Trophies: The Hunt Is On

(Note: I was originally going to call this post “Gentleman, start your engines” but due to equality issues and the phrase having nothing to do with trophies, it was scrapped.  That’s your dose of trivia for the day!)

Well, enough games are now out there that have trophy support.  First I had a ‘blast’ on Super Stardust HD, which was the first PS3 game to have trohpy functionality, and now I’m engrossed with PixelJunk Eden (need to complete those gardens!).  My next target will be another play-through of Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, which I am really going to relish.

I suppose my future targets will be Warhawk and LittleBigPlanet, which I both like, really need to buy!  This is especially true for Warhawk, seen as it has had several free updates.  I’m one of these people who try to hold out on buying certain games till they come down in price!  Several games I want though are stubbornly remaining at quite a high price.

That’s besides the point though.  What I really want to say is good luck to all trophy hunters!  I’ll be collecting trophies myself, though not at the frentic pace of some of you.  I’ll probably mention something more about trophies a few months down the line.  Till then!

Firmware (v.2.30) Details and Store Walkthrough

Firmware (v.2.30) Details and Store Walkthrough– Posted on the PlayStation.Blog, showing off a video demo of the store by Grace Chen.  Worth a watch of the store in action, it looks very fast and responsive.  Top sneak peek of the week (wow, I’m so awesome at rhyming).

Gorgeous new PLAYSTATION Store

I would have posted this as an aside, but I wanted to include the a picture of the new visual style of the store:

New PLAYSTATION Store preview

(Click the above image for high-res goodness)

The update to the PLAYSTATION Store will be around mid-April, during which there will be a firmware upgrade required for the PS3 in order to use the new store.  This is because the store will be software-based, and not a website, as is currently the case.  There will be no content updates due to the store between now and the update.

Visually the store redesign seems to have taken a page off the SingStar Store, which is no bad thing.  Seriously though, this is great news.  Whilst the old store could have said to have fallen out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down, the new design doesn’t seem to have any critics (so far).

Who benefits from the update?  Only PS3 users at the moment, although the PC version of the store will probably be updated sometime in the future.  The new store should be very fast, compared to the old store, due to its software-based nature.  I have to admit, whilst browsing the store, it has felt like wading through treacle.

Anyhow- here’s to more good stuff coming from Sony!  (And to some extra content for the store after the redesign).  Yet what I’ve noticed on the official forums, has been an ever-increasing demand for the release of Home and the long awaited in-game XMB.

Original PSP doesn’t have enough RAM for Skype

Original PSP doesn’t have enough RAM for Skype– At least Sony have done the right thing by letting original owners know. However, I do feel that we should have been told this from Sony right from the start so that no ill feeling would have arisen in the first place.

PSP Internet Radio in-depth

This post was originally written on the City In The Clouds blog.

You might remember my previous look at a rather substantive PSP firmware update. So, what is new in the ever-evolving world of the PSP?

The firmware update lists the following changes

[Internet Radio] has been added as a feature under [Network].
The importing of channels in OPML format is now supported under [RSS Channel].
Photos can now be displayed under [RSS Channel].
New effects have been added to the visual player under [Music].

I was going to call this post “PSP Firmware 3.80 in-depth” and go through all the features in turn.  However in my opinion, Internet Radio is the only substantive feature that has been added- the rest are superficial yet still welcome nonetheless.

Internet Radio
This is probably THE killer feature of this particular firmware update; increasing the PSP’s ever-expanding features and value proposition. On reboot, the first thing you’ll notice is [Internet Radio] under [Network]. When you click on [Internet Radio] you’ll see [About Internet Radio] which you can click on. You are then sent to the PSP Internet Radio site, shown below:

PSP Internet Radio Webpage
You can access the page directly here.

You then click on “adding an internet radio player”, shown below:

PSP Internet Radio Webpage
You can access the page directly here.

Here you can download either player 1 or player 2.  The only difference I’ve noticed is that player 1 gets its radio list from SHOUTCAST and player 2 gets its list from ICECAST.

How it works
Depending on which one you download (or even both), the relevant icon will display within [Internet Radio].  You just click on this option, which takes you to a webpage.  But before you do so, you have to accept the message: “do you want to run the plugin embedded in this page?”

At first, the internet radio was quite slow to load up, however in successive tests (even after having the PSP turned off) performance has increased greatly (due to the player being cached in the browser’s memory.)  Internet radio works by ‘tuning’ into a broadcast streaming off the internet.  A definition/overview of internet radio is available here from Wikipedia.

Not an exact science
To select the radio station you want, you just choose your genre and then click elsewhere on the radio ‘frequency’ gaug, just like you would on a real radio.  Yet you can’t find exactly what you want.  How do I mean?  I found a helpful comment from Gaffman on PSP Fanboy:

The radio is fairly well implemented but hard to find anything specific. You have to pick a genre, then manually skip through stations without really knowing what’s coming up. Its a bummer because I was hoping to be able to search for specific stations, say if a friend had a shoutcast station setup you could tune in on PSP wherever you were. The current setup seems to be based on popularity with no regard for language or anything else.

If there ever was a criticism about the implementation of Internet- then that just about sums it up.  However Sony were probably trying to come up with a fairly simple implementation for the average consumer.  It is also interesting to note, that in theory, internet radio is not too dissimilar from streaming audio podcasts off the internet on a PSP, yet its actual implementation is quite different.

Overall rating: 4 out of 5 STARS

PSP’s new killer feature.  Even if it’s not what you always desired; check it out, have a play with it.  Therefore PSP firmware 3.80 comes highly recommended.

PSP Firmware 3.70 in-depth

Forget firmware 3.60, this is the real deal! You may recall a while back now, I recommended that firmware update 3.51 was pointless. Therefore, I have now upgraded my system from 3.50 to 3.70, and I’m expecting a large number of new features with such a version jump in the firmware. What’s going to make a look at this firmware interesting, is that I’ll be looking at the changes on an original PSP (PSP-1000). Let’s get cracking…

When updating, you’re presented with the following change log:

  • You can now set custom themes in [Theme Settings] under [Settings].
  • Support has been added for assigning buttons in [Remote Play].
  • A scene search feature has been added under [Video].
  • Sequential playback is now supported under [Video].
  • Simultaneous playback of content under [Music] and [Photo] is now supported.

However I want to see exactly how this works, and whether there’s more features (as I never installed 3.60). I’ll start from right-to-left, beginning with [Network]. The 1st thing I notice is a new funky orange and black logo for PlayStation Spot. What is PlayStation Spot? It’s a wifi spot set up by Sony in certain public locations for you to download game demos, trailers etc. Anyhow, on the PSP, clicking on PlayStation Spot creates a new wifi connection: ‘PS Spot’. Apparently, if you are in range of a PlayStation Spot, you will also be able to access the Internet for free and browse the web, and even play multiplayer games in infrastructure mode. So that’s the PSP Spot.

Moving to [Game], I thought I could delete the 3.70 file, and quickly move onto exploring what else is new. However, on hitting [triangle] to bring up the menu…something has changed. On the menu, I can either start the update, delete it, or find out information about it. However, on the ’start’ option, there is a graphical PSP ’start’ button. I’m guessing the aim of this change is to expose extra functionality, and different, perhaps easier ways of doing things. Anyhow, there’s nothing else new under [Game].

Onto [Video], as I hover over a particular video for a while, a little guide pops up in the bottom-right corner of the screen saying ‘[triangle] options’. Which again, is exposing functionality that may not be obvious to a new PSP owner. On hitting [triangle], there is again another graphical PSP ’start’ button next to ‘play’. So, I hit ‘play’ and immediately as the video started another pop up guide says ‘[triangle] control panel’. Looking at the control panel, the PSP system again exposes secondary button options that you can operate without using the control panel such as play/pause, next scene etc…

THE coolest new feature under video is ‘Scene Search’. It is a revelation; simplicity itself to use, and very very useful. It appears as a new icon top-right of the control panel, or alternatively you can hit [square]. What it does is dynamically create scenes into the videos you’re watching which is very, very handy. You can press up or down to select anything from 15 second intervals to 5 minutes (on a short video), and left and right to ’scene search’. I’ll now try the same with a UMD film. Unfortunately, it doesn’t, which is a shame because some UMD films don’t have a chapter menu, meaning you have to keep hitting [R] once you’re watching the film. Anyhow, the ’scene search’ still undoubtedly a very nifty feature.

I’ll now cover both [Music] and [Photo] together, as they now share a new, very cool feature. Now, I’ve known for sometime now that if you hit the ‘home’ button, you can jump out of the current track you’re playing, and you can view other songs you might have, and even browse the main XMB menu. However, the moment you tried to access anything else other than music, the music would stop playing. That is still the case, but now if you go into [Photo] the music keeps on playing! I have noticed one thing though, if you want to view a set of photos with the music playing, it is best to use the slideshow mode at its default setting as my system was unable to cache both the thumbnails and pictures if quickly flicking through them. Maybe that’s just because I’m using a PSP-1000? With the added RAM of the PSP-2000, those users may not experience this minor thing. Again, the pop up guide and secondary button options are present throughout.

Onto the big one- [Settings]. I find myself both disappointed and intrigued by what has changed. Under [Theme Settings] there is now ‘themes’ where you can set background, colour and most importantly… icon design! At the moment, there is only ‘original’ theme, which shows a screenshot of the XMB with a mysterious new icon between [Video] and [Game]. It could be something to do with the Japanese TV tuner, and the screenshot has got left in other regional firmware OR it could be something to do with the upcoming TV tuner for the PS3. My guesses though, are only speculative at best. And now for the disappointment- PSP-2000 users get new colour backgrounds, but it seems like we PSP-1000 users do not, which is a shame.

Under [Video Settings] there is the new ‘Sequential Playback’ feature that was mentioned- useful, but nothing spectacular. And that, my friends… is it!

If you spot any mistakes, please let me know, and remember- I have only looked at this update with the PSP-1000.

New slim line PSP info-splurge(tm) and critique

This post was originally written on the City In The Clouds blog.

It is slimmer, lighter, loads games faster (due doubling the RAM) and outputs video to TV screens etc..

But what about the owners of existing PSPs though?  Sure, you had the PSone redesign and the PS2 redesign but this is a substantial change.  All’s the PS2 redesign did was slim the unit down, add networking and get rid of the (mostly) unused hard drive expansion bay.

So, what makes the PSP so different?  Well, this time Sony makes software updates as well to its systems.  Take Sony’s upcoming 3.60 firmware upgrade for the PSP- all the features I’ve seen so far are just for the slimmer PSP (mainly due to the new hardware) like UMD-caching, and options for outputting video.  I suppose my argument is what if Sony only creates more firmware updates for the slimmer PSP or possibly even hardware that is only compatible with the new PSP?  Maybe unthinkable, but surely possible.

In the past, hardware revisions weren’t much of a problem, but now major new features are being incorporated into software updates (via firmware).  Is it really fair to (pardon my upcoming language) shaft current hardware owners in this way?  I think Microsoft has done well in this regard with its Xbox 360 revisions.

Related reading (in no particular order):
PSP firmware 3.60 reveals hidden USB Charge feature
Joystiq hands-on with the new PSP
Added RAM makes PSP games load faster
Comparing the new PSP with the old
PSP Slim Lite boxart revealed
PSP redesign revealed; Lighter, slimmer, lasts longer