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Dee Yun: (contact-deleteme[at]-deleteme-direman [dot] com) 2008-07-11 10:00:17
Every other time I turn on the PS3, it tells me that I require a new update. I hate this. Most worrisome is the warning not to turn off the machine while it patches, or I might be unable to restart my PS3. I turn off every other appliance on the same circuit so as not to risk flipping the breaker, and anxiously await the result. My great fear is that one of these multitudinous updates will fail to install, rendering my beloved Blu-ray player a useless chunk of plastic and chrome.
Well, successful 2.40 upgrades have managed to brick an unspecified number of units. The only fix involves formatting the hard drive, resulting in, of course, the loss of all the data. Sony promptly took the firmware upgrade down, and released a fixed 2.41. Fortunately, I was in no hurry to update.
2.40+ brings a bevy of features that more or less replicates much of Xbox Live functionality. In fact, this is the first generation of consoles able to harness the power of the internet to evolve, and the three platforms' features sets are starting to converge.
As described in the strip, the PlayStation 3 receives custom soundtracks, in-game menu access, and trophies. The trophy system one-ups the 360's achievements, by introducing levels. If you accrue enough trophies, your account "levels up". This escalates the war of meta-grinding: not only do you strive to master elements of individual games, you pile on a holistic gamer sum that becomes increasingly satisfying the more cancerously bloated it grows. Brilliant. I want Microsoft to implement this in Live. In fact, I applaud Sony for all of these upgrades, as it provides ever greater pressure for Microsoft to make Xbox Live free.
However, in actual practice, Sony is a bit late to the party. Achievements were part of 360 functionality from day one, requiring developers to implement them. PS3 features like trophy support and Home are being introduced piecemeal, resulting in a lack of cohesion. Every Xbox 360 game has achievements, but it'll be some time (if ever) until Sony's responses coalesce into universal standards.
There are all sorts of rumors swirling around future 360 updates, and it's all but guaranteed that Microsoft is working on a Wii-inspired motion controller and a system of avatars. Just like the Wii's Miis, you'll be able to create virtual representations of yourself (or whoever) and see them implemented into games. This feature adds a ton of charm and a sense of investiture. The 360 versions are purported to feature far greater options. Great, I can already envision Microsoft selling us virtual clothing over Xbox Marketplace. Hopefully, they'll choose to let us spend gamer points earned from achievements for these instead - THAT would be cool.
The problem with these features is the same gripe I have about PS3 trophies: Microsoft is late to the game. Every Wii comes packed with motion control; thus, it is implemented into every game. Developers will see an Xbox 360 market fractured into consumers that did and did not purchase whatever motion sensing wand thingy Microsoft eventually releases. Support for this feature will be far from universal, even if it does turn out to be better than Nintendo's haphazard stick waggling.
Nintendo launched "WiiWare", a system to rival Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network. Cool, there's stuff like Megaman 9 on the way.
But there's no place to put this stuff. The Wii's internal Flash memory is a pathetic 512 MB. Yeah, half a gig. I bet my toaster can store more data. You can use SD cards, but the Wii can't access them directly. You need to copy the data onto the internal memory to access it. Man, Nintendo just doesn't get it. One of their marketing suits, Laurent Fischer, was quoted as saying that only geeks and otakus wanted additional storage. It's sad that people suckered into buying Wiis can't enjoy Rock Band as it was intended to be, because THERE'S NO FUCKING PLACE TO STORE ADDITIONAL SONGS. If it wasn't for Super Mario Galaxy and my plans to eventually review more Wii games, I'd eBay mine in a heartbeat.
Now Playing - Eternal Sonata (360) and Company of Heroes (PC); my friends are finally playing CoH over a year and a half after I raved to them about it, and good gravy, I need to take a break from the overproduced pretentiousness of Metal Gear Solid 4.
Xbox Live/PSN Gamertag - Vawce