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Checkpoint: Software & Hardware Edition

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It’s happening all the time but the last 48 hours stressed the importance of both hardware and software. The successful marriage of both produces successes and/or improves the experience for everyone whereas an imbalance could spell disaster and defeat. It’s not necessarily just a matter of technical support either — the business side of hardware and software has a significant impact as well.

Here are some examples of what I’m talking about.

Drivers

I’ve always believed that drivers improve a game’s performance but I’ve never actually witnessed it first hand until this Friday. AMD’s latest drivers promised improved “latency performance” and it did not lie. I noticed a tangible performance improvement that smoothed over some of the performance issues I was experiencing the night before.

The timing of this driver could have been better. Most people who purchased the game on release day probably missed out on these improvements on their first playthrough and that’s a shame. It’s situations like this which make me weary of starting BioShock: Infinite before April 1st.

“The Vita is a joke”

I bought a PS Vita and I agree with Michael Pachter’s summation of Sony’s handheld. It is stuck in the chicken and egg cycle where the lack of meaningful software is keeping hardware on store shelves and the lack of meaningful hardware sales is keeping developers and publishers from investing in it.

As Pachter has pointed out the imbalance lies in the hardware — specifically its pricing. The Nintendo 3DS’ fortunes are better because Nintendo bit the bullet and slashed prices.   Sony needs to do the same for its floundering handheld if it hopes to see it live beyond 2014 in my opinion. It would be a real shame to see such a film of dust gather on such a pretty piece of kit.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown on iPad

There’s no reason why XCOM: Enemy Unknown could not work on the iPad. I realized this after finishing XCOM: Enemy Unknown on the PC with a controller and I’m so glad Firaxis thought the same. The Unreal Engine 3.0 middleware supports iOS devices, Android and the PS Vita but it is the iOS marketplace that makes most business sense.

The PS Vita lacks the install base and while there are millions of Android devices out there, fragmentation of hardware and the expectation of free app ad supported apps on that marketplace make the Android platform an afterthought.

I just hope they’re able to improve the framerate over the coming months. It was nice to see it running on actual hardware but it was very sluggish.

Don’t forget the Wii U

Here is a platform that suffers from both technical and business afflictions. I can’t name one let alone five compelling pieces of Wii U software for 2013. And yet the recently announced PlayStation 4 is already brimming with potential highlight titles and we haven’t even seen what’s coming at E3 yet. The Wii U is suffering from the same business issues that PS Vita is suffering from.

However, unlike with the PS Vita, developers like Deep Silver and Crytek are chiming in and telling the public that the platform isn’t worth supporting due to business reasons.

I don’t know what’s worse, deafening silence or outspoken reasons for lack of software support.

If I had to hazard a guess, these OS issues involving long install times and excruciatingly slow UI is close.

The Room

I just started this. It’s a game built for iOS and touch screen devices. It’s both cheap and uses touch functionality in gimmicky but engaging ways. I don’t think it’s the best game on the platform but it does exemplify a successful marriage of both hardware and software. The two were seemingly made for each other.

Flicking switches, pinching in or out to get a better look at objects and other gesture based  inputs feels incredibly natural and immersive. I manipulated relics and other objects with dual joysticks when playing Tomb Raider but it doesn’t do that kind of examinations justice.

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