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Alive 14
Piss on ya PS3!

               A slightly defocused rant about things console..

Here's a foreword, and a rambling apology, I'll come right out and say first
of all,  that I never really 'got' consoles right from the 2600 days. To me,
the original home computer was god and that was all there was to say at  the
time.  Then consoles took a back seat around the crucial ST/Amiga ascendency
years,  and they didn't recover until the 16-bit Sonic generation. Therefore
they  didn't get my attention,  whereas someone getting interested in gaming
slightly later, might have been more in favour.

So  what  has  provoked this manufactured storm of  outrage  from  the  CiH-
meister?  Well the decision by Sony to delay the PS3 for the European market
until March 2007 will do nicely for a quick reason for now.

But  why  do you care,  it's not as if you're first in line for  one?   Well
we've been here before,  far too many times already. I remember very well in
the  Snes  and Megadrive days,  that I got to see some titles a YEAR  before
their official Euro release,  but only because I had access to people with a
Rom to floppy disk copying device,  and some interesting contacts in the BBS
scene  of  whom ST Format would not have approved!  Which seems to  indicate
that in this limited case, piracy pays, and honest punters are the ones left
clutching empty air for up to a year later.

Applying  this  third class logic to hardware,  you get the  grey  importers
moving  in to fulfil a need denied by the console manufacturer's  assymetric
release dates, only this time, Sony are going to crack down on anyone trying
to  do  that with the PS3,  ho hum.  Still,  they might be doing the public a
favour  by protecting them from stupid hype pricing.  I get the feeling that
Sony does not give a stuff about us,  and feel similarly demotivated to give
a stuff in return about them!

You  might work out that I'm not a big fan of a regionalisation policy  that
puts us in last place every bloody time!

Secondly,  I've  never  got into the 'closed' and authoritarian  development
model favoured by console companies. Right from Nintendo's initial jihads on
anyone  attempting to do anything 'open source' with their kit,  through  to
the  present.  I've enjoyed the fruits of a free and open creative computing
culture.  I  accept  that  this  is subject to the  demands  of  the  people
concerned  making  a living in real life,  and this runs more slowly than  I
would  like,  but  I accept that.  A quick browse through the Pouet  archive
tends  to  show that none of the consoles have got a really  big  demoscene.
There  are a few productions for most,  and a couple of pages or so for  the
better  supported,  but not so many considering how many millions of  people
own  these  consoles.  I  guess that getting hold of (or  making  your  own)
development  tools is a hard slog,  and beyond the level of all but the most
dedicated?  Alright  the  exception proving this rule might be  the  Gameboy

The  overbearing and overcontrolling approach is a symptom of  the  Japanese
console  makers particularly,  although Atari had their moments of corporate
megalomania  back  in  the  day.  It's not as if Microsoft are  a  model  of
openness either,  but wait a minute, even they are reconsidering the subject
with  their 'XNA Game Studio Express',  which is trying to create a  dynamic
homebrew  game-making culture,  sort of like the one which disappeared  when
Windows  became the Uber-O/S.  Well we'll see if there is a hidden catch  in
this  promise,  as I'm sure Microsoft have smuggled one in under their  EULA

One  half-remembered  story has the Japanese entertainment  software  market
going  for a closed development model when the success of  the  mid-eighties
MSX  home computer platform led to a spike in piracy levels,  and a muttered
determination  by the Japanese corporations not to go down  that  particular
road again!

It  tends  to help when the consoles have been around for a bit and  get  an
emulator  developed  for them.  At which point they do start to become  more
interesting  to  the likes of me.  But of course,  things like emulators are
offensive in the eyes of the corporations who will do what they can to  kill
them off.

And we're not letting off Nintendo,  and their odd attempts at censorship of
game  content,  back in the Snes days,  of which Castle Wolfenstein was only
the  best known example.  We're all familiar with the downside of  Microsoft
running  a  de-facto monopoly,  but the Console corps would be scarcely  any
better if they manage to get it all their own way.

And  here's  another thing,  it might also be a case that consoles,  or  the
people  marketing  the software at least,  don't like me,  and don't want to
encourage  my  business.  In my opinion,  current marketing and packaging of
many console games is forced into a strict age-ghetto.  If you are the wrong
side of thirty,  you don't half feel like a paedophile browsing the shelves,
whether  it is looking at the almost pre-school Nintendo stuff,  or even the
X-Box 360 and Sony wares designed with the yoof market in mind? I think this
is  deliberate,  to aim for a specific and narrow age-demographic,  but once
you  fall  outside  of that,  then get lost daddio!  Surely there must be  a
market for a universal console to appeal to all? I don't think it was always
like this, the classic Gameboy could be picked up and played by anyone.

The  moral  of  that last paragraph is,  yes I know I'm an old fart,  but  I
resent having that fact shoved in my face!  Anyway,  most European countries
demographic profiles are getting more middle-aged,  so the Console companies
are missing out on a potentially huge market here.

(Update - Feb '07)

And it's  not  just  me who thinks  that  way  either. Here's an extract from about what they see as the coming crash in video
games. This is what they have to say about Nintendo.

"I know some of you Nintendo fans were  screaming at your monitor in the last
section, saying the $199 (or $249) Nintendo Wii is the low-cost answer to the
affordability problem.The problem is Nintendo is still so neglectful of older
gamers that it borders on hostility.  Everything  they showed at E3 starred a
cartoon character, and the games that didn't (Madden and Red Steel) appear to
be very bad games. Plus, I say the older you are, the less inclined you'll be
to flail around the room with their new controller."

So is there anything you like about consoles?

Well  yes  there is.  The more 'retro' a system becomes,  the more charm  it
acquires. A good example is the Sega Gamegear, which is now happily emulated
on  Atari  as  well  as  other systems.  You  can  admire  the  professional
workmanship  that  went into the best games on an emulated  version  of  the
system, without paying the hype price for new releases.

So does this mean you're a cheapskate?  Well yes of course! The problem with
new  systems  and  new  releases  is,  that you get  issues  of  peer  group
acceptance and appearing 'cool' mixed in too much, regardless of whether the
game  is actually any good,  or just a derivative of its 500 genre  brothers
that  came  before it.  Somehow,  'retro' seems purer and more about  simple
enjoyment,  and  not  being bound up in the identity pressures of  a  hyper-
consuming 'yoof' culture.

Also,  I will say that in a uniform desert of Peecee dullness,  at least the
console  makers  keep on doing new and fabulous  things  with  extraordinary
combinations  of hardware.  The relatively long shelf-life of the successful
consoles  means  that  the optimising skills of the  demo  coders  are  more
relevant  to these machines,  than the bloatware 'wait for the next upgrade'
approach of the Peecee market.

And of course,  the good games made for these machines really do rock.  This
is  thanks to our tame coders who used to make amazing things on Atari,  but
have  been seduced by promises of riches,  an exceedingly time-poor  working
environment,  and  the  chance  to  listen to  lots  of  unfeasible  USA-ian
management  jargon in their daily briefings.  A lot of inspiration for  this
article also comes from me being an old fart and not being able to spot  the
differences between games written after 1995, so there!

And I will say well done to Nintendo for at least getting their Wii out this
side of Xmas.

I might finally put a word in for a system which is totally atypical of  all
that I have described before. The Gamepark, in its current GP2X version, has
opted  for  a  180 degree turnabout from the  traditional  console  megacorp
restrictive development model. Gamepark opted to make their handheld as open
as  possible,  powering  it  via  Linux,  using open  source  devtools,  and
encouraging  homebrew work,  demo's,  emulators of classic systems and more.
Now if you could attach a keyboard to it,  that would be just be the perfect

Alive 14