Peripherals I wish I owned

via Outright Geekery.

This is a piece I wrote for Outright Geekery, check it out!

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Why would you throw away the game box?

I always keep the packaging from a game and its contents (manual, map, inserts etc.)… Whenever I walk into my local game store I see plenty of games without their home: a jewel case or cardboard box.

The thought of it is quite disheartening for a collector and fan of old school games. When I was younger, my father would always tell me to keep the instructions and box for anything I bought, even if it was something as simple as an alarm clock. That same principle applies to games new and old. Games these days don’t really come with that much besides a little DLC redemption slip inside the box. It’s a step to be environmentally sound and a sign that game distributors are ready for consoles to embrace digital distribution.

Even the last generation still had manuals that spanned over 20 pages and other inserts stuffed into them. Games before this digital age we play in now were meant to be kept with their instructions and in their original packaging. So again, I have to the fathom the idea of why these games might be found in a store without a box and manual.

Before the game is sold back to the retailer in its “naked” condition, what did the game go through to deserve such treatment? Did the dog eat it? But, being realistic, it is probably more of a personal preference. Keep the box or ditch it?

The older a game gets, the more value it will fetch the closer it is to its original state. Take care of your game and not just because of the price aspect. Take care of it because somebody down the line will appreciate it when it comes with the box and manual.

The best hardware and technical innovations from past generations

These buttons are usually found on the top of the controller and typically have a secondary function in games. Though, in first person and third person shooters, they arguably function has the main buttons.  Over time, shoulder buttons have been further innovated upon with the creation of pressure triggers seen on the Dreamcast and a second row seen on the PlayStation home consoles.

  • Favorite usage: off-hand grenades in Halo

Mode 7 and true 3D environments

A flat, infinite and ever expanding plane probably gave the perfect illusion gamers needed for a pseudo 3D experience but, it wasn’t until CD based systems really started to take advantage of this. Two dimensions was pretty much the only aspect gamers knew and slowly, but surely that notion has reversed. Though, there are still very notable 2D based games around …

  • Favorite usages: Racing in F-Zero (SNES), navigating world maps in Square RPGs

Standard four controller ports

While this isn’t such a big thing now, but having four controller ports built into a system was an ingenious perk. Way before Nintendo implemented this on the N64, two ports were normally found on systems. Microsoft and Sega followed suite on this with their consoles, but Sony never did. Nowadays, USB ports and wireless signals are the standard for controller connections instead of a propriety connection shipped with a console.

  • Favorite usage: GoldenEye 007 multiplayer (N64)

Battery back up memory

Passwords were a great feature, but having to write them down all the time was a pain. Though passwords hung around while battery saves on the cart were being implemented, this function would later evolve into memory cards for CD based systems and hard disk drives further along into the future starting with the Xbox.

  • Favorite usage: The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

Dual analog joysticks

Looking back, first person shooters were awkward at first, GoldenEye being one of them! Holding down a shoulder button for precise aiming? Now that’s a thing of the past! Innovating controllers like the Dual Shock really paved the way for quicker and easier camera controls as well as a dedicated stick for looking/aiming.

  • Favorite usage: Xbox 360 controller

Earthbound has copy protection?

When I first heard about it, I didn’t even know it was possible for a Super Nintendo game to do such things outside of region locking. Earthbound does multiple things to make sure you’re playing the game legitimately.

The first line of defense is not out of this world, it just makes sure you’re playing it in the correct region for your system.

Part two of the copy protection comes when the game checks for SRAM. Anything more than 8kb gets you trouble with this screen below.

Phew … two different and separate tiers of copy protection. That’s got to be enough! Wrong! If any of the above features are disabled, the game will eventually notice that the programming has been changed and increase the number enemy encounters in numerous areas! This is sure to make a playthrough harder and much more frustrating.

The little green sprouts and the dinosaur looking thing are the enemies

If that’s not enough to thwart potential pirates, the programming within Earthbound supposedly also checks multiple times while you’re playing, so parts one and two could possibly be implemented at any time. If the third zone of protection isn’t enough to scare you away, there is one last trick the game will pull.

After you finish the final battle, the game will freeze just before the ending. Upon resetting, you will find all your save games erased. The video below details the steps of Earthbound’s copy protection as well as the final tier in action.

Five games you need to play from this generation

This list is in no particular order and is purely based upon my own experiences. The majority of my choices were picked for their storytelling. This generation of gaming has been more interactive than ever before, letting the player delve into worlds we could only dream of as well as making hard and taxing moral choices.

Red Dead Redemption

Rockstar surprised gamers in many ways. Red Dead Redemption took the open world sandbox gameplay from Grand Theft Auto and dropped it into the Wild West. Combined with a polished gaming experience, we were introduced to a main character that not only had purpose but, a likable relation that’s hard to pull off. Multiplayer was also included in RDR and it definitely doesn’t feel shoehorned. And let’s not forget its awesome DLC: Undead Nightmare.

Portal

Rarely do puzzle games catch my eye but, anything from Valve is worth a look. Blending innovative first person puzzle solving with the unique portal gun and “in the moment” storytelling, there is no way to ignore this game as one of the best of its generation. At the start, things seem normal however, from the lack of human employees, the writings on the wall, GLaDOS’s glitchy voice and progressively dilapidating rooms, it’s easy to see that not everything is right within the Aperture Science facility.

Mass Effect 2

Born from RPG mechanics and taking a more action oriented approach for the sequel, this is the best game out of the Mass Effect trilogy. Starring your “Shepard” from the first game, you must guide him or her through even tougher choices with even higher stakes. The characters are deep, the scenarios are bigger and weapons and powers really make a boom here. It’s a memorable experience and the things you accomplish (or don’t) really have a lasting impact. You tell the story in Mass Effect and the second entry makes sure you won’t forget your actions.

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

Once again, the sequel is the strongest. Nathan Drake blasts away countless bad guys while trying to hunt for the ultimate treasure. It sounds mindless but, UC2 is not to be missed. Naughty Dog programmed solid shooting and multiplayer making for an impressive improvement over the first installment. But what about the story? Oh yeah … there’s that! It feels like an Indiana Jones movie of epic proportions laced with adrenaline pumping set pieces. Not only that, great characters are introduced and developed through spot on voice acting. In UC2, it’s truly about what the game puts you through.

 

Journey

As you’ve probably already seen, this PSN exclusive has topped several lists already. Though it is short, the title lives up to its name. You will indeed be taking a journey through several landscapes, experiencing numerous graphical wonders and scenarios unlike any other game you will play. It includes an incognito cooperative experience, meaning that you will be joined randomly with another player who bears no name! You won’t find out who the passengers are on your quest until the end making yet another aspect of Journey something you need to experience rather than just read about.

What’s going to happen to my games?

Digital media is a constantly changing thing and its environment is regularly expanding. From software to apps to games, consumption of such programming can only increase. As time and the advancement of digital systems progress, it is only natural for that environment to adapt.

For a while now Digital Rights Management (DRM) has been a big issue for gamers and finding a fair way to utilize it for gamers has stemmed from it. Many have tried CD keys, “always on” and account based digital distribution services like Steam. All methods of control have ups and downs, though the less intrusive methods seem to be the most popular.

Physical media has been a mainstay since games were on floppy disks and even when there was barely a hint of DRM. So what happens to your games when a digital service is shut down or when the digital media you’re looking for is no longer available? Here are few scenarios I can think of right off the bat.

  1. Hopefully the service in which you downloaded the product from is DRM free so you are welcome to make a backup copy to store on another medium.
  2. The service provider has given you a way to preserve the content or an alternative to using it in the future
  3. If you’re willing to shell out some extra cash, there just might be a box copy somewhere out there …

The thought of losing a product you purchased or multiple because a digital distributor is no longer around is quite frightening and thankfully it has rarely come to that. Fearing that notion is not absurd. During this generation of gaming, consumers have poured a lot of money into buying digital goods.

For example, Sony recently announced the next iteration of the PlayStation. As the details slowly came out about the system, gamers found out none of the games they downloaded for the PS3 would be compatible with the PS4; making the PS3 the only console you could play that game on. This is not just a backwards compatibility problem, it’s a hardware problem.

playstationlifestyle.net

System failure is a completely different worry in itself but, when and if the servers go offline for your product, that’s it. You’re out of luck. Sony might change their stance on this, eventually allowing you to play your old games with their new hardware or even Gaikai. While streaming services aren’t out of the question, they just haven’t been proven.

For this generation emulation has been wonderful as well as a relief. Being able to download old classics to your Wii or even recent favorites to your PS3 is always a great option but those purchases are still tied to an account and one cannot guarantee that they will always be playable. Besides, nothing beats the feeling of a physical product in your hands, instruction manual and box included.

The future of our data does seem uncertain and partly because the waters haven’t been charted yet. Having a fully backwards compatible future would be ideal and for the time being it doesn’t seem like we are going to get that. So for now create backups, don’t count on ports or remakes and take good care of your hardware!

Backwards Compatibility in the Next Console Generation

When I had found out that the PlayStation 2 would be able to play its predecessors games, I was instantly sold on the product. Keeping my  old controllers, memory cards and games and using them on the new system was a big deal. It was a genius concept and a great way to keep a consumer base. It makes things an easy sell and sounds like something that should iterated upon with every console generation.

Backwards compatibility is great, I have played and finished numerous games using current gen consoles, namely Persona 3 and Persona 4. Using the feature wasn’t without issues though. Persona 3 would often times fail to save my file properly to the hard drive and Persona 4 would sometimes crash or freeze. These errors were probably not present if played on the originating console. Not only that, the resolution was scaled to fit a certain ratio.

There are some things you have to give away when you use backwards compatibility. Sometimes it is relatively error free when the hardware is built into console. Other times it might use a form of emulation like late models of “fat” PlayStation 3s. This may rub some fans the wrong way. Problems with backwards compatibility have been raised with the Nintendo 3DS with critics citing that old DS games better off on being played on a DS Lite or the like.

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Backwards compatibility is not a new concept to the industry. You could even go back to the Super Nintendo to find the Super 8 and the Power Base Converter for the Sega Genesis. I have a feeling we won’t see it at all for the next generation of consoles. Besides some obvious technical and financial reasons console makers have to take into account, I think this generation has proved that it may not matter as much to fans.

If the current generation of consoles have proved anything about backwards compatibility it would be the fact that older games are constantly being re-released for current fan bases to enjoy. Nintendo has the Virtual Console, releasing titles from their previous consoles and even other consoles like the Sega Genesis. Sony does similar things, putting out titles from the PS1 and PS2 to be played on the PS3 and their handheld systems. It’s things like these that beg the question: why even implement hardware/software for backwards compatibility if you can just sell it again for current gen platforms?

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I think it simply comes down to profit. You may not make as much as you originally did from the initial release but, you can still make money from it. Some extra money might be needed  for porting, emulation and QA testing but, you will certainly make some sort of sales. All of that stuff may or may not come into play. Either way you have released a title that is currently not available on current gen consoles, making it less of a hassle to track down the game and other requirements to play said game.

So in essence, backwards compatibility has just adapted to a changing market and taken advantage of better technological resources. This can best be seen with the plethora of HD collections. From Silent Hill to Sly Cooper, gamers can enjoy dozens of games in a better quality than intended without having to search for multiple titles, consoles and peripherals.

The next problem is deciding which series or gem deserves to be remade/ported to our HD televisions.