New Toy Update, 9/10

The DVD player hooked up to the downstairs TV has begun to fail, which was not wholly unexpected, as we bought it for, like, $40 three years ago, so I decided today was a good day to trade up and get myself a Blu-Ray player. I wanted one that in addition to playing Blu-Rays would also stream stuff off a media server and also the Internets (we have a Netflix account which allows for streaming videos), and when you add up all those wants it turns out that the PlayStation 3 is actually not a bad choice as a Blu-Ray player, so I went ahead and got one.

What I don’t actually plan to do is spend a whole lot of time playing games with the thing. My preferred type of video game is the first person shooter, and playing one of those on a console controller is like driving while a gremlin sits on your head and scratches off your corneas. Yes, I know a lot of you play them that way. You are all WRONG. That said, it’s nice that the PS3 also has game options, and I won’t say I’ll never use the machine in that capacity. It’s just not why I bought it. I got it for movies, pretty much end of story. I don’t think Sony minds.

64 thoughts on “New Toy Update, 9/10

  1. I can understand the FPS thing, but do yourself a favor and get Uncharted 2. It is a game that needs to be played. The original Uncharted is no slouch either.

  2. I went the same route, John. I have a PS3 and I use it as my sole DVD/Blu-ray player. (The exception being my region free DVD player for the european stuff not avaiable here.)
    The Blu-ray of the PS 3 works great and the upconverted DVDs look pretty good too.

  3. I bought myself a Playstation a couple months ago. Pretty much all I use it for is Rock Band/Guitar Hero.
    My friends keep insisting I’m missing out on “all the cool things” the PS3 can do. Eh. I’m fine with that.

  4. i love my ps3. we mostly use it as a blu ray player as well. my son is at an age where he likes video games, but isn’t good enough for us to invest in buying him one… so we download all the age-appropriate demos for him. he loves it. :)

  5. Sounds similar to my husband getting a second Xbox for its Windows Media Server capability, which is cheaper than a dedicated WinMediaServer.

  6. Yeah, I can get behind that. Blurry – sorry, “Blu-Ray” is the VHS to HDDVD’s Betamax. So it goes. Might as well get a full-featured thingummy that also has some kind of gaming facility.

    Though I must say, I was shocked when I invested in DVDA. Turns out that’s not a video format at all! Made a lot of money, though.

  7. What’s your preferred shooter? And, if you*do* play online and are willing to risk fans inviting you to games, what name do you use there?

  8. When I got myself a right nice LCD tv I thought might as well get my self a Blu-ray player turns out I decided on PS3 myself but not the nice slim one the older clunkier more expensive one.. hehe

    LOVE it… and I’m really enjoying the cheesy PS3 commercials out now that advertise them for $299!!

  9. I second the recommendation for Uncharted.

    We finally got a PS3 this weekend, and have been playing that game ever since.

    It’s like some fanboy dream of pirates! and treasure! and gangsters! and Nazis! and just for completeness, zombies!

    Except, it’s actually a good story. It would fit right in with Raiders of the Lost Ark or Last Crusade.

  10. I’m a FPSes-are-for-PCs kinda guy. I wholeheartedly concur with the suggestion to play Uncharted 2.

  11. Question: what does 9/10 mean in the title of this post? It is supposed to be the date which is really 11/10/09 or is it new toy 9 of 10 or did it take you two days to buy and write about the new toy?

  12. I frequently write November as month 9 by accident. Those pesky Roman emperors couldn’t leabe well enough alone.

  13. The PS3 supports standard USB keyboards and mice, so in *theory* it could support standard FPS controls. Unfortunately, the only game that actually used that support was Unreal tournament 3, and that tanked, so no one else has bothered.

    The only thing worse than FPSes on a console are RTSes.

    There are a lot of awesome games, though. Uncharted 2 is really awesome. Fallout 3 has also sucked out many hours of my life. (Not an exclusive, but only fanboys care.) My kid loves “Little Big Planet” and it has enough of a creative element that I don’t feel like he’s rotting his brain.

    Plus, if you use the Folding@Home client, you will be using a little piece of my code. (Not something interesting, sadly.)

    The Netflix streaming is currently wonky because “exclusive” rights means it is implemented as a streaming blu-ray disk, not an actual PS3 program.

  14. I visited my best friend earlier this year. He has a console and we played some FPS or other. After about two minutes I said this sux and quit. After fifteen plus years of keyboard mouse play it is incredibly frustrating trying to relearn what is second nature on a PC. Frankly it is worse than driving while a gremlin sits on your head and scratches off your corneas. It’s like that with the gas, brake and clutch pedals all switched and the steering wheel replaced with a joystick that you have to sit on while you move it with your butt cheeks.

  15. I’ve been considering the same thing for the same reasons.

    Also, to taunt the teenage gamer in the house who always get the latest console. This one’s for dad!

  16. I don’t think Sony gives a rats ass WHY you bought it, John.

    They probably won’t even be interested in why I suddenly start buying PS3 games when I DON’T own one, either :)

  17. I find this darkly hilarious, coming so soon after the times-are-tough post.

    No criticism intended nor judgement rendered; just noting my delight.

    That said, I’ll be interested to hear some reporting on the success of the netflix streaming. I just saw that myself, and am considering it.

    Plus, the ps3 is a great buy for what you get. And a quality bluray player. I’ve never had a complaint with mine.

  18. For years, I longed for the old Atari 2600 Joystick interface. Why, I asked, must I have a controller with two thumb-joysticks, and twelve buttons? I never got the hang of it even after trying someone’s xbox.

    Then I got a PS3 and Call of Duty 4.

    I played on ultra beginner idiot level for a long time. But at some point, the muscle memory flipped and it became natural. And then I realized that the answer to my question of “Why?” was because you really do need to controll a whole bunch of different things at once. You can turn while running sideways, flank while always facing the bad guys, throw a grenade while running backwards, then duck, pop back up, and shoot the guys staggering around stunned.

    You can’t do that with a joystick.

    Even when I graduated to playing Doom with a combination of mouse+keyboard, I couldn’t do all this stuff simultaneously.

    old dogs can learn new tricks. And it can be worth the effort.

  19. Yay, welcome to the dark side. ;)

    Uncharted 2 is a great game. I think the gaming side might sneak up on you as you go along. But it is a great BluRay player, too.

    I particularly enjoy that with the WiFi the updating is easy.

  20. Not that you’ve asked for game recommendations, but Little Big Planet is a fun game that multiple family members can play together. We’re always on the lookout for family-friendly couch cooperatives to play with our Athena-aged gamer. And the world building capacity of the game is outstanding.

  21. I am right there with you and the FPS using the console controls, yeck. Funny thing about this post is that I have been looking at blu-ray players. I need wifi for connection and had narrowed my search down to around the $250 range. Then someone suggested a PS3 for $299 because for $50 more a get a game machine. Seems like a no-brainer…..

  22. Joel@20: Sony makes very little money on the consoles…I’m not 100% sure it isn’t still selling them at a loss. It makes money on the games.

  23. Stay strong re: avoiding console FPSs! Frankly, I think the Playstation was pretty much the worst thing to ever happen to gaming, and as far as I’m concerned Sony represents all that is soulless and wrong, mostly on the strength of that. (The Xbox may be the second-worst thing; I am not too high on the state of modern gaming.)

    HD movies do look pretty nice though if you’ve got the setup for it, so enjoy. :) I’m still rocking a 27″ CRT, so a Blu-ray player is not my most immediate concern re: home entertainment…

  24. The Netflix streaming on the PS3 works dangerously well. The video quality is almost DVD-ish, more than good enough for older movies, and adequate for most recent ones. The list of available movies is now long, and my “instant” queue has jumped from a handful to over 100 titles. It’s all quite addictive. There’s a real possibility that I’ll reach my 100GB network bandwidth cap this month.

    Mr. Scalzi, I beg of you: do not order that Netflix PS3 disk. Please keep at your writing, and avoid that steep and slippery slope. Here there be dragons, pretty, pretty dragons, and they hunger for your time.

  25. bring on the FPS on a touch screen please.

    Nah, it’ll be motion capture and a gun. When you dive in your living room, your character will dive on screen. It’ll be a heck of a work out.

    A lot of running in place though.

  26. I also endorse Uncharted 2, it’s great and fun and looks amazing and some of my friends worked on it. Worth every penny even at full price.

    I got my PS3 last month, also to use as a Blu-Ray player, in anticipation of the Star Trek Blu-Ray, which is only fitting for me, heh. But I also picked up Uncharted 2 (why buy a game box with no games??) and it’s fantastic.

    You might want to grab Katamari Forever, John, it’s a lot of fun as well and Athena would probably like it.

    As much as I want to see a console version of Descent, I doubt they’ll build full Thrustmaster FCS support into it… have no idea how anyone would play Descent without full HOTAS with rudder pedals and all the extra buttons… hat switches for the win!

  27. Oh, Sony minds, Scalzi. Sony minds.

    Game consoles are like razors, and games are like the blades, i.e. the manufacturer sells the razor (aka game console) at a loss, but makes it back from years of selling you blades (aka games) that only work with that razor (aka console). Or in the case of gaming, collecting licensing fees per unit sold from the game publishers that actually sell you the games.

    So basically by buying a PS3 and not coughing up your fair share of of associated game purchasing you are taking money out of Sony’s pocket!

    Have you no sense of decency, sir? Think of the executives, the poor, needy Sony executives! Have you no sense of decency?!

  28. Re: playing FPSes with a controller, it’s good to know someone else isn’t insane.

    FWIW, I’d love to have a PS3 if only it could also play my PS2 games. I’ve had two PS2s (the original and the slimline model) die on me after three years of not-wholly-inadequate upkeep. I’ve also had a videocamera manufactured by Sony die, be repaired, and die again.

    There’s no reason to remove backwards compatibility other than to force people to buy two systems. They already don’t have a good track record with me, so I don’t feel the need to put up with their bullshit.

  29. The game Little Big Planet is a must. It can be played as a one-person game, or with two, three, four, and so on. It is for all ages and appeals to young children, teens, and adults. And it has great music!

  30. I wonder if I’m the only one who thinks that HD makes CGI look too unnatural. Every time I watch a movie in BluRay that has heavy CGI (Pirates of the Caribbean, for example) it feels more like watching a video game, where I don’t get that sense when watching the same movie on DVD.

    Perhaps I’m just a neo-Luddite…

  31. I really would recommend Uncharted 2. It is one of the best apps the console has to offer, and is like playing through a movie. A really good summer blockbuster, in fact.

    That said, my PS3 is as much a BluRay player as a game console (my 360 and Wii getting much more of a workout). We watched ‘Up!’ on BR last night and it was wonderful.

  32. Consoles beat out PCs for my husband and I in most cases because of split-screen co-op. It means we don’t have to buy two copies of Rainbow Six: Las Vegas for us to play the game together. Also, my couch is ever so much more comfy than my office chair. We’re playing through RS:LV for the third time, and holy cats is that a great game!

    I suspect once we actually decide to upgrade to Blueray (no need now, since our TV isn’t good enough), we’ll go the PS3 route. Until then, I love my Xbox 360.

  33. I actually emailed you a week or two ago and told you YOU HAVE TO PLAY UNCHARTED 2. I then went on to tell you it is more fun to watch somebody else play Uncharted 2 then it is to watch most modern action movies. Uncharted 2 just has a better story. The character development rocks the casbah too. I’m not telling you it is Shakespeare, or that the story is the best story ever. But for a video game… Well, they’ve raised the bar way the !@# up.

    If you don’t want to play it get it for the young’un and watch her play. I’m not kidding, it is that good.

  34. I got a PS3 for the same reason (future-proof BluRay player with media streaming capabilities). I have been very happy with the PlayOn solution for Netflix streaming. It also works nicely with TVersity.

    I’m not a console gamer, but a neighbor loaned me Uncharted and it is very impressive. However, it was clear that it would take me too long to get comfortable with the controls.

  35. Aaron Haymes@38: This is not true. There were two bits of hardware in the console to support PS2. The first was the original PS2 CPU. The second was the original PS2 graphics chip. When you bought a launch PS3, you were also essentially buying the PS2 hardware. The PS2 CPU went in a cost-cutting move when they dropped the chip the first time and it was replaced with software PS2 emulation (but still using the PS2 graphics chip). This gave emulation that worked for most games, but not as well. The graphics chip was removed in the second round of cost-cutting.

    It is simply not true that there was no other reason to remove backwards compatibility. There was a huge reason. Sony was losing massive amounts of money on the console. Removing the hardware required for PS2 compatibility saved money.

    (Hmm…I better put the “I work for Sony but don’t speak for them disclaimer here”.)

  36. I’ll go one step further than just the controls: the market for FPS’s on consoles is ruining the quality and fun that they used to have on the PC. I’ve played far too many PC-ports of FPS games (Left4dead and Halo come to mind) that have been ruined by linear maps, no coop play, and a simple lack of speed.

    I don’t know if it is because game creators don’t have faith in game console players, but maps that are essentially tunnels with obstacles were fun when I was playing Doom, but game technology has moved so far beyond that. It’s a shame that the console market has brought us back to it.

    I’ve played both console and PC versions of the Halo franchise and when it takes my character twenty minutes to turn around, I’m not interested (granted, the PC version of Halo was fun for other reasons, just not fast enough). Give me that flick of the wrist partnered with the subtle aiming capability of a mouse and the almost instant response of the keyboard. I’ll take mouse and keyboard controls any day over a controller that forces my hands to become contortionist models in order to use more than 4 keys at a time. I have 10 digits. Let me use them all at once.

    Dumbed down video games are a crime against all that is fun and entertaining about first person shooters. Give me a PC for an FPS and bring back the speed and open maps of Quake III Team Arena and Unreal Tournament. I can’t be bothered with insulting console immitations.

  37. Umfundisii @ 46: You seem to be suggesting that consoles are responsible for the design of many FPS levels being linear. But that doesn’t really track with my experience at all.

    Half Life 2 (and it’s subsequent two episodes) are totally linear…and widely considered some of the best FPS experiences on the PC. Painkiller, a perfectly crumulent FPS that is PC-only (and now on it’s third incarnation) is about as linear as linear gets. Bioshock offers the illusion of freedom, but the only freedom you have is HOW you approach the levels and power-up…not how you progress through them. Call of Juarez was PC only and was totally linear, as are many of the genre. It’s sequel, which is out on PS3/PC/360 is just as linear, but that has no relation to the consoles…it’s just following the trend of it’s predecessor.

    And there are plenty of open-world or varied FPS on consoles or consoles and PCs. Far Cry 2, Borderlands, Battlefield Bad Company, S.T.A.L.K.E.R., Fallout 3 and more.

    I can understand if you don’t like FPS games on a console, but you appear to be blaming a problem with the genre on the consoles…and the data doesn’t support your assertion. Consoles aren’t to blame for linear or bad design…developers are. You cite yourself that it’s been a part of FPS games from the beginning (Wolfenstein and Doom). So it’s not terribly surprising that the new Wolfenstein and proposed Doom 4 will return to those formulas. (Though it should be noted that id software’s upcoming Rage seems to be much more like Borderlands with racing).

  38. John,
    Agree that FPS should be on the PC. I would invest in the PS3 movie remote, or the BluLink universal remote if you’re going to be using the PS3 as a primary movie player (as my family does).
    I’ve used PlayOn for months and it works, but the Netflix streaming disc is a better user experience. If it ever becomes an issue, the PS3 hard drive is easily upgradeable – the tools are in the system firmware and it takes a standard 2.5in SATA laptop drive. The consistently excellent DVD upscaling is an overlooked feature you will no doubt appreciate.

    LittleBigPlanet, Uncharted 1 & 2, PixelJunk Eden and flower are my game recommendations. The PS3 has a bunch of arty, oddball games – enjoy.

  39. Hmm, my blu-ray player runs windows 7 and sits under a 42 inch TV. I have yet to even put a blu-ray disk in it, its just so easy to stream video now-a-days.

  40. I too bought a PS3 for the BluRay and streaming from my PC (video and music). Just before the price drop of course.

    I just upgraded to Windows 7 and am using Media Center to replace my VCR. Problem is, you have to convert the WTV files before they will play on the PS3. I’m still trying to figure that out. So far I turned the wtv into a dvr-ms but I can’t get DVRMSToolbox to convert the file to an mpeg. Grrr.

    I get intermittent Protocol errors and freezes when streaming from my PC. I usually end up putting the file on a USB drive and plugging it right into the PS3.

    So much for convenience.

  41. Even if you never play games on the PS3 it is still a good choice for a Blu-ray player. I read a Cnet review that rated the PS3 as the 3rd best Blu-ray player on the market.

  42. @jbell Indeed. The Criterion Collection uses PS3s as their demo BluRay players, which is as high of praise as you can expect. For a company whose whole purpose is to distribute the highest possible quality to use a PS3 says something. In fact, when I discovered that Criterion was going BluRay, I bought a PS3. And Casino Royale on BluRay. That movie is so awesome.

  43. WizardDru@47: Not to mention the Grand Theft Auto series, which was very much console driven (though some of the series got PC ports) and and pretty much defined open world games.

    There’s also Infamous, which is console only and very much open world.

  44. Steve Burnap @ 54: Oh, agreed. But I was limiting the discussion to only First Person Shooters, as that was what Umfundsii was specifically referring to in his post. If we were to expand beyond that genre, you’d find an incredible variety of games that allow quite a bit of freedom.

    Infamous is, in fact, a fantastic game. I generally find that the PS3 has fewer really compelling exclusives…but when it gets one, it’s usually worth the price of admission.

  45. WizaDru@56: These days, cross-platform rules. I’d guess three quarters of what I play on PS3 are cross-platform and I see very XBox 360 exclusives that attract me that don’t eventually make it across. That’s not really meant to slag on XBox 360…I suspect if I had one of those the situation would be about the same. These days, it doesn’t seem to me that it is really worthwhile to own both systems.

    (Though I think that a lot of “XBox exclusives” are actually also on PC.)

  46. John, speaking of PC FPS – have you played Modern Warfare 2 yet?

    I dislike playing FPS on consoles, but I will make an exception for the Halo series. I’ll muddle through in order to play for the great story.

    However, MW2 is moving PC players to a more console-like experience in multiplayer, with matchmaking done with with no dedicated servers. :(

  47. Mr. Scalzi. If you have a PS3, for whatever purpose, you have to play Uncharted 2. Really, it’s worth every penny.
    Best game that lil’ console has.

  48. Download the demo for Valkyria Chronicles, then pray you can find a copy (okay, it’s not that bad, I know they’re available on eBay if nowhere else).

    Oh, and maybe turn on the original (Japanese) dialogue and the subs.

    J

  49. Other Bill@63: It is a dual boot situation. You can’t run Linux and play PS3 games at the same time. Honestly, Linux is a bit gimped on the PS3 as they disabled access to the graphics cheap. (To avoid giving people a platform for writing PS3 games that didn’t require a PS3 development kit.) As such, what you end up with is a Linux box with only 256 MB of RAM and slow graphics.

    The only real reason to put Linux on the thing is to have a development platform for playing with the Cell chip and asymmetric multi-processing. That is obviously pretty esoteric for the average user, and this is one of the reasons they ditched the Linux support for the newer models.

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