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BlueSteam Blog

Fixing the PSP

No one can deny that the PSP is an awesome piece of hardware, so what’s wrong with it? How does an underpowered DS continue to outsell it? I’ve got a few ideas that could help the PSP sell a few more units… if only Sony would listen to me…

The first problem is that a lot of the PSP’s games resemble console games a little too much. Just because a portable system can handle close to console quality graphics and game play doesn’t mean that people want to play these types of games on the go. It’s clear that people like pick up and play games for their handhelds, so Sony and other software makers should focus on simple games a little more. More games like Loco Roco would help the PSP compete better with the DS. The PSP isn’t a PS2. It only has one analog stick and it is minus two shoulder buttons. Developers would be wise to stop porting PS2 games and start taking advantage of the system's strengths. The best a PS2 port can be is sub par due to the control limitations, but that doesn’t mean that the system can’t handle intricate control schemes; it still has more buttons than the DS.

A second thing that Sony should do is push the PSP’s multimedia features a little more. The PSP Media Manager should come with the system so that people can easily start taking advantage of its mp3 and video playback capabilities right out of the box. The Media Manager simplifies things and really opens up the PSP experience. One can function without the Media Manager, but the technologically impaired may be put off by constant workarounds.

Finally, prices need to drop. The core system should sell for $149 and the value pack for $199. The core system should come with one of the “sock” cases and the value pack should include the system and its cables along with a USB cable, the PSP Media Manager, a 512 mb Memory Stick, headphones and the “sock” case. These packages would offer standard protection for the advanced PSP system along with real value. Someone looking for multimedia playback features would be much more pleased with a value package like this. Sure, it would cost Sony a lot more, but they’d also have increased sales. Game prices need to drop as well because $50 is just to much for a hand held game. They should be $40 tops. Really simple games should max out at $30.

In conclusion, I really think that Sony needs to take a good hard look at what it’s been doing wrong with the PSP. They’ve got a great piece of hardware and they just need to start getting more of them into consumer’s hands. What do you think? Why don't you own/like the PSP?

SixAxis Review

Despite how much I like the PS3 in general, the system is not without its flaws.  You'd think that since Sony put so much time and effort into creating the PS3's processor and architecture that they could have done a little better with the system's controller.  Unfortunately, there are a couple of things wrong with the SixAxis controller... First off, it's not called the DualShock 3.

That's right, as everyone knows by now, the PS3's controller doesn't have a rumble feature.  Sony claims that it interferes with the system's motion sensing technology, but most conclude that it's actually an issue of legality.  It seems that Sony is in the middle of a dispute with the inventors of the rumble feature found in today's modern controllers.  I know I'm not the only one who wishes Sony would make nice and include the feature in an updated controller.  It’s not missed as sorely as I expected, but playing Gran Turismo HD is a little weird without it... You really notice its absence when you go careening into gravel. 

More than the missing rumble feature, the SixAxis' size is actually more off-putting to me.  That's right, Sony's new controller is a fatty; it's a little thick around the middle.  In order for Sony to fit the rechargeable lithium ion battery into their controller, they thickened the middle by over a quarter of an inch.  My long fingers used to wrap around the controller, but now they touch instead.  Not only is this not as comfortable, but it also looks cheaper.  Cheaper because the curves are gone and the back of the controller is pretty flat; I'm surprised that no one else has complained about this. 

Elsewhere you find questionable motion sensing, but I'll give Sony the benefit of a doubt and say that the feature is simply not being utilized.  It is cool to shake off enemies in Resistance: FoM, but I expect the controller to truly be tested with the upcoming Warhawk.  Until then, I'll not pass judgment. 

When it comes down to it, the SixAxis still has it where it counts: response and reliability.  Sony's analog sticks still feel the best and they're now even more accurate.  The face and shoulder buttons feel largely the same, despite the inclusion of analog triggers.  Overall, it's a decent controller and it will get the job done.  Maybe over time Sony will settle their disputes, get back the rumble feature and shrink their battery... I sure hope so.

The Truth About the PlayStation Network

Sony's PlayStation Network has been an area of concern for PlayStation fans for a while now... and for good reason; Microsoft's Xbox Live service kicks and Sony's offerings have been much less than impressive. Online play on the PS2 was pretty worthless. Most games featured tons of lag an there were no uniform sign-in systems. Has Sony learned from their mistakes and turned from their wicked ways? I'd say yes, but you need to keep in mind that they're offering a free service. Remember that as I go through what the PlayStation Network has to offer.

The biggest issue with the PS2's online service was the lack of a uniform sign-in name for each individual player. This meant that you had to keep track of a different sign-in name and password for each game you wanted to play online. Sony's PlayStation Network fixes this problem by requiring its members to create a unique user I.D. during the sign-up process; mine is BlueSteam. This unique name works just like an Xbox Live Gamertag as it is used to sign-in to the PlayStation Network and is displayed to your friends and opponents. This addition was step one in Microsoft's "Guide to Online Gaming".

Once signed-in to the PlayStation Network, gamers will find a nice list of things they can do. Not only can you play others online, but you can also chat and email with friends, download system updates and visit the PlayStation Store. In the following paragraphs I'll break each of these three features down.

Online play has been flawless so far. Resistance: FoM is the PS3's best piece of software and it's also the poster boy for the PlayStation Network. Online play in Resistance is both smooth and stable; lag does not occur; EVER. In fact, I've had more fun playing Resistance online than any other online title; including Halo 2 and Gears of War. I have never had a dropped match or any other technical problems during online gameplay.

Chatting and emailing with your friends works as expected... except for one hiccup; you can't access your friends list while you're playing a game. On the Xbox 360, you are always connected to your friends; all you have to do is press the "Guide" button. In contrast, the PS3's "PS" button only allows you to quit the game your're playing, turn off your controller or turn off your system. This is a huge oversight by Sony and one that I hope they sort out. Hopefully the PlayStation Network's "free" status allows for feature issues like this one to be overcome. You are able to chat with others during gameplay if the game supports this feature.

Finally, I'd like to touch on the PlayStation Store. I've been reading a lot of criticism against the Store here on IGN, but I've enjoyed the time I've spent with it. I like the look and I especially like the fact that you don't have to buy "points". In fact, I love that prices are displayed in dollar amounts; Sony doesn't try to trick you into thinking that you're only spending "points" instead of real money. I'll admit that the Store's layout will need to be expanded eventually, but it serves its purpose well right now. As the buyer, you are able shop in a number of categories including "Featured Items" and "Downloadable Games". It's easy to find games, trailers (for both movies and games), demos and system updates. In the future, movie trailers and game trailers will need to be divided up into their own categories as they will start to clutter up the Store quickly. Downloads seem a little slower than those of Xbox Live, but the files are actually a bit bigger. For instance, Lemmings and Go! Sudoku are both over 250 MB; that's far more than Microsoft allows for XBLA games: 50MB. Also, some trailers are offered in 1080P. Overall, the PlayStation Store is a great addition to the PlayStation Network and I frequent it quite a bit. Gran Turismo HD Concept was offered for free on Christmas Eve. This is an actual game that allows you to unlock cars and save your progress. I'm sure the Store will do quite well if it continues to offer bonuses like this.

In conclusion, the PlayStation Network doesn't rival Xbox Live at this time, but it definitely has the potential to do so. It is a free service, so the couple of times that I couldn't log in for no reason are being forgiven. That actually hasn't happened since the day I signed up for the service, so it may have had to do with the fact that I was a new user. PlayStation fans can rejoice because Sony has given them online play for free and it's actually pretty good.