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Monday, April 23, 2012

Android sucks for games?

Trying to understand the mobile phone gaming landscape, I've come across a disturbing trend: that when it comes to games, the Android platform *SUCKS*.

Obviously Android doesn't have nearly as many apps as the iTune App Store. So the selection is always going to be smaller. And because iTunes App Store is such a juggernaut, the best Android games are going to be ported from the iPhone.

But there's an even worse problem that never gets mentioned.... the hardware fragmentation of Android devices makes it very, VERY difficult to get a coherent, easy-to-buy-and-download list of top games.

There are so many processors out there that many of them aren't supported. A prime example being Grand Theft Auto 3. This should be a very big game on a mobile device. I'm currently looking at buying an HTC Evo 3D, it came out spring/summer 2011, it has a 1.5 GHz dual-core processor.... and it's "not supported" to play the game. If you try to legally buy it from the Google Play store, it won't let you do so on an Evo 3D. The game does seem to work on the Evo 3D, but you have to pirate it to side-load it onto the phone. Because Google and the publisher won't let you download it legally.

I suspect a big part of why it doesn't have official compatibility with the HTC Evo 3D is because the phone's screen is 16x9, and the game seems formatted for something closer to 4:3. From what I've seen it playing on an Evo 3D, it's stretched out horizontally.

Ok, that's one game, a big title but still only one example. But you only need to look at Gameloft games for more examples. Gameloft has garnered a reputation of ripping-off big console titles and making phone versions of them. Some of these "ports" are more successful than others, but there are some definite good titles.

Try buying a Gameloft android title. You need to provide them with a mobile phone service provider to do so. That means you need a mobile phone plan, with data. In Canada, for us that means a 3 year contract with data. Which is about $2000.00 over 3 years.

So you need to pay $2000.00 over 3 years, at least $60.00 a month (plus tax) before you can buy a game from Gameloft.

So what's the alternative? iPhone? The iTunes App store is a monolithic closed eco-system, so I assume Gameloft games are in there like everything else. There shouldn't be any hassles like having to have a mobile service provider or whatever other malarkey.

Aside from the fact that the iPhone is basically one device, you can't get an iPhone with a bigger screen or 3D camera or qwerty keyboard... there's only one iPhone basically and you better like it... aside from that fact, an unlocked 16GB iPhone 4s price starts at $650.00, bought from Apple. The phones I'm looking at are about half that price used.

I am starting to believe that iOS is the only decent platform for mobile gaming.... but I can't even be sure of that because of the walled-garden mentality of the iTunes App Store. I hate, hate HATE stores with closed eco-systems like iOS and Playstation Store, where you can't even LOOK at what content is available unless you've already bought the consoles.

I just want to be able to BUY some decent mobile games. I don't want the hassles that can come from workarounds and pirating. Why is it so damn difficult just to make a consistent experience?


Saturday, April 21, 2012

quandary over phones

The last couple weeks have me pondering over what I want to be my next phone. As much as I love my HTC Legend, it is really showing its age on the inside. The outside still looks amazing, I take good care of it; I don't put it in a pocket with keys, etc. But I do just shove it into my pocket as I'm running out the door, mostly with no case (I only got a case last time I was in Shenzhen, it was given to me) It's amazing even the screen has no scratches, it's a great little phone. The small form factor makes it so pocketable and real-life portable.

But the 600 MHz processor and small amount of ram... even worse, the small amount of space for apps.... I don't have that many apps on it and I've constantly got a "low space" warning on there because I have less than 20 MB free-- about 11MB free last time I checked.

So I think I need to upgrade to a more spacious & powerful phone. I've got my eye on quite a few contenders:

HTC One X - I'd prefer the One S for its size & form factor, but only the One X international version has "32GB" of storage... I think it's 22GB of actual usable storage.... which is enough for me. It has a great camera and Ice Cream Sandwich Android 4.0 OS... but it's a big phone. 4.7" screen... I definitely think there should be 4.7" screens but for me, I think that may be too big. 4.3" seems about as big as I can comfortably fit in my pocket. And it's around $700.00 for an import version, super expensive.

Samsung Galaxy S2 - This is the top smartphone of 2011. It shows to be consistently the fastest with browser and apps (from video reviews & tests) the screen is huge and looks really good. But there are some issues I'm worried about. It's super thin but there are reports of it getting really hot around the camera area after extended browsing & use. Plus the overall look of it is nice but there's something... I dunno, kinda cheap-looking about Samsung phones, just the materials maybe? And I've heard the screen scratches easily, part of the build quality issues.

White Samsung Galaxy s2 - Anyone who's read my past entries about my white Star Wars PSP-2000 knows I love white gadgets. I can't decide whether I like white even more than black. So a white Samsung Galaxy S2 should look awesome. But one thing I really don't like about it is that chrome bezel around the phone. I've held it my hand and it just doesn't look as good as in the pics and videos. But it's still white... and it looks so nice in the pics......

HTC Evo 3D - This one is really high on my list. As much as I complain about the faults of the 3D on the 3DS, I really love the idea of mobile 3D gaming. I'd love a better 3D camera, and the Evo 3D is about the only place for that. But it is chunky, and though it would give me the closest experience to my HTC Legend, on the other hand, there are also no surprises... I know what I'd be getting in a Sense UI. I've held the phone in my hands in Hong Kong, and the feel is good. But there are build quality issues with this one too. The power button is super sensitive. Volume buttons are mushy.

Samsung Galaxy S Slide (Captivate Glide in the U.S.) - This is currently at the top of my list. I'd *really* like a qwerty keyboard on a decent phone. The spces are right up there, but the keyboard is very flat. And there's no FM radio, another feature I really appreciate on my HTC Legend. The 4" screen should be nice but I wish it was 4.3" like the SGS2. Also it's a pentile screen.

Gaahhhh..... so much choice... I just don't know which one would fit my needs the best. I *really* want a slider keyboard, but I also want FM radio. And a decent keyboard, it's bizarre that Samsung messed up the Glide when they've done qwerty keyboard sliders before. I may be able to get by with wi-fi streaming of my most-listened to radio stations like CBC. So right now the odds-on favourite is the Glide..... but I really like the Evo 3D too.... I dunno......

I might wait until the Samsung Galaxy S 3 is revealed on May 1. But I'm reasonably sure it will only be a minor upgrade ala iPhone 4S, so it probably won't be something I'm super interested in.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

All the Metroid games suck?

I've tried the Metroid franchise time and time again-- and it's overwhelmingly clear that they are simply AWFUL AWFUL games.

I can't believe how many Metroid games I have: Metroid Prime 3 (Wii), Metroid Prime: Hunters (DS), Metroid (Ambassador NES 3DS download), Metroid: Fusion (Ambassador GBA 3DS download) and Metroid: Other M (Wii)

Clearly I really want to like this franchise.... I even drew this pic when I'd just started playing Metroid Prime 3. Sci-fi is one of my favourite subjects, and the games look actiony. I keep thinking that the deadly combination of tedious action bits where it takes forever to kill everything crossed with obtuse backtracking will somehow not be a part of one of the Metroid games... when it's clearly a cornerstone hallmark of the series. Every Metroid game needs these 2 elements otherwise it wouldn't be Metroid, I suppose.

I just started playing Metroid Fusion half an hour ago. It's brutal how clunky this game controls... hell *all* Metroid games control like absolute shit. How is any of this fun?? I get that sometimes a game is "hobbled" in order to add challenge, and in rare cases it actually works well: Steel Diver is a good example of that. But there is still something unsatisfying about Steel Diver, knowing it's intetionally awkward to control... it's just never a good idea to intentionally make terrible/awkward controls for a game.

I haven't tried Metroid: Other M yet. I bought it awhile ago for $9.99, and I'm betting it was a complete waste of $9.99, just as all the Metroid games have been a waste of money for me. If it's like any of the other Metroid games I don't know if I even want to try it.


Sunday, April 8, 2012


Man... I really want a new phone. My HTC Legend is s pretty good phone, I kinda feel lucky I took a chance on it as my first smartphone because it has met my expectations very well. When I bought it I was looking for a phone that could play my videos, music and had a smaller form factor than my PSP.

But the HTC Legend is an old phone, even old when I bought it (used)... With low processing power and very little internal storage, running Android 2.1.... It can't do as much as I'd like it to-- as in gaming. I have a few games that I really like on it, Robo Defence free, Air Control, Trap, and Winds of Steel but between a few games and some apps like Swype, there isn't any space left. And I can't install or move apps to my micro SD card.

I've been in a quandary since my 2nd trip to China in November 2011. I can't decide between the Samsung Galaxy S2 - Rogers or Bell variants-- or the HTC Evo 3D, and now the HTC One S.

A good camera is one of my new requirements for a new phone, and the HTC One S has some great camera features. I consider it vital for a camera to have a fast startup time from when the phone is in sleep mode to taking a picture. I missed a bunch of photo opportunities on my last trips because my cameras were so slow to start up. You never know when a great picture scene will pop up.

What kills the HTC One S for me is that it only has 16 GB of internal storage with no micro SD card slot. About 9 GB of actual usable space, which isn't enough. I looked at my SD storage on my HTC Legend, I've got a 16GB micro SD card in there-- 14 GB of usable space and I've almost filled it. A sizable chunk of that is taken up with TV shows and photos. And of course my music. I love having my music on my phone it's so convenient. And considering the photo/video recording abilities of the HTC One S, owners would need a lot of space for those files because of the burst mode feature that takes a lot of pictures. Sure you don't have to save every one but in real-world situations you'll need a lot of space so you can decide what to discard at your convenience.

The 9 GB of storage is a fatal flaw in the HTC One S and One X (we in Canada are only getting the 16GB One X version, not the 32 GB international version) HTC is trying to make up for it by giving us Dropbox accounts that have a lot of storage online, but that is really a poor substitute that wouldn't work for me, I have no data plan, I'm on prepaid... But even if I did have data, it still wouldn't work for my needs, I don't think. I know that after formatting, the actual space of flash/hard drive storage is less than what is listed, but the HTC One S must use more space for OS and apps, making the actual user space of the so-called "16GB" of internal storage 5 GB less than on a 16GB micro SD card. There's a big difference between 14 GB and 9 GB.

It's such a shame that these One series are so fundamentally flawed. And don't even get me started on their micro-SIM slot... While not as bad as the removal of micro SD, why are phones going to micro-SIM standard anyway? Seems like such a pain. I might be able to live with it and cut down my SIM card if I had to, but the small 9GB storage space is a deal breaker.


Friday, April 6, 2012

handheld games drought of early 2012

So right now from where I'm sitting,the next 3DS game release that I'm interested in is Heroes of Ruin that has been pushed back to a release date of June 29. A full 3 months from now.

As far as I know, the next big PS Vita game I'm somewhat interested in is Resistance: Burning Skies which is scheduled for May 29. 2 months from now.

Almost this time last year, May 2011, I was complaining about a bunch of canceled 3DS games that I was interested in. De Blob 2, BloodRayne, Saints Row the Third... The 3DS had just come out barely 2 months before and already titles for it were being canceled.

Now, the PS Vita came out in Canada in Feb 2012, it's April 2012 and BigBig Studios, the makers of Vita launch game Little Deviants, and Zipper Interactive, the makers of Unit 13 have both been shut down.

As much as I'm anticipating Heroes of Ruin on 3DS, I'm also looking forward to Warrior's Lair for Vita... which got a recent shout-out by Sony saying "it's not canceled".... the way they said it it sounds like it *is* canceled, but if it's still on, it doesn't feel like it's coming anytime soon.

The next 3 months or so look dry dry dry for Vita/3DS handheld games.

I suppose this is the way it has always been in the past. But in the past the only handheld gaming system was the Gameboy, and more recently, the DS & PSP. So there was less choice and we were used to it being that way. Plus if a developer wanted to release a handheld game, it had to go on that system since there were few others. Now with iOS development, not only are we seeing more games coming out for that system but it makes the wait between games for "dedicated gaming handhelds" more obvious and painful because devs are choosing not to even create for 3DS/Vita.

If you have 100 iOS games come out for every single 3DS/Vita game, even if 97 of those iOS games are cheap knock-offs or crap, that's still 3 good games for every 1 "dedicated handheld" game. And I think that 97/3 is a pretty skewed ratio, there are probably a larger percentage of good iOS game releases than that.

I bought a bunch of 3DS games during the Xmas Toys 'R Us sale specifically to tide me over the lean months of the first quarter of 2012. But if Heroes or Ruin is the next game I get, it'll be 6 months since I last got a 3DS game.

And since it hasn't been out as long, the PS Vita library is far less developed than the 3DS. I have no idea what's coming out for it in the rest of 2012.

It's a very tough time to be a 3DS/Vita owner.


Monday, April 2, 2012

Kid Icarus Club Nintendo AR Cards

Last week or so I went to their site, signed up for them and I just got the cards from Nintendo this morning!

Came from Nintendo of America which kinda surprised me I thought they would have come from Nintendo Canada. But NoA is still located relatively close to me so it didn't take long. Don't know why the envelope is so dirty, it looks like it's been stepped on-- a lot-- but the cards themselves seem in good shape.

I think these fall into the category of kinda useless junk that will get dumped into a drawer somewhere... but it was free!

I'm on the fence about Kid Icarus: Uprising. Shooter games are right up my alley but the stylus aiming controls really make me wary. I did not enjoy the controls on the DS game Metroid Prime Hunters. I know that Kid Icarus: Uprising allows use of the face buttons for aiming but people are saying it isn't precise enough, probably because it isn't tuned for that kind of control (same problem with Metroid Prime Hunters actually)... I just wish more shooter/action games were coming out for 3DS.


Sunday, April 1, 2012

PS Vita PSP settings

I'm a dope... when I first got my PS Vita, I complained about lack of 2nd analogue stick support on my compatible PSP games (namely, Logan's Shadow). I've since corrected that post with the updated information. I was digging around the online Vita menu and found out how to adjust the control settings for PSP games.

While a PSP game is playing (even during the intro or cutscene) hold the touchscreen for a few seconds and the menu screen pops up:

Bilinear Filtering - makes some PSP games look smoother but possibly less sharp as well.

Right stick - can be adjusted to face buttons (as shown) D-pad, left analogue stick (Yay for lefties!)

Camera - I think that's for any compatible PSP games that can use the camera... are there any? Invizimals, maybe?

Color Space - I think if this is set to PSP System, then it displays the palette that was limited to the PSP. It looks a little bit better when it is off.

One problem with this screen is that it the settings are universal for every PSP game. I've set my right analogue stick to mimic face buttons, but it does so on *ALL* PSP games I play on the Vita. Say I had Monster Hunter Freedom Unite or some other game that uses the D-pad for camera control-- I'd have to manually go into the menu and change that setting. It won't remember different settings for different games.

I actually only found this because I started playing Driver '76 on my PS Vita. At first it looked-- well, it looked like ass-- everything was jaggy and pixelated, much worse than Logan's Shadow which looked pretty good. I originally played Driver '76 on my PSPgo which has a smaller screen so it does look better, but I thought it was a bit worse on Vita than it should've been. After turning on Bilinear Filtering, it looks a LOT better.

Things like this make me wish that Sony hadn't cheaped out on not providing a paper PS Vita instruction manual. If they had, I would have discovered this a lot earlier, and I probably would know more tips & tricks about the system than I do now.

When I first played Logan's Shadow on my Vita I kept instinctively trying to use the right analogue stick. Now that I actually can use it, I'm initially finding the same problems I'm having with every shooter on the Vita... the 2nd analogue stick doesn't feel..... quite right. Aiming is a bit too twitchy rather than smooth like it is using my Xbox controller S. I know that Logan's Shadow wasn't originally designed to use a 2nd analogue stick, but the Vita-exclusive game Unit 13 *is*, and it suffers the same problem. If we see quick and lazy Vita ports of console shooters that don't make any adjustments for the Vita controls, it could be really bad.

That's not to say that I don't still play shooters on Vita. Unit 13 is my most-played game despite all the bugs including the one that forces the Vita to hard reset. Maybe I will get used to Logan's Shadow using the right analogue stick. And I'm going to buy the PSP Mini N.O.V.A. because I read that it also can use the right stick for aiming. Just waiting until this Tuesday on the random chance it may go on sale. I'd hate to buy it now and find it drop in price 2 days later... not that I think it's going to happen... better safe than sorry.