Sony directly to report the overheating issue. However, this is not the end of our support; we are continuing to test L.A. Noire on all firmware versions and hardware models to isolate the issues and see what can be done. As always, we will update this article as soon as we have updates.

So Rockstar seems to have internally found that it’s the older 60GB and 80GB models that are having issues, but it doesn’t sound entirely limited to them. Obviously overheating is a dangerous thing for your console to experience, so if you have problems after the update, don’t continue to play or else you risk damaging your console. I have a 60GB launch system and I don’t plan on updating until I know it’s 100% safe to do so.

As for the Xbox 360, the latest update seems to be equally problematic, if not worse. After updating with the newest update, many Xbox 360 consoles have been unable to read discs. At all. Microsoft has already responded and is now sending replacement consoles to anybody affected by the issue, but there’s no denying that it’s a major hassle and inconvenience to have to wait for your new console to arrive.

These updates are necessary, but it’s crazy that they can get into the wild with such crippling side effects. It seems to me that the console makers need to include a rollback option on these firmware updates, though I understand that often times the updates exist to plug security holes with the previous version. At least you’d still be able to play your console until they fixed the latest release, however.

The PSN outage is harming developers and publishers

Update: Some aspects of the PSN are back online, but not in all regions, and the PSN Store is still offline.

Imagine you owned a business where you made a nice product. Also imagine that you were incapable of selling directly to your consumers, so you partnered with a store to carry your products for you. This store promised that they’d be open 24 hours a day and that they’d be helping you promote your product to millions of  potential customers each day. Like most stores, you’d have to share your space with the competition, but whenever you released a new product, it would get a featured placement in the store for a little while. Now, imagine that you were happy enough with the arrangement that you committed your products solely to that store and never partnered with anybody else to sell your product. What if the lights suddenly went out in the store with no indication of when they’d be back on?

For many developers, they’re facing some serious problems with the PSN Store being down. As the PSN limps back online, the storefront is still closed and a few developers and publishers have begun to comment on it a bit. While it’s not good practice to come out and say how many estimated losses they’re dealing with at this time, the losses do appear to be significant for some. The PixelJunk team has publicly stated that the outage is hurting them and have encouraged fans to buy some PixelJunk swag, such as t-shirts to support the team. Ubisoft has said that their losses have been noticeable but that they have the Xbox Marketplace to buffer the effects. Really though, the larger publishers still have disc-based sales and other platforms as revenue streams, it’s the smaller developers that are in danger.

For some of these developers, it has been nearly a month with no revenue stream. Nothing has been said in public as to whether or not Sony plans on subsidizing publishers and developers for lost revenue, but they have no legal obligation to do so. No employees have broken ranks to speak out as to whether or not their pay has been affected, but if the outage continues companies are going to have to start taking measures to stay afloat.

So aside from the PSN Store coming back online, what can PSN-exclusive publishers do? Unfortunately, there’s not much that can be done. It might come as a hard lesson that going exclusive these days is a risky move unless there is some subsidizing that is taking place from the hardware maker. I’m wondering if this will make publishers think twice about putting their games exclusively on a single platform. While this security breach only brought down the PSN, it could have definitely happened to other services as well.

It’s hard to say what the ultimate fallout will be for smaller developers and publishers that are locked into PSN exclusivity, but they’ve definitely taken one pretty hard on the chin in this process. Not only do they lose revenue that can’t be recovered, but their games have aged. In this industry it’s very rare for games to see a sales surge after the first month or two from launch. Sony has said that they’ll be accelerating PSN updates in the short term to make up for the outage, which means stuff that launched before the store went down are about to get buried in a deluge of new content.

If you are waiting for the new PSN Store to come back up to 100% functionality, don’t forget about the games that launched just ahead of the outage and give them a fair shot.

The Stupid Gamer Podcast #57

After a week in Hawaii, it’s time to get back on the mic and kick out another show. We discuss the latest round of Project Cafe rumors, the PSN hacking, Mass Effect 3′s delay, and more. As a heads up, Brad and I are on different channels again, so if you’re not hearing one of us, put your other earphone in. Next week I’ll go back to downmixing to one track.

We also talk about the current contest on our Gamer Theory Facebook page where we’re giving away another free game. Check out the page at http://www.facebook.com/gamertheory for details.

Starhawk for PS3 rumors circulate

Warhawk was one of the first big multiplayer games for the PS3 that had sustained success. I got into it a bit, but ultimately I was left feeling that not enough attention was given to the flight combat and I didn’t stick around for too long. With rumors swirling that Starhawk is still  in the works, I just might get that flight-heavy combat sim experience that I’ve been hoping for.

About two years ago Sony registered a trademark for a game to be named “Starhawk”, but not much came of it. Many figured that the project was either canned or it was just Sony securing the name just in case they ever chose to act upon it. Well, Joystiq is now reporting that Lightbox Interactive is working on Starhawk and that we could get an official announcement as early as mid-May with obviously a follow up announcement coming at E3.

While I’d still love to see a full on addition to the X-Wing/TIE Fighter series from LucasArts, I do have faith that the ex-Incog guys over at Lightbox Interactive can put out a great sci-fi flight combat game. Going into the next few weeks, this is one rumor I’ll be keeping a close eye on.

Mirror’s Edge 2 canceled?

If true, this would be very disappointing news. According to a Press 2 Play TV report, which was translated by Eurogamer, DICE had presented a prototype for the sequel to EA and EA made the decision not to pursue the project further. We don’t know how far along Mirror’s Edge 2 was in development, but a hard blow at this stage could really put the game’s future into serious doubt as DICE is currently working hard on Battlefield 3 for PC, 360, and PS3. Despite EA’s show of confidence for Mirror’s Edge in the past, things aren’t looking good for the sequel.

Here’s hoping that EA has just told DICE to hold off on Mirror’s Edge 2 until Battlefield 3 releases, because Mirror’s Edge was actually a great game despite its flaws with the combat system. I had high hopes that a sequel would be able to smooth out the rough shooting (or remove it entirely) and provide more interesting paths through the levels.

2010 Game Awards and Overall Game of the Year

My list comes out a little later than others, mostly because I had some catching up to do on a few 2010 titles before I made my picks. A few games didn’t end up getting enough play for serious consideration, but I guess that’s just due to other games being engaging enough to keep me glued to them. I hesitated as to whether or not to do a top 10, and I’m still deciding, so for now enjoy the category-based awards. 2010 was a fantastic year for gaming, this wasn’t easy to put together!

Best Graphics of 2010

Winner – God of War III

Runners Up – Mass Effect 2, Heavy Rain

This was a tough pick, because one could argue that God of War III is just a really shiny and higher poly God of War II, but that would be ignoring the massive scale of the game and the rock solid framerate and overall fluidity of the visuals. Simply put, few games really have pushed a console so hard this generation as God of War III.

Best Audio of 2010

Winner – Battlefield: Bad Company 2

Runners Up – Mass Effect 2, Red Dead Redemption

Mass Effect 2 and Red Dead Redemption challenged for the title based on the strength of their soundtracks, but it would be really hard to deny Bad Company 2 this year. The gunshots are incredible in this game, as are the booming explosions and crunchy sounds of vehicles rolling over debris and vegetation. Whether the sounds are close up or the muted sounds of a distant skirmish, Bad Company 2 really showed how a battle should sound.

Best Story of 2010

Winner – Red Dead Redemption

Runners Up – StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty, Mass Effect 2

Both the method of delivering the story and the progression of the storyline were bright spots in the overall experience Red Dead Redemption offered. When you reach the end of the game (the true ending, not the first one), it’s a powerful moment and one that will pry a fist pump out of even the most unemotional gamer. Red Dead Redemption isn’t just a great story for a video game, it’s just great for any medium.

Best New Character of 2010

Winner – Bayonetta

Runners Up – John Marston, Legion

It was hard not to give this to John Marston, but as great as he was he sort of fell into the typical Rockstar main character trappings of being made to serve fate. Bayonetta was just something so insane and crazy that I had to give her the nod when she managed to pull it off. The hyper-sexualized heroine was something that is sure to spawn horrific fan art and cosplay costumes, but hopefully great sequels as well. In the end, Bayonetta will have the longer impact on the gaming industry than any other new characters of 2010.

Best Online Multiplayer of 2010

Winner – Battlefield: Bad Company 2

Runners Up: StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty, Halo: Reach, Call of Duty: Black Ops

Call me crazy, but Bad Company 2 easily provided the best online multiplayer for me this year. The way that the game rewards team play but also allows for lone wolves to do their thing is truly admirable. With the different classes, gamers can play how they want and still contribute to the team’s success. While it lacks the audience and stat tracking of Halo: Reach, Bad Company 2 is more accessible to newcomers and fosters a greater importance of teamwork. StarCraft 2 could have taken this award if it was more friendly to new players, but the game can be quite daunting even for those that put many hours into the campaign.

Best Sequel of 2010

Winner – Super Mario Galaxy 2

Runners Up – StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty, Mass Effect 2, Battlefield: Bad Company 2

Not an easy award to settle on with such a big year for sequels, but Super Mario Galaxy 2 took the award because Nintendo basically perfected the 3D platformer genre with this year’s effort. Galaxy 2 doesn’t just give us more of what we liked in Galaxy 1, but it does so with so much more imagination and polish than we could have expected. Mass Effect 2 could have taken this award if the game didn’t wrap up so quickly after assembling the team. It seems like as soon as you have everybody on board, it’s time to go up against that final boss, who was a pretty ridiculous boss if you really think about it.

Best New Franchise

Winner – Bayonetta

Runners Up: Angry Birds, Vanquish

Platinum Games had a great year. They gave us two franchises that I think have some solid staying power. Bayonetta, in its first effort, put Capcom and Team Ninja on notice. There have been some great action games this generation, but I feel that Bayonetta stands above them all; and that’s quite impressive for a first effort.

Best Xbox 360 Exclusive of 2010

Winner – Halo: Reach

Runner Up: Alan Wake

Halo: Reach was a fitting curtain call for Bungie under Microsoft care. While it might be feeling a bit familiar at this point, the game still stood out above all other exclusive releases on the Xbox 360. Alan Wake could have made a more serious threat to win the award, but the repetition and ho-hum combat held it back.

Best PlayStation 3 Exclusive of 2010

Winner – God of War III

Runner Up – Heavy Rain

This was an easy pick for me. God of War III is a fantastic first entry for the franchise and it offered up strong action, amazing graphics, and a varied experience that keeps you engaged from start to finish. Heavy Rain, while really disappointing from a story resolution standpoint, needs to be commended for its bold approach to both storytelling and gameplay techniques. The impact Heavy Rain will have going forward will be noticeable, but I can’t shake how unsatisfying the reveal of the villain ended up being.

Best Wii Exclusive of 2010

Winner – Super Mario Galaxy 2

Runner Up – Kirby’s Epic Yarn

It’s hard to top Mario when he’s on his game, and he really was in 2010. Kirby’s Epic Yarn might be the most imaginative effort from Nintendo for a while, but Super Mario Galaxy 2 is no slouch in that regard and the gameplay is unmatched on the Wii for 2010. It remains to be seen if there will be a Galaxy 3 or if Mario will change up his formula once more, but I’d be happy for more spherical planetoids and funky gravity at some point.

Best PC Exclusive of 2010

Winner – StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty

Runner Up – Civilization V

I probably spent more time on Civ V than any other game this year, but it didn’t quite provide the same balanced experience as StarCraft 2 did. Besides, how many other games foster such a large e-sports scene that is as much fun to watch as it is to take part in? Especially in the past few months, if I’m not playing StarCraft 2 at my PC, I’m probably watching match replays or reading up on emerging strategies. Few games were as exciting in 2010 as StarCraft 2 on a global level, and even fewer will remain as exciting going forward.

Best Multiplatform Game of 2010

Winner – Red Dead Redemption

Runners Up – Mass Effect 2, Battlefield: Bad Company 2

For its incredible story, delivery of plot, and cohesive and immersive world, it’s tough to deny Red Dead Redemption the top spot here. I’m a documented critic of Rockstar, and the Grand Theft Auto franchise in general, but I was blown away by their effort with Red Dead Redemption. My favorite story moment of 2010 was when the Red Dead Redemption title card flashed up as the game’s true ending took place. It was satisfying and true to the Western genre. Mass Effect 2 was no slouch, but the recycled plot, only with a less cool enemy force than ME1, was just enough to drop it down to runner up status.

Best Game of 2010

Winner – StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty

Runners Up – Mass Effect 2, Red Dead Redemption, Super Mario Galaxy 2

Honorable Mentions – Civilization V, Battlefield: Bad Company 2

This was one of the most hotly contested years in gaming history. 1998 is often pointed to as the best year in gaming, but 2010 wasn’t too far behind. In fact, 2010 might have provided a higher volume of quality titles, though it wasn’t as top heavy. StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty leads the 2010 pack because of its strong showing on both the single player and multiplayer sides of things. The single player is fantastic for gamers of any skill, and multiplayer offers an amount strategic depth and balance of depth that’s nearly unmatched. Furthermore, the StarCraft 2 community is among the most healthy that any game in history has ever enjoyed, with heavy competition taking place around the world. If you haven’t looked into the emergence of e-sports, take a look at the competitive StarCraft 2 scene for an eye-opening look into the future of competitive gaming. For its overall impact on the industry, quality of experience, and longevity, StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty wins 2010′s award for best game of the year.

The price of motion control for PS3 and 360 owners

Ever since the Wii became a runaway success, it was only a matter of time before Microsoft and Sony would join the game. I didn’t think it would take this long for them to enter the ring and duke it out with their own motion control systems, but E3 2010 showed that both companies are taking this fight quite seriously. The funny thing about motion controls is that they’re aimed at the casual market; a market that takes cost into consideration as a very high determining factor. So, both Sony and Microsoft have laid out their battle plans. If they are to make strides into the casual market, price is a big deal. Comparing the two is interesting, so let’s take a look.

Microsoft Kinect Options

If you already own an Xbox 360 system

  • Kinect – $149.99 (free unannounced game included)

If you are buying an Xbox 360 for Kinect

  • Xbox Elite 250GB System  + Kinect – $449.99
  • Xbox 360 Arcade System + Kinect – $299.99

The real advantage Microsoft has is that for multiplayer you only need one Kinect peripheral, and you won’t need to buy multiple controllers or attachments. The base price is the same price for one person or a whole family to get playing. Gamestop has confirmed that Kinect will include a free game, but they haven’t said what game that is at this point. It’s highly likely that the bundled game will be something very simple, so most buyers are going to want to pick up something such as Kinect Sports, Kinectimals, or Child of Eden to really get started with the Kinect experience.

Sony PlayStation Move Options

If you already own a PS3 and a PlayStation Eye camera

  • PlayStation Move Controller + Navigation Controller + Game – $119.99

If you already own a PS3 but no PlayStation Eye camera

  • PlayStation Move Starter Bundle + Navigation Controller – $129.99

If you are buying  PlayStation 3 for Move

  • PlayStation Move Console Bundle + Navigation Controller – $429.99

Prices of Move Accessories

  • PlayStation Move Controller – $49.99
  • PlayStation Move Navigation Controller – $29.99

Now there’s something important to point out here. Some Move games will require two Move controllers to be used to fully experience the game, so really you’d want to buy a second controller if you’re serious about playing the full library properly. In essence, you should add an additional $49.99 to each bundle above. I added in the price for a Navigation controller even though Sony says it’s possible to use a regular PS3 controller. It will be less than ideal to try to grip a PS3 controller with one hand, however, and I don’t see many people opting for that. Like the Wii, to get more players in the game, you’ll need additional controllers. Some games could require up to 8 Move controllers for 4 players, but at minimum 4. For a full 4-player experience, it could cost as much as $279.99 to get playing, even if you already own a PS3. I would wager that most 4-player games will not require two Move controllers per player, however.

When you price things up, the Kinect price tag seems higher, but for new console owners the PS3 cost of entry is significantly more, especially when you start adding in multiple players. For those that own consoles, the same is the truth unless you’re planning on playing solo.

What I gather from pouring over the numbers is that despite price of the 360 and PS3 systems getting into more family friendly realms, neither one can realistically compete with what the Wii offers. Right now the is $199.99, which includes the system and two games. Obviously adding in the additional controllers to get up to 4 players brings up the price, but you’ll still come out significantly ahead by going the Nintendo route. With the economy how it is, Sony and Microsoft have a huge uphill battle to make the public see their offerings as a good value.

David Jaffe’s horribly uncomfortable interview with Olivia Munn

Dang. Now, David Jaffe has made a fool of himself many times in the past in drunken tirades, emotional outbursts, and poorly thought out forum posts, but here he didn’t deserve the noise that Olivia Munn was tossing his direction. I’m guessing that G4 will have this video pulled soon, so enjoy it while you can.

Note: I’ve had some emails wondering why I haven’t reviewed games or dropped editorials onto the blog lately. Part of that is due to me saving up material for Gamer Theory, part of it is just me being a little lazy. I’ll do something soon other than the podcast or a YouTube video dump…I promise.