Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Review: Sony Wireless Stereo Headset for PS3

Sound is probably the second most important element of any game, after gameplay. Sound is what put us in the mood and a game with bad sound design and music can became unbearable to play. So, having a good sound system can help you to immerse yourself in the game. Do the Sony Wireless Stereo Headset for PS3 and PC lives to the task?

Sony Wireless Stereo Headset
MSRP US$99,90


Sony gives us an interesting piece of tech. The headset follows the Playstation family in design and materials, with the matte finish of the PS3 slim. The ear cups and the headband are covered in a material similar to leather. There are two sliders in the left side, one for the general volume in the back and one to adjust the voice chat volume ratio to the game volume. A small button in the top changes the set from virtual 7.1 surround sound to pure stereo sound. The left side of the headset, near the top, can be pressed to turn the set on/off or to toggle the mute. 

Installation is a breeze. If your console is already updated with firmware 3.72 you just need to plug the USB stick that come with the phones and turn the phones on. They will pair and you are ready to go. Some small setup may be needed in the console settings if you were using another headset. With no cables whatsoever, it is hassle free as possible.

It will use one USB port in your console, so better make room for this. Considering all headsets I have seen to date uses one, it is not a deal breaker. Why this set is not Bluetooth could be related to sound quality, but the USB stick do its job as well. 

Once paired, you can go and play. Turning the surround on, you are involved in the atmosphere, hearing all minimal details. Dark Souls lonely and dangerous world became full of small details. Killzone 3 and Battlefield: Bad Company 2 became a chaotic mess of gunshots and ambient sound, which is a good thing, as the intention is feeling in a war.

Without the surround, for some reason, the sound became quieter, making me turning the volume up. The sound is very good, but you loose the immersion provided. Which is the point of the virtual surround, I guess. In other hand, yes, you can tell not only left from right, but front, back, up and down too. But no, I don’t felt any kind of ‘tactical advantage’ yet. Maybe those foot steps are harder to track when everything is exploding around you. Or a true surround system would work better. I can’t tell you that. 

If the voice of your party is too loud, you can just slide the front control to make the game sound more prevalent or the other way around if you are having trouble to listen the team. The middle setting worked for me in most occasions. Also, the headset cam pump very loud sounds, so no need to worry about not having enough volume.

The microphone is nice, but has very few adjustments. In fact, you can just pull it all the way or let it docked. Both ways work fine. The microphone feel a little loose, but nothing that can demerit it. I recommend care in handle, but I would recommend that to any piece of equipment that costs more than the coins in my pocket. The led at the tip is never visible to me, so it was never distracting, but there is reports about it getting in the way. 

Another problem is that you can’t hear your voice from the mic. It is weirder than I expected, since I have no idea if I am screaming or whispering to my team. Hope this can be corrected via firmware one day. This happens because the noise canceling provided by the phones is very good, in fact. It reduces external noises in great deal. 80% if I could guess a number. Which is great for the immersion seeking. 

Since it is wireless, you may have doubts about the quality of the sound. It is perfect as far as I can tell. No hiss, no hiccups (despite my wireless 3rd party controller and phone working in the same frequency), no sound failures in general. I don’t know how much better sound a wired headset would provide at the same price, but I am very happy with the sound those can bring. 

You can charge it with a non-included USB cable equal to the ones that Sony provides with the PS3, the Dualshock or many others Sony products. It is a bit weird that the headset didn’t come with one, as I doubt those cables to be expensive. It is not a deal breaker, but you must be warned. One hour to full charge and Sony promise up to 7.5 hours of gaming. You can charge as you play, so this works as a plus. 

It works with PC, but not the surround sound. Installing was as simple as it was with the PS3 and provided a great deal of sound quality to see movies, You Tube and music. So, if you also play in the PC, this set can be a two for one. 

On a last note, the design could be divisive. I like it because is unique and futuristic, and I will not go around the streets wearing it. They are very light and comfortable, despite the size giving a different impression.

Compared to my TV speaker and my old Turtle Beach P11, this headset is a leap in quality and easy to use-ness. It is not expensive, when compared to other wireless sets compatible with the PS3. So, lending Corduroy Turtle’s system: 

Buy it!: If you are mainly a PS3 player trying to find a good set who will not clutter your house with wires and that provides a great sound for a reasonable price. 

Avoid it!: If you want an all-for-one solution for all consoles+PC, as this set does not work with the 360 or Wii, or if you think everything must be wired or if you want true surround. 

On-line Passes...

I talked about this issue before. It is not an easy issue because it is all about money. Companies wants more money and gamers don't want to spend more money. It is just about this. It is not about some kind of inherent right. It is about money.

First, on-line passes have several flaws. Each is attached to account, so if you have several people using the same machine, not everyone can't play on-line with one pass. Second, it is susceptible to fails, like printing errors. Third, you can't buy them outside the on-line stores. If they solve those problems, like allowing game stores to sell the codes or to buy family passes cheaper, the pass will become less troublesome.

Now, let's take a look in the arguments used against the passes. First, the argument that multiplayer was free before so why we should pay for it now. It is the most flawed argument I heard. It is like complaining that a pizza parlor gave free bread sticks before but now they don't give them free anymore. It is their product, they have the right to sell it or give it. Being free before does not create some kind of rule that once free it must always be free. Food can be free if you want to go hunting or harvesting yourself. But because it was free before, you can't just take food from the market without paying. It goes for gaming too.

Second, the argument that they cover the server costs with DLC. DLC have their own costs so it is not the most effective way to cover the expense. And there is the fact that not the majority of the players buy the DLC anyway.

Another argument is that used buyers are costumers too. Yes, they are costumers, but not of the publisher/developer. See, if you buy a brand new car at the saler and it come with a defective AC, you can go back to the saler or even the manufacturer and demand repairs. But if you buy the 5 year old car from your neighbor and the AC is not working, it is with your neighbor that you need to talk. If you take your car to the manufacturer, they have no obligation to repair it. The same goes for games. If you go to GameStop and buy a second-hand game and getting at home the disc does not read, it is GameStop obligation to solve the problem, not the publisher.

The last argument I hear a lot is how troublesome is to input the codes, instead of allowing the player to go directly to the game. Yes, that one minute, tops, you lose inputting the code is very precious, apparently. The funny thing is that PC gamers have being doing it for years and just when consoles start doing it is that it become a problem.

Now, many people suggest that publishers must 'reward' people buying new instead of 'punishing' the used market. Good, right? Except that when publishers decide to give free DLC with new games, it become 'holding content at ransom'. Yes, giving things with new games is not a reward, it is extortion. So, what publishers can do? Oh, yeah, nothing.

Because that is what the gamers complaining about on-line passes wants. The maintenance of the status quo. They don't want to spend on single dime more than what they are used to spend. The gaming media, being all for their readers, will never put themselves against their public's opinion.

The true is: on-line passes does not affect the people buying new, the publisher/developer consumer. They still pay the same amount of money for games as before. They have no reason to change this policy because a bunch of gamers who buy second-hand don't like to spend more money for the games.

But hey, of course I am in the wrong side here. Because every time you are against the 'little man' and for the 'big evil corporation' you are wrong. It does not matter that you can see the reason they have to do it and after analyzing the situation, coming to the conclusion that it is not a problem to you.

In the end, it is not about the rightness of the practice, it is all about money. Nobody likes to lose or expend more money. Neither the consumer, neither the companies. On-line passes, at my eyes, are not a violation of consumer's rights or an evil to be fought. And if you are really against it, do not buy games with a pass. It shouldn't be that hard.

Monday, January 30, 2012

7 Simple Reasons Gamers will Die First in the Zombie Apocalypse

Ah, the Zombie Apocalypse. Many gamers dream of it, so all that skills they had acquired playing games can finally be useful. While all the athletes and douches will become brain tacos, the gamers will be exploding undead heads and getting all the girls/men/Justin Bieber (whatever strikes your fancy). Reality? Gamers will probably be the very first to be eaten. And here is why:

7. Exercise: When was the last time you had a good time doing some physical work? And I mean going to a walk, ride a bike or any other constant form of exercise. And, no playing Dance Central on the weekend does not count. See, most gamers will be severely under prepared do run for long periods of time or fight against the might hands of the walking corpses. Also, have you handled any kind of weapon before? A shotgun is not very lightweight, you know? Speaking of which...

6. Gamers don't know how to use guns: Do you know how to reload a shotgun? No, it is not pressing the R2 or Square button. It is neither that simple nor that fast. Using a gun is not something that intuitive or easy. You probably don't even know how to proper hold it and aim. So, even if you are luck enough to find a gun around, you will probably die before realizing how to unlock the safety. And don't even start with knives and swords. Those things actually require even more training and physical condition to use.

5. You still need food: So, what do you plan to eat during the Zombie Armageddon? Yes, you may find some markets with some food still there. That is, if the other survivors didn't looted it yet. And even if you find it, how much will endure? Most canned food will rot after two or three years. Do you know how to hunt, fish or harvest? No? Well, you better find someone who knows, because you will need food to keep itself alive. Oh, about those other survivors...

4. The Other Survivors will try to kill you: You are walking through the streets, with your trusted shotgun and all the canned food you can carry. Then you see some scantily clad hot survivor down the street. As you rush to find if you can become Adam and Eve, if you know what I mean, someone hits you in the back with a rock. You wake up and find that all your guns and food is taken from you. If you survive. Not only other survivors will do everything they can to survive, some of them will be way better prepared to fight than you. Believe me, that former Marine still can beat your ass, no matter how much Resident Evil you played.

3. You will lose time and bullets trying to headshot: The headshot is one of the hardest shots you can do. Of course, the best way to dispatch everything, alive or not, is shooting their brains out of the skulls. see the image above? That is the only way to do a headshot with 100% accuracy. The head is very small, and shooting a moving target with any gun is very hard. Your best bet would shoot their legs of and runaway, but years of games will make you trying to do the hardest shot possible. And when you run out of bullets, you still have several zombies trying to eat you. And less time to runaway.

2. You have no idea where to go: So, where do you go when the zombies start walking? Where is a safe place? How you can be protected and yet have access to food and other things? Weapons stores will be the first place to be either looted or having crazy and desperate people full of guns, as will be military bases, police stations and other places full of weapons. Maybe the country side? But there is fewer protective places there. An island sounds good, if you know how to sail. No sailing skills? You are fucked.

1. Your Overconfidence will kill you: 'But hey! I have played all zombie games and saw all zombie movies! I know exactly how to survive! Even take some shooting lessons!' and that, my dear gamer, is why you will die. Because you are so sure of yourself, that you are best prepared than anyone else to survive, is why you will make, sooner than later, a fatal mistake. You will underestimate the zombie numbers, the efficiency of your shotgun, your capacity to run and/or the willing of you fellow survivors to protect you. Because you know you are the best. Except, you aren't. But hey, Zombie Apocalypse!

How to (NOT) Win a Discussion (RERUN)

Miku's song.

Sometimes I think the internet is 90% porn, 9% useless discussions and 1% something useful. I have no problems with the porn or the useful part. But the discussions the anonymity internet provides are borderline retarded. Sometimes. A few times they are quite intelligent and interesting. 

But most of times the people participating act like children in the park discussing whose father is more badass. The arguments usually go as 'my father is the best because he is my father' to 'your father is stupid because you are stupid'. Internet is full of those kinds of discussions. 

See, acting like a twelve year old, being offensive to anyone who does not agree with you, is not the best way to win an argument. People tends to be even more defensive about their point of views, even if they are wrong, if the other side start being offensive. Not only it becomes personal, it also makes the side being offensive looking like childish and ignorant. All the valid points are lost in the moment someone decide that being a dick is the way to go. 

People sometimes act like they are really twelve or younger, acting like dad refused to buy the chocolate milk they like and crying in the floor calling dad an idiot and how they hate him because he refused to buy it. Sometimes it can go really stupid. 

Take this Liara's doll, for example. You are not forced to buy, even look at her. Bioware are not changing her in-game because of the statue. Yet fans acted like they own the character and Bioware needs their permission to decide how they use the character they created. Liara's character is owned by Bioware, not the fans. They have the right to do what they want without the need of the permission by every single Liara's fan. 

The figure was made by a Japanese company to sell mostly in Japan, to Japanese fans. In the west, she is supposed to make happy people who are both fans of Mass Effect and the anime style. As I said before, Liara become a virtual idol, where the fans believes they have some kind of control over her. 

Back to the point in question, calling the opposite side in a discussion 'idiots, brain dead or (insert racial/sexist slur here)' does not make the point more valid. Using calm logic, showing your points and supporting it with evidence does. 

But maybe I am being the naive one here and the internet is really composed of twelve years old in its majority. If those guys and girls are the future, it will be not zombies, robots or aliens who will doom mankind. It will be the internet.

PS: There is a Cracked article who explain that discussions are not made as an attempt to reach common ground, but to secure superiority over the opposing side. Very interesting, try to find it, since I wasn't able to. And as I discussed before with Byronic Man, an internet friend, 'winning' a discussion it should not be not about 'destroying' the opposition, but to come with an agreement with him based in mutual understanding.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Great Stuff...

I was so bored today that I decided to make an extra PVC edition. It is not really that much about games but an attempt to be fun. I have to admit tough, Segata Sanshiro was the Kevin Butler of its time. You really need to see some of his old ads to understand why he is awesome. The fact that his actor is the first Kamen Rider just makes him more awesome.

I don’t know, sometimes I think that ads for games are not very creative. Some are damn bad. But Sony have being in a good stride with them lately, despite some weird as hell shit they have done in the past. Hope to see more awesome and creative ads soon.

And yes, doing the sub was very hard.

Adults' Responsibility

 I have always being one that defended that the responsibility of raising the children belongs to the parents or the adults responsible for them. It is their job to ensure the safety of the children and teach them their responsibility and morality. Therefore, it is the parents’ job to make sure the children are not exposed to content that may be classified as inappropriate.

I am not saying that the entertainment industry, like the game industry, don’t have their own responsibilities here. They have. They have the obligation to provide the parents with enough tools to make a conscious decision. In case of games, we have the ESRB in the US, PEGI in Europe, CERO in Japan and many others systems in other countries.

Those classification systems give enough information to the adults know what kind of game their kids will have. I am yet to see a game where the classification system is misleading. The gaming industry is making their part.

The second part is retailers. They must be trained in the classification system, not only so them can be aware what they are selling but also so they can explain this system to the consumers. And a good retailer will refuse to sell an inappropriate game to a minor without their parents consent.

The third part is the government, who must make sure that all guidelines is being respected and that the information is easy to understand and find.

But all that is null if the parent just don’t care. It is easier to just give the money to the children and make them shut up. Many parents I know don’t even look what their children are playing. They just want an electronic nanny. And that is not what being a parent means.

A parent must be aware of what their children play, what they think about it and how this affects the kid. If the child shows any sign of aggressiveness or any kind of change in their behavior because of a game, it is the parent who must make the child stop playing and look for help.

Talking with the children is important. Finding 15 minutes everyday to talk to them is not that hard and can make a big difference.

Australia finally is going to vote a R18 classification to games, allowing mature gamers to legally buy many games without censorship. And it will also give the power to the parents to decide themselves what is appropriate to their children. I think is always a good thing.

Being a parent is assuming responsibility. Yes, the industry of entertainment has its own responsibilities. And in most countries they are complying with them. But it is not them who have to raise the children, neither the government.

If you don’t have time for your children, create some. They are your responsibility. Nobody else.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

What you mean by 'Game'?

Yes, that is the house they live.

In a recent event, that by internet time was ages ago, famous internet writer John Walker from Rock, Paper, Shotgun, wrote this interesting article about Modern Warfare 3 being an un-game. It generated lots of controversy at the time. I understand what we was saying and why. I can agree with him, but that is something very personal to him, I think.

What made me think with this article is exactly what is a videogame? The only thing I can find that is common place to all videogames is that they are displayed in video form (duh?) and that they receive input from the player through some way.

Back in the Atari years, you have only two inputs. The directional and the button. It had minimal input. Damn, if you look at Pong, the only input is up and down! And yet it is a videogame. Why? It is because of the system of points? How many games today still use them? Many don't have any kind of meter to show you how good you are doing in the game.

It is about objective? Reaching the end of the game? But how about games who have no ending, like Minecraft, The Sims or many MMOs? Or even Tetris?

How about interaction? But then again we have many games were player interaction are some what minimum, like visual novels, but yet your interactions changes the outcome of the game, unlike games like Modern Warfare where your actions have no real effect in the game world except advancing to the next scenario.

In the end, the only features all videogames have in common is that they are visual displayed through a screen and you use some kind of device to make inputs in the program. If they meet this criteria it is a videogame.

Now, if you have the feeling that you played a game or just was dragged along by him, this is very personal and up to you to decide. As long as you have a good time, I think all is good. Don't you?