Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Yo Adrian!!! You gotta cut me, Adrian! Not there Adrian, that's my ass! God help me if I start bleeding out my ass...

The Year of Our Lord 2007 was not a bad first round of boxing when spectating the video game console wars. The Apollo Creed-like X-Box 360 came out strong, landing solid jabs and hooks on the sluggish yet sturdy Balboa PS3. By middle year both were in a rather unexciting clench what with the lack of titles released but in the final minute of the round both pugilists started landing some serious blows on each other, letting us know that we were in for a decent fight.

I think in the second round that is 2008 we are going to see a far more even match-up. Microsoft's momentum may finally start to wane and from here on in the X-Box 360 might face an uphill battle.

The problems lie in keeping the 360 at technological parity with the PS3 over the next five years or so. In the past couple of years Microsoft has done a very effective marketing campaign convincing us that the 360 is just as powerful as the PS3 but costs less money. They did this so that the two machines would be in direct competition for hard-core console gamer business. Hard-core gamers will spend far more buying games than any other demographic and that is how these companies intend to recover their considerable development expenses. As of this writing neither console is operating in the black and despite cheery predictions both might not do so this year.

The 360 now has two fairly serious setbacks in this regard, limitations the PS3 does not possess. One of them is a lack of either built-in Blu-Ray or HD-DVD. Not only does this limit the total size of what a game can be but it also adversely affects the streaming of data from the disk while in game play. A 360 game will have to be smaller in size and that data will take a longer time to process. The second issue is the decision made by Microsoft to not allow game developers to load game data on the HDD; all the game must run directly from the disk. What this means right now is fairly long load times and minor issues with frame rates and other visual imperfections. Mass Effect perfectly illustrates the struggle the 360 has with ambitious looking, lengthy games.

I think these two issues are going to really make themselves increasingly apparent in the next couple years. It hasn't been a problem this past year because multi-platform developers are making games with moderate-spec PCs and the 360 in mind. Game tech advances however at an incredible rate so at the heart of the issue is whether or not the 360 is future-proofed or is it a machine with a game PC-like life expectancy?

There is something to consider in the video game industry right now; just because 'next gen' hardware has been made, it doesn't mean that software developers are going to capitalize on it smoothly or easily. The reason why so many PC developers have gone like gangbusters on the consoles is because they were the best trained to do so by making last-gen, high-end PC games. This is especially true with regards to the 360 and its very-PC-like architecture. It gave the 360 a killer launch year. The PS3 however is radically different and the companies that made games for the PS2 had little previous experience that was relevant. They are well on their way to learning however and what they are doing with the Cell processor is very encouraging. We've already seen some pull-away, titles suitable for the PS3 that the 360 can't play with all the features intact (Unreal Tournament 3, for example.) This year it looks like we will see even more.

The PS3 took a real ass-kicking for sticking to their guns and making such a high-end device with options and capabilities no one knew what to do with. In the long run however it looks like they made the right choice. They took their time, they didn't succumb to short-term solutions, and now they have a machine that third party developers (like Crytek, developers of the super-advanced Crysis) are very interested in because they find the unit has much room for growth.

The X-Box 360 offered a stripped down console at lower prices and advertised their lean product as giving customers the power of choice. Hard drives and high-def players were an option the buyer could consider rather than being forced upon by the company. Choice is all well and good but these options have a direct and deep impact on how advanced the games themselves are going to be for that system. In order to include all your customers the lowest common denominator must apply. 360 games therefore have to run without using the HDD and on standard DVD. None of those two issues are going to be the industry standard much longer.

In a couple years time Microsoft may very well find it having to reverse some key decisions in order to justify hard-core gamer loyalty. They may find their product being described as a middle-tier unit; the step between the Wii and the PS3. That might not be a bad place in the long run (the Wii seems to revel and thrive in it) but their yearly financial expectations will have to be seriously lowered from that point on. Halo 3 broke all kinds of records but it wasn't a game built for a mid or low end system - no blockbuster is. You want the big bucks, you have to play in the big game.

If I'm still writing this blog a year from now we get to see how wrong I was and you get to read how I'll explain all of this ass-wind away. Stay tuned!

The cloned meat for us to eat; it's all good baby! You don't have to worry your pretty little head because the F.D.A. released a final risk assessment that's over nine-hundred pages long, giving replicant livestock the two-thumbs up. I want to make a comparison here. J.R.R. Tolkien wrote about a fantastic world of elves and dwarves and dragons - you may have heard of it. Now if Tolkien made a quicky brochure outlining Middle Earth we readers may have not have felt the magic, but Tolkien wrote around nine-hundred pages and what that did is give us a dense and complete enough picture so that we may suspend our disbelief and enter this world while we read his fiction.

And that's what this fucking shit is too! It's the same thing except instead of the Dark Lord Sauron we get diseases mankind hasn't even thought up names for yet. It takes the F.D.A. around nine-hundred pages to convince Americans what we all know in our hearts to be wrong: Cloning animals for food is going to get us into serious trouble. This technological advancement is going to result in ass-blood, as in blood pouring out of your ass, non-stop. I have NO PROOF to support my notion but be honest, you believe me more than the F.D.A., right? I am armed with nothing but profanity and alarming imagery but I know that in this particular case you hold my predictions in higher esteem then F.D.A. doctors and scientists. That's because we humans have evolved with a moral core that steers us away from wrong-doing if we choose to listen. You won't touch cloney burgers because you know that lunch comes with 32 oz. cup of ass-blood on the side. Search your feelings, you know this to be true! We all do.

This is an interesting slice of news. The drug situation at the U.S. border has become so intense that they are really cracking down on the cartels now. I guess they should seeing as the gangsters are packing rocket-propelled grenades. It's amazing how wrong-headed our drug policies are. Prohibition has resulted in producing criminals with the money and connections to sport military-grade hardware. This isn't taking control of the situation, in fact this situation is a result of total lack of control. We need to legislate and tax these products, that's how you get them back under government control again.

I've always found it interesting that so many narcotics grow wild in third-world countries and that it's the developed nations (those with money and therefore most likely to enjoy the luxury) that ban them outright. I guess in the end we don't want to give these developing nations a product that might make them legitimately wealthy. We keep them in their lowly place and if they bring the bounty nature offers them to market they are branded as criminal regimes. Convenient that.

Is this even news? I guess I find it strangely satisfying, like potentially finding the answer to a question I never asked. "How do those rappers wind up so buff?" It could be the hiring of personal trainers and chefs, maybe there is lots of time to pump iron while on tour, but in our quick-fix more-is-more society shooting up growth hormone is as good an answer as any. The allegations are there but I guess we'll have to see if this story goes anywhere.

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