Category Archives: PlayStation 3

Return to a LEGO Galaxy Far, Far Away

The age of the gaming console has pretty much faded in our house.  We have had a Wii for more than eight years now, but it has been mostly collecting dust for the last few years.  The last thing I did with it was bring up Pokemon Ranch to get back all the Pokemon I had stored in it last summer during my Pokemon binge.  I am pretty sure I could pack the unit, the controllers, and all the games up in a box and store them away without anybody in the house protesting.

Our PlayStation 3, now four years in the house, gets more attention.  Hooked up to our TV, it gets used to play BluRay movies or stream content from Netflix and Amazon Prime.

Video games though?  Not so much.  Little Big Planet, once my daughter’s favorite thing ever, the game that got her to leave the Wii behind, hasn’t been played in ages.  The last games that got played on the unit were the short bout with the poor PS3 port of Dragon Age: Inquisition and a bit of Diablo III, picked up with a GameStop gift card my daughter got for Christmas.  Those were both very brief encounters.

The mojo had clearly gone from our console gaming.

As I waxed nostalgic around Christmas about the days back when my daughter would wake me up early on Saturday mornings so we could jump in the Love Sac and play Mario Party 8 or Mario Kart Double Dash or LEGO Star Wars on the Wii, my wife decided that we might be due for a replacement.  Our late cat Trixie kept peeing on the Love Sac, so we had to get rid of it, and with it went what seemed to be an essential part of our console gaming mix; the ability to lounge comfortably on something close to the TV.

My wife decided to fix this, so got me a six foot Cozy Sack for my birthday back in March.  A discount competitor to Love Sac, it cost about a third as much as a Love Sac of comparable size and delivers about 80-90% of the experience.

With that, I decided to see if I could tempt my daughter back into playing video games with me on Saturday morning.  Not early Saturday morning… neither of us are keen to get up early these days… but at the more reasonable, post-breakfast hour.  But what game to choose?

Looking through our small-ish collection of PlayStation 3 titles… at least relative to our Wii collection… I decided to go with a classic.  Back when we bought the PS3, I decided to get a couple titles that we already had on the Wii so I could compare the game play.  One of those was LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga.

PlayStation version

PlayStation version

While we had to played the first LEGO Star Wars and LEGO Star Wars: The Original Trilogy, (Game Cube versions for both) when the LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga came out we had to have it on launch day and we played the hell out of it.

So I loaded it up, jumped into the Cozy Sack and called my daughter to come play with me.

It didn’t really work.  She came over and watched me play for a bit, but then went back to whatever she was doing.  My wife watched for much longer, but was not inclined to pick up a controller and join me.  But I was comfy and enjoying myself, so I persisted.  I have done a few levels every weekend and have been enjoying myself quite a bit.

The game has held up for me very well.  Part of that is its simplicity.

Traveller’s Tales has put out quite a list of LEGO games at this point.  We have LEGO Batman, both LEGO Indiana Jones titles, both LEGO Harry Potter titles, LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean, LEGO Star Wars IIILEGO Lord of the Rings, and The LEGO Movie game.

As the years have gone by and new titles have been released, Traveller’s Tales has worked to keep the series fresh by adding in new features and new mechanics.  Viewed from that angle, LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga feels more than a bit clunky.  Everything is jump or shoot or light sabre or use the force with a special mode events appearing very infrequently.

On the flip side though, this is still the culmination of Traveller’s Tales “getting” what makes their LEGO game series great.  After two tries, where the original LEGO Star Wars was too much of a hard core video game and The Original Trilogy still showed some tuning was needed, it felt like they finally got the basic model for their LEGO games down with this one.

So, going back to that early model of the LEGO game idea was refreshing.  A lot of what I said about the game in the past still holds true, including it being perfectly fine on a PS3 controller versus using the Wii Remote.  And, while only running at 720p, it looks much better than the 480p Wii version, not to mention not being rendered in a way that makes the universe far, far away look like it was just buffed to a high gloss finish.

I am at the 40% mark according to the game, with only two episodes left undone.  When I wrap those up I’ll have to decide if I want to go back and find all the mini kits and get the True Jedi achievement on each level, not to mention unlocking all the characters that you have to buy.

 

Diablo III on the PlayStation

I mentioned a while back that my daughter bought a couple of PlayStation 3 games with a GameStop gift card she received for her birthday.

One of them was Dragon Age: Inquisition, which turned out to be not so hot on the PS3.

The other was the Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition, which combined the original game with the expansion in an easy to swallow, new in box, $20 package.  I sort of pressured her on that one because I wanted to try the game out on the PS3 and because it appeared to be a hell of a deal for the whole thing at that price.

Bad parent buys 17+ game for a 13 year old...

Bad parent buys 17+ game for a 13 year old…

And while Dragon Age: Inquisition went back to GameStop, Diablo III actually plays pretty well on the PS3.  It comes across as something of a quality title right out of the box because you can actually play it right out of the box.

I asked my daughter to put the disk in and start it up expecting that we would be 45 minutes to an hour patching things up before we could actually play, which is part of the standard PlayStation experience as far as I can tell. Certainly DA:I was a long time patching.  But she put the disk in, launched the game, and then shouted across the house to me… seriously, what is it with teens, my wife will ask my daughter to tell me dinner is ready an she will simply turn and shout the news, something my wife could have done if that was what she wanted… that the game was ready to go.

No patching?  Runs right off the disk?  Will wonders never cease?

It is like we were playing some console game of yore!

Anyway, by the time I wandered out to the television, she had already created a character, having claimed the new crusader class, so I decided to go with a demon hunter.  I would let her go in and take the hits while I stood back and played the ranged DPS role.

The character I created was associated with my PlayStation account, however it looks like you could move characters over from other accounts.  And, of course, you could play with other people on the PlayStation network.  However, since it was just the two of us in the same room with one account, we chose the path we did.

Jumping right in, the game played very well.  It looks good on the big screen, the controls were relatively intuitive once I got used to them… and I say this as somebody who always feels awkward trying to use a gamepad to control a game.  This is helped by the fact that Diablo III limits skills and abilities, so there are not a whole bunch of options.

Each player gets their own health, action pool, and ability display in one corner of the screen.  I always have to sit on the same side, relative to the other player, as my health bar and such or I get confused.  Fortunately we were aligned correctly to start.

Combat is the same mayhem as on the PC with a few minor changes.  Lacking mouse controls to specify targets, each character gets a color coded caret over their current target so they can see what they are aiming at.  I am not sure that is totally necessary with the close-in melee classes like the Crusader, but playing the ranged Demon Hunter it was very useful.  The only problem is that fine control of targeting is a bit finicky.  I could often see who I was hitting but couldn’t really control my choice of targets.  But they all must die in any case, right?  Lacking screen shot capability, here is a multiplayer example I pulled from the internet.

Four players running in Diablo III

Four players running in Diablo III

And, when your characters start getting separated or when somebody falls behind, the game will put them back up with the party to keep things together.  Given our tug-of-war escapades with LEGO Star Wars back in the days, that worked out well enough.

Basically, fast and furious action just like on the computer… until you want to deal with equipment.

Here is where the whole console controller gets in the way.  You have to open up your character window… one character at a time, please… and navigate inventory, slot by slot, with the analog stick and various buttons.  Again, since I don’t know squat about getting screen shots from the PS3, I am going to borrow an image from the internet.

Diablo III inventory screen

Diablo III inventory screen

You can see in that screen shot all of the equipment slots arrayed about the character in a circle.  You navigate that with the analog stick, moving the focus around the clock face with a circular motion.  When you stop on a slot, it shows you what you have in your inventory for that slot. (Vendors work the same way.)  You can then compare or swap out equipment.  If you have picked up something since you last hit that window, the slot where it landed has a star over it so you know where to look.

All in all, it isn’t a bad system given the tools you have at your disposal.  And if you were playing solo I don’t suppose it would be much of a drawback.  However, if you and three of your friends are sitting in the same room playing and everybody wants to check their inventory after a big fight or some such, I could see that getting old very fast.  My daughter and I had to set some basic rules about when it was okay to check inventory.  The same interface also goes for skills, though at least you don’t pick up a dozen skills while crossing the average zone.

The only other thing I noticed during our initial games was that it seemed to access the optical drive a lot more than I was used to with other games.  Of course, this was natural as it was literally running from the optical disk.  Later on I found the option to install the game on the system’s hard drive, at which point things sped up.  We ended up playing most of the way through the first act and had a good time.

All in all, I am pretty happy with how the game turned out when translated to console.  And for $20 for both the base game and the expansion, I can highly recommend it if you have any inclination to play Diablo III from your couch as opposed to at your desk.  The main problem I have is finding a time when my daughter and I both want to play.  We’re well past the days of her waking me up on Saturday morning to play video games with her.

Small Items for a Friday in February

Well, small in terms my point of view.  More like things I wanted to mention, but which didn’t quite justify a full blog post.

Five Years of Star Trek Online

I got an email from… whoever it is that runs STO these days… that the five year anniversary was upon us.

That five year graphic

That five year graphic

I like that they zero-padded the number.  It shows a determination to get to ten years.

Five years is bitter sweet, as this was perhaps the second-to-last MMO I was very excited about before launch, but which I ended up putting down very quickly.  I have been reading about Werit’s return to the game, and have been tempted myself.  But I always want to play every game that launches or that announces an expansion or that says “pink fuzzy bunny” five times fast.

That I have a lifetime subscription also weighs a bit on me, though I am not sure how I would go about even finding my account again, much less getting it all squared away with whatever operational entity now runs the game. (Werit’s troubles in that regard serve as a warning.)

So rather than get into that tangle and stretch myself even more thinly… I have five freakin’ garrisons to maintain dammit… I will just note the anniversary and wish the game well.  Five years is not nothing in this field.

Heroes of the Storm Closed Beta

One of the comments I heard a number of times after Blizzard announced the Heroes of the Storm Founder’s Pack was that nobody was ever going to be invited to the closed beta again.  If you wanted in, you were going to have to pay the $40 toll.

And, while I am mildly interested in seeing what Blizzard has done with the MOBA thing for mopes like me (and even more so after Ben Kuchera’ article at Polygon), there was no way I was going to pay to get in.

So color me surprised to find myself invited to the closed beta.

Heroes of the Storm calling...

Heroes of the Storm calling…

And, while people get grumpy about the whole Blizzard launcher thing, and I personally got a bit shirty on that past push by Blizzard to combine all of our accounts into a single Battle.net account, the combination of the two meant that actually getting the game on my machine was a snap.  I went to the “already there” button for Heroes of the Storm on the Battle.net launcher where I found the “Buy the damn Founder’s Pack!” button had been replaced with an “Install” button.  4GB later, I was all set.

I have yet to launch the game, but it is there to try out… once I finish working on my garrisons.

Owning Dragon Age: Inquisition for about a Day

Last weekend my daughter and I were out shopping for a birthday present for my wife.  Once we had completed that, we headed straight to GameStop to look at all the things they had for sale… mostly because my daughter had received a $50 gift card for the store at Christmas.

The GameStop experience… it is a thing.  We wandered around a somewhat cramped little store while a very enthusiastic employee shadowed us, asking if we were looking for anything in particular and handing us print outs of games on sale.  We were happy when somebody else walked in and such attention was halved.

Platform wise, we were only really interested in PlayStation 3 or Nintendos 3DS games, though we did take a moment to look at the sad little display of used Wii games in the corner.

Eventually my daughter’s eyes landed on a used copy of Dragon Age: Inquisition for the PlayStation 3.

You don't see a left handed hero every day

You don’t see a left handed hero every day

She showed it to me and I said, “Well, I don’t like BioWare games (or at least any BioWare game since Baldur’s Gate), but this is YOUR money, so it is up to you.”  And then we had a long discussion about the merits of BioWare, which at least established our nerd cred in the room, during which she said she had read some good things about it on the WoW forums and wanted to give it a try.  Again, her money.

So she ended up getting a used copy of Dragon Age: Inquisition and a new copy of Diablo III – Ultimate Evil Edition  (which includes the base game plus the expansion, all for only $20, so hurrah for arriving late to the party) both for the PS3.  The checkout process was the usual amount of “Our club, corporate policy requires I spend five minutes telling you about it no matter how often you ask me to stop, so let’s just get through this together, just say “no” whenever I make eye contact, because this is my job and I’d like to keep it for now” before I was allowed to pay and walk out of the store.

Once home, my daughter spent about two hours playing DA:I and then asked if we could return it.  She didn’t like it.  The text was really tough to read on screen, even for her young eyes, and it really felt like a game that needed to be played on the PC to her.

Fortunately, GameStop’s policy is that you can return used games for a full refund, no questions asked, so long as you keep your receipt and do it within three days.  Or five days.  I forget.  But we did it the next day.

And, to GameStop’s credit, they took the game back and even credited my AMEX rather than giving me store credit or another gift card.  I did have to quickly affirm that I had heard the full club spiel in the last 48 hours before the clerk felt safe in skipping the hard sell on that front.

He did ask, after we had the refund, why we brought it back, and we related the whole text and complexity thing.  He said that there had been a number of complaints about text legibility on the PS3 and figured that BioWare had botched something when porting the game back from the PlayStation 4.

And so we owned Dragon Age: Inquisition for less than 24 hours and now she has a credit at the Bank of Dad.  We are going to give Diablo III on the PS3 a shot this weekend.

I did have a fourth item for this post, but it actually grew into a full blog post as I wrote it… so I guess I was wrong up at the top.  That will show up at a future date.

Seven Pillars of Wisdom

All men dream: but not equally.  Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake up in the day to find it was vanity, but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.

-T.E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom

I actually have a copy of Seven Pillars of Wisdom on my bookshelf, a 1938 US post-death edition of the 1926 version of the book.  It came from my grandfather, who picked it up somewhere along the way.  I took a couple shots at reading it when I was much younger, and now I am hesitant to even pick it up due to its age.

All of which is really an aside to explain the reference in the title, but which will make a bit more sense shortly.  Maybe.

Destiny launched last week.

Destiny_450

And while I wasn’t caught off guard like some, I would have to say that its impact on me has been minor.

I have fond memories of some past Bungie games.  Pathways into Darkness was good and many hours were spent playing Marathon and then Myth at the office.  But once Bungie got bought up by Microsoft and became just the Halo studio of the XBox division at the company, they faded from my consciousness.  It was to the point that when somebody would actually connect Bungie and Halo for me, I would get that squint on my face and say something like, “The same Bungie that made Marathon? They are still a thing?”

Anyway, through some machinations Bungie is still a thing and is free of Microsoft and the need to do things exclusively for the XBox.  That they managed to do this… though Microsoft got custody of Halo in the divorce… only to jump into bed with Activision might make your head hurt.   But, let’s face it, Bungie is a AAA developer so they need to go out and get screwed by hook up with a publisher that has the ability to move AAA titles.

So Destiny came to be.  It is a shooter of some sort… which given Bungie’s history is no big surprise… with MMORPG elements to it.  And while it is available on a platform I actually own… I still have a PlayStation 3… I doubt I will end up playing it.  Due to a variety of factors, our PS3 is used primarily for video streaming, to the point that I cannot remember when we last played a game on it.

Let’s see, so far I have a T. E. Lawrence quote and some chatter about a game company that used to be important to me but whose games I haven’t played this century, a trend that looks to continue into the foreseeable future.

Such deep insight.  Are you still awake?

Okay, time to wrap this up by reaching for the bit I could have probably pasted in at the top and let sit on its own.

As part of reading about Destiny, I came across a couple of references to Bungie’s “Seven Pillars of Design” and how the company uses this as the foundation for creating its games.  Naturally, I had to go look up those pillars, which were enumerated as such:

  1. A World Players Want to Be In
  2. A Bunch of Fun Things to Do
  3. Rewards Players Care About
  4. A New Experience Every Night
  5. Shared With Other People
  6. Enjoyable By All Skill Levels
  7. Enjoyable by the Impatient and Distracted

Not a bad list, the distillation of their own gaming wisdom, garnered through more than twenty years in the industry.  I especially like that last entry, though I might have tacked on something like, “but not in a way that annoys the rest of the audience.”  Or am I the only one who has been in a Dungeon Finder group with “that guy” whose sole phrase during the whole run was, “Go go go go go?”

It sure beats that fourth pillar hype, the most interesting aspect of which, more than four years down the road was it being plagiarized by another game.

It almost makes me want to play it at some point, just to see how they did on the list… though that gets us back to the list of reasons why we don’t actually play games on the PS3 at our house again.

The game itself seems to be doing well, with sell through for the first week reported by Activision at some insane number… $325 million in five days?  That is… well… insane.  They certainly won’t be in a hurry to port to the PC.

With that number, I guess we can say that Activision did their job for Bungie.  Pity about the bonuses after all that green was raked in.  Metacritic puts the game in what we might call the “mediocre” range of the review spectrum.  A lot of the reviews are heavy on complaints.  My current favorite piece on the game is over at Forbes with the title “Destiny Is A Bad Game, But I Can’t Stop Playing It.”  Meanwhile VG24/7 has attempted to compile every complaint about the game and call it a review.  (You have to have your satire sensors engaged though.)

And so it goes.  I guess the real test will be if people are still talking/complaining about Destiny six months or a year down the road.  Bungie has created a sizable installed base on little more than its reputation, now to see if they can do something with it.  Did they meet their design goals?  Is this the dawn of another Halo-like epic franchise?  Is the team at Bungie made up of dreamers of the day?

Side Notes About Used Games

There has been a bit of a controversial breeze blowing through the console news, with the rumor being that Microsoft will be putting an end to the used game market with their next generation console by simply not allowing it to play used games.

Used games and piracy are the two things that keep some big game publishing execs up at night building enormous castles in the sky with all the wealth that could be theirs if only they could be rid of these meddlesome practices.

Not that I am unsympathetic to people whose software is being pirated.  I work in software as well, and it irks.

But with the threat of a final solution to the used game problem potentially on the horizon, it was extremely refreshing to hear somebody from EA come out and say that the used games market is not 100% evil.

Basically, in their view, used games have helped prop up the traditional retail channel for the last few years, which is still an important source of game sales.

Oh, and the fact that people who buy new games can then turn around and trade them in for credit increases the likelihood that they will then buy another new game.  So the used games market might actually be boosting new game sales, at least in certain segments of the market.

Using Used to sell New

Using Used to sell New

But they still want to kill the used market because… despite the above… they still hate it and can’t stop telling themselves that every used game sale would have been a new game sale if not for that damn gray market.

At the other end of the equation there is GameStop, a company that pretty much depends on used games to stay open.  They are upset.

No surprise there.

And they have some numbers that say some gamers won’t buy Microsoft’s icky new console if it doesn’t support used games.  And while I cannot speak to the validity of their poll, they are probably right to be worried.  The end of the used game market probably means the end of GameStop in the medium-to-long term.

And GameFly too, while we’re at it.  All those game rentals would have been new game sales, right?

Microsoft dreams of having control over things in the way that Steam does.  And they have been headed that way with things like direct purchases through XBLA.  Of course, Steam itself is in a bit of a fix in Europe, where the European High Court ruled that digital content should be transferable.  The concept of used might not be going away… and Microsoft throwing in against used will probably just inflame the issue in Europe.  They like Microsoft even less than most people here do.

And I expect typical Microsoft avarice when it comes to pricing, at least initially, which will stoke people’s ire even more so.  Steam thrives in part because of their massive sales, which rope in the buyers who didn’t have to have a given game on day one for list price.  Will Microsoft relent on the $60 price tag for games when there is no used market?  I bet not.

My only solace in all of this is that it does not impact me for the most part.

While we have two consoles, a Wii and a PlayStation 3, but I doubt that we will be jumping on the next generation.  I have been a PC gamer since 1983… wow, 30 years… and will likely remain so.  Our PS3 is mostly used to play Blu-Ray movies and stream Netflix, and our Wii hasn’t been on in months.

And, even when we were playing consoles more, I was not a big spender in the used game market.

Once in a while I would buy a used game from GameStop.

But I do not buy used games to save money or to stick it to the publisher.  I buy them because a given game I want simple isn’t available new any more.

Quite a while back I wanted Tetris for the Nintendo DS.  However, it was no longer being published and so was simply not available new.  It was even hard to find used.  GameStop had a copy for me, for which I paid nearly list price.  And not a penny of that went to Nintendo.  But not because I wouldn’t have given them the money.  However, I am sure that would lump me in with those killing single player games in the eyes of some.

Likewise, I had to go looking for a copy of Civilization II in order to be able to play it on Windows 7 64-bit.  The used market was the only choice.  The same went for Mario Kart Double Dash, a Game Cube game my daughter and I wanted to play on the Wii.

Of course, with another aspect of the next console generation… doing away with backward compatibility… the out of print game issue won’t rear its head any time soon.  Still, at some point, unless we go completely to digital distribution, there will games that have had their production run and are no longer available.

So where do used games sit in your world view?

More Unspent Virtual Currency…

I was just complaining about not having anything on which I wanted to spend Station Cash, and now Sony Computer Entertainment America sends me a note to remind me to… well… please spend some of the funds on my PlayStation 3 account.

Dear Wilhelm

Dear Wilhelm…

Yes, I know, the PlayStation people actually use standard monetary units.  But you cannot get it back out again, so your “funds” in whatever currency might as well be Play Station Doubloons.

It would be nice if the two piles of Sony funds were not segregated, but as we saw with DC Universe Online, SCEA wants to protect its users from any interaction with the unwashed PC masses.

I wonder how much unused virtual currency I have sitting around?  SOE Station Cash, Play Station Network Funds, Turbine Points, World of Tanks gold, Need for Speed World Speed Boost, EA Play 4 Free Funds, Turbine Points, Runes of Magic Diamonds, Star Trek Online C-Store whatevers…

There might be a virtual fortune out there.

How about you?  How much virtual currency do you have sitting around?

DUST 514 Beta Open to All EVE Online Subscribers

CCP announced that EVE Online players will now have access to the beta of their upcoming console shooter DUST 514.

From CCP:

You’re in! In preparation for this weekend’s beta event, we’re giving DUST 514™ All Access passes to every EVE subscriber. Be part of the massive EVE player invasion set to hit the DUST 514 servers starting August 9th, 2012. Follow the guidelines:

INSTRUCTIONS
1.    Login to your EVE Account Management Voucher Center.
2.    Claim your DUST 514 Beta CCP Code.
3.    Copy the CCP Code displayed in the Voucher Center.
4.    Go to http://dust514.com/redeem and enter the CCP Code to begin.
5.    Follow the instructions at dust514.com to obtain your PlayStation®Network Voucher.

Then, just follow the instructions on the PSN Voucher code page to redeem the voucher and start playing in the DUST 514 closed beta.

The DUST 514 beta server is open this weekend from Thursday, 9 August at 11:30 UTC through Monday, 13 August at 11:00 UTC.

That is cool.

Of course, there is the question “How many EVE Online players have a PlayStation 3?”

We happen to have one at our house, so I am good in that regard.

And then there is the game itself.

I like that it is hooked into EVE Online proper, that the game is expanding the CCP “One Universe” philosophy.  What is done in one game can impact the other and such.  That should make for some most excellent unintended consequences.

On the other hand, it is a shooter… a console shooter…. a console shooter with what is purported to be such an annoying control set that mouse and keyboard players like myself have gone insane, or at least have gone out an bought the keyboard and mouse control set for the PS3 just to play the game.

Anyway, I might give it a look this weekend.  Maybe.

Then again, a friend gave me a code for the beta a couple weeks back and I watched the Olympics instead.  So we’ll see.

But the whole thing is under wraps still, so I suspect I won’t be blogging about it.

The DUST 514 closed beta program is a private test of a work in progress. It is not a final product, nor is it indicative of final performance, frame rate, effects, or feature set. Please remember that if you choose to participate, everything associated with this test is confidential and may not be discussed outside of the DUST 514 closed beta forums. Your participation in the DUST 514 closed beta program is always subject to the EULA and Confidentiality Agreement.

Ah well.  You can only talk about things that CCP has already made public.