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SarjuS Blog

Sarju Shah Ornament

This blog is a part of the scavenger hunt.

Share a couple of items on your Christmas wishlist this year.
iPad, Yamaha 667 home theater receiver

What games will you play during the holidays?
Fallout New Vegas
Mass Effect 2

What are the kinds of food or drinks you must have during the holidays?
pumpkin pie, pumpkin pie, and pumpkin pie


Tiger and Madden support 720p and 480i on the PS3

We just got some PlayStation 3 games in the office, which is exciting because we don't have a PlayStation 3 in the office yet (UPDATE: We got a PS3 in the office). EA sent over retail copies of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07 and Madden NFL 07. The cases are smaller than conventional DVD and Xbox 360 cases. The cases are a bit shorter; however, the width and length seem similar to standard cases.

We spent a minute ogling the games' stylish, translucent casing, but we soon discovered some disconcerting information when we examined the backs of the games. According to the HD support specifications printed on the back of each case, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07 only outputs up to 720p and Madden NFL 07 puts out 480i and 720p.

You may recall last year, many launch titles for the Xbox 360 received a lukewarm welcome due to a lack of features or lackluster image quality since many of them were quick and dirty Xbox ports. Let's hope that Tiger's 720p on the PS3 is only the result of a quick 360 port and not at all indicative of future resolution support.

We have to admit that Tiger seems happier on the PS3. The Xbox 360 and PS3 versions feature the same Tiger picture on the front cover, but Tiger sports an enormous grin on the back cover of the PS3 case compared to a cool gaze on the 360 case.

1080i in disguise?

I've come to a rather strange conclusion after testing two wheels and playing quite a decent amount of Gran Turismo 4. The game has fantastic elements to it - driving physics, models, and in general great depth. But the graphics engine has managed to give me the kind of paper cut that doesn’t stop bleeding. It's minor enough not to warrant alarm, but annoying enough to babble about.

A resolution as high as 1080i is a feat regardless of platform, be it console or PC. Running any game at 1920x1080 pushes video cards to their limits and then some. The newer GeForce 6800s and Radeon X800s manage to get up that high, but even then the frame rates aren’t all that great. When you tell me that the Playstation 2 outputs 1080i with Gran Turismo 4, that's going to start raising alarm bells. To date there have been oh… no games that do 1080i on the Playstation 2. Even the Xbox only has a handful of very badly implemented games in full high-definition glory.

While playing Gran Turismo 4, I noticed that the player's point of view is in great focus. The objects near your car look fantastic. But when you move that line of sight a few feet out, everything gets super blurry. We aren't talking speed effects; this is from a stand still. The first time I noticed this was during a replay. Three bleary looking cars passed by. Then mine rolled into view; suddenly the game was crisp again. It was seriously like putting on a new pair of glasses. I instantly went from 20/4000 to 20/20. This graphical anomaly varied from track to track, and we haven’t had time to thoroughly investigate it.

The things I've seen could be nothing more than a graphical effect done by the team at Polyphony Digital. It's obvious they've done a lot of tweaking to get this game to run at a resolution as high as 1080i. Textures in the scenery are nowhere near as clear as those found on the cars. Regardless, I see jaggies that simply shouldn’t be there. Even without anti-aliasing, at high definition, jaggies should be minimized greatly. I haven’t had the time to verify for certain, but from a quick run through on our 720p capable TV, the 480p and 1080i versions suffer from a ridiculous amount of graphical artifacts. Lines should not be crawling anywhere near this much. After years of staring at monitors and TVs, confusing 842x480 with 1920x1080 would be downright shameful. Even though our TV isn’t capable of full 1080i, 720p is still an enormous step up from 480p.

I'm going to test Gran Turismo 4 out at home using my 1080i capable HDTV. I'm fairly certain that my results will be along the lines of what I've witnessed in the office. But there's always room for error, maybe I just need to get some sleep and open my eyes a bit wider in a few days.

Video Card Madness

Video cards. I remember the days when there were but a handful from each manufacturer. You either got the "Ultra", the "Normal", or the "Crappy." As campy as it sounds, I miss the early period of 3D gaming. You didn’t have to wade through benchmark after benchmark to figure out which was best. Once you knew which chipset was good, you went ahead and plunked down what you could afford, knowing it would be the best in its class.
Ever since the top-to-bottom lineup reared its ugly head, purchasing decisions became a tad more complicated. It's not that I mind having so much choice, but every now and then I look up and realize that I have only have so much time. Every moment spent trying to figure out which video card to get is an extra moment I could spend using one to play a game.
Nowadays, you've got the XL, LE, SE, Ultra, GT, Pro, VE, XT PE, and the Ultra Extreme. If that wasn't enough, you still have to wade through the various model numbers: 9600, 9700, 9800, X300, X600, X700, X800, and X850. That's just ATI. Nvidia has: FX 5200, FX 5500, FX5600, FX 5700, FX5900, FX5950, 6200, 6600 and 6800.
If we combine the model numbers with the various monikers from above, the permutations become boggling. We work in this industry, and we regularly confuse which card is which when it comes down to the LE, SE, VE or what have you. What chance does the average consumer have? This doesn’t even begin to account for the shenanigans that go on with OEM and retail cards, or models that have been crippled in some semi-hidden way.
There has to be an easier way. In case the manufacturers have forgotten, people will probably spend more time buying if they have less to research. I understand the need to have full product lines, with pricing starting at around $500, and then decreasing in $50 increments till we get down to the slim pickings. It's easy for someone to get confused with all these products even if they follow the industry. But what happens to Mr. Average Guy? He simply wants to play a few games. Mr. Guy goes to the store and sees an almost endless array of products from different companies and stands there scratching his head. Then he asks the sales person, which inevitably leads to doom. There has to be a happy medium between filling in every spot and making the process simpler.
If price was the only concern, things might be a bit easier, but they aren't. Many times you can get powerful versions of yesterday's technology at bargain basement prices. Sure it might not have the latest Shader Model or the best antialiasing, but for a heck of a lot less money you can get a video card that will rock your world.
The joys of mythical product launches doesn’t help our situation much either. It clutters an already full line of products. People might wait to get their hands on the GeForce 6800 Ultra Extreme or the Radeon X850 XT PE, when they would have happily bought the GeForce 6800 GT or the Radeon X800 Pro had they known that was going to be the best for some time to come. We understand the necessary evils of one-up-man-ship; but when the product line consists mainly of products that don’t exist, people catch on fast.
I have a quick suggestion - simplify. Everyone will be happier. PR departments will have less material to gloss over. Trees will live due to fewer brochures. Manufacturers won't have to make eight versions of the same card with different boxes and logos. Most importantly, consumers might actually have a shot at making an educated purchase without investing inordinate amounts of time.