Thursday, February 21, 2013

So, Okay, PS4 is a Thing

At the Playstation Meeting yesterday, the Playstation 4 was announced as expected and quite a bit about the system was shown off and explained.  Not enough for most people, but, well, most people wouldn't be happy if you sat them down with a console, pointed out every part, explained it and then gave it to them for free.  So you know, internet, opinions, you know the score by now.  Still, overall there was quite a bit of information that was detailed and as such, it's taken me a little while to digest it all.  Even now, I haven't really comprised the bulk of it in my head and that stuff will likely just require a little further clarification.  I don't even really have a 'flow' for the information and will just kind of cover it as it comes since I can't really think of any grouping to put everything in with.  Pretty much everything here is just how I understand things, so it's quite possible I might be incorrect here or there.  That happens.  Every now and then.  Sometimes.

I guess the first thing, naturally, to bring up is that the whole PS3 Streamed BC thing is a thing that will happen, but not necessarily -only- with PS3 games.  The presenter said they would like to get it working with 'everything ever', meaning PS1 and PS2 as well, but it was heavily implied that the PS3 Streaming might not even be in the device right out of the gate, so maybe don't hold out hope that you'll be able to play Grand Theft Auto:  San Andreas on your PS4 the night you un-box it and such.  You probably weren't anyway, but I'm just saying.  It is probably a thing that won't happen.  Also unclear is, well, just how you're expected to -use- this streaming since they didn't really do a whole lot of elaboration on that.  So it really is just the exact same issue prior to announcing it in that we don't know -what- facets it'll cover in regards to digital purchases only, can you use it as just a basic, non-Plus member, who gets access to what and when, etc. etc.  Not too surprising, but I'm just as unenthusiastic about it now as I was.

Gaikai's streaming isn't going to be solely for use in PS4 Backwards compatibility, however, which is the real surprise here.  In a move that is not unlike the whole off-screen play that the Wii U does, Sony is actively trying to make it possible to stream PS4 games to your Vita which is really kind of neat.  My understanding is, however, it's going to use a method much like the current remote play option, meaning it'll be internet dependent which also means that you'll be able to utilize it from greater distances than the Wii U's tablet.  Of course, being internet dependent, it might be kind of laggy, and I don't quite know if it's -solely- for PS4 games, or for anything you're playing on your PS4.  As in, could you theoretically stream a PS2/3 game to your PS4 and -then- stream -that- to your Vita?  The logical brain inside of me says no, but the hopeful part of me inside says "man, that would be so cool".  It'll be a hard thing to do, and I'm not sure if it'll be completely feasible, but the prospect of being able to play inFamous:  Second Son on my Vita whilst not at home is tantalizing and one that I shan't give up without a fight.

As for the PS4 itself, it seems like a powerhorse of a machine, just as early leaks stated.  There's a spec sheet floating around out there, but the main thing to pull away from it is just this:
Main Processor
Single-chip custom processor
CPU : x86-64 AMD "Jaguar", 8 cores
GPU : 1.84 TFLOPS, AMD next-generation Radeon™ based graphics engine
I've made my disinclination towards technical aspects of machines well-known by this point so, much like in the past, this is all just numbers and letters to me.  Words without form or function, though I can gleam from the collective that it is fairly impressive.  The RAM especially, because it's quite high-quality RAM and there's quite a lot of it by normal standards, and by console standards, it's a ridiculous amount, basically.  The parts are all pretty much taken straight from PC development as well, meaning there's not really any Sony-branding on anything like there has been with past machines.  What that means, however, is that it's going to be a -lot- easier to develop for, since the only thing to contend with will basically be the PS4's OS and how it actually -uses- those parts.  That it is a lot more PC-Friendly than most means that perhaps some of the more out-of-reach PC exclusives might actually head to the console since it should, in theory, be a very easy port.  More games is only a good thing even if they are filthy PC-exclusives.  (I keed, I keed)

Something that a lot of people have made a big to-do about, and probably rightly so, is that they didn't really show off a box that was, in fact, the PS4.  Given that there's still about 7 months or so before this thing will actually come out, that's not horrible, and I personally wasn't bothered by it.  But at the same time, I probably gave Nintendo shit about it when they showed off just the Wii U Pad and not the console either.  Even though that was different circumstances (Wii U doesn't distinguish it enough if you just show the GamePad since Nintendo has always been accessory-heavy, etc.) Sony could have at least put a box down and said "So, hey, this is a prototype look that we're trying out, might look different when it comes out, but we're pretty happy with this so far." and it probably would have deflected a lot of needless grief away from that particular issue.  Since really, it's less about what it looks like on the outside and more about what it's comprised of on the inside and if that's set, it's fairly simple to gussy it up.

Another thing that people made an issue with is that there was no firm price announced and this one I cannot disagree with vehemently enough.  Sony had -nothing- to gain by announcing a price at this thing unless it was $300 (which isn't fucking happening, let's be honest) and even then, people would bitch.  Or Nintendo would suddenly drop the price of the Wii U $80 so people could go "Damn, $300 is expensive now" and the whole thing becomes another boon for Nintendo.  While I am drawing from the past for humor's sake, that's a very, very real possibility.  Make no mistake about it - the Wii U is struggling for now and even though it's going to hit and hit -hard- when it gets going (because it's a damn Nintendo product, what the hell people calm down about doom), Nintendo is likely in panic mode.  Well, actually, we -know- they're in panic mode.

Doing a sudden price drop would be precisely a move Nintendo would implement since it's a perfect shot.  Sony announces the price for this in February even though it's not coming out til what, October at the earliest? and that gives Nintendo all those months to make the PS4 look that much more expensive compared to their machine.  Sony can't exactly come out at E3 and go, "Hey, you know that price we gave at the Playstation Meeting?  Well, knock $100 off of it, yeah!" since that would have them crucified in the media for not having confidence, etc. etc.  Announcing a price is something you can't take back, so doing it now would just have left them open to give everyone else a shot.  Nintendo gets a lot of free positive buzz, PS4 is kneecapped right out of the gate.  This is to say nothing of Microsoft who has their own console coming out, which is poised to be announced at E3 if not before.

The games are certainly games, that is something to be sure of.  I guess.  I only watched the trailer for inFamous:  Second Son, because it's really the only game announced that I was immediately interested in.  I've never been much of a Killzone fan, unfortunately, beyond the voicework, so the announcement of another game in the series is a bit lost on me for now.  Knack sounds interesting, but I've yet to watch that.  Jonathan Blow and The Witness just makes me laugh because of how much of an anti-console blow-hard he's been and while it's good that they're courting Indie PC Developers, he's probably about the last person I'd honestly care is developing for the thing.  (Phil Fish being the absolute last.)  The rest, I don't quite know about, and I'm more awaiting the next few conventions to find some more announcements that I really care about given that the PS4 (for me) will only be a PS4 machine.

All in all, the PS4 was pretty much what we were told ahead of time that it would be, for better or worse.  Games are going to look pretty on it and that's great, the share stuff (which I didn't talk about, but it looks cool.  Video capture is a godsend) looks really neat and could be great.  But it didn't grab me, it didn't drag me in and worst of all, it didn't really excite me.  That is, admittedly, a harder task these days, but I figured if anyone or anything could do it, it would've been this.  There's still plenty of time, and there were a lot of punches pulled, clearly.  GDC might be a rather fun event this year, and E3 will definitely be a knock-down drag-out, so to speak, which will be quite entertaining to watch.  And this?  The Playstation Meeting?  Well, it wasn't really meant to be a megaton thing.  It's pretty much impossible to make the levels of excitement that people expect with announcing a new console because we work more in the tangible and the expected.  You show them pretty videos and they complain that it's not gameplay.  You show them gameplay and they complain that it's not actually running on the console.  There's absolutely no winning, so that this was what it was was astounding enough.  It's the stuff that comes now that'll be what really means to grab folks, so that's what we're going to need to strap in for.

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