I will admit, LusiRhymes, the title of this edition is nothing more than a lazy rhyme. I suppose I have more to say about the PlayStation 4 than any other topic in this Editorial Miscellany, but that is a connection I came up with right now, not when I was writing the title out. I am not proud of this fact.
I am a little proud.
Rest Forever, PS4
I am not the only one with this problem after the 2.0 Firmware Update was released for the PlayStation 4, but waking my system from rest mode is no longer a simple matter of pressing the “PS” button. It is now a matter of holding down the power button for ten seconds until the system force shuts off, then holding down the power button again until I hear a second beep to signify Safe Mode, then downloading a 200MB system update, then finally restarting the system in normal mode. It is certainly not the end of the world, but I cannot imagine it is the sort of experience Sony wants users to associate with the experience.
On one hand, it does sort of give me a nostalgic rush to be fiddling with my technology in an effort to make it work the way it is supposed to. I am reminded of the early days of finicky camcorders and Commodore 64s and 128s. But that is just my side with the eternal optimist engine that I cannot shut off no matter how hard I try, and now I am at the point when I am not going to try anymore. The other side is annoyed at the inconvenience, but only slightly.
In fact, the main reason I bring up this issue is because it gives me a chance to talk about my feelings about the PlayStation 4 in general which I do not think I have done since it has entered its current phase of being a system that actually has a few games out for it.
When I got my launch PS4, as expected, it was a wasteland. It was a little exciting in a strange way to see the system in such a bare-bones state. It was exciting to see how incredibly fast the UI responded, especially in contrast to the PS3. I loved being able to suspend games to watch Netflix or check out the store. These are still elements that I enjoy, but all the stuff that I thought would be added by now is obviously not a priority for Sony. I still use my PS3 for streaming content from my PC because the PS4 does not support it. Sony made brief mention about its potential inclusion later, but I think it was just covering its ass in case people continued to demand the feature. Instead, the PS4 is focusing on making itself highly integrated with social networks and other people playing. I noticed a “you may know this person” notification in the style of Facebook, except for PSN. On the PlayStation Store, the splash page focuses on a new partnership with BellMedia, the company I used to work for and could be compared to Comcast in the States. The PlayStation 4 makes it enormously easy for Sony to get its users to give it lots of money and free publicity. These things are not necessarily bad. If a product is good, it is likely worth the asking price, and if a service is good, why should it not get good publicity?
Where I hesitate is in the realization that the line is starting to blur between gaming hub and marketplace. I am uncomfortable with how closely and how often “buy” and “share” are tied to “play”. The focus on indie games is also great, but it is starting to feel like it is only there because Sony recognizes how infrequently AAA games are going to come out and how expensive they are. Lots of indie games mean that users are constantly engaging with their console and spending just as much money, but in smaller doses. Again, if handled well, this could just be a mutually beneficial relationship, but I am wary of the abuse of power in these sorts of scenarios. It is too easy to feel like every minute I spend with my PS4 is another minute of data that Sony will use to market to me more effectively.
I love my PS4 and I am also very wary of it these days.
Mario Kart 8
My girlfriend and I are going to play some Mario Kart 8 with two friends for the first time on Friday and so we have been training all week. I have switched from Koopa Troopa on a standard bike to Waluigi on Mr. Scooty. It has served me extremely well and he is far more annoying for other people to lose to. Win win. The game really is very good. The more I play, the more I realize how the game rewards skill and adjusts the experience accordingly. Of course, there are still issues. I still see no reason why AI characters should receive their items instantly instead of the game simulating the same randomization process the player has to sit through, and getting red shelled in the first half of the first lap or blue shelled in the second half of the last lap are still enormous balance-breaking frustrations, but otherwise the items actually have very strong balance. The blue shell is necessary to balance out the distance the leader can gain by virtue of not being in the middle of the pack, and items received tend to reflect how badly a player has been hit by others. There is some change in Mario Kart 8, but skill is by far the leading factor in victory, and it is a game that takes time to get to know well enough to master it. It is a game that gets better the more I play it.
I am not allowed to talk about it today, but at this time next week, it is likely that I will have a highly anticipated game to talk about a week or so before its release. Until then, I will see all of you over in the Vagrant Story playthrough thread!