Random Thoughts

The Return of Front Row, Sofa

January 3rd, 2010

Back in the day, I wrote a weekly column for dvdfuture.com called Front Row, Sofa.  I have decided to resurrect it as an entertainment news site on the Internet.  I’ve set up the site as a SquareSpace page for now at frontrowsofa.squarespace.com.  I figured I’d post the announcement for the new site here, since a lot of people have set up RSS feeds off this page.

I will be taking advantage of SquareSpace’s two week trial to get the site up and running, and then will decide from there whether the permanent site will use their platform or if I’ll be moving it over to WordPress or a similar platform.  I love the idea of someone else managing the software side of things, and so far it seems like a pretty good solution.

I’ve also purchased the frontrowsofa.com domain name, but have not aimed it at the new site yet.  I’ll wait until I decide on a permanent home before doing that.

Rotten to the Qore?

June 7th, 2008

Sony launched a new initiative this past week in the form of Qore, an interactive video magazine exclusively for the Playstation 3.  Qore will be released monthly at a cost of $2.99 per issue or $24.99 for an annual subscription.  You can think of it as a video version of the Official Playstation Magazine.

For your $2.99 (or $24.99) you get:

  • Video interviews with game designers and publishers
  • in-depth sneak peeks at upcoming Playstation games
  • access to exclusive downloadable content
  • access to exclusive betas

So, the real question becomes, is it worth it?

I purchased the first issue of Qore for $2.99, and immediately began the 1.5GB (!!!) download.  Once it was downloaded, I ran the installer (and yes, I’m as baffled as everyone else at the need for installers on downloaded PS3 content), and then entered the magazine (it shows up in the same section of the XMB as your downloaded games and demos).

QoreThe first thing I was treated to was a high definition trailer for The Incredible Hulk.  Now, I don’t have anything against this trailer, but aren’t trailers usually availble on PSN (or the Apple website, or any other number of online locations) for free?   After all, it’s advertising.

I get past the Hulk trailer, and then get Veronica Belmont introducing the first issue of Qore.  I like Belmont, she’s got the right attitude for this type of presentation, and given her background in video podcasts, she’s very believable as someone who would be genuinely interested in this content.

After Belmont’s introduction, we end up at the main menu, with a list of the content of the “magazine” to the left.  The content for the inaugural edition consists of interviews with the designers and previews of SOCOM: US Navy Seals Confrontation, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, Secret Agent Clank, Soul Calibur 4 and Afro Samurai.  It also has an invitation to the upcoming SOCOM beta.

Also, for a limited time, if you purchase an annual subscription to Qore you get the downloadable game Calling All Cars (not a selling point for me, because I already have the game, but if you’re interested in it and haven’t already snagged it, it could be the difference between a Qore subscription being worthwhile or not).

In looking through the content, I couldn’t help but be disappointed.  The interviews and previews are reminiscient of the preview pieces that used to show up on the DVDs included with the Official Playstation Magazine, but the DVDs with OPM always had the benefit of offering demos of games at a time when downloading demos wasn’t an option.

You effectively get electronic press kit information, with some minor downloadable content, and none of it is significantly better than anything that was previously available for free. You also have advertisements before each feature, typically in the form of a PS3 game advertisement, but there’s also a Burger King in the SOCOM section.

So, is a Qore subscription worth it?

Right now, no.  The content here is just not compelling enough to warrant the $25 annual price.  Individual issues may be worth purchasing if they’re coming with access to Betas that are difficult to get into otherwise (for example, the first issue’s access to the SOCOM beta may be worth the $2.99 price of admission to some people), but let’s not kid ourselves, Qore is a money grab, plain and simple, and a poorly disguised one at that.

$25 a year is too much to ask for what is essentially a series of advertisements in a fancy wrapper.

I realize that not everyone owns each of the next…errr…current generation consoles. This puts me in the fortunate position of being able to compare them and offer a unique insight into the pros and cons of each console. The pros are easy to write about, though, as all three consoles have a lot going for them, so I decided to go all negative and focus on five things that suck about each console. These are presented in no particular order, so it’s not a “top five six” list or anything like that. Read the rest of this entry »

HAL Visits my 360

May 6th, 2007

HAL 9000Since the introduction of the Xbox 360, the Internet has been awash with discussion around the failure rate of the latest Microsoft console.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’m platform agnostic, owning all three of the major consoles (360, PS3 and Wii), and enjoying the various benefits of each.

Unfortunately, about a month ago my 360 started acting up. It started innocuously enough, with the occasional lock up. It started getting worse, with it locking up more frequently and then sometimes freezing on startup (while displaying the boot animation), and finally ended with the dreaded “red ring of death” showing a hardware failure (three blinking red lights, with the top right quadrant not lit).

Read the rest of this entry »

Over the years, the videogame industry has seen a lot of different console generations come and go, but I’d argue that none has been as interesting as what is happening now.

To preface this piece, I’d like to mention that I own all three next-generation consoles (the XBox 360, Playstation 3 and Wii), and that all three receive a fair amount of usage in my home. I also owned all three previous generation consoles (XBox, Playstation 2 and GameCube), and have a variety of other consoles around the house (NES, Super NES, Playstation, etc.).

I’ve always been an avid watcher and participant in the videogame industry. From the moment my parents first brought home an Atari 2600 console for Christmas in 1977, I was hooked.

Atari 2600 My brother and I played Combat, Asteroids and Space Invaders for hours on end on that console, with the glorious full colour graphics lighting up our imaginations.

During that generation, the Atari 2600 was the king of the hill. There was no other console on the market with the vast selection of games, and it had hit the mass market price point of $250 with prices falling from there.The Intellivision

A few years later, the Intellivision would come to market with graphics that were a little snazzier and the world’s most bizarre controller. We skipped that one, but did end up getting the Coleco ADAM computer system.

Donkey Kong The Coleco played ColecoVision games (including a fantastic port of Donkey Kong, with only three levels, sadly) as well as games which were loaded off a high speed datacassette. We enjoyed that machine easily as much as the earlier Atari 2600, and it served our needs for a few more years.

Then came the great videogame crash. The market crashed, and tons of crappy Atari and ColecoVision cartridges were available in bargain bins everywhere.

The market had crashed because the console systems of the time didn’t require a license to develop for them. Anyone could develop a game, and stick it on store shelves, and anyone did. Atari didn’t help matters with terrible first party titles like E.T., either.

It took a few years for the industry to recover from that debacle, and when it came back, it came back swinging. The new kid on the block was Nintendo, best known at the time for the arcade version of that great ColecoVision game Donkey Kong.

I was a rebel, though. I decided I didn’t want a Nintendo Entertainment System like everyoneAtari 7800 else, I wanted an Atari 7800. It had great graphics, a bizarre looking controller and it came with a near arcade perfect conversion of Pole Position. Plus, Joust on that console was second only to the arcade version.

The 7800 served me very well for several years, but I had the opportunity to play many NES games at friends’ houses, and even knew someone who owned a Sega Master System (poor bastard).

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