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Tycho / on Mon, May 30 2005 at 4:30 am

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Precious Cargo

The strips while we were gone originally dealt with the tribulations of young Ann at E3, but we’d done so many “stories” up to that point, and in some cases done them in such a way as to make their veracity ambiguous, that we decided it was best to return to the one-shots of our youth.  I’m aware that the conventional wisdom states that doing storylines is somehow a more noble or difficult endeavor than making “gag-a-day” strips, “gag-a-day” more often than not employed as a kind of slur.  I guess it depends on your process or something.  It’s always seemed to me that utilizing crass causation to determine the content of your next comic is essentially a form of cheating.

I’ve met Jeremy Parish, now the scion of 1up’s considerable game news empire, on more than one occasion - the second time was at this Nintendo DS thing “the plumber” held locally.  There was something about the device and its manifold potentials that charmed both of us, and we both agreed that at some point in the future when developers could rope, throw, and brand these myriad capacities we could feel more than mere anticipation and could graduate to genuine enthusiasm.  He’s of the opinion that this E3 hails a season of plenty for the platform.  It did my heart good to see the coming crop, but I saw a lot of games there that still seemed to be gestating.  Touch Golf had a satisfying touch-based stroke model paired with reprehensible graphics.  Nintendogs, which I must stress is not for me, will grab your arm with a spectral force and make you pet a simulated dog.  Phoenix Wright:  Ace Attorney, a kind of courtroom adventure, has you tapping dramatic gesture icons and thinking you might actually charge that DS when you get home.

The next Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga is a DS affair as well, and they’re returning to a couple other potent franchises that clearly made people take notice - the multiplayer Animal Crossing people wanted from day one arrives in internetworked form on the system, and that old standby Mario Kart gets the capital I Internet treatment its Gamecube sibling never did.  This E3 had me gamboling over hell’s half acre every hour to do this or that, but I made it back no less than three times to play The New Super Mario Bros., which is a game of the classic platformer sort using 3D graphics while retaining 2D gameplay.  Those people trudging through the dry spell on the system should know that you’ll eventually have the opposite problem, assuming problem is even the correct word.  Those functions specific to the DS in some of these cases still feel grafted on or implemented in ways that aren’t strictly necessary - Mario Kart’s second screen is just a map, etcetera.  But I’m interested in the games themselves, and the games are on the platform, so at least it’s a fucking start.   

I have affection for the PSP, but not so much that I can make this show look like a good one for the system without feeling guilty.  Medieval and Daxter didn’t look like hokey, partial implementations of their forebears - they felt good, actually - but that’s really not my genre.  Burnout on the system looked and ran great, but Goddamn if I don’t play a lot of racers on that system as it is.  I have faith in Socom, they’re doing it right, but it’s early yet.  Gripshift was inoffensive.  “Pursuit Force” I played a fair bit, a racer where you jump from car to car and shoot the occupants facewise, and I’ll keep an eye on it - but the only thing I saw for the PSP that really made me take notice was Virtua Tennis, where the wide screen and fluid animation made it seem as though the game has simply been floating in the ether waiting to coalesce on the platform.  Most of what I saw was not exactly ripe, so trying to project what might or might not happen with some of these things is would be divination rather than journalism.  Nothing I saw particularly suprised me.   

I think that things will eventually shake out for the device, but at the moment it might as well have Wipeout Pure hardcoded into it.  Eventually some combination of dedicated internal teams, third parties, and graft will maneuver the right products onto the system - it’s not bristling with odd widgets no-one has any idea what to do with like the DS.  What frustrates me about the it are the things that will never change, even though they could be changed and for the absolute betterment and longevity of the platform.

You may believe, however briefly, that you have somehow been transported to Boing Boing when you read the next paragraph.  Do not be alarmed! 

Making the PSP directly compatible with MP3 must have been like pulling teeth internally - their reluctance in the past based on their ample music holdings.  But building in MP3 support, that shit isn’t hi-tech anymore.  That shit is in sunglasses now.  And you know they’re sensitive to the global psychic penetration of the iPod, or else they wouldn’t say things like this.  That’s why I have no idea what would make them geld the PSP as a full platform.  How would I distinguish the PSP from full platforms?  Let me count the ways: 

  • Full platforms can play any audio type, or allow applications to do so.

  • This should go without saying.  The way to “beat” the iPod, as though such a thing were even possible, isn’t to clamp down hard on the capabilities of a device.  Read some Sun-Tzu for fuck’s sake.

  • Full platforms can play any type of video, or allow applications to do so, and these videos should be able to use the entire resolution of the screen.
  • You might not be aware of this if you’ve never goofed around with the video capabilities of your PSP, but they simply disallow videos beyond a certain resolution, and you’re limited to MP4 for some reason that must make sense in a boardroom.  I’m sure it has to do with selling those Goddamn UMDs that no-one I know even wants, but you can sell UMDs or you can make your Memory Stick media completely ubiquitous.  Up to you! 

  • Executable code
  • I’m willing to bend on this one if you give me the other two.  But letting people expand the functionality and value of your hardware isn’t some imaginary thing.  People write whole browsers and operating systems and every other Goddamn contraption, just because it’s there.  They’ll make your product the kind of phenomenon you couldn’t pay someone to create.

    (CW)TB out.

    by the finest ice machine

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