Friday, June 10, 2011

Thoughts on E3 2011

For me, often times the thrill of the chase is more exciting and interesting than the end result when it comes to gaming. Don't get me wrong. I love the experience of playing a good game, but there's also a lot to be said for the process of finding and acquiring said game. 

As a result, each year the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) serves as a concentrated catalyst that gets the wheels in my brain turning over all sorts of upcoming toys; be it a new console, controller, service or game, there's always something to get excited about and that's part of what makes this an interesting hobby for me.

One of the really nice things about the nature of this blog as opposed to the sort of writing and podcasting I felt obligated to do for Gaming's Edge is that I don't have to be objective or all-encompassing in my assessment of an event like E3. I can simply gush about the handful of things that peaked my interest and ignore everything else. :)

So, on with it then...

Regarding games, I found myself equally enthusiastic about some new Intellectual Properties being shown as I was about several sequels to games that have become near and dear to me over the years.

Two big standouts for me were "Overstrike," the new four-player  co-op project from Insomniac and "Brothers in Arms: Furious 4," the new four-player co-op project from Gearbox. Noticing a trend? Both these games are very early in their respective development processes based on what was shown at E3, but they both come across as projects designed to provide fun and clever experiences to share with friends, which is a lot of what I look for from games these days.

Another new IP I've been increasingly interested in is "Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning," the first game from Curt Schilling's 38 Studios, which looks to be a compelling mesh of the third-person action and RPG genres.

In terms of sequels, the new "Battlefield," "Assassin's Creed," "SSX," "Need for Speed," "Far Cry" and "Elder Scrolls" games are looking anywhere between good and truly stunning.

Hardware wise, I remain impressed with Sony's upcoming handheld; especially at the $250 and $300 price points they announced for the Wi-FI and 3G+Wi-Fi versions. As a very happy iPad owner, I don't know that a dedicated portable gaming system would ever be something that I'd want, but if I ever found myself leading a more travel-heavy lifestyle, the PS Vita would definitely be the handheld I'd choose for serious gaming.

I was also pleasantly surprised by Sony's 3D Display announcement. The idea of a high-quality 24", 3D or shared screen capable display bundled with glasses, an HDMI cable and a generally-anticipated game (Resistance 3) for $500 seems like the sort of thing that will be filling up dorm rooms and bedrooms all over the world. :) Much like the Vita, I see this as a product that should be very successful despite not really appealing to me personally.

There were other interesting bits to E3 this year to be sure, but these were the ones that really stuck in my mind and either excited or impressed me.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

PS3 Reborn

It's been a tough five weeks for PS3 owners waiting for the Playstation Network to fully recover from the hacking incident(s) that prompted Sony to shut it down near the end of April. While we've been able to play online for the past few weeks, the Playstation Store, which many would argue is the centerpiece of the PSN, remained conspicuously absent until today.

The lack of Store functionality was particularly painful for me because my launch-era, fat PS3 decided it would be a good time to stop working a few weeks ago, which prompted me to go out and pick up a new, slim PS3 to replace it. I'm still considering having the old one repaired, but that's another story.

Point is that I had a bit of an issue with the new PS3 as the backup from my old system only brought over most of my save files and music, so with the Store down, I wasn't able to get any of my downloadable games up and running on the new system. I realize this is a pretty specific issue because my PS3 happened to die at a time when the store wasn't available, but I have to admit I've been rather annoyed having to wait several weeks to fully restore everything to the new console.

Thankfully, aside from a few minor hiccups, I've already managed to re-download the games I was really itching to play and queue up the rest so that they download while the system is idle.

For those who are wondering, it doesn't appear that the SSD hard drive replacement I did on the old PS3 had anything to do with it croaking. In fact, I've been using that same SSD on the new slim PS3 for several weeks now without any problems. It seems that my launch PS3 was simply one of many that have given in to the Yellow Light of Death for a variety of reasons. I would have liked to have seen it last a bit longer than three and a half years, but it did outlast my XBOX 360 by quite a bit despite being used considerably more frequently.

All things considered, I'm pretty happy to have the PSN back up and running and am really looking forward to taking advantage of the Welcome Back program and seeing what Sony has up their sleeve for E3 next week.

It may take a while for Sony to fully re-earn my trust regarding the security, stability and availability of their online services, but I feel like they're on the right track and I'm certainly happy to have my PS3 back up and running as intended.