The Final Resolution


“The next generation doesn’t start until we say it does.” – Kaz Hirai, Head and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment.

Greetings earthlings!

Back in the mid noughties when the above phrase was uttered, I kind of translated it to, ‘HD doesn’t start until we say so’, since this was the time when we were making the great transition from cathode ray powered scart lead gaming into the shiny milli-pixel world of flat screens, I held back on the purchase of a PS3 right up until the announcement that backwards compatability was to be removed, this forced my hand, since I had a PS2 that had a sound problem, stopping me from enjoying the soundtracks of nearly every game since GTA San Andreas. Also the disgusting mark up on the UK model, I could spend £500 odd here, or fly to the glorious land of Nippon and spend half that amount, it’s a no-brainer, off I flew!

Once I had one in my space flat, again, the PS3 forced my hand, knowing that I was missing out on the many extra pixels the hefty beast was pumping out, along with the large amounts of heat that eventually led to it’s yellow lighted death knell. So I set out to purchase a display that could do it justice, blurays were delivering a 1080p image, I decided that was the point to aim for, since this was the target I thought Sony were aiming for…

The game industry as a whole had other ideas. If you’ve been playing games for any time during the last 5 years or so, (If you haven’t, then you’re probably on the wrong website!) then you may have noticed, console gaming has been resolutely 720p. A format that was introduced as a stopgap between standard definition and the now standard 1080p.

Why is this? Put simply, because it’s less processor intensive, less pixels for the console to plan out = more power for fancy effects and polygons that make gamers go ooh and ahh, like a bunch of kids at a firework display! (Happy Birthday Mr Fawkes!) This was a neccessary evil, initially brought about by the xbox 360, which was released in a window that barely had an HD format to build around, hence the low res display it sports on some early titles, and the lack of an HDMI port until later models. Both formats had a few native 1080p titles, but not anywhere near enough of them.

So while the consoles were pumping out this halfway house format, the TV industry were galloping into the future, 720p displays were few and far between, 1080p displays supported the format, but as we all know, the upscaling is very ugly. I’m the kind of gamer who spends £300 odd on a box that gets me pixel perfect control over my retro console displays, so it should go without saying that I’m a bit picky. 720p is such an odd choice, since it’s not divisible by 1080p in any way, the result will always be irregular pixels. If they had gone with 540p, then we could have just doubled the size of pixels and bam! Done! If you really want this, then there are 1440 pixel high displays that will do that, but then of course, you’re gonna have problems with the old 1080p display again, it’s a minefield!

DragonsCrown001All of this came back to me while playing Dragons Crown this week, a love letter to the Capcom Dungeons and Dragons games with immensely detailed hand drawn characters, all rendered in razor sharp 1080p. It was good to see the PS3 doing what it had always said it would do on the box, true HD gaming.

If you’re reading this you probably survived the storm we had here in Blighty on Monday, but a new storm is on the horizon, and it’s coming in from the West, from the Microsoft offices, to be precise.

I’ve just got myself a twitter account (What do you mean I’m late to the party? I only just discovered the internets!) and it’s been a bit of an eye-opener. Please follow me if you enjoy my ramblings, I’ll try and remember to post stuff!

This weekend on the twitter (That’s what you call it right? The twitter?), a user by the name of @manabyte (nice avatar!) said that he knew that the upcoming Xbone version of Battlefields 4 will be running in 720p! The format that we thought would be dead at this point could still be a thing in the next generation, this is in a world where 4k telelvisions are what the TV makers will be pushing onto us in the near future right now! It’s…just mindboggling!

Of course, right now this heresay, and there is, as I write these words, currently a video online which is a comparison between the PS4 and the Xbone versions, nothing is said about a resolution difference. This could mean one of two things.

  1. There is no difference, and the rumour is untrue.
  2. They aren’t discussing that, in a video that is a comparison video, and when you compare 2 things, and one is a little over half the size, then that’s a rather important thing to compare!

I wonder which it is? Well, it would be an uninteresting blog post if I went with option 1, so lets go with option 2 why not!

The number one reason why they would ignore such an important point is because of the strangehold the publishers have over the gaming press. They are the gatekeepers (Zool!) and will withdraw all future exclusives if they don’t get treated very well, some would say so well that it actually affects their customers negatively! Imagine that!

It’s something that has been caused by the thing that gives me a voice here as well, the internet, news is instant, and anyone can communicate it in any way they wish, if the ‘official’ press don’t get access to stuff before the public then they’re sunk, and with leaks happening all the time, they have a smaller and smaller window to get the exclusive that will bring home the bacon financially for their company. As a result, this incestuous relationship has grown between them and the gaming industry, and it makes being an informed gamer all the more difficult.

Combine all this with a new console generation starting next month and what we have here is a perfect storm of console manafacturer and games company pressure to hide the problems that could be facing us when we open our glossy next gen boxes shortly,

Some rumours are bouncing around that the problems are with Microsofts design choices for the xbox, and that it may not be ready for release so soon, something which can equally be levelled at Sony, who are hyping up a ‘day one patch update’, which makes me feel like I’m living in a bizarre parralel world where consoles threw away nearly all the nice stuff about owning a console (Stuff just works!) and followed the messy world of the PC, with DRM and endless patches and unfinished games being burnt onto discs…no…wait…that actually happened didn’t it? I’m actually living the nightmare!

But to actually promote these things as if they are exciting features, it’s PR spin gone mad. The other day I saw a poster for the 2DS, with a large splash promoting the fact that you can now play games ‘IN 2D!’, it’s amazing, what a world we live in! Already damage control is spreading over the mainstream press, with people preparing us gently for the hot mess that will be dropping on our laps, but since pre-orders have never been so large, I doubt it will change much.

‘Caveat emptor’ – Buyer beware, holds as true now as it was when it was uttered by the Romans themselves. Too often have I been burnt by being an early adopter, my PS1 had a disc drive that stopped working even while upside down, my PS2 lost it’s voice, my PS3 burnt itself from the inside out. Dear Sony, don’t be surprised if I play the long game with your new media darling, I don’t even have a vita yet, I hear you have a new model out, so maybe nows the time?

Hold your ground earthlings, make them EARN your monies!

Enjoy your Halloween! – Alan Vader

AlanPumpkin001For more articles from Alan Vader or others you can download the PDF of Issue Zero or you can read it online

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