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Monday, March 26, 2012

PS Vita maps completely useless

Wow... I was just trying to use the Maps app on the PS Vita, and it's amazing how COMPLETELY TERRIBLE it is.

It's a basic GPS using Google Maps, but the search function is where it completely falls down.

Starting out, it can't get my current location right. It's off by about 1/4 kilometre... And not even on the same street either.

But much worse, I tried to use the "Search for Directions" search box, and no matter what I entered, it will give me There are no matching results. (C2-13481-7)

So I used the "Search for location" box and typed in "Walmart". It showed me a map where a Walmart is-- a Walmart in New Jersey. I'm on the other side of the continent and that's supposed to be the closest Walmart?

The only way to delete a search is to add another one. So you always have your last 6 searches in your livemap area. Live Area itself is quite useless in general, except for games.

Another terrible thing is the PS Vita user manual... Which is basically just a website if you try to access the manual on the Vita, it simply accesses the website... It's a slow and clunky process completely dependent on internet connection. How freaking lazy is Sony to not provide a PS Vita paper manual?! I know part of the reason they went with the web link option is so they can constantly update it to keep up with the PS Vita.But I don't think the online manual has been updated since the Vita came out more than one month ago... So much for that idea.

Yes, the PS Vita apps and user interface in general seems unfinished and a work in progress. But it's annoying to have most of the apps that are built into the console, that can't be deleted or removed, be so unusable in real life.

On the first homepage alone, 60% of the apps are useless, with Maps being the worst. I only include Welcome Park as being useful because it is fairly stylish in presentation, but the games are only meant to be an intro to the Vita user interface and don't necessarily have a lot of replay value. So even Welcome Park being in the "useful" list is a stretch.


Saturday, March 24, 2012

why no 3DS play case?

There are a bunch of cases for the 3DS, but what COMPLETELY ASTONISHES ME is that there are NONE that allow the 3DS to be played while in the case. I don't mean form-fitting shells that wrap around the 3DS like hard skins or whatever. Just cases that hold the 3DS in the bottom while the top holds games and maybe some accessories like stylus or AR cards.

Back in the DS Lite generation there were TONS of cases like that, some better than others. The example pic above was part of my Brain Age 2 DS Lite bundle I got back in 2007. It doesn't really work with the 3DS because the top strap prevents it from closing properly.

The 3DS in general seems to be marketed towards older gamers. I certainly like the stylish look of it... back in 2006 I thought the DS Lite looked great... but the 3DS looks more stylish. I like the colours, even the oft-criticized "layer cake" look to it. It's not a perfect design by any means but that's a conversation for another time.

My point is that 3DS cases also seem targeted towards the older "sophisticated" gamer. The DS Lite "play-in" cases I mentioned were mostly aimed towards kids because they're the ones who need them. That's why I'm looking for one, for my 11 year old nephew's 3DS. It just seems bizarre that NO COMPANY out there has made a 3DS case that the 3DS can be played in AND store accessories especially since the 3DS not only requires a stylus but also AR cards. What a huge missed opportunity!

I'm not sure if Nintendo is trying to shy away from its fanbase of younger gamers, but if so, that would be a gigantic mistake. I know they warn against 3D for 6 year olds and under (I personally wouldn't advise giving a 3DS to a 6 year old anyway) but I'm sure a lot of kids will use the 3DS. With the recent 3DS price drops it's becoming even more accessible for younger gamers-- seen as a more affordable purchase by their parents for sure-- so they need accessories that will cater to their needs, i.e. more durable AND practical for carrying around cartridges & such without losing either the accessories, case or both.

Another thing that I'm amazed no one has thought of is making a case/shell that uses the outside top half of the 3DS/all other DSLite consoles to store game pockets. It could be something that goes across the top outside of the 3DS, holds 3 games and clips on the sides or it could be one of those shells that clips over the whole outside top half and has some fabric pockets for cartridges.

This is an extremely rough mock-up I did to illustrate the basic idea. It just seems to me that that whole outer top half of the DS, ever since the DS Lite era, hasn't been utilized properly. Seems like a perfect area to store games on. Yes it looks kinda fugly. I personally probably wouldn't use it because I prefer slim cases anyway.... but for kids-- and I'm sure there are some older gamers that value practical solutions over looks-- who would probably really appreciate the real-world functionality where, in real life, we have to carry around a bunch of carts with us if we want to have much real selection of 3DS games (DSiware and Ambassador downloads notwithstanding)

In the meantime, I keep scouring the internet trying to find a 3DS case that the console can be played in while it holds cartridges at least... but so far no luck.

UPDATE: I did come across this product which lets 3 carts be plugged into a DS/DSi/XL/3DS system at one time... it's an imperfect solution but similar to what I'm looking for...


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition

I bought Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition Xmas 2011 during a 3DS game buying spree, hoping it would help tide me over during the brutal 3-4 month 3DS game drought that is January-April 2012. What is it about the first 4 months of the year, where practically no games come out? I can't even think of any notable 3DS games that came out the last month or so, maybe Crush 3D? Is that even out right now?

Anyway, I just opened up Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition and popped it into my 3DS. I'm not big on fighting games, but my first impression is that fighting games like this are ABSOLUTELY NOT suited for playing on the 3DS. Seems like a lot of button-mashing is needed and with the limited viewing angle of the 3DS--which basically requires it to be held *completely still*-- it makes the 3D image nearly impossible to see properly because of the micro-tremors a person's hands make. A great idea on paper that fails because of the real-life limitations of the tech.

Like I said, I'm not a big fighting genre gamer. Safe to say I'm pretty terrible at them. My strategy playing fighting games and this one in particular, is to slam on all the buttons in as many various combinations as I can hoping I'm actually pulling off some actual combo movies along the way. A SSF veteran would probably be able to execute commands much more smoothly and maybe would have little trouble playing Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition on the 3DS with 3D enabled, as I believe most 3DS games should be meant to be played. It doesn't help that the user manual is HELLA thick. I gave it a cursory reading--ok maybe only I skimmed it so far-- but man, I am not into games that require a textbook worth of control commands to be able to play them. Maybe once I get all the controls down pat, I'll be able to play this thing properly and keep the 3DS perfectly, stock still.

That's a lot to ask for.

The graphics look great, but the "story mode" cutscenes aren't in 3D, nor is the intro movie. There's a lot of this game that isn't in 3D, maybe these scenes are from the console versions of the game.

I'm a bit worried about how roughly this game makes me treat the controls. I hope I don't wreck my analogue nub.

Another thing I've noticed about the 3DS launch games is that they didn't fully understand the 3D limitations of the 3DS. When I first got my 3DS, I had a really hard time with the 3D in Pilot Wings Resort. After not playing it for a long time, and playing tons of my fave 3DS game, Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D which I always play in 3D... I decided to go back to Pilot Wings Resort to see if, "Was it really that hard to play in 3D, or was it just me not used to the 3DS screen?" and I have to say, the 3D is just as awkward feeling as it was when I first played it a year ago. So it's the way the 3D is in the game rather than a matter of me getting used to the 3D screen. I'm wondering if all the launch games have this kind of rough edge to them, I'm afraid Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition may not have fully understood how to tweak the 3D to make it playable under real-world conditions where, you know, a handheld MOVES slightly when a human being holds one.


Sunday, March 18, 2012

3DS serial number sticker

One thing is annoying me about my 3DS.

On the bottom, Nintendo put a white sticker with the UPC and serial number. I wish they had printed it right into the plastic like they did with the DS Lite rather than just a sticker on top.

I'm finding that the sticker is coming up a bit at the sides, and when I hold my 3DS while playing, it rubs against my fingers. I want to rip it off, but my 3DS is still under warranty and I'm sure Nintendo requires the sticker still be on my 3DS should I (hopefully never) have to send it in for repair. Since I registered it on Club Nintendo, 3 months was added to my warranty so I guess I can't remove the sticker until at least July 2012.

The sticker isn't coming up a lot, but just enough to make it really annoying. I'm not sure why it's coming up but awhile back I wiped down my entire 3DS with a damp cloth... and I wiped over the sticker thinking it would be durable enough to take a bit of dampness. It probably would've been smarter to avoid the sticker area altogether.

Is anyone else having this problem or just me?


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Playstation community forums downtime message

Haha, just tried popping in to the Playstation community forums, and got this message:

I have to admit, that cracked me up.


PSP games on Vita

I was pleasantly surprised a couple weeks ago when I checked my Downloads list in the PS Store on my PS Vita, and discovered Driver '76 was now downloadable on my Vita.

The first week I had the Vita, only 2 PSP games I bought previously were transferable to it: Syphon Filter: Logan's Shadow & Ace Combat Joint Assault.

Of the few PSP games that I can get on my Vita, I have to say they look & play pretty well. Of course they won't look as good as a Vita game, but they don't look bad at all. The biggest adjustment is sometimes I instinctively try to use the Vita's right analogue stick to control my aim. Using face buttons is fine until you HAVE the 2nd analogue stick sitting there practically mockingly.

And there is still so much more that the PS Store needs to do. Most of my PSP download games are not available, and what's galling is there's some Sony first party stuff like Twisted Metal: Head On and even the first PSP Syphon Filter game, Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror.

Third-Party game makers like Namco & Ubisoft seem to be interested in porting their PSP games to the Vita. Why would any company leave money on the table by not making their PSP library available to download and buy on new consoles like PS Vita? I'd like to ask Sony, who seems intent on doing just that.

I sure hope the Star Wars Battlefront games become available. Every Tuesday I keep checking my Downloads list, hoping that magical Download button shows up next to them.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

PS Vita connected to bluetooth headphones

So I've paired my PS Vita with my various bluetooth headphones... with mixed results. Generally the PS Vita firmware seems to be a work in progress-- basic functionality is there but everything feels unfinished and maybe subject to revision. Hopefully the bluetooth feature will get some upgrades soon.

I first paired my PS Vita with my Creative D100 bluetooth speakers. The Vita speakers--despite their poor placement, it's way too easy to cover them with your thumbs while holding the Vita-- have fairly good sound quality... but they aren't all that loud (also a common problem of all the iterations of the PSP, as many may remember)

So my Creative D100 bluetooth speakers are great for a volume boost, plus they sound good (though a bit bass-heavy)

It's very easy to pair bluetooth headphone devices with the PS Vita. But I find that whatever bluetooth profile Sony has equipped the Vita with, it's very basic, probably low-power to save battery.

There is a noticeable at least 1 second audio delay with both my Creative D100 speakers and my HeadRush Adrenaline bluetooth headphones. It's a longer delay compared to using my HTC Legend phone (no delay) and my PSPgo (no delay with the D100 speakers, possibly slight delay with the Headrush Adrenaline headphones )

PLAY/PAUSE FF/RW controls on the bluetooth headphones will work on the PS Vita *only* during music playback, and the music has to already be playing-- pressing the PLAY button on your bluetooth headphones won't start the music if the PS Vita is in a music list, for example.

Also, all my other devices, PSPgo, phone, netbook-- use their native volume output PLUS the bluetooth device volume. As I've written, the volume in bluetooth headphones can boost the PSPgo volume quite a bit. But the PS Vita DOES NOT use its own volume when connected to a bluetooth device, if you press the volume buttons on the Vita while in bluetooth mode they don't do anything. It ONLY uses the volume on the bluetooth headphones itself, so that means whatever volume power the bluetooth device pumps out, that's all as high as it goes. Often I have to crank up my bluetooth headphones full volume to get decent sound, whereas with my other devices I use maybe half volume on the bluetooth headphones themselves. That will suck up more power of the bluetooth device, making it provide all the volume all the time.

There is one saving grace: the PSPgo Bluetooth remote PSP-N270. There are 2 modes for that Bluetooth device, regular and a low-latency mode which takes up more power but provides a more stable connection to reduce audio delay. Using the PS Vita with the PSP-N-270 low latency DOES reduce/eliminate the audio delay.

Overall, I hope that a lot of these issues can be fixed via firmware rather than a hardware limitation. I'm not sure.


Sunday, March 11, 2012

3DS screen still scratches

Awhile back I posted about how the top screen of the 3DS gets a line scratch when closed, and I posted a "fix", basically making the rubber bumpers stick up higher.

I have to update this story and say that the top screen on my 3DS *STILL* gets the line scratch if it's in my backpack or a case, any time it's put into close quarters. So the fix DOES NOT completely work. Luckily for me the line hasn't become permanently etched into my 3DS screen. Now when I put my 3DS into my case I always put the foam screen cover that came with the 3DS over the screen. That is enough to stop the 2 screens from touching. But I can see the line forming in the foam! Better that than my 3DS screen but seriously, whenever Nintendo does the inevitable 3DS redesign/hardware refresh, they'd better take care of this simple design flaw.


Thursday, March 8, 2012

MotorStorm RC Vita

MotorStorm RC for Vita was a free download sponsored by Scion, the Toyota car brand. Originally advertised as available free on the first day of release (March 6, 2012). I just checked (12:57 am March 8, 2012) and it still seems to be free as of this writing.

The problem with saying something will be available free or whatever "on the first day it hits the PS Store"... well, we all know the SAD TRUTH about PS Store updates: they don't happen at 12:00am on Tuesdays. Where I sit- Canada west coast Pacific Time- I find PS Store updates happen from 6:30PM to like 9:30pm, if not later some times. So if MotorStorm RC was only free on Tuesday, we'd have had like maybe 3-5 hours of availabilty. For time-limited stuff, they should say "available free for 24 hours from the PS Store update" or whatever.
MotorStorm RC Vita is a fun game, it reminds me a lot of Micro Machines but better than the PSP version. The dual analogue sticks are put to good use for controlling the RC cars, they really give a feeling that you're controlling a toy car. The big problem is the "alternate" control scheme where you're supposed to push the left stick in the direction you want the RC car to go-- it doesn't work as advertised. I switch the controls to alternate every few races to try to figure out HOW exactly they want us to use the stick. Default controls seem to work the best for me.

The biggest problem with the game is that it feels completely like it was made for the PS3 and ported to the Vita. The menus have type that is SO FREAKING TINY that parts of it are unreadable on the Vita screen. Clearly it was designed using 55" TV screens for development. Same with the cars themselves, they look so small they cause eyestrain trying to peer at them on the Vita screen. And the touch elements, while a good idea to have a rear touch tap go up in the menu and front touch to select, in actual use are sluggish to the point of near-unusable & feel totally tacked on.

But the game is fun at times, at its regular $9.99 price point I'd *almost* say it's worth it. Unfortunately, Sony devs think this price-point gives them an excuse to not polish a game up, so these games always feel bare-bones-- despite games of this level are at at least half the price on other systems like iOS and Android. As can be seen from the image above, the free version has the major Scion advertising/branding on it but I guess that's what you get for "free". And everyone's thanking Sony for the free download, but they said it was Scion who was paying the bill for the downloads. It's like Joe paying for a round for the entire bar, and everyone thanking only the bartender for it. The bartender is making all the money regardless, it's not like he's doing it for charity, right? Same with Sony.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Unit 13 and the Online Pass

Unit 13 is a flawed but fun military shooter from SOCOM dev Zipper Interactive. I've been playing the demo since I downloaded it for my PS Vita... Even though the demo only has 1 map, there are 2 modes for it: the regular mission, and a "dynamic" mode which mixes up the variables like enemies, location of objectives and the like. So I've been playing that mode like crazy. Because it's random, sometimes it's insane hard, and even sorta broken-- which is where the "flawed" aspect of the game comes in-- but I kinda like playing into the broken bits of the game, similar to the flawed gameplay of Star Wars Battlefront.

Anyway, I purchased and downloaded Unit 13 from the PS Store.... Then I discovered the Online Pass glitch. If you tried to access co-op online, it would ask for an Online Pass code-- which didn't come with the download, because it's supposed to be automatically included... we did download it from the Sony PS Store after all, right?

It was a glitch that a Zipper rep acknowledged and he stated they were working on a fix. The next morning, I went into the PS Store on my Vita and checked my "Services" section (the "..." in the lower right corner of the screen) which said I have an Online Pass for Unit 13. Once I did that the game seems to have online access now.I haven't tried it yet, but before it was only giving me a "enter Online Pass code" screen, so I think it works now....

Having no online multiplayer for day 1 is not the worst thing ever, but it is annoying how Sony is so glitchy when it comes to things like this. Online Pass is a controversial DRM tool in general, and problems like this only make it worse. We buy this digital content--pay REAL money for it, and Sony is saying "Thanks for giving us money, now we're not sure that you're honest so either pay us for an online pass or you don't have online access. Yes, this is probably an error on our part but we'd rather err on the side of YOU being in the wrong rather than US".

That is my real problem with Sony Computer Entertainment. This kind of attitude.

As to the gameplay of Unit 13, I'm having a lot of fun with it so far. It's sorta similar to the Syphon Fiiter PSP games; you use a cover mechanic though sometimes it sticks in the wrong places and gets in the way.... sure there is no overall storyline; it's just a set of missions. But like Resident Evil Mercenaries 3D, it is very fun to just jump in & blast away. The biggest problem with the game so far is the run-and-gun game levels: some of the missions are run-and-gun and the game is COMPLETELY NOT SUITED for that kind of gameplay. The 2nd analogue stick doesn't do targeting as anywhere near as precisely as it needs to for run-and-gun, at least not in this game. Because of the clunkiness of the aiming system, it's like forcing a square peg into a round hole. Sure, you can drive a car off a cliff, but that doesn't mean cars can fly. The time limits to complete these missions are just too brutally short. I've written about how much I hate time limits in games, and how it's a lazy game mechanic that needs to go away. Almost 1/3 of the missions comprise this broken game mode-- which means about 1/3 of the game is practically unplayable.

Which brings me to a major point about the PS Vita: Yes, for YEARS people begged Sony to put a 2nd analogue nub in the PSP. We got so desperate for it, all we cared was that they put it in. As long as it's simply THERE, the games will come.... that was the belief. But now that it's actually here, it's not proving to be as good as it should be. It's hard to describe but because of the placement of it as well as it being small... it definitely *doesn't* feel like the right analogue stick on a home console system like PS3/Xbox360. It's *very* difficult to do precise aiming or camera control with the right analogue stick in Unit 13. Now I don't know if this is a fault of the hardware or the software. Did Zipper Interactive ACTUALLY PLAY the game on a PS Vita, or simply develop it using Dualshock 3 controllers? I am actually a bit worried now about how tuned the 2nd stick will be for shooters, especially fast-paced ones like Star Wars Battlefront.

Another very strange issue has popped up: when playing Unit 13 and MotorStorm RC, the PS button blue light will turn off then on every few seconds. I have NO IDEA what this is about, I'm pretty sure it didn't happen before. The only thing close to it is when the PS Vita battery is low, the light will turn off. At first that's what I thought it was. But my battery is still strong when it's happening. It's very odd. I wonder if Unit 13 was a bit too glitchy & rushed.

The biggest glitch is sometimes the game crashes the PS Vita. The sound will go out, then if you try to exit the game the PS Vita will freeze. Trying to shut it down, the circles will keep swirling, the blue PS button will keep flashing....until the battery dies? I hold the power button for like 10 seconds until the recovery menu comes up.

Vita-crashing glitches like this are really inexcusable... Even the demo has this bug. How did this get past the Quality Assurance (QA) testers?


Monday, March 5, 2012

MotorStorm RC Vita for free?

IGN is reporting that MotorStorm RC Vita will be free to download from the PS store tomorrow! (March 6 2012)

Not sure if this will apply to Canada, or even WHY this is happening, apparently it's some kind of deal with Scion? (EDIT: The Scion car brand by Toyota) I dunno.... All I know is that free is always good!

I'm curious about this game & was hoping for a demo to try out. If it's the full game free, even better!

I'm really hoping that it'll be better--MUCH better-- than the broken Micro Machines V4 PSP game that Code Masters put out in 2007.

UPDATE: After reading the PlayStation Blog post, I suspect that this free deal may be U.S. only. That would suck, but only way to be sure is to wait until the PS Store is updated tomorrow(ish)

UPDATE 2: scrolling down the blog post to comment #39, a Sony rep seems to confirm that it WILL be available to Canada!


Saturday, March 3, 2012

Touchpad updates break music playback

The latest updates to TouchPad WebOS added a few new things, but they also seem pretty buggy... I talked about the brightness issue... There's also a sound issue where the general sound just randomly goes all "tinny" and weak, like after turning it on from sleep mode. Sometimes turning the screen off (sleep mode) and on again will fix the issue, but often it requires a full restart to get the sound back to normal.

The most recent update added a nice video function: now when you tilt the TouchPad portrait or sideways the other say, video will also shift to accomadate the new view (this is also a feature found on the Blackberry PlayBook) It's not something I've been screaming for but it can be handy to reposition the side-mounted speakers so they're facing up instead of down. The problem with this new feature is that when you tilt it out of the TouchPad default video mode (landscape with the power button facing left) there will be some coloured flashing lines along the bottom and right side of the video. Very distracting, kinda renders the feature almost useless in some cases.

But I just discovered the latest bug-- while playing music and browsing, sometimes while a website is loading it sill cut the music off. The music suddenly gets paused and you have to go into the music app & hit the Play button again. I don't know if it's a memory issue or what but I don't recall many problems with listening to music while web browsing before this latest update

I actually wish that whoever is issuing these updates, I assume it's HP-- would just give us the CHOICE of whether we want to update or not. With HP washing their hands of WebOS, there is probably much less quality control with firmware updates than when they were invested in it. Obviously I like new features, but I like even MORE that features already in place don't get broken. If I have to choose between the two, I'd go with having a stable device rather than a buggy one that has a few new features. This is the dilemma facing all gadget owners and a universal problem of most devices nowadays.

And I typed up this post using my TouchPAd, the first time I beldive I've done this. Looking at ghe ghypos you can see wht a togal BUGGER it is. I'm leVing this paragraph uncorrected so you can see what sort of problems I face. It's hard to type the letter a without capitalising ig bdcause ghe shift kdey is so close. But just typing on a virtual keyboard is a pain.. And of course there's no Arrow keys so moving between type is more trouble than it should be.


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