Video Footage of id Software’s Super Mario Bros. 3 Clone

John Romero posted this video today to Vimeo in celebration of the 25th anniversary of Commander Keen. it’s the first publicly available footage of the Super Mario Bros. 3 demo that id software pitched to Nintendo. You might have heard about it from the David Kushner’s Masters of Doom book (Amazon, iBooks, Wikipedia) which is well worth reading if you haven’t already.

Playstation 4’s PS2 Emulator Disappointment

A few weeks ago there was a rumor that Sony would soon announce some kind of software support for the Playstation 4 to emulate the Playstation 2. It would be a nice favor to players since Sony very quickly dropped Playstation 2 compatibility from the Playstation 3 in order to lower the price of that console’s guts.

The rumor was based on the special edition of the Playstation 4 bundled with Star Wars Battlefront. That bundle also included a code for four older Star Wars games. Star Wars: Racer Revenge, Star Wars: Jedi Starfighter, Super Star Wars, and Star Wars: Bounty Hunter. Super Star Wars originally hails from the Super Nintendo and was actually ported to the Playstation 4, the other three are Playstation 2 games running under emulation.

This was very promising. The emulator appeared to be robust in taking advantage of modern amenities like trophies and upscaling, and generic enough in its implementation by virtually mapping the Dual Shock 4 and virtual PS2-era memory cards to support a range of games instead of just the three in the bundle. The Digital Foundry article analyzing the emulator for the Star Wars games was simply titled “Hands-on with PS4’s PlayStation 2 emulation.”

Why would Sony go to all of this trouble just for three Playstation 2 games? They wouldn’t. Surely it would be for more than just those. A Sony representative vaguely confirmed the coming emulator to Wired.

Surely, surely, surely there would be a generic Playstation 2 emulator coming along any day now where you could just insert a Playstation 2 disc and receive most of these features, maybe trophies would be limited to especially popular games.

Nope.

Instead of attempting to compete with Microsoft’s recent addition of Xbox 360 emulation on the Xbox One, Sony announced that they were simply offering a short list of games for download at $10 or $15. Here’s the list:

$15 Games:
Dark Cloud
Grand Theft Auto III
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
Rogue Galaxy
The Mark of Kri

$10 Games:
Twisted Metal: Black
War of the Monsters

People who had already purchased those games can’t just pop in a disc and play them, they have to be repurchased and more games are promised be added for download regularly.

It’s not completely unreasonable to charge that price for a download version of the game, and clearly it would require work per-game to support trophies, but it is incredibly boneheaded to not just drop a generic Playstation 2 emulator and leave out trophy support for games unless they are purchased again.

Almost more boneheaded is that some of these games had already been available for download on the Playstation 3 with an emulator running there, but they’ll still need to be repurchased even for people who bought those versions. I just don’t understand this strategy. Sony has been great with allowing people to purchase games online for the Vita, Playstation 4 or 3 and get the other platforms for free. They even have a goofy marketing name for it, Crossbuy. It should extend to emulated Playstation 2 games.

The only place you can still get a generic Playstation 2 emulator is on a computer with PCSX2. Using this kind of emulator is still finicky enough that I wouldn’t necessarily recommend the experience. Unlike emulators for 16-bit consoles like the Genesis and Super Nintendo where you kind of just choose an emulator, find a ROM image of the game and go, Playstation 1 and 2 emulators are highly dependent upon selecting the right group of plugins to provide support for things like reading the disc, USB input, audio, and video. Sometimes this process has to change depending on the game.

Getting PCSX2 to work for your games is more complicated than sticking a disc into a Playstation 4, but Wes Fenlon has a nice introductory guide up if you’re willing to battle with the open source software and move past the disappointment of Sony’s business decision to not release Playstation 2 emulation to the public on the Playstation 4.

Bad Customers Don’t Make Good Curators

If you owned a retail store, would you let a customer start cursing and yelling at your customers that the products you sell would give them incurable diseases or would you kick that customer out?

Steam’s curator program was implemented a little over a year ago. This program allowed individuals and groups of users to put together a selection of recommendations with a brief text component that appears on everyone’s Steam store page when enough people are following that curator. 

Some curators are what you would expect. Publications like Cheap Ass GamerPC Gamer, Giant Bomb, Gaming On Linux, and Rock, Paper, Shotgun, have groups and recommendations. It’s nice to see that a publication you like is recommending a game, and it says a lot when none of them are. Then there are community action groups dedicated to specific causes, like one that is a group of made up of non-developers highlighting games that lack features that they feel should be available on every computer game regardless of what era it was developed in or if the lack of such a feature would even be an issue for this type of game.

Finally, there are curators on Steam that are beyond hyperbole. For example, Waifu Hunter. Normally this name would just imply that the group is operated by anime fans who will never know how to speak with actual women. Their disgusting motto is “I will tell you if a videogame has attractive anime ladies in it.”  Here’s a sample recommendation from Waifu Hunter:

This game is a matryoshka doll of cancer, furries, and Tumblr. Play this if you hate good writing, loathe functional game design, and want to get AIDS.

Valve allows this to exist in their store, why? This negative recommendation is for a point-and-click adventure that has very positive overall user reviews. 103 positive and 10 negative reviews are shown directly on the store page for the game. Destructoid gave the game an 8 out of 10. This system is intended for positive recommendations, not rants from 8chan users. It is time to kick this customer out of the store.

BF4 Operation Outbreak

DICE released their Battlefield 4 community map today alongside another large patch to the game. Here’s an hour of it on video. While it is good that they are still releasing free content for almost two years after BF4 was first released, it still feels strange to have a “community map” when they could have released real community map making tools and encouraged hundreds of map creations. It’s not easy to put together a package of tools to make maps for a game, but it is worth it when you’re trying to keep people interested in a series for years between official sequels.

Steam Controller

The first non-prototype Steam Controller has reached the press and users who pre-ordered it early. PC Gamer has their first impressions. Here’s PC Gamer’s Wes Fenlon describing the touchpads that replace a more traditional set of analog sticks:

I know that learning to use the Steam Controller is going to take time. I’ve been using controllers shaped and designed like the Xbox 360 pad for more than a decade, and that analog form factor and face button layout really dates back further than that. The trackpads are a very different thing. But my early reaction to playing games with the controller is resigned disappointment: the feeling that Valve may have taken on an impossible task. Years of engineering effort went into making something better than a gamepad, something that could fill in for a mouse… and this was what they came up with? There really wasn’t a better way?

Perhaps there wasn’t, but I’m not sure this is the solution I want. In Left 4 Dead 2, aiming with the right trackpad felt labored and inaccurate, like using mouse aim at an extremely low sensitivity. I know that could be improved by adjusting sensitivity and familiarizing myself with the control method more. I can absolutely get better at it, but I don’t think I’ll ever like it as a form of input.

It sounds like the trackpads are just as unusable for most games as on the prototype. I’d really like to try them in something mouse-focused like Cities: Skylines. Meanwhile, Linux users on Ubuntu are stuck having to manually edit text files to get their systems to identify the controller for now.

Team Fortress 2 Invasion

A new update to Team Fortress 2:

An extraterrestrial force threatens the planet in Team Fortress 2’s new event created exclusively by the community, for the community– INVASION! Over a (light)year in the making, we’re excited to finally hit the launch button and have the community join in on our fight against the alien menace! So buckle up, grab a space gun, and get ready to have your mind probed (and blown)!

The TF2 team is proud to announce Invasion, a wholly community-created update featuring an animated short, 16 new cosmetic items, reskinned weapons with cool death effects, a taunt, four maps, Unusual particle effects, and even an update landing page. It represents a boatload of work from some incredibly talented members of the TF2 community. Buy your Invasion Community Update Pass today!

The pass isn’t required for playing the new maps, just for keeping track of kills during the event and tossing some money the way of the people in the Team Fortress 2 community that made the maps and other content.

Tony Hawk’s Bug Skater 5

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 came out this week, it’s buggy as hell and not worth $60. Daniel Perez:

In a statement sent to Shacknews, Activision says it’s “aware of the issues that players have experienced following the launch of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 and are working with the developer to address these so that we can continue to improve the gameplay experience for all of the Tony Hawk fans who have known and loved this franchise for more than 16 years.”

Huh. If only there were some way that Activision could have been aware of the issues before the game shipped, like some kind of methodology to play a game before it comes out and find defects in the software… No, that couldn’t have happened. It’s too ridiculous an idea. Must just be a total surprise.