Simple is Beautiful | Technology, Programming, Video Games
This blog is about technology, programming, video games, books and other related topics. It is published by Mark Papadakis.





The new Sony and the Playstation 4

Sony has a real shot at leading this new video game consoles generation, if some basic assumptions hold and recently leaked(made public voluntarily?) information is correct.

The Playstation 3

I was extremely excited about the Cell processor when information about it came out, long before the PS3 shipped. I would look for new information/resources related to programming that beast, low-level architecture insights, anything really. I (still) think it's a really elegant processor (this won't be a technical post so I won't go there), but it was a departure from the norm for game developers; partitioning work into tasks, message queues, local-isolated memory with DMA based transfers between PUs(ok, it's a bit technical), and that's just some of the new paradigms developers had to become familiar with if they wanted to ship a game that was taking advantage of the system. To make things worse, the GPU of the PS3 is very weak, especially compared to the 360's, and if that wasn't enough for them poor developers and publishers, the PS3 was super expensive and the network experience was sub-par compared to what was available on the Xbox with their Live service. All in all, Sony didn't make it easy for developers, gamers or retailers. This of course made it possible for Microsoft to leap-frog past Sony's collective market share(PS2+PS3) - even though they had their own problems (red rings) - soon thereafter.

If the rumors are to be believed, the PS4 is more powerful than the Xbox720(or whatever they will call it), very easy to program (conventional architecture, no exotic systems on there) and, apparently, provides a more efficient pathway to bare-metal operations/programming which should provide an even better advantage to developers, in the long turn, for (presumably) the new Xbox games and services performance will be subject to more/thicker layers of indirection(drivers, APIs, etc).

The PSN outage

The PSN intrusion which led to some 80 million or so accounts being stolen in April 2011 was a huge blow to Sony. It took them a long, long time to figure things out(well over a month), cost them hundreds of millions of USD and ruined their relationships with their customers(not just gamers), partners and the media. Sony lost big, but I think it's gaining even more in the long run as a result of that incident and its long term consequences.

Sony rethought everything. They rebuilt parts of their infrastructure, hired many talented people to work on improving existing services, and what's even more important, all that probably led to a revision to their current PS4 plans, at least in terms of services, infrastructure, security and overall experience, that wouldn't have happened, I think, if Sony didn't have to face that huge issue, fix it and understand the cause and effects chain on there.

The New Sony

Under the leadership of Kaz Hirai, Sony is transforming itself and now stands a chance of regaining it's former glory; it's dropping unprofitable products and units, streamlining it's services and products, improving the experience. They really have no choice. Apple, Microsoft and the South Korean electronics giants (Samsung, LG) are beating them hard and they must hold their ground least they become irrelevant. I think they are doing a remarkable job at it, certainly compared to what old Sony was doing and the PS4 is crucial to their bounce-back efforts.

The Living Room

Everyone will tell you 2013 is the year of the living room. New video game consoles from Sony and Microsoft, new 'microconsoles' (Ooya, Gamestick, the Steambox) and more importantly, the Apple TV(set), and more systems we haven't heard of yet, are coming out soon. It's all about the TV and all things entertainment; video games, movies, music, everything. Sony has a good chance to be a key player in this new battlefront. They cannot afford not to be.

Monday, 4 February 2013 9:28 pm



Experiencing movies and TV series in 2013

Apple TV (maybe the current-gen appliance, but most likely that'd be the full-blown TV set, thing) will enable the implementation of a service I have long wanted to use.

I want to be able to watch a movie or TV series episode with my brother, or a group of friends the way I would if I was in the same room with them. That is, having the chance to comment about the video or other topics, pause playback, just like it'd work if a group of friends were watching an episode of the Big Bang Theory in the same room.

In addition to synchronised viewing (if I or another virtual group participant was to pause playback, it should pause for everyone else, too), context specific information could be overlaid on top of the frames (e.g IMDB information, whatever), and more.

Apple will probably make this possible soon; it should become possible with iPads, iPhones and Apple TVs, and it will be great. I can't wait to watch movies with my brother and other friends, voice chat about the events taking place and have a genuinely good time, together.

I suppose one could put come up with a crude approximation of that experience even now, but that's about taking too many leaps of faith and even so, a single glitch would ruin it anyway.

If Apple doesn't provide this experience itself out of the box, I am sure other fellow developers will jump to it. If not, I will.

Friday, 28 December 2012 4:15 pm



Thoughts dump 09.06.2012

If I wasn't who I am, which is to say, if I wasn't into computers, software development, and all things 'technology' (this term is overused and abused by the way ), I think I would really enjoying being either a fisherman, a tavern owner, a shepherd, a lawyer, a scientist (physics, math, astronomy, ..) or any combination thereof.

Diablo 3 is such a monumental achievement in video games. Going through it felt every bit as refreshing as it was for me when I played Diablo 1 on my brother's recently bought PC some 15 years ago. Perfectly balanced, though I could do without the endurance and patience challenge that is the boss fights, long, magical and perhaps resting above all such qualities, the wonderful drop in and out coop support and its implementation. I can't think of any other game that supports it, or one that does it so well anyway.
Always-on connectivity is not an issue for me insofar it doesn't prevent me from actually playing the game. Blizzard should have been better prepared, whatever that means, but as it is with most things, issues will be ironed out soon enough and none will remember them soon, just like it was with Valve's Steam (it was even more frustrating at the time, too).

I am deeply troubled by the ongoing developments in this country. My friend Steve warned me about the severity of this recession long before it was even acknowledged by most. I was hoping he would be wrong, that perhaps things would just get better soon. Alas, he was right. Its going to get even worse, especially if other countries in the EU wind up collapsing too.
This brought to light the kind of corruption and decay that has been eroding our society since forever. It all comes down to people, of course, and, even more so, the people tasked to create laws, uphold them and run the country.
Political parties and unions may be a corner stone of democracy but they are really just a means for individuals to gain power, control through them and define the fate of others driven by their own desires.
Meritocracy is a solution, as far as I am concerned, but that is not happening anytime soon. If political parties and unions were to dissolve and people would vote and support individuals who would be judged by their individual qualities not by the party or union they stand for, I am confident things would have been better. Much better.
"Much that once was, is now lost"

Saturday, 9 June 2012 7:18 pm

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