Daily Archives: November 16, 2011

Six Months of the PlayStation 3

It is shaping up to be Sony week here.  First MMOs, now consoles.

Six month ago we purchased a PlayStation 3 for our home.

Just in case you wanted to see a box

And I haven’t said much about it since, except to note that the whole PlayStation Network got hacked just days after I bought the thing.  Talk about timing.  I didn’t even have time to enter my credit card before the whole thing was down.

I guess that was good timing in a way.

Anyway, while I have not mentioned our PlayStation 3, I also haven’t tried to return the unit or attempted to chuck it out a window in a fit of rage.  It has become integrated into our TV-centric entertainment center.

We bought the unit with three purposes in mind, to play Blu-ray discs, to stream NetFlix, and to play games.

Playing Blu-ray Discs

From what I have read and heard from friends, Blu-ray seems to be at about the point that DVDs were in around 2000, where in general any Blu-ray disc will work in any given Blu-ray player, but disc authors have discovered some features in the format that not all players respond well to.  I recall Disney DVDs causing problems with our old DVD player, something that went away with its replacement.  As they were both Bose units, clearly the hardware people eventually caught up with what the disc authors were doing.

So I expected to run into a bit of this sort of thing with the PlayStation 3.

As it turns out though, the issue has not really come up.  I suspect that the unit being on the internet and getting regular updates has fixed most of the problems that early units probably encountered.  The joy of online updates.

Anyway, as a Blu-ray player, the PlayStation 3 is fine.  We have not had any problems playing any discs.

To facilitate Blu-ray play, at Potshot’s suggestion, I also purchased the Blu-ray remote for the unit, which has all the functions on it you would find on a standard DVD/Blu-ray player remote.  It works well and, being Blue Tooth, it does not even require line-of-sight to the unit in order to function.

That last bit, while nice, has also lead to an issue now and again.

The buttons seem very sensitive and I, my daughter, and the cats have all brushed the remote from time to time only to have it interrupt the movie in progress in some way, even when the remote is tucked away behind something.  I am also a bit confused as to why the STOP button on the remote dumps you out of playback and directly to the PlayStation 3 menu system.  But then I am not sure exactly what the button should do, but that would be low on my list.

All in all, the unit makes a good, if somewhat expensive, Blu-ray player.

Streaming Netflix

This was a specific requirement of ours that has since fallen by the wayside.

The unit does indeed stream Netflix very well.  It was quick to set up.  I was streaming Netflix in under an hour after first opening the box.  Connected only by WiFi, the unit was able to stream HD video without interruption.  There was only one movie with which we had problems, and it appeared to be a problem with that movie in particular.

So, the PlayStation 3 was good at streaming, we just ran out of things we wanted to watch on Netflix streaming.  And while there are other streaming choices, I have not really been motivated to explore them as there seems to be a universal “not as good as Netflix” aura around the lot of them when it comes to technical performance.

I have looked into the PlayStation Store.  They rent and sell movies there.  A movie rental in standard definition is three dollars, and high definition is five dollars or so, which probably isn’t a bad price.  I am just not programmed to see individual rentals like that as a good deal any more.  Blame Netflix and its “all you can watch” subscription.

I can’t bring myself to use pay-per-view with DirecTV for the same reason.

I might actually be interested in television episodes, since you can get those in HD, while we’re still watching TV in SD, but those seem to go for about 3 bucks a pop as well.  I’d like to see Burn Notice in HD, but a whole season via the PlayStation Store costs about as much as it would to buy the same thing on Blu-ray.

So, overall, this was something the PlayStation 3 was good at.  It is just something for which we stopped having a use.

Playing Games

So here is where one of life’s little ironic twists shows up.

We have had a Wii for a few years, and one of my big complaints about the Wii has been the controllers.  Sure, they are innovative.  The problem is that most of the games we own could be played just as well, if not better, on a standard game controller.

And the PlayStation 3 certainly has a standard game controller.  I think it is pretty much the same as the PlayStation 2 controller, isn’t it?

Anyway, to prove this out, one of the first games I bought was LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga.  It is an excellent game.  We have it on the Wii.  It is one of my prime examples of not really taking advantage of the Wii remote.

We loaded it up.  It looks beautiful in high definition.  Animation is silky smooth.  And I find it much harder to play on the PlayStation 3 than on the Wii.

This is likely one of those “just me” things, but I haven’t had a game console with a standard controller since the Sega Genesis in 1992.  I have not developed the muscle structure to hold my hands together in front of me in the “gamer grip” on the controller, which is required with the PlayStation 3.

Instead, I have muscles built up from something like 35 years of typing and 25 years of mouse and keyboard computer usage.  And it turns out that at least the latter trains you to keep your hands somewhat apart and makes them capable of independent action, just the way the Wii remote and Nunchuck attachment do.

I’ve been ergonomically trained for the last quarter century to use a Wii controller configuration.  Who knew?

So I can play LEGO Star Wars and the like for hours on the Wii, but I start to cramp up on the PlayStation 3 in 30 minutes or less.  Life turns my assumptions on their ass yet again.

And the PlayStation 3 doesn’t solve one of the problems I was hoping it would.  In the LEGO games, they solve the screen tug-of-war created by two players going in the opposite direction by introducing a split screen mode with LEGO Indiana Jones 2.

On the Wii I found this feature distracting and disorienting to the point of making me a little nauseous at times.  I figured there must be some flicker involved, ala the Atari 2600 back in the day with too many objects on screen, along with the old tube TV causing this to be an issue with me.

And then we got LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean (beautiful game in HD, and a lot better than the 4th movie frankly!) for the PlayStation 3 and… the whole split screen was just as bad.  It turns out to be just me.  Again.  Ah well.

All of which is not to say that the PlayStation 3 is a failure for gaming at our house, though the Wii still gets at least as much usage as the Sony box, and we have not invested in many games yet.

The most played game PlayStation 3 game we have has to be Little Big Planet.

This game annoys my daughter no end… when I play with her.

Left to herself, she loves the game, and I must admit it has a lot of charm.  I just suck at platform games.  I always have.  And it just so happens that my daughter’s favorite games are platformers, with LBP on the PlayStation 3 and Super Mario Bros. on the Wii getting most of her attention.  And in both, I am the main problem she has with the game.

Overall Impression

The Sony PlayStation 3 is a fine piece of hardware.  The only problems I have had have been related to Sony itself, first with the PlayStation Network down time and then their annoying EULA tricks.

The only real issue I have with the system is that I do not really use it to its fullest… or anywhere close to it.  We play LEGO games and a 3 year old classic on it and watch Blu-ray discs.

I just haven’t found the killer app for the system.

New Hot Bars – EverQuest Has Them

Something new for everybody in the Veil of Alaris expansion.

There is a new splash screen!

Okay, there is more than a splash screen.  There are also new hot bars.

It seems like a silly new feature, but the hot bars in EverQuest now look… well, more like you expect if you have played any MMO since 2004 or so.  And you get more of them, and 12 is the standard number per bar.

12 buttons

There is a new help file on the changes, and the changes apply to everybody who plays the game.  I am sure somebody will complain how this will ruin the whole progression server retro experience.

The help text for the new hot bars - click to make readable

They still seem to act pretty much the way they used to however.  It is one of those things that takes me a while to figure out every time I go back to the game.

And that is pretty much it for me and the new expansion.