Tuesday, March 4, 2014

My PS4 Review

After almost a year I'm back!!!. Hopefully this will not be another annual update. This post would be a little different, since this time, its going to be a review about the PS4. To set the stage, I should admit I have no experience with the XBOX eco-system, therefore any comparison I am making with XBOX is from what I have heard either through my friends who own them or from the internet. But I have used all of Sony's home consoles, therefore my comparisons with previous generation Playstations are based on my first hand experiences. Also I apologize for the crappy images since all were captured from my phone.

I got the PS4 in Sri Lanka for roughly 600 USD, much higher than the retail price of almost all the regions where the PS4 has been officially launched. For this review I will ignore the price factor, since this can vary from where you decide to get the console. In my case I got 1 year warranty as well.

The Packaging

The packaging is rather restrained with the box displaying a picture of a PS4 standing vertically using a vertical stand. The box comes with a carry grip for easy carrying, which is a nice touch. When you open it, you find the console neatly packed, along with the new Dualshock 4 controller, a single piece headset with a mic that can be plugged to the controller, USB charging cable for the controller and a HDMI cable. When you remove the console, you can find the user manuals packed beneath. All in all packaging is pretty neat and conventional. 

The Console

The first thing you notice when you look at the PS4 in person is how good its looks. It is roughly the same size as the PS3 Slim. However when you pick it up, it feels a little heavier than the PS3.

The console itself is sleek and its very refreshing to see that Sony actually took trouble to make it look nice, especially when comparing it to the XBOX One. You can shamelessly keep it in the living room and proudly show it around to any visitors without causing an eyesore.

However there are minor faults with the design. The power button and the eject button are so small that you hardly notice them at first. This is not a huge issue for the power button since you can always turn on/off the PS4 with the controller once it is successfully paired with the console for the first time.

Unsurprisingly all the ports including the power cable port, HDMI and the LAN are at the back. A minor quirk is that there are no USB ports at the back which can be problematic for some people. The front USB ports are wedged deep inside a crevice and its not the most practical place to have them. I think the reason for this placement is cosmetic, to make the PS4 look sleek. Unless you plan to plug in USB gadgets all the time, this is not a big issue.

The Controller

The new Dual Shock 4, although slightly larger, is an improvement over most aspects compared to the Dual Shock 3. It grips well and the new analog sticks are a joy to use. The thumb grips for the analogs now have a concave design which I really liked. The trigger buttons on the other hand are also revamped which is a welcome change. It feel more satisfying to press R2 and L2. Now some of the shooters bind R2 as the default button for fire and L2 for aim, instead of the R1, L1 combination in PS4. This can take a little getting used to at first, but its not a major hiccup.

The DS4 also comes with a touchpad. Currently only a few games use this feature and this might become a hindrance in the long run than a useful feature. There is no real value for hard core gaming that can be achieved using the touchpad. The positioning of the touch pad has forced sony to make the options button (which basically replaces the old start button in previous Dualshocks) smaller. I found this annoying at times when I wanted to pause a game in a hurry since its so small that you can't sometimes press it intuitively as you like to. 

You can also connect the headset to the controllers audio jack and route your in-game audio to the headset. I found this useful when gaming at night so rest of the household is not disturbed when you are chasing a racer with your horn blazing in NFS Rivals. Additionally the Dualshock 4 comes with a speaker as well.

The other addition is the new share button. This is a whole new feature that deserved a separate section to talk about, which I would do later in this post.

Before I move on from the controller, I should make a mention of the battery life. The DS4s battery lasts only about 4 hours for a single charge, which is woeful considering the DS3s life. This is slightly offset by the fact that you can charge the DS4 when the PS4 is in stand by mode, but still Sony should have put more thought into this.

The OS and UI

The PS4s OS and the UI is a major improvement from that of the PS3. Sony has put a lot of effort to address the shortcomings of PS3.

The first thing you notice when you start using the PS4 is the fluidity and smoothness of the UI compared to that of PS3. There is virtually no lag and the menu transitions and navigation between menu items is silk smooth. The new UI takes some inspiration from the old XMB interface in the PS3. The usual system specific icons are presented in a way reminiscent of the old PS3 XMB interface. These icons allow the user to go to settings, Playstation Store, check trophies, party creation etc. A layer beneath these lies the application specific stuff, which by default includes the browser, the playroom demo and installed games. This setup is easy to use and the smoothness of navigating this UI makes the experience more pleasant.

When Sony announced the PS4 in Feb 2013, they talked about an immediate gaming experience. I am happy to report that they have stuck to their words on this. Unlike the PS3, when you pop in a disk, PS4 does something called precaching, allowing the user to immediately play the game instead of waiting for an install. While you play the game for the first time, the OS installs the game in the background. Comparatively, you could not start the game until its fully installed on PS3.

Same goes for updates. Now you can download updates in the background. You no longer have to wait impatiently till the updates are downloaded and installed to play the game. However, its still a step behind the PC in this respect. When you buy a title on Steam and download, you download the latest fully patched version. This is not the case for PS4. Although you download the game + updates in PS4 in the background, you still download the unpatched game + updates seperately. This is a waste of bandwidth and can be particularly a big problem for users with data caps like myself. I experienced this on Resogun, which is luckily a small game. But if this happens with large patches, then it can become a major problem for people like me with data caps.

Users can also suspend a game and do other tasks on and switch back to the game seamlessly. A tap on the Playstation button on the controller would bring up the PS4 menu and you can do other stuff without exiting the game. This is a great improvement from the PS3 suspend functionality.

The UI can also be controlled using voice commands. The packaged headset, that comes with the PS4 allows the user to issue voice commands to the PS4. You can do basic things like shut down the PS4 or start an application. All you need to do is, say "playstation" and the list of available commands pops up. This worked surprisingly well for me.

The other interesting feature with the OS is the stand by mode. Instead of switching off the PS4 you can put the PS4 into standby mode. Which consumes less power and turns off the main CPU and instead, a secondary low power CPU is kept on. This CPU can handle downloads and uploads. Also you can connect the DS4 controller to charge it. This is a handy function if you want to charge the DS4 and download some games/updates while you are asleep.

Share Functionality

This is whole new aspect of next gen gaming that deserves a separate section. The PS4 comes with hardware level support to record game play and share them. The fact that the PS4 has hardware level support makes this a very simple and easy to use feature. PS4 records your last 15 minutes of gameplay and if you feel that there was something golden in that last 15 minutes you want to share, then all you need to do is to press that shiny new share button in the DS4. It brings up the share menu, where you can go through your saved footage and edit it (basically select which time block you want to crop and keep). Once edited you upload it to your facebook account.

Apart from that, you can live stream your gaming sessions on Twitch.tv. I did not try this feature due to my bandwidth limitations. So unfortunately I cannot comment how it is.

Games and Performance

Lets get to the good stuff. Unfortunately I do not own a lot of games yet. I only tried NFS Rivals, Resogun and Blacklight: Retribution. The PS4s launch library is not that large compared to that of XBOX one's. However out of the exclusives that make the quantitative difference between the two, only Forza 5 made me interested. On the other hand Sony's Killzone Shadowfall and Knack had mixed reviews. But everyone seems to agree that Killzone had awesome graphics, which I hope to try out soon.

Out of all the launch titles, the one that surprised me most was Resogun. Its a really cool game that shows off the PS4's graphical prowess. The main AAA title I played was NFS Rivals and its graphics are truly beautiful. The lighting and textures are highly improved from that of last gen and actually the PS4 version is more or less equal to that of the PC version when it comes to graphics. All the games I played so far ran pretty smooth without any framerate drops. I should also mention that PS4 is really quite even when playing games compared to the PS3. I could hardly hear a thing from the PS4s fans when I was gaming.

In terms of games selection, Sony has the most variety. Sony is not afraid to experiment with different game designs and there are plenty of examples on the ps3 with games like Heavy Rain, Beyond 2 Souls, little big planet, puppeteer and the pixel junk series. We can expect the same variety from Sony in the future with PS4. Sony seems to be having a good relationship with indie developers as well, which would result in even more unique experiences on the PS4. Microsoft on the other hand seems to have learned from Sony's practices and this time they have put more emphasis on exclusives compared to the X360. But it might be that Sony would edge ahead with the exclusives in the long run, but this can go either way in my view.

From what I can gather from the inter webs, it looks like PS4 has a sizable performance advantage of the XBOX One. Most of the early multiplatform titles do not render on 1080p natively on the XBOX while the PS4 is able to do it. We would see more about the performance gap in the coming years when developers unlock the potential of each console. Comparatively, XBOX has a different memory architecture with the inclusion of 32mb of eSRAM which is supposedly very fast. This seems to be making it difficult for developers to initially render games on 1080p. Once the developers unlock a way to properly use this, then we might see some parity with the PS4 in terms of resolution at least. The PS4s unified GDDR5 memory architecture seems to be pretty easy to deal with and had resulted in PS4s early success with game developers when it comes to visuals.

For multiplayer games, you need a Playstation Plus subscription which can cost you around 50 USD per year. For this, you also get monthly free games for the PS4, along with free titles for PS3 and PS Vita. However you do not need the Plus subscription to play multiplayer only free to play games such as Warframe, War Thunder or Blacklight. Nor do you need Plus for the sharing functionality. This is a good generous offer from Sony. In my opinion plus is nothing but a good thing since we are also getting free games and if Sony decides to give away AAA titles for the PS4 as they do for the PS3, it would be even more awesome.


I really do like the PS4. Its a huge step up from the PS3 in most areas. Sony has learned from the PS3 and made it easier for the developers and also made it a more pleasant experience for users in general.


+ Beautiful Console
+ Smooth UI and OS performance
+ Greatly improved graphics compared to PS3
+ Background updates and downloads
+ Seamless sharing functionality
+ Suspend functionality
+ Ability to route game audio to the headset connected to the controller


- Controller battery life is poor
- Options button is too small
- Separate patch downloads for new games 

My score 9/10

Friday, March 8, 2013

Next Gen and the Future of PC gaming

After a loooooooooooong hiatus, I am back!!!!. Married life has drastically reduced my gaming time and extra responsibilities have taken much of my used to be free times. However I managed to squeeze some extra time to continue with my blog and touch upon next gen and its impact on PC gaming. I am also planning to touch upon the subject of how this would affect people in developing countries as I usually do.

First of all, the big PS4 announcement looks very promising and I really liked what I saw. The graphical bump, although not as huge as in previous Playstation iterations, still is very noticeable although it would never surpass the PC. At least for the first few years, it would stay on comparable terms with mid-high range PCs, although its still too early to say for sure without seeing any finished products. The best thing about it was the work done by the low power processor (presumably an ARM variant). Ability to capture videos, download and upload game clips and downloading games and updates in background are some really useful features. Also the fact that the system can download stuff using the low power core when the main system is shutdown is also a neat feature.

Specially the video capture part is a plus for the consoles(at least for PS4) in general compared to the PC because, in PC, you always try to squeeze every extra FPS when playing multiplayer. But with a dedicated chip on the PS4 you know you are getting the best Framerate even with video capture. When you have dedicated hardware for extra stuff without draining the main processing power reserved for gaming you know that using those features would not degrade your gaming experience. At least for me, this has put me off using extra features when playing PC games. (Mainly MP stuff). I hardly use the recording feature on Blackops because I want the best frame rate. Now you can you those with peace in mind knowing that you do it without any compromises.

Putting the PS4 specific details aside it seems that the core gamer centric next-gens are based on current PC architectures. If the rumors are to be believed, the next iteration of the XBOX is also having similar specs (with DDR3 RAM) to the PS4. So its safe to assume that the PS, XBOX and PC would all have similar architectures, reducing the complexity and cost of game development for multiple platforms. During the PS4 reveal, Sony was specific about the ease in which games can be adopted to the PS4 from PC environments.

So What Does this Mean for the PC?

My guess is that it would enable developers to easily make games for the PC and at last we could stop rage quitting PC games due to horrible console ports. Also since next gen supports DX11, future games would most probably only support DX11. (Hello Crysis 3!!!) Also it would be hard to justify console exclusive titles since with next gen the cost of porting to the PC may not be costly as current gen. The only argument against it would be the Piracy on PC. Also Ubisoft confirmed that Watchdogs would be using the PC as the lead platform since porting costs to PS4 is considerably less, than the previous generation. If the rumors are to be believed, then it would be the same with the next XBOX. On the other hand we might see a lot of PC exclusives including MMOs making the jump to consoles. Blizzard already set the pace with Diablo 3 and I would not be surprised to see other PC exclusives making the jump to consoles.

Above all at least Sony seems to emphasize the point of seamless, easy to pick gaming in its new console. This has been one of the biggest the arguments against PC gaming. PC gaming lacks the simplicity of the consoles. The PS4's ability to suspend and resume play might be a huge relief for people who are unable to dedicate enough play time till you hit the next checkpoint. Sony talked about 5 pillars that they say defines their next gen experience. At least on paper it looks like the PC has some catching upto do when it comes to the overall experience that includes things such as installations, system maintenance, performance and above all ease of use. For a hardcore PC gamer like me, the PS's new feature set which includes social integration as well as background processing appeals a lot. No doubt that Valve and other PC gaming stalwarts would close the gap in the coming months and years but right now, it looks like the overall experience of gaming is tipping towards the consoles. Having said that, I still believe that if you don't mind the PCs compromises, it still offers the best immersive experience in gaming and our beloved RTS games would still struggle on consoles.

Next Gen and Developing Countries

I tried to think aloud how next gen changes would affect gamers like me who are in the developing world. The cost of a console would always a be a thorny issue in this part of the world. When you buy a computer for gaming it also fulfills your other needs. If you are a student, you can use it for assignments and browse internet and is much more customizable. However, when you have a console its mostly for gaming and home entertainment where you could watch a movie on it. But browsing the internet in a console is not an option for a regular surfer. This lack of flexibility means ideally you should have both a PC and a console or at least a console and a tablet/laptop. Lot of people can't afford that in the developing world. 

On the hand, if you consider the gaming experience of next gen consoles I see a few promising aspects. First of all is the ability to play games while a part of it is downloading (at least in the PS4). This is really useful if you have a slow internet connection. There was a time where I was using a 1M connection and it took about 24 hours to download a 10gb or so game, and it is still the case for lot of people in this part of the world. So if you can play the game before downloading everything, I think its a great, useful feature.

Another encouraging thing is that Sony almost confirmed the support for used games which is a big win for the consumer. I believe Microsoft would also do the same simply because they don't want to be the bad guy and moreover there is actually no reason to stir up a hornet's nest of criticism when the ever increasing digital delivery systems dominate content distribution in the near future. With increased digital distribution, second hand game sales would diminish automatically.

Another aspect is the price of next gen games. There are rumors that the next-gen prices would increase to 70USD which would be a major turn off people in developing countries. The only salvation would be the used games that I discussed earlier. Since this information is not confirmed its better not to speculate on this too much.

I think its time to wind up by comeback post :). I hope to find some time to write more often. Please share your thoughts regarding next gen in the comments section below.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Old school vs New School

I've been very busy lately and did not have time to catch up with my thoughts.During the past few months I have seen many complaints from veteran gamers who've been gaming from 90s about how the current crop of games have no soul. They claim that the games have become shallow, cash cows rather than being made with a heart and a soul. I went down my memory lane to see what I think of this clash of generations. I started gaming way back in 93/94. The first sweet memories come with Wolf-3D, Paratrooper and Prince of Persia. Then I got the RTS bug with Dune and C&C. Every game I played those days was a refreshing experience. There was always something new to explore,something new to see. They were far more challenging compared to the current games as well. Most games could not be completed in one try.

However, the purpose of this post is not to directly compare the old games vs new games. Its more about what caused this change and see whether its good or bad. My view point on this subject would be totally different from some others' for sure. But as a veteran gamer, I will lay down my side of the story. 

At its infancy, gaming used to be a hobby for the geeks. Games were made by programmers in their free time. Then some people grew a passion for it and decided to make money out of it by creating something they like and love. They made the game the way they wanted it and released it. The games were designed by the gamers themselves. So they knew exactly what people wanted. The current generation of games started to come through when the so called next-gen consoles were introduced to them market in the 2005/2006 period. The Microsoft's XBOX 360, Sony's Playstation 3 and Nintendo Wii bought the gaming to masses. Nindento Wii with its innovative motion control managed to capture the interest of casual gamers like no other gaming platform before. Moms,dads, children and even grandparents were finding it fun to play. Gaming was not seen as a geeky childish thing anymore. The geeks' hobby transformed into a multi-billion dollar entertainment industry surpassing the movie and music industries in terms of revenue.

The popularity of gaming as an entertainment medium meant that developers had to cater to a wider audience. They were not building games only to appease the geeks with their hardcore gaming needs. Games needed to be accessible to everyone. They needed to become noob friendly. Unfortunately the geeks are outnumbered by casual gamers and all the big gaming companies are focusing more on casual gamers rather than hardcore gamers.

Publishers, Are They Devils in Disguise?

Since gaming is a huge industry now, the budgets of games have also become larger. This has made it difficult for game developers to develop a game on their own. This had given rise to the developer publisher model. The game development is now financed by a publisher who in most cases own the right for the gaming franchise's Intellectual Property (IP). Publishers are totally business oriented organizations that are mainly focused on making profits from their investments as soon as possible. With this model, developers no longer have the freedom to develop games the way they like. Now, the development cycle is all about meeting deadlines and delivery titles. The mantra has changed from quality over quantity to quantity over quality. For new gamers, this is not a huge problem since they have not experienced the glory of past games when games were developed by the total free will of the developer. Even during the 90s there were publishers, but the competition was not fierce as today and the focus on quality was still there. There was far more room for improvement and innovation back then. The improvements I am talking is not about the graphics or sounds, but about game design. The current trend is to create one big title and clone that title in sequels and earn money using the hype generated from the first title. There are very few titles that can be considered true sequels in my opinion. Look at the most popular franchise today, call of duty. COD4 introduced the cinematic story telling that every other FPS has been trying to copy nowadays. It had a well designed multiplayer game that revolutionized MP gaming. It truly is a genre changing title. But look at its successors. WaW, MW2 and  Blackops. They do not offer anything significantly new other than the change of setting. It is not fair to expect every successor to provide the same novelty that COD4 or any other major hit provided. In my view, if you cannot come up with something new or different, spamming titles every year is not the way to go. Same goes to the venerable C&C franchise. EA spammed so many C&C titles that even the most hard core fan lost faith in the franchise. 

Light at the End of the Tunnel?

However, the rise of the Indie or Independent developers who are not constrained by the requirements of publishers are providing a breath of fresh air. The recent hits like Minecraft, Limbo, Braid, Super Meat Boy, Amnesia: The Dark Descent etc all have something different from the mainstream titles. They add something new to the table that really find the roots of the old school games. Modders should not be forgotten here. Mods usually complete and polish the games. In some cases it’s in the mods that the real value of the game lies. In some titles, communities have come up with patches when the developer was forced to cease support for the product due to pressure from publishers who want to churn out another title.

The major problem however is not with publishers going after money or catering to a wider audience resulting in losing the depth of games today. Its more about the focus on quantity over quality. There is nothing wrong in adopting the principle of "why fix something when its not broken". You don't need to change every successive title with something innovative, but it is very important to pay attention to detail and polish the product. This is lacking in most games of today.In my opinion sequels are spawned for major titles all too often. There is a tendency for publishers to release a title for a major franchise on an yearly basis. Thats my main complaint.

The newer generation who grew up with PS3s and X360s does not know about the classics in the 90s and early 2000s. They do not exactly know what it was like during those days. More importantly what they have missed. Some argue that times have changed and the so called "Old School" generation should move on. I am all for changing the game play style, but what we have today is not something superior to what we had during the past. Its more about re-using what is successful without even doing a proper quality check.

I think my rant has gone long enough. There are many things that can be written about this subject. But I believe that my point is clear. We need quality over quantity. With modern hardware, there should be enormous possibilities for a well refined novel games to come through. We are yet to see a game of that caliber. Few companies still have the caliber and the passion to deliver awesome things consistently. So far, Rockstar has produced some very good modern titles like GTA4 and Red Dead Redemption. The reason is quite simple, they take their time with the releases. I am looking forward to their next title L.A Noire which also looks very interesting. I just hope that others would follow suite and come up with something all can enjoy, irrespective of their gaming pedigree.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Piracy in the Developing World

After a fairly long break I'm back with another post. I've been busy lately and the fact that I bought a PS3 did not help with me finding time to write anything new. As the topic says, my idea to discuss piracy is fueled by several factors. First of all there is a lot of talk about piracy in the games industry and several radical and controversial DRM methods were used by publishers recently. Also the fact that I bought a PS3 got me to think about piracy as well. This is mainly because PS3 is the only modern console/system that has not been cracked successfully so far, although now it seems that a breakthrough has been made.

When I started gaming as a kid growing in a developing country with very limited access to internet, I did not know anything about piracy. I understood nothing about the concept. I would get a game, install it, and apply the crack and play. I thought they were all part of the installation. Then when I got to know things better, I still could not afford a game. A game which costs close to $50 is much more than my parents could afford for my entertainment. So I resorted to buying the illegal copies from the local market. Apart from that, anyone willing to pay and buy the legit version could not do so as there was no place to buy the original games as well. The digital game downloads did not exist at the time and even if they did, the dial up connections that were available at the time would probably take years to download the game. This is the situation of piracy that existed several years back where almost 100% of the people pirated games not solely to rip off from the developer, but since they had no other option.

Now the situation has changed. Numbers of people who can afford games are increasing gradually. Although there are no shops which sell original games other than few shops which sell PS3 games, people who are interested can get their legit copies either through downloads or get their copies shipped from US or suppliers based in East Asia. However, a considerable section of the gaming community still pirate games. This is due to various reasons. 
  • Some pirate games since they simply can’t afford them.
  • Some want to try out the game before actually playing to buy the game. I know a lot of my friends      who bought Call of Duty 4 after pirating the game previously. 
  • Some just don’t want to pay for something that is available for free which basically is ripping off from  the developer.
In Sri Lanka, majority of pirate copy users belong to the latter category, but the intent differs. Some only want to pay for games that only really good. Best example is COD4, most people, even school children found money to buy a copy. It’s the same story with Heroes of Newerth. After playing the beta, most were very impressed with it and somehow bought the game. But most of these people would not pay for any other game which they would play for a few weeks and throw away.

From the point of view of developers and publishers, they see every illegal download as a lost opportunity of sales. On the contrary, majority of people download the games illegally since they get it for free, not because they like the game. Even if they don’t play the game for more than a few days, they’d download it. If by any chance they happen to like the game a lot, they might actually pay and buy the game. The pirate software in that case acts as an unofficial extended demo/beta for some. People who can’t afford a game would not buy the game anyway, no matter how much they wanted it. From a publisher’s point of view, it’s mostly the 2nd and 3rd type they should think about. If they make a game real good, people would buy it if they can somehow afford it. The real piracy concern is about this 3rd category, since it is acceptable that not all games can be like good and popular like HoN or COD. But bringing in drastic DRM measures is not a solution. In this part of the world, an un-crackable game would not be much popular. Recently I got an extra copy of Uncharted 2 and decided to sell it. When I posted a classified in a forum, some people asked me whether this game is available on PC. Anyone in Europe or US who knows his/her gaming knows that Uncharted 2 is the best PS3 exclusive on the planet to-date. Yet it is unknown to a considerable section of the community in this part of the world since they haven’t played it since it was not pirated. Same goes with most PS3 exclusives. Again, from the industry point of view, it might be of no concern since they may not buy the title anyway. But there is a segment of gamers who would buy the game if they first tried it out and got impressed. I think this is one of the main reasons why PS3 is lagging behind in sales of its consoles. People buy other consolers solely not because they like it, but because they can pirate their games. If they like a game they’d buy and play. In my opinion, the piracy is one of those two edged swords. It can help promote the game and in extreme cases it can ruin your sales as well. But it’s a risk worth taking in my opinion. If you don’t allow the game to pirated, people in these parts will not notice the game and you lose the sales anyway. If people pirate, at least some of them would buy the game if they are interested. I don’t think most people would buy a game because they can’t pirate it. There would be people like that, but that segment of gamers may not be as large as the industry thinks, at least not in this part of the world.  If they really like the game and have a passion for it, they would buy it somehow especially for the online play.

The point I'm trying to make is here is that piracy should not be seen as a hindrance to the gaming industry but as an opportunity to promote the games. I agree, there are both pros and cons to this, but the pros are far more worth considering. Also, it should be noted that the situation might be far more different in Europe and US where the larger market share exists. However even there, annoying DRM methods have annoyed and frustrated legitimate users. The Assassin’s Creed 2 is a good example of the point I'm trying to make.

Gaming is the largest entertainment industry now and the competition has become fierce across all genres of the industry. The industry needs to understand how the emerging economies and potential future markets are dealing with the piracy and DRM issues, in more depth.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Gaming in a Developing Country

After a fairly long break, its time to really get down to write about the things i mentioned in my first post. 
As I mentioned in my first post, I would be sharing my experiences and thoughts that I think sheds some light on the experience of gamers in developing nation. The main reason why I selected a theme like this for my article is that, many people either do not care or do not know about the difference the gamers in developing countries experience compared to other developed nations.

Before I write any further, I should stress what I mean by developing and developed countries in the context of this article. Developing countries are countries like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan and to some extent India and any other nation where the IT infrastructure, data link capacities (bandwidth) and hardware availability are quite low. Also more importantly the financial strength of the people who want to game. When your income is low, you cannot afford to spend on non essential "luxuries" such as gaming. What I mean by developed countries are countries where the IT infrastructure is more high tech with better data links and better availability of hardware. Unlike in the case of developing nations, the financial strength of individuals is much more better in these countries allowing people to spend money on gaming as a hobby, entertainment medium or as a passion. For example US, UK, Australia, and almost all of European countries fall under this developed nations category. However some Asian countries which are not considered as developed countries in a political context can be viewed as developed countries in my opinion for the context of this article. Some of these countries are Malaysia, Philippines and Indonesia and China. Although a considerable portion of the population  in these countries live under the poverty line to categorize these countries as developed nations, these countries have yet another considerable portion of the population with access to good IT infrastructure with money to spent on gaming.

As you read what I have just written above, it would be obvious that in a developing country, only a small portion of the population would have access to computers. Only a minute percentage of who have access would take the liberty to game. Although the situation is mostly improving in Asia, still there's a long way to go before the standards can be raised close developed nations. The main problem I see as a gamer in a developing country is the financial strength of individuals. People do not have enough money to spend on hobbies, past times or what ever their passion may be. Most people have other basic needs to worried about.

If you consider the middle income families, which is a far less percentage compared to developed nations, most do not bother to spend on entertainment media such as games. There are many reasons to as why people do not like to game or spend money on gaming even if they could. Most Asian families still adheres to deep rooted traditional values which creates a mind set more resistant to change. Especially technology related changes and this is more severe when it comes to technology related entertainment. Most parents consider gaming not only as a hindrance against studies, but as an addiction similar to drugs. Also there is the plethora of usual gaming critic points such as promotion of violence and foul language. This is somewhat more relevant in some developing nations where there are no regulatory bodies to make sure minor's do not get access to mature content. The main reason for this is the piracy which is prevalent in this part of the world. However i will not touch on piracy on this article because that issue warrants a separate article.

In a background like this, a passionate gamer finds it difficult to cling on to gaming because he/she would be facing a lot of challenges. First off, a gamer would have to buy a computer or a console to play on, which is quite expensive for most teenagers or youths. Only a lucky few could afford them at an early age by their own. They would have to get the monetary support from their parents to get the necessary hardware. So comes the first problems he/she faces. If they somehow get the hardware running, they would somehow get the gaming software for an affordable price which are almost all the time pirated. Since most people either do not have access to internet or do not have access to legitimate copies, a considerable portion is cut off from the gaming community. They simply play the single player modes. Some play the multiplayer games on cracked servers and socialize with gamers from around the world. But this is a very low percenatage. Then comes the issue of internet infrastructure. Although i do not have a fare knowledge about the internet rates and service quality in other countries, i can tell you experiences about the situation here in Sri Lanka. Broadband internet is expensive for most people. The affordable packages for most house holds are the 512k and 1M connections which are pretty primitive compared to developed nations.Also due to routing issues most players experience high pings to servers even in East Asia sometimes. Unless you are really passionate these frustrating experiences might keep a casual gamer away from multiplayer gaming. Only Multiplayer servers i have seen available here in SL are games like COD4 and CS. These servers are also fairly new, but lags most of the time. Also the lack of gamers in the community results in the players who play become isolated and find it hard to take part in tournaments or other major events. Its difficult to play with people in another geographical area if your connection is not up to standards and you end up frustrated in the end.

The situation is of course improving in most developing countries, but still there are lot of issues and difficulties gamers face in this part of the world.It would be quite sometimes before the standards would improve, until then gamers in developing world would have to endure certain things that most gamers would take for granted.

I think this gives an idea about a lot of things happening in this part of the world, but there might be more things to add and discuss regarding things. They would be disagreements with what i have written. Its time to hear your thoughts on this.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Whats coming up

Since this is my first blog post, i think its the perfect moment to introduce myself and let the people know what you can expect from my blog. I'm a 24 year old guy living in Sri Lanka. I'm an avid gamer who started to play games when i was about 9 years old in my brothers old 386. Currently I'm employed as a software engineer, which has somewhat limited my time as a gamer. Although i may not be one of the most skilled gamers, I'm an avid gamer in heart and soul. I mainly play FPS and RTS genre games. However i also enjoy playing racing, RPG and football games as well. I guess that's enough about me for the time being.

One of the main reasons to start my blog was to let people know about being a gamer in a developing country in the Asian region where people find it difficult to understand games as an entertainment medium. In the coming weeks and months, i would be writing down my thoughts on the status of gamers in a country like Sri Lanka and other developing countries. Apart from that I would be sharing my thoughts on some of the games and concepts that captured my interest. Although I do not plan to write reviews on games, I would be sharing my thoughts on some ideas and arguments that are floating around the games industry.

Since most of what I write are from my personal experience, I would like to see different thoughts and sides to the things I will be writing in my blog.

I think this would be a sufficient preview of things to come.