Tagged with PS3

I fear that the HD future still might not be HD

We have new consoles coming out in a few months! This is a cause for celebration no mater what type of games you play on whatever platform you prefer.

The main gain is that it moves the state of play for what we still insist on calling AAA games from 512mb up to 5gb of memory, and this is  massive win for gamers everywhere. Even the PC gets a massive push as the basic game designs will expand and then the other 10gb of memory we have on our PCs over that initial 5 can be used for stupidly high resolution textures and the like. Happy times for all.

I do have a worry about the consoles, and it’s one that comes from the sad reality of the 360 and PS3: the stated resolution for a game is most likely utter bollocks.

A common practice with console games is to render the game at sub 720p resolution and then scale it up so that it fits. This means that you might have SD content that has only gone through a scaling process and so, and I’m sure everybody has seen this, looks so jagged it’s painful. The reason for this was that the hardware in the consoles just wasn’t powerful enough to do what they wanted to do at the proper resolution.

This is of course the point where PC owners get to be smug as a new graphics card has always been seen as the solution to the problem there rather than upscaling. This is mainly due, I suspect, to the fact that it’s easier and cheaper to just make it the PC gamer’s problem of running games as intended and, generally, PC gamers are happy to have that responsibility to keep their rigs up to speed.

I should of course say at this point that we are so far away from seeing final games on these consoles that this is all speculation, but I suspect that we’re destined for a repeat of last generation in this matter anyway, especially when it comes to the Xbox as it lags behind the PS4 on paper, much like the PS3 lagged behind the 360 for most of the generation.

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Predicting motion control failing isn’t exactly rocket science.

Motion Control. Never have two words filled gamers with so much dread. The Wii got it right, it was enforced from the start and attracted a new generation of people to put a console under their TV, but Nintendo spectacularly failed to capitialise on this and most ended up gathering dust. Now the replacement isn’t selling well and Nintendo really haven’t managed to come up with a compelling argument (i.e. a good enough games catalogue) to justify buying a new one.

I wonder how important the compulsory part of the deal is. Microsoft are certainly going with that, but although Kinect hasn’t flopped (24million sold earlier this year, more now so any normal person might actually call it a success)  it’s never really caught on with us. It works well for things like exercise games, which are really more like apps than games, but I’m hard pressed to think of a single “proper” game that used it well. Add to that living room sizes outside of the US and even the new better camera with the One probably isn’t going to work with most living rooms. From what I’ve seen it’ll work with my living room now, but that’s no good for me as I’ve taken to playing all my games sitting at a desk so I don’t take up the TV. That makes Kinect dead on arrival for me even if the games aimed at me do arrive, and going by past history I find that highly unlikely.

Sony launched the PS3 with built in motion control, and it wasn’t very good. Not a single game managed to use tilting the controller in a meaningful way and even today games use it for meaningless gimmicks like having to shake the controller when The Last of Us decides to make you flashlight flicker. Be honest: how many of you who have played it saw the icon on screen, was confused for a bit and then thought “oh yes, I’d forgotten this controller has motion control” before deciding to ignore shaking it as the light fixes itself anyway?

Later on PS3 launched the PlayStation Move and I really do want to say it flopped. Sony went as far as saying it “had not lived up to their expectations” but it was deeply flawed from the word go. The PlayStation Eye that it needed in order to work had a big, very bright, red LED on it that was always on even when you were just watching a blu-ray, and that was annoying even before people started asking why there was a camera watching them all the time. Next there was the problem of having to buy so many bits, with the camera, wands and navigation controller. The problems continued with only being able to use one navigation controller, which limited the sort of things that games could do in the crucial “two people standing in front of the TV looking silly” market that Nintendo had so successfully created. In the end the thing that did it in was of course the lack of games, as is always the way. It turned out to be slightly more useful than Kinect for “real” games as you could control first person shooters with it, but that was always a gimmick and a controller always felt better.

Lastly we come to the PS4 and yet another form of motion control. The new controller has the light from the Move on the front of it and if you add a Sensor Bar (think smaller Kinect) it has some form of motion control that isn’t entirely defined. The gaming press is of course not exactly clambering for more details as they don’t care, which is a position shared by most gamers. Interestingly although the light is on every controller the sensor bar does not come with the console, a decision that it many believe resulted from Sony shaving some cost from the PS4 in order not to be as expensive as the Xbox One. I think the differences in reaction to the prices of the two consoles well and truly justifies that if it’s true.

I think that win comes at a cost, and the cost is that the motion control on the PS4 will flop. Unless Sony can come up with a compelling feature set beyond tracking controllers then people just won’t touch it, especially if compelling games don’t arrive. I have images of developers working on games that need it crying when Sony announced that it was no longer shipping in the box, but that probably isn’t true. The thing I find odd about the whole thing is Sony’s insistence that the light can be used for other things. Killzone shows your health, games can flash the light when you fire your gun to simulate muzzle flash. All of these things are on a light that you can’t see directly, and will just annoy you if it reflects in your TV. It’s like they are trying to justify having motion control without actually wanting to say it’s for motion control.

So where does that leave us? The Kinect will be the best selling full motion control system of the generation because you have no choice when you buy an Xbox, but the PS4 controller will be the best selling part of a motion control setup by far (it doesn’t have a removable battery so will die like the current one, and you’ll buy more than one controller anyway) so both will be able to claim meaningless victories. If there’s more than a couple of games that truly show off motion control on either system I’ll be shocked, and by the end of the generation we’ll all be wondering why our controller has a light on it, or why we need that camera that we’ve kept plugged in because the system needs it, but have put out of the way behind the TV where it can only barely see the wall through a covering of dust.

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Delving into PS3 trophies

You know how it is, you start digging into something and before you know it you have far more information than you could ever need. Well my digging into PS3 Trophies means that I think I understand them now and so I thought I would take a look at what they are for, what they are worth and how they compare. This is not the post to read if you think that achievements/trophies/etc are a waste of time.

For the uninitiated there are four levels of trophies on PS3: Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum. According to this they are weighted as follows:

  • Bronze: 15
  • Silver: 30
  • Gold: 90
  • Platinum: 180

Games can only have one Platinum, and it has to be for getting all of the rest of the trophies in the game, not including DLC.

So if we take a small game, one of the Sam&Max ones will do, we get a total of 1g (90) 3s (90) and 9b(135) for a total of 315. These small games are not allowed to have a Platinum trophy.

ICO, on the other hand as a medium sized game, has 1p, 9g, 4s and 2b for a total of (180+9*90+4*30+2*15) 690 points. A bit more digging and we have GT5(1p1g4s53b) at 1185 points and an awful long time to that platinum because they’ve been weighted with lots of small ones. Burnout Paradise has a massive 2255 points and Arkham Asylum has 1230. In fact if you dig for a while you find that ~1230 is the normal value for games if you don’t count DLC.

This is all well and good, but what do those levels mean? Well stealing a table from the original post I started with you get:

  • Level 1 – 0 pts
  • Level 2 – 200 pts
  • Level 3 – 600 pts
  • Level 4 – 1200 pts
  • Level 5 – 2400 pts
  • Level 6 – 4000 pts
  • Level 7 – 6000 pts
  • Level 8 – 8000 pts
  • Level 9 – 10000 pts
  • Level 10 – 12000 pts
  • Level 11 – 14000 pts
  • Level 12 – 16000 pts
  • Level 13 – 24000 pts
  • Level 14 – 32000 pts
  • Level 15 – 40000 pts
  • Level 16 – 48000 pts
  • Level 17 – 56000 pts
  • Level 18 – 64000 pts
  • Level 19 – 72000 pts
  • Level 20 – 80000 pts
  • It takes 8,000 points between levels after 20 also.

This tells us that Just playing burnout and completing it all will get you nearly to level 5.

Putting this on a graph we see the following scores for levels 1 through 20:

PS3 Trophy Graph

Well that’s depressing to look at. At level 5 it slows down a bit, and at level 12 you hit a bit of a cliff where it then takes 8000 points to get a single level instead of the 2000 it was taking for the last few levels. I guess that explains why I think I’ve been noticing so many level 12s then!

So why is it designed like this? To start with it’s a very clear run up to level 5 and you will grab a few levels just finishing the single player side of the games you grabbed when you got the console. Things then slow down until you bog down towards the level 12 point, and that is where I think most normal players are going to hit beforereally slowing down.  In fact my first thought when seeing that is to just discard the levels completely, the time between milestones is too great.

The level system for PS3 seems pretty well thought out, it’s just not for average people. To start it gives people the sense of progress and at the end it gives a hardcore grind that makes your level really actually mean an achievement. Now I’ve seen the numbers the thought of bouncing off level 12 and maybe 13 for at least a year that makes it all a bit useless as no progress means it becomes meaningless unless you are a really heavy player.

A quick look at a leaderboard should be enough to scare you. Level 50? 275 platinum? That’s a lot of playing.

Since we know that a PS3 game will be around 1230 points we can take the standard 360 value, 1000, for the exact game in some cases and so some very quick and dirty maths to give a very misleading normalised total for the two. I’m not kidding there, this is at best a bad generalisation and at worse a total fabrication.

  1. Level 1 – 0 pts 0 gs
  2. Level 2 – 200 pts 163 gs
  3. Level 3 – 600 pts 488 gs
  4. Level 4 – 1,200 pts 976 gs
  5. Level 5 – 2,400 pts 1,952 gs
  6. Level 6 – 4,000 pts 3,252 gs
  7. Level 7 – 6,000 pts 1,878 gs
  8. Level 8 – 8,000 pts 6,504 gs
  9. Level 9 – 10,000 pts 8,130 gs
  10. Level 10 – 12,000 pts 9,756 gs
  11. Level 11 – 14,000 pts 11,382 gs
  12. Level 12 – 16,000 pts 13,008 gs
  13. Level 13 – 24,000 pts 19,512 gs
  14. Level 14 – 32,000 pts 26,016 gs
  15. Level 15 – 40,000 pts 32,520 gs
  16. Level 16 – 48,000 pts 39,024 gs
  17. Level 17 – 56,000 pts 45,528 gs
  18. Level 18 – 64,000 pts 52,032 gs
  19. Level 19 – 72,000 pts 58,536 gs
  20. Level 20 – 80,000 pts 65,040 gs
  21. Level 21 – 88,000 pts 71,544 gs
  22. Level 22 – 96,000 pts 78,048 gs
  23. Level 23 – 104,000 pts 84,552 gs

Looking at my gamerscore for 360 I would be level 21, which is higher than my first guess was. I think that might be a bit telling.

At this point it might be good to consider what achievement/trophies are for. Primarily they are a mechanism to make us play more games, with a secondary use of getting us to play individual titles longer than we might otherwise do so.

They make us play more games by letting us see where our friends are and hoping that we get all excited about rivalry. The Sony system doesn’t really make that as easy as the Microsoft one as it’s really not clear how far behind somebody you are until you get bored one weekend and do so much research that you blog about it just to make it seem worthwhile. On the other hand the Microsoft system can really make it clear that somebody is so far ahead of you that you will never catch them. Another problem that I also hit with my Gamerscore is that after I passed 60k or so it just started reminding me that I play way too many games. I would be less likely to consider Level 21 to be overkill than I am to think that 75,000gs is, but that comes at a cost of me not caring about the level because the progression is just too slow.

From this I conclude that past a certain point your gamerscore or trophy level become meaningless, and it would be interesting to see if it’s at the same point in both systems or if one keeps players interested longer. My gut feeling would be that slower levels would burn it out fastest, but I just can’t tell.

The more useful use of trophies and achievements are for our benefit and neither Microsoft or Sony really go out of their way to make this easy. In fact Sony have gone out of their way to make this hard in the past. I maintain that the best use of them is to tell us what our friends have been playing so we can be reminded of games we may have on our shelves that we haven’t played in a while, or that we might wish to play online. Neither platform supports this without third party sites, but something like Raptr or one of the myriad of other web sites step into the gap. These sites are all hampered by Sony’s attitude to letting you get the information as you need to give them your PSN account details (BAD SECURITY, SONY!) whereas sites have been getting the Microsoft data for years over the web without needing that information, admittedly with many issues along the way. In fact the Sony logging in situation came about from their hacking scandal, so it could be argued that they have made their security weaker instead of improving it by requiring passwords. Maybe an Eve Online style API key system would be better for their needs if they wish to restrict casual browsing/scraping of usernames.