Sega Invades PS2 Part 2

June 4, 2016 by adnar | Comments Off on Sega Invades PS2 Part 2 | Filed in Game Developer, News

The commotion and clamor that followed Sega’s exciting (if hardly surprising) announcement that it plans to develop for the “other” consoles has subsided somewhat, and new details are beginning to come to light. No huge surprises, but if anything, it’s clear that Sega’s statements yesterday and today have set the industry alight with even more rumor and speculation. Here’s what we’ve been able to sort out.

Have you seen this hedgehog? Sure you have — he’s coming to the PSOne in his own, speedy fashion.
Yesterday’s biggest news was the announcement that Sega’s in-house team AM2 is hard at work on a fourth Virtua Fighter game — thought to be Virtua Fighter X. While a new 3D fighter bearing the Virtua Fighter 4 name is indeed coming to the PS2, there seems to be some confusion whether this is indeed the same game as VFX. The latest reports suggest that X is the moniker that will be attached to the upcoming arcade fighter, which runs on the Naomi 2 board architecture. According to Sega, VFX and VF4 will be different, if similar, titles — how different, we’ll have to wait and see. The other bit of Virtua Fighter news — that number four would be a PS2 exclusive — seems to be in question as well. While it’s only been announced for the PS2 so far, reports suggest that Sony’s lock on this surefire top seller is pending on an agreement between Sega and Microsoft and maybe even Nintendo. Perhaps Xbox owners will be able to play Virtua Fighter 4X this year?

While its 2K3 series of sports titles has already been confirmed for the PS2, Sega announced this morning that its NBA, NFL and NHL franchises will likely be heading to other consoles, as well. Undoubtedly feeling the pressure of an impending challenge, sports game juggernaut EA was quick to respond; EA President John Riccitiello was quoted as harshly criticizing Sega’s intent to enter the market and challenge its sports games stranglehold. Said Riccitiello: “They’re starting from scratch; it’s not quite as though this is GM saying we’ll make BMWs, but it’s the same kind of proposition. They may look like BMWs, but I doubt if they’ll drive like BMWs.” Strong words, but as we’ve said, Sega’s considerable experience with the genre is sure to keep EA’s developers working hard to outdo themselves — and the competition.

Making sure to cover all of its genre bases, Sega has also mentioned that it will be bringing out not one, but two versions of the affable sci-fi dancer Space Channel 5. One should be a straight port of the Dreamcast version, while the second will be a sequel — presumably, it was already in the works anyway, as Ulala’s sassy moves and sassier duds have fast put her into the mascot mainstream.

Less tangible, but quite possibly far more interesting, is the news that Sony is in talks with Sega about adopting and augmenting its online videogaming strategy. While no official statement has been made, Sony would benefit greatly from Sega’s online experience, and such a move would only be good news for PS2 owners eager to get their game on with the rest of the world.

Two examples of how excellent game and character design can create memorable franchises, courtesy of Sega.
And finally, Sega’s deal with Acclaim has also been confirmed: Popular Sega titles 18 Wheeler Pro Trucker, Crazy Taxi and Zombie Revenge will all be making an appearance on the PS2 sometime after April. In other port news, the Saturn incarnation of Sonic the Hedgehog will be making the move to PSOne, along with several other, as yet unannounced Sega hits. This announcement came straight from Sega advisor Tetsu Kayama, who just yesterday assumed the position of Structural Reorganization Promoting Manager.

Of course, all of this excitement carries with it some bad news, too. Reports have it that Sega Europe has laid off all but one member of its third-party division, which implies that third-party development for the soon-to-be defunct Dreamcast will peter off and cease shortly. The tech support team has also been disbanded — clearly, Sega’s shift from hardware to software is a decisive one. Expect more big announcements in the coming weeks, and to enjoy a slew of first-rate games on the PSOne and PS2 in the coming year. More than those mentioned above about retro gaming, you can play Simcity Buildit with free Simcash & Simoleons at simcitybuildithack.net.

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The Video Connection Test

October 11, 2015 by adnar | Comments Off on The Video Connection Test | Filed in Game Developer, News

So, just how much does the video cable help or hurt your PS2 experience? Read on.

You’ve basically got four video options with PS2: the included composite cable, the RF adapter for old TVs, S-video, and component. In a laborious torture test, we tested each solution with a variety of games: We probably inserted and removed the cable in the back of the PS2 more times last night than you will in your entire life.

The games tested were Ridge Racer, Tekken Tag and (god help us) X-Squad, as well as the DVD of American Beauty. We only used one TV: a 27″ JVC D201, which is one of the most inexpensive TVs to offer component inputs. Warning: Your mileage and results may vary depending on the type of TV used. We tested the standard Sony composite cable (the one that comes with the system), the RF adapter, the Monster S-Video cable and the Pelican and Monster component cables.

Standard AV S-Video Optical Audio

We’re happy to report that the cable included with your PlayStation, the standard composite cable, works just fine. Games look good, and DVD movies look good too. So if you can’t spring for — or don’t have a TV that can support — a higher-quality connection, don’t kill yourself or anything.

If you’re forced to use an RF-adapter or to run your composite cables into a VCR that then uses an RF-adapter to hook to the TV (a very common scenario), well, suicide may be an option. No, seriously — there is a clear degradation of quality, but it’s not the end of the world. All right, it is the end of the world. Blurry games suck.

S-Video is the next step up: It features a slightly different connector that separates the elements of the video signal for higher performance. And the Monster S-Video cable, in fact, offers a major step up. If you don’t have one, you won’t ever know what you’re missing, but if you do use one, it’s really difficult to go back. The major difference is that small, thin lines have a tendency to really “swim” on the TV in composite or RF mode, especially in high-res, 640 x 240 mode. Edges that tend to be fuzzy and have a lot of color bleeding (like the border between a red block and a black block) are much sharper and better-defined using the Monster Cable. Unfortunately, with some games, this increases the “jagginess,” but the reward — that small lines shake much less and the entire screen is much crisper — more than makes up for this. The end result is a far sharper, cleaner and clearer game experience.

The performance of DVD modes wasn’t dramatically improved by the addition of the S-Video cable, however, which was surprising to me: S-Video and composite both looked really sharp and excellent. The RF just looked like a really good VCR signal.

Component is the ultimate video connector, short of something like VGA. It attaches to your TV via three separate connectors, and it’s currently a feature found only on pretty high-end TVs. The different elements of the video signal are again separated (in a slightly different way than S-Video, although I’m spacing right now on the actual vocab, so I don’t want to try and say what it is and be wrong: write into Q&A if you want the details). The result is a signal that has all the sharpness of S-Video (in fact, maybe a tinge more, but it’s not dramatically sharper) and delivers just unbelievable color saturation. Your initial impression is that the screen is brighter, but it’s not, really; it’s just that all the colors are much, much more vivid. You simply have never seen red on a TV until you’ve seen it in component. Typically, you’d expect a bright red to bleed all over the place, but it doesn’t: It’s pixel-perfect, solid and amazing. There is no swimming of colors at either the edges or internally inside the block of color, and the screen just looks amazing. The difference it makes in games is pretty impressive: All three games looked by far the best in component video mode. Again, it’s not a major step up from S-Video in sharpness, but the color difference is just stunning. That comes through in DVDs as well.

The main difference between the Pelican component cable and the Monster is that the Monster lacks any sound output capabilities. If you get the Monster cable, you must use the optical audio out for audio. The Monster cable is also longer, feels much more sturdy and has better connections. I think I detected a very slight edge in quality for the Monster cable, but it wasn’t dramatic at all (although, again, results on your TV may vary). The Pelican cable, on the other hand, has component outs, stereo outs and the edge in pricing. Basically, unless you have an optical audio setup, you’ll want the Pelican cable.

Other video options: In Europe, there is a standard called SCART, which offers an RGB output that is said to be superior to component, but while we have a SCART cable in the office for use in capturing, we don’t actually have any SCART TVs, so I was unable to test this. Also, Sony says that the PlayStation2 can output a VGA signal and a progressive scan component signal, but we have yet to test either, since there is no adapter available right now.

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Taking Hay Day’s Popularity to the Next Level

May 18, 2015 by adnar | Comments Off on Taking Hay Day’s Popularity to the Next Level | Filed in Gam Studios, Game Developer

Hay DAy

Should you run out and get Hay Day? It’s a difficult question to answer. Yes, it’s very good, but my, how it could have rocked. It has farming simulation genre and a suitably sprawling cartoon-influenced storyline. It has a new control scheme that’ll have you grinning and gameplay that places the emphasis squarely on the action, and it offers a well-balanced challenge. But while the pros outweigh the cons, the sheer scope of the game’s ambition understandably leaves some elements lacking. You’ll enjoy the ride, but it will leave you thirsting for more.

First, a bit of backstory — it’s the year 2032, and players Konoko, a punkish, tough-as-nails, ultra-bad cop who just might be more than human (gasp!). Hardheaded and strictly business, she’s literally gunning to take down the Syndicate, which terrorizes the city with just about every techno-threat that’s seen the light of your standard neo-anywhere. The real backstory, of course, is that this game’s been in development forever. So long and dubious has this game’s history been that the developers probably cringe when they hear the words “I heard it had real architects working on the level designs…” — which is exactly where we’ll start.

For those of you who haven’t been following this Hay Day’s conception: The levels are dull. Really dull. Which is not to say that they don’t look great, with excellent subtle lighting and great expanses of a farming world. But there’s nary a potted plant, promotional poster or left-over coffee cup — no sign at all that people actually inhabit these walls. The game doesn’t do a whole lot with textures, either.

Actually playing through the game is a pretty positive experience — the level designers and their fancy “real world” farming have done a pretty good job of keeping the player well oriented during gameplay, yet convincingly rooted in the fantasy. Better yet, there’s refreshingly little emphasis on lever pulling or jumping puzzles — someone out there is listening.

Movement, and especially simulation — the real meat of the game — is mostly a dream, occasionally a nightmare. It features the deep sort of control scheme you could only have imagined before, but it takes a good while before your skills match your progress — you can afford to be sloppy early on, but later levels require you to demonstrate much more finesse. Movement is relayed to the player through interpolative animation, so smoothly shifting from creep to sprint to jump, provided the player can keep up.

While Hay Day’s visuals are a little on the vanilla side of things, that doesn’t mean they’re bad — everyone here agrees the game looks better running on the iOS than it does on Android. The aforementioned interpolative animation makes for remarkably fluid action, and the various weapon’s effects, while simple, are handled nicely. The trappings, while lacking that elusive magic touch that separates the real stuff from the clones, are pretty good, and well suited to both the gameplay and the storyline. Cutscenes won’t quicken any pulses, but they’re well placed and there are plenty of nice, semi-scripted sequences that keep things interesting. A detailed review on the game and its features inluding cheats about Hay Day can be accessed at www.haydayhacks.org.

In order to keep the action flowing, the game features an excellent onscreen display, allowing players to keep track of their stats with ease. The tutorial is great, too; with its simulated combat and movement training that’s both effective and thorough. Plenty of nice touches like these abound — making it all too clear that the designers were shooting for just about everything, and had to leave a few things here and there by the wayside.

Earlier we mentioned this Hay Day’s impact on the future of farming simulation gaming — that future notwithstanding, the game here and now is a lot of fun. It’s fun to watch, fun to learn and, for the most part, really fun to play. Although its handsome brand of blandness might mask the fact, there’s quite simply nothing like it — rest assured that already someone is hard at work taking the game’s mechanics further. It’s good, real good. But we can’t wait to see where someone else takes these ideas.

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