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Miscellaneous

The PSN Hack: what could have been done differently?

Logo of the PlayStation Network
Image via Wikipedia

Sony took a lot of heat during the PSN outage caused by a hack and the theft of potentially all of our PSN account and more importantly payment card details. I think Sony were unlucky to a large degree. They were right to defend themselves against the hacker George Hotz who published details on how to hack the system which could lead to pirating games.

Sony perhaps didn’t have the most robust security measures in place and as such they were apparently pretty easy pray for angry hackers with a lot of misguided talent. It’s a shame that these people can’t do something more constructive with their technical abilities and instead choose to attack a company that is only doing what it is completely entitled to do, protect it’s intellectual property. I don’t buy the hacker’s claims that they should be able to do whatever they want to the PS3’s that they own. Sony have a fair use policy and they have a right to enforce that to protect their business.

I think the main anger from fans towards Sony was because they appeared to not rush to warn people about data possibly being stolen. Many believe that they should have warned people straight away even if they weren’t sure anything had been taken, just to be on the safe side. I agree with this and I think Sony did make an error here, but as I’m not really one to hold long term grudges on brands I wouldn’t threaten to switch to Xbox or boycott Sony products for example like some people did.

All you can really do is just hope that they really have beefed up their security to an extent where we won’t have a repeat of this scenario again in the future. I’m not going to switch to using PSN cards to pay for PSN content because of this, but I can understand why a lot of people may choose to do so.

This whole fiasco becoming mainstream news has got to be damaging to Sony. All a lot of people will see is that Sony have been hacked and lost people’s private data. A lot of these people may not have ever owned a Playstation, but they may still be put off from buying a Sony TV down the line. You’ve got to hope that this isn’t the popular opinion, because Sony certainly don’t deserve that.

This type of hacking is in vogue at the moment you could say. We’ve seen numerous hacks on almost a daily basis on all kinds of websites. From game developers to news sites and more, it appears that no one is safe. In a way, this just validates Sony and just shows that no matter how much time you spend defending yourselves against data theft, it seems that no company can avoid being breached. If a hacker group wants to do something, then it seems like not much can stop them. This is probably why Microsoft didn’t make fun of Sony at the conference, because they know that it would be like showing a red cape to a bull and making themselves the next prime target.

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Miscellaneous

E3 2011

Wii U Controller
Image by ze_bear via Flickr

I think this year’s E3 has been a strong one from all three companies. Certainly a lot better than in past years, especially Nintendo who have not always brought their best in the last several years. This is a quick overview of how I think each of the three big companies conferences went.

Microsoft

Microsoft seemed to be a bit ordinary and predictable in their approach this year, and it does make me wonder who’s running things over there when you see casual games taking the centre stage at a show where hardly anyone is interested in the majority of those titles. Yes, Dance Central 2 should be a great dance game just like the first one was, but I just think they could have mentioned the game with a quick trailer and then moved on to the next game. It just didn’t seem necessary to demo it to the audience they have in attendance.

In terms of the rest of the show, no real surprises. I suppose 2 Halo games are better than one for fans of the series, but anyone could have predicted Halo 4 and that Microsoft would want to jump on Sony‘s HD remake bandwagon for some quick cash.

Sony

I don’t think Sony had the strongest of shows but it was certainly similar to last year’s in being very consistent and safe in a way while still exciting fans with great gameplay demos of titles like Uncharted 3.

The Vita name for the NGP is starting to grow on me slowly. If I had written this on the day the name was confirmed, then I would have not been in such a great mood about it, but now I can see how it may work. In terms of Vita games, I think they’re doing well for a launch lineup, with Uncharted leading the charge with many other strong titles such as LBP, Killzone, Call of Duty and more all in the pipeline as well as the traditional Sony launch games like WipEout and Everybody’s Golf. I’m pretty confident that they’ll be something for practically everyone when the system ships, unlike the 3DS on launch.

Nintendo

We knew pretty much everything about the Wii U before it was announced. Practically nothing was a surprise except the name. Which I suppose looking at it now isn’t really surprising. It makes sense for Nintendo to keep such a successful brand name going rather than risking a whole new identity for their new system.

The most exciting aspects for me to come out of the conference were the slew of game announcements. Not counting all of the games we already knew about, Super Mario 3D and Luigi’s Mansion 2 were the big stand-outs on 3DS. There wasn’t really anything on Wii that we didn’t already know about but the Kirby game looks to be the pick of the bunch alongside Zelda Skyward Sword.

Mario Kart 3D got a new trailer and now we know what the gimmick will be in this latest version, flying and underwater aspects. I quite like the idea of turning into a big glider and actually being able to control your flight rather than following an automatic path when you fly off a big jump, so I’m looking forward to this. I’ll be a little disappointed if they don’t feature bikes as they were so much fun in Mario Kart Wii but it’s not something that will ruin the game if it’s not included, likewise stunts.

Star Fox disappointed me a bit because I first thought this was a new version rather than the previously announced remake, but it seems like they just re-announced the same old game which isn’t ideal really.

A quick note on the Wii U controller. I hope they change a couple of aspects of the buttons. An analogue trigger is a must for realistic driving games and currently they’re not showing this so I hope they add those. I also was disappointed to see that they use the same design of analogue circle pads from the 3DS on the Wii U which to me doesn’t make much sense. The whole reason you would use those on the 3DS is because a traditional stick wouldn’t fit with the clamshell design of the system. Here, you’re not bound by height restrictions and as the controller is already so big, I would have expected full size analogue sticks just like the Nunchuk and Classic Controller. Not having those I believe will negatively affect precision control.

Conclusion

Overall, I think you would have to say that Nintendo had the best conference. A new system is practically guaranteed to overshadow anything else that’s shown, and it proved to be the case here.

The Vita price point of $250 was a bit of a relief but it’s still going to be expensive here. Then again, even if it comes out at the ridiculous £225 price tag the 3DS launched at, then I’ll be a lot more accepting of paying that much for this device over Nintendo’s one.

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Miscellaneous

What I want to see at the major E3 conferences

Electronic Entertainment Expo 2009
Image via Wikipedia

E3 is always an exciting time of year for gamers. We build it up so much, but often are left disappointed or even bemused by some of the things that happen in the big 3 press conferences, especially Nintendo’s in recent years. They’re certainly not the only ones. Sony and Microsoft have both had their fair share of awful, embarrassing shows.

This year is the time for all 3 companies to wow us and justify the mass excitement that goes hand in hand with E3. This is what I’m hoping for from each of them.

Nintendo

I think Nintendo on paper should have the most to talk about on Tuesday. We all know that their new system will be officially unveiled. From what we know, it seems that Nintendo will be going back to their more hardcore route. Whether or not they simply try to bridge the gap between being too casual and too hardcore or go fully in the traditional gaming direction is unknown, but I personally hope that they put their traditional audience first. Casual games can still exist on a hardcore focused system, but not the other way around.

If they are planning to go fully hardcore with the new system then they have to fully match Sony and Microsoft in every way. If they don’t give gamers the online functionality, community features and other functions that they’re used to, then the new console won’t be able to be considered any truly hardcore gamer’s console of choice in this upcoming generation.

Sony

The NGP will surely play a large part in proceedings on Monday night. You would assume that they’ll announce an official name, but probably not a price or release date. Generally, in recent years Sony conferences have either been ridiculed or applauded. However, the last couple, although they were strong showings, mostly focused on demos for games we already knew about, and that’s not really exciting for an event such as this. I hope they really just go all-out with new game and service announcements tomorrow, and leave the demos for the show floor, or at most a quick video montage.

Microsoft

The general trend I can see in the last few years of Microsoft conferences tend to be towards mostly showing demos for 3rd party games as well as some exclusives. Last year marked the addition of casual gaming with the kinect which I hope isn’t such a big focus this year, but I don’t see them ditching their successful casual programme. They’ve also been known to surprise people by poaching games, mostly from Sony when the PS3 was struggling. Unfortunately, you can also expect to hear news such as early releases for MW3 DLC and other things like that. Halo isn’t a series that Microsoft will be willing to give up on now that Bungie are moving on to new things, so I would be surprised to hear something about a new Halo game from another developer.

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Miscellaneous

Playstation Plus Update: Online Save Backup

PlayStation Plus logo
Image via Wikipedia

This was something I was hoping would happen for quite some time. I lost all of my saves when our PS3 broke just as I was transferring out data across to our new one, as we knew the original was on its last legs. A service like this would have been great for me back then.

Even now I would this. The problem is that I’m not a plus member, my brother is. He probably wouldn’t benefit as much as me from this service. He doesn’t play a lot of single player games. Most of the games he plays are online and save data remotely anyway.

All of the Plus content except anything transferred to PSP can be played on other accounts on the same PS3 as a plus member. Therefore, it hardly seems worth it for me to pay a £40 subscription just to be able to play minis and PSOne classics on my PSP (when I can play them on PS3 already if I wanted to), back up my saves and have a gold plus next to my PSN name.

Not only this, but the save backup service is very low tech. In a perfect product, you would expect it to automatically upload the updated save to the cloud after every play session ends, and always keep the most recent version synced between the cloud and the system itself. Maybe it could even keep a backup of previous versions so that you could revert to them if your current save gets corrupted. It doesn’t do any of these things, and just allows you to manually upload each save individually, similar to how I used to transfer my assignment documents between home and college using either email or a USB stick.

Those things wouldn’t be easy to add in to an existing product like the PS3 so there’s no real argument to be made. I don’t understand however why there isn’t an option to select multiple saves and upload them in batches as opposed to one at a time. It seems too time consuming and not streamlined enough.

All things considered, this is a nice addition to Playstation Plus. It doesn’t cost any extra and the service was already a fairly good deal before this update, especially if you never downloaded a lot of PSN games before. I’m not sure what they could do to make me want to pay for the service. I would assume quite a lot considering that I can already play the content my brother is paying for, but I’m sure there’s something cool they could do to tempt me. I just can’t think of what it would entail.