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Friday, 8 February 2008
New GTA: IV official site goes live; breaks straight away
We had an idea that Rockstar would be putting up a new site for GTA: IV yesterday when their RSS feed included a sneaky little message. Since we couldn't actually find any real reference to it at their website, we thought it best to hold back on the news until we saw something concrete.
So what can you expect at the new, sparkling website?
Well at the moment you may get a screen full of darkness, since it would appear to be broken - probably with all the hits it must be getting.
When it is working again, it will look something like the image below. You'll find all sorts of videos, downloads, buddy icons and a map of Liberty City amongst the trinkets available.
Until then, get used to the dark. It's like Liberty City, just with a massive power cut.
But if there's two RSS feeds you should subscribe to, they are the PS3 Attitude RSS Feed and the Insomniac Games Podcast.
Jauntily entitled the 'Full Moon Show', we download the latest episode of their podcast to our PSP every time it is released - and without fail. It's always fun and more often than not there's a nice tidbit of inside information from the world of Insomniac's developers.
The latest Full Moon Show (Episode 20) had some great Resistance 2 updates. We were treated to the revelation that the entire single-player campaign was going to be playable in 'roughed out mode' by today and that they're having the best fun playtesting the new 60-player online modes.
Best of all, Insomniac decided to let us all in on a few secrets on how a level is born. In fact, they have set up a whole webpage devoted to the subject, with behind-the-scenes drawings and mock-ups.
Continuing our new format, we'll be discussing the US update each week rather than reporting it due to the time difference.
Looking at the update this week, details of which are available on the Official PlayStation Blog as usual, it seems fairly even-handed versus the European update.
Both sides of the Atlantic got the Sky Diving game, both got the free add-on for Motorstorm and both got a trailer or two.
The US did get the Lost Planet online demo, which we have yet to get to work on our UK machine (we fear it may not have worldwide servers yet). Personally, I'm not that worried about Lost Planet - it didn't excite me when Capcom announced it was coming to the PS3 so I'm not going to feign excitement now.
Other differences include another PS1 game for the US (yet another Crash Bandicoot title) and there was the obligitory Rock Bank DLC as promised by MTV but other than that it seems that we had a week where both the US and Europe got a pretty decent update.
It will be interesting to see what happens as the year progresses, especially with news that Sony are committing to solving the problem of disparate regional releases within six months. There still seems to be a big list of titles available in the US that haven't shown up over here yet (such as PAIN and Everyday Shooter to name just two), and I for one would like to see that fixed sooner rather than later.
Qube Software recently announced a new middleware offering for all current platforms including the PS3.
The product, simply named 'Q', is being officially launched at GDC this month. Founded by Servan Keondjian and Doug Rabson, the software pioneers who between them created Reality Lab and Direct3D, and based in West Hampstead (London), Qube has designed and built Q to provide a consistent software framework for development studios.
"We've designed and built Q so it rocks on the current generation of platforms; the Xbox 360, PS3, Wii and hi-spec gaming PCs. It positions us well for next generation mobile devices and it’s both fast and compact enough so that last generation devices can handle it. It’s a solution that works for every genre; RPG, MMO, FPS, racing, sports, action and even the latest stars like rhythm action games.” - Servan Keondjian, Managing Director
We caught a few moments with Qube Software's Program Manager, Jamie Fowlston, and asked him 10 questions on 'Q':
[PS3A] What does 'Q' bring to the PS3 development community?
[JF] Q brings a number of high-end technical features to the PS3, including background data streaming for huge seamless worlds, a texture manager that allows scenes to have gigabytes of visible texture and a novel n-dimensional animation blending system.
But Q's real innovation is its extensibility, the extent and ease with which it can be customised and specialised by developers.
Extensibility may be much less glamorous than a shiny graphics feature, but it is vastly more important to the process of creating a game. Q has been designed and built to let developers in at every level so they can make the PS3 hardware sing.
[PS3A] Why is it different to other middleware offerings?
[JF] The real problem for middleware has always been the difficulty of customising it.
Existing middleware typically comes in two flavours: game engines and low-level renderers. Game engines give you a naked game and the tools to clothe it; if the game you're building is similar to the original, it'll work great.
But if a developer wants to do something differently, it takes a huge investment in understanding and re-engineering the original game. For low-level renderers, there's lots of work to be done on top of the renderer to complete the game.
Q is a totally different beast.
Q provides high-level features and tools like a game engine, but it is built from small, modular components. Developers can pick and choose the standard components they like, add their own when necessary and even bring in pieces from other developers. We don't know of any other middleware that gives developers such freedom to mix and match the pieces they need.
[PS3A] What challenges did you face in bringing your platform to the PS3, and how was it different to other platforms?
[JF] We actually found the PS3 pretty easy to work with. I don't recall any major challenges. It took us about a month to get everything up and running.
We brought Q up on a PS2 first to make sure it was small and fast so when we ported to PS3 everything went like a rocket. We had some minor performance issues running expensive shaders on early dev kits, but that's ancient history now.
The Cell is obviously quite different to anything on other platforms, but that's just given us the opportunity to offload various tasks onto the SPUs, which is nice.
[PS3A] Which titles are already in development using 'Q' and are any of the PS3-based?
[JF] I'm afraid we can't say anything about the games in development using Q at the moment as they belong to our customers, not us. But I can say that Q's PS3 capability has played an important part in the decision making process for a number of developers.
[PS3A] After seeing the videos of 'EarthSim 2' my immediate reaction was two words - David Braben! What would it take to bring a next-generation 'Elite' sequel to life using 'Q'?
[JF] Earthsim 2 adds a number of custom plug-ins to Q to bring its planets to life, using dynamic tessellation and procedural detail techniques. To build something like Elite on top of that base wouldn't be hard - the technology's been done, the rest is gameplay!
[PS3A] How well will 'Q' work alongside other exciting middleware offerings, such as the Havok 'ragdoll' physics engine or the forthcoming HydroEngine that allows developers to 'flood' levels with realistic water?
[JF] We haven't worked with those specific middleware offerings, but from our point of view integrating another middleware component is just like a developer adding their own components: it's what Q was designed for.
[PS3A] How many people are there in your team now?
[JF] There are 7 of us working on bringing Q to market right now. There are another 3 engineers on the Earthsim 2 team who make sure what we do is useful.
[PS3A] What's the most amazing part of your life?
[JF] Finding out that BAFTA awards bend when knocked off a table.
[PS3A] Where is the best place to eat in West Hampstead?
[JF] The Banana Tree Canteen: the chicken laksa noodle soup is a marvel.
[PS3A] What does the future hold for Qube and what's at stake if you don't reach your goals?
[JF] We're currently working on Q and Earthsim, we think both projects are now ready to take on the world, so we're working hard to make them successful. If we don't reach those goals, we'll have to see what happens; we're not planning for it!
We'll wait to see what Q has to offer when it is fully launched at GDC. In the meantime, take a look below at the three-part Earthsim 2 run-through.
Many thanks to Jamie and Qube Software for sparing us their time - PS3 Attitude will watch what happens next closely.
Exclusive to PS3 Attitude, we'll be bringing you the 'most wanted' PS3 charts at GameFlirt
GameFlirt are one of the UK's top games rental companies, and you won't find this information anywhere else - not even at the GameFlirt website.
Like the often seen Netflix charts for US movie titles, it's a great indicator of what's hot in the PS3 community.
This month sees a shift in the year-to-date rentals, with Call of Duty 4 dropping two places. Our guess would be that more people have decided to buy that particular title rather than rent it. That means Assassin's Creed takes the number one slot.
Metal Gear Solid 4 remains the number one pre-rent title with Devil May Cry 4 and Haze holding their positions. Blacksite is a new entry and sneeks into the number four slot.
Like last month it is interesting to see Haze above Unreal Tournament III, but Blacksite as well? It would seem that UT III is more likely to be bought by the masses, whereas maybe the jury is still out on Haze and Blacksite - they're more likely to be rented. We might agree regarding Blacksite, but Haze is certainly good enough to gain our £50 when it launches.
Many thanks to GameFlirt for providing the data - look out for next month's chart as we start rolling into a steadier stream of PS3 releases.
Click any of the links to visit GameFlirt for more details. As a thank you to our readers anyone who signs up for the GameFlirt service via these links will receive 10 days free rental.
Launching on March 6th and selling at ¥39,980 (£189), Japanese PS3 buyers will be able to pick up a new Satin Silver colour choice.
This is going to be the standard 40Gb model but comes bundled with a silver Dual Shock 3 controller instead of the standard, rumble-free SixAxis.
This means that Japan will soon have a choice of Clear Black, Ceramic White and Satin Silver. Over in the UK, we still have the 'Ford' choice of 'any colour, as long as it's black'. For the record (and before you correct me) I already know Ford didn't actually utter those words, ever, but it's a famous non-quote of his so I'm using it!
We know that a white PS3 is on it's way to the US. The question is do we actually want more colours in the UK and Europe? Is black the new black? Or is white/silver the way to go? Take our poll now to tell us how you feel...
[UPDATE] The Satin Silver PS3 will in fact ship with a standard SixAxis. A silver Dual Shock 3 is being released on the same day and will be available for ¥5,500 (£26).