Wading into the FPS/Reso Fray

I’m not one to really talk about these issues usually, as controversial as they seem to be to the vocal. But in recent days and weeks I’ve found my self baying for a chance to speak my mind in this topic and (while I haven’t asked) I’m most sure that my work colleagues at the Torch EG wouldn’t want me to speak on the topic. My opinions are usually not the part of the majority but their usually not controversial either. Maybe at some point this might get a re-write and end up on the site. Anyway…

Frame-rate, Resolution and Me.

As most know by now, My history comes from photography and film-making. I’m trained in both to a quite high degree. If you want to be specific, I trained as a writer and a camera man but also as a landscape and urban photographer. All don’t involve talking to people and working with other humans so it suited my secluded self. But this also means that frame-rate and resolution are mainstays of mine. As photographer resolution was key. Taking and getting the highest fidelity image possible because photographs could be used in advertising that takes up the whole side of a building. And in film-making, the standard is 24 frame-per-second on film, digital, and editing programs. It is the most efficient. You can go higher like Peter Jackson and double it to 48 frames-per-second but then it becomes expensive to produce, like shooting a film in 3D with 3D cameras. Films are already extremely costly (when it comes to Hollywood style productions) so adding to the cost to get some more frames is something most don’t really think about. Maybe in the future but now it is extremely rare. But on top if this, films are shot with the same “highest fidelity image possible” idea as photography forcing the idea that frame-rate might as well stay at 24 because it means the fidelity can get better, like IMAX showings.

In the case of video games, frame-rate is important. A higher frame-rate when playing a game means that there is less delay between you pressing a button and the action happening on-screen. But the same case can’t be made to resolution. There is the “highest fidelity image possible” idea but a lot of games are set in a graphically stylized world of fiction it doesn’t matter. Although, for games like “Call of Duty” and games set in the ‘real world’ (that being this world with humans but still as fiction) it sort of does. But does it?

Resolution is a thing that is nice for a game to have but the impact is has on the game is minimal. Graphics don’t make a game, the game makes the game. Look at the past eras of gaming. Back in the DOS years, there was no frame-rate or resolution debate. But as the games moved into 3D and 3rd/1st person the debate started. Slowly, more and more, the debate rose up to become the leading debated point between platforms. This came to a head when consoles like the Dreamcast said that they were the best graphical machine. (This ended up being their downfall ultimately because the PS2 and the GameCube shipped a year later with newer hardware.) But like I said, high frame-rates for games are good because there is less delay for the player making a more enjoyable experience. This just means that frame-rate (on the whole and generally speaking) is more important than graphical fidelity and resolution.

But why then the debate? Well as High Definition [HD] became a thing for film/television/photography it became a thing with games. High polygon models and high particle effects where already a thing because that is the of natural progression of game graphics, the same way that better ISO counts and higher film grains was the natural progression of films tapes for photography/film/television. It creates a better image, not necessarily a bigger image but better and more clear image. HD creates a better image but is that what gaming needed? It all depends on the audience. Time for some films theory.

There are widely seen in film theory as two types of audience, ‘passive’ and ‘active’. Passive audiences are mentally disconnected while active audiences are mentally engaged. Traditionally, film, television and photography has a passive audience because the audience is just sitting in a room watching, having no control over what they are watching in any way. This is the reason why film making throughout history have dappled with ways to make audiences more engaged with the film they are watching. This varied from things like “smell-o-vision“, 4D showings that are used in theme park rides, all the way up to the most recent return of 3D. Games on the other hand are active audience because that are interacting with the world they are watching through the player character. This means that the mental cognition of the audience is different, meaning that the finer details are not noticed because the audience it mentally doing something else. This is different to the passive film audience because will notice finer details because their only mental cognition is to watch the film. Things that the player will notice is things like a delay between pressing a button on a controller to the action happening on-screen. This again means that fidelity and resolution are secondary to the faster reaction time that higher frame rates bring.

But what happens when they combine? YouTube recently activated their 60 frame-per-second video player because gaming is big business on the site. Many already have taken advantage and uploaded many 60 frame-per-second videos. But does it matter? While playing a game at 60 frames-per-second is good for the person recording, it (on the whole) is not necessary because the audience that watches 60 frame-per-second videos is a passive audience. Considering that 60 frame-per-second player is only available to videos that are 720p HD or higher, it forces another boundary to people who want to come into the YouTube gaming space and those who are already in it. While recording software for PC’s is relatively cheap, same can’t be said for console recorders, (recorders that aren’t controlled and limited by the console maker) PCs and editing equipment that is capable to play, record and edit 60 frame-per-second videos. Total costs can easily rise into the several hundred or even over thousand. While it may be nice to watch videos at 60 frames, it on the whole doesn’t, and shouldn’t, matter.

So to clearly state my place;

  • Frame rate matters when playing a game,
  • But doesn’t (or at least shouldn’t) when watching it.
  • Resolution should be considered secondary for game,
  • But frame-per-second should be primary.

But as a final thought, both frame-rate and resolution should be considered secondary to getting good games. I don’t want graphics and frame-rates to take over to the point where that is all that matters so all that gets released is graphical tech demos that are mediocre games.

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Retro Monday Eyetoy Follow-Up

With this weeks “Retro Monday” that’s now out for the internet to read, I feel like doing a follow up.

To those who haven’t read it, and you should because I like watching the view counter, today’s “Retro Monday” was about the EyeToy, the Kinect for the PlayStation 2 from the early 2000’s. I have an easy dig at visual interfacing with games but even I feel like I missed a trick. Or actually, a console.

The Wii came out based on player interfacing. The main controller was/is a stick you make wanking motions with to move stuff or use the same stick and point at the your TV and attempt at furiously change channels. Or you could be a true idiot and just fling it at the screen, breaking the controller and your TV. Anyway, the Wii was a breath of fresh air. Microsoft and Sony had streamlined the box-with-string style of consoles and controllers so having something else was nice. The consumer market must have liked it because the Wii, over time, was a smash hit. It became so popular that Sony made the PlayStation Move, a Sony Wii-mote, when they launched the PlayStation Eye (The EyeToy 2) for the PlayStation 3. Because the Move was such a commercial failure, Sony has moved back to copying the Kinect with their PlayStation Camera, a Sony Kinect, which itself is based on their original idea of the EyeToy.

Both Sony and Microsoft are now looking confusingly at their camera devices. At least Microsoft is. Sony always seen it as an extra but Microsoft doesn’t. With effectively a flat out refusal to un-bundle the Kinect from the Xbox One even though it still is only used to shout at your TV/console rather then play games designed for it, its looking less and less relevant.

Nintendo also now looks like it’s trying to combine its DS (the leader of the hand-held games market) with a seemingly more retro styled console rather then advance their motion controllers. The WiiU is failing so badly that they are planning a new console already codenamed Nintendo Fusion.

So, is this the end for motion controls and camera games? I hope not. I like my EyeToy. The wavy-stick games on the Wii like “No More Heroes” where really fun. I even dusted off my old CRT TV and Namco Gun-Controller2 and played some arcade “Time Crisis 3” recently and that was fun. Most of the games I would play at the arcades would be shooters like “House of the Dead” and the ilk.

I take shots at the Kinect, PS Move and the other motion controls not because I don’t like them. I think their brilliant. They just shouldn’t be mandatory. My sister got a DDR mat for the same reason I got my G-Con2, it was a fun extra.

The console companies, mainly Microsoft, need to see that the motion and camera controls are fun but they are extras. Not mandatory add-ons to show off new, and expensive, technology because it breaks one of the main tenants of consoles:

Thou Shalt be Affordable.

PlayStation Adverts Abound!

The time when you can get your mitts on the PlayStation 4 is only a few weeks away. But lets delve, and by delve I mean search in YouTube, into the past and remember the adverts that came before for the PlayStation 1, 2, and 3. Yeah, Sony just went with numbers for new consoles. Their not that creative.

PlayStation:

This one hits the gamer stereotype harder than someone not using a parachute. Although it starts makes the line that ended up in the film “xXx”. (“Start thinking PlayStation!”) We love you Vin.

PlayStation 2:

The starting of when the Sony ad’s team started to go very arty. It’s not that bad art wise but that was a sign for what ad was coming next.

PlayStation 3:

I’m pretty arty-farty and I have no freaking idea what the hell is going on! Advertising a new console with the spawn of Chucky was never a good idea. It just freaked the hell out of people.

Getting away from the arty stuff, Sony did a string of “Dear PlayStation” ad’s that where just for fun then anything else. And to advertise the other stuff like individual games and the Blu-Ray movie Player. Least people knew what they where advertising.

This is the point when Sony realised that the gaming community made the console. So this was the start of Sony thanking the gaming community that help make them. This would come back when than advertised the soon to be announced PlayStation 4.

PlayStation 4:

Sony saw that people wanted to see games on the new console, especially since Microsoft got a lot of flack because it was concentrating on the Kinect 2.0 when the Xbox One was first announced. Sony did a lot to rub salt in the wound, mostly with adverts like this and with their pre-owned policy skit.

The Machinima live action films where doing well so Sony thought they would make it own for an ad. Well, when I say film I mean a reference to 2 games and a Napoleonic fight in “Killzone Shadowfall”. Least it had good production quality.

This advert I love. It show a commitment to the fans that have stuck with them for 3 generations. Maybe soon 4 generations. I probably love the ad because I’m one of them. (Except for the 4th generation thing. I’m waiting a year.) But still, thank you Sony for recognising the fans that have stuck with you for nearly 2 decades.

DmC Primer and Review

I played the demo of this round about the time the game came out [January/February time] and I said to my self ‘This is a game made for me.” By god I was right. Those unfamiliar with the franchise, here is a quick lesson.

DMC Primer:

The first “Devil May Cry” was a hack-and-slash game that came out for the PS2 in August 2001. It introduced a Earth-world where demons kill, maim and do demon-y things. You play as Dante, a demon killer who runs a demon killing business that only includes him called ‘Devil May Cry’ [I see what you did there] who is tasked by Trish, a lookalike of you dead mother [Mmm… Freudian] to go to an island to kill Mundus, the emperor of the demons that killed your mother and brother. What follows is slashing through many enemies, bosses, more enemies, a betrayal, a twist that pays off 2 games from now, a reconciliation and killing Mundus.

“Devil May Cry 2” [PS2 – January 2003] not many people liked. I thought it was alright. It wasn’t that bad. It see’s Dante fighting more demons and saving damsel’s in distress, killing the bad guy, and getting locked in the demon realm. The chronology of the games were messed up but it was clear that this was the last one. [An un-finished manga and an anime series fit in as well as the 4 games making the chronology more complicated.]

The first chronologically but third in the series called “Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening” [PS2 – February 2005] showed the ‘origins’ of Dante. Before he had his ‘Devil May Cry‘ demon killing business he just ate pizza and didn’t ware shirts. After he meets the bold, deep-voiced, I-am-the-bad-guy Arkham [no connection to the prison] and sees that his brother Virgil is trying to take over the world, he heads off to stop them. You may remember that I said ‘a twist that pays off 2 games from now‘ when I talked about DMC1. This is this game and the twist is Virgil. Well it was sort of a twist. In DMC1 you find out that its your brother. In DMC3 you meet your brother.

Devil May Cry 4” [PS3/360 – Jan/Feb 2008] tied up all the loose ends that the series had accumulated over the years. It was a good round-off of the series and finished off the plot of Virgil who, turns out, is in all the games but only appears in 2.  Overall the series was good. I hits the platinum series for the PS2 and is one of the most known PlayStation series’.

Now to review “DmC: Devil May Cry“. And by the way, it’s a re-boot. So you don’t need to know any of what I just said. None of it. At all. None. So on to the review.

DmC: Devil May Cry Review [2013 – Ninja Theory]

This new DMC was made under the mire of many fans of the original series. Firstly, Dante has had a makeover. The white-haired, red-coated Dante is out with a punk-rock stylised, black-haired Dante replacing him. Personally, the look of him has changed but the badass-ness that made him such a well liked character is still there. That isn’t the only thing that has had a make over. The setting has changed to a more contemporary setting. Rather then being a world where demons and humans live together, there are two dimensions. The human dimension and Limbo, the dimension where the demons hide and secretary control the human dimension. The way the demons control the human world through Limbo is what ever happens in Limbo happens in the human world too. Although this idea seems to be turned on and off at a whim, or more likely, at the whim of platforming sections. But the idea is still an interesting one.

The man bad guy hasn’t changed. It is Mundus, the bad guy from DMC1. But he, as all the other bad guys, have also had a contemporary make over. As we Brits are rather pissed at authority figures right now, the main bad guys are figures of authority. Mundus is the head of Banking company [we pissed at the financial people for the banking crisis/tax rises], another bad guy is a news presenter/media mogul [Pissed of at media people for phone hacking/bias] and a mid-control and un-healthy poisoned drink conglomerate [taxes? It’s bad for you? Although the mind control poison drink is properly a dig at [name redacted]]. They even go further than that but keep is very British. When I said media mogul bad guy you must have thought I was talking about Fox News/News International/Murdock because that is the company/company/man connected with the media scandal. Yes it seems it’s based on that/that/him in a way because the news broadcasts that propagates that Dante is evil is very Americanized and Fox News-ish and Bob Barbas [Bad Guy] is a parody of Bill O’Reilly. But when you see the tower that he is hiding in, I couldn’t help but think ‘that looks a lot like BT Tower‘.

This anti-authority sensibility is weaved through the whole game. Dante’s main weapon is still his sword, Rebellion [I see what you did there], and Virgil heads a groups called ‘The Order’ that is rebelling against Mundus in, [a least at the start,] an Anonymous way. Virgil donning a demon mask and voice changer and hacking into the computer systems of Mundus company. This certainly piles on the look-alike side but the mask is dropped early in the game but the hacking stays because some one has to hack in this modern-day setting.

The gameplay itself is more refined. I have to admit that I wasn’t vey good at the previous games. Yes I played, finished and enjoyed them buy I always found it hard to get decent score ratings. In this one, it is more easer to get good ratings and style points. Some might see that as bad or dumbing its down but it makes the game more accessible to new players. That’s especially needed here because it’s a re-boot. [Or it might just be that my version of DMC 3 was a normal-is-actually-hard-mode version.]

On replay value, there isn’t much. The only thing there is as replay value goes is re-doing levels for better ratings or finishing it on harder difficulties.

Frankly, I adore this game with so much love and I am sad to see that I didn’t do well. I want to see where this new interpretation goes and I hope that Ninja Theory can continue on the series.

Overview:

The game is solid and the story and characters is something I adore about this game. But, if you’re not the sort of person who will replay levels over and over for a better score or for chops, I can see you playing it once and that’s it.

DmC: Devil May Cry – 4.5/5

PC Gaming Master What?

It’s time I got back to writing on here, so here.

I’ve read a lot about PC gaming recently. And I’ve followed ‘Rage Gaming Videos‘ and ‘Generation Hollow‘ on the YouTube recently, both avid PC gamers. And ‘Hollow’ said the phrase that erks me in one of his vlog style ‘Tea & Questions’ videos.

Gaming Master Race.

I’ve always been annoyed at PC gamers saying that. And console guys, that goes for you too. My main tweak is that gaming should just be called gaming no matter what you play it on or how you play it. Considering there are so many types of gamers these days [hardcore, casual and otherwise] on many types of devices [phone, PC, consoles and otherwise].

A personal example is that I started paying games on the PS1 and the PC. Some games like FPS’ I always played on the PS1, and games like RTS’ I always played on PC. I have since tried playing those style of games on the opposing platform and it’s hard for me to make the switch.

One reason why I never wholly stuck with one or the other is because of limitations. Consoles are limited by their specifications and PC by cost and my lack of knowledge of the hardware. I’ve had the same PC for just about 2 console generations and the house PC ‘was’ fighting to be the oldest technology in the house. ‘Was’ because we got, [well, built with the help of Dr Cousin James,] a new house PC over Christmas. But that now means that there are more PC’s in the house then consoles. I have had all the last generations from Windows and Sony, PS1/2/3 and Windows 98/2000/XP/7. [No Vista ‘cos its that terrible.]

It’s that last statement that I have a problem with. I have played games on 7 things, but only 2 platforms, just at my house. And I’m fighting my hardware on this PC to keep that going without a major refit or replacement. If I added all the consoles/PCs I’ve played games on just in the last 10 years, it would be well in double digits. I can understand buying new devises, chips and operating systems to upgrade but after a while it just gets silly.

With the new 8th generation of consoles baring down on us it’s time to have a look at where it could take us. The WiiU it out doing its own thing, and with the new Xbox expected to be the “It’s On!” not-so-subtle announcement countdown to E3 it may be time to move on and move away from the gaming war parapets and join together as gamers of gaming media. We all end up spending far too much just on the hardware to play games, console and PC gamers, so just stop bickering. Although the chances that people will do that is slim but what the hell. I can still hope.

There is no gaming master race, just games and those who play them.

I Don’t Like COD

For a first proper post I’m going to go out on a limb and be rather controversial. I don’t like “Call Of Duty“. As a gamer talking to other gamer’s, some take it as sacrilege. But I don’t mean it like that. Let me explain.

The recent trend of ‘realistic shooters’ been a bit of a personal gripe for a while. I got “Battlefield 3” last Christmas. Yes I know it’s not “COD” but both series’ can just get merged together into a giant ‘Cold War-Nucler-Shoot Russians’ category. Anyway, over the years they’ve taken so much from each other they are pretty much interchangeable. Just that is bad but that’s not my gripe. Its how that games are played.

The story mode/single player mode for these games is just terrible. It always feels like it is tacked on to the finely polished and very good multiplayer. Being able to play through the story mode in just over a day is not bad but really average. It’s that fact that you play 12-18 hours of a crap story is the nail in the coffin. I may be trained in film but I can’t be the only one that is able to predict at least half of the plot from the off.

To make my ending point I’m going to bring in an example. Jonn, one of the clan, has most/all of the “COD” games since “COD: Modern Warfare“. He is yet to finish or even play the single player mode in all of them.

I just want Infinity Ward to just sell it the way people play it. As a multiplayer game. They have that down and polished to a diamond, mirror shine. Forget the single player and don’t bother the gamers who play single player. It would make your life easer in advertising. And considering you hold the record for most online player in most gaming categories you don’t need to do much advertising. And as on the XBox it is sold as two disks, [one for single, one for multiplayer] it would be cheaper for us to buy the damn thing!

Go ahead “COD: Black Ops 2“, prove me wrong!