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Sony's track record for supporting indie development is mixed, boasting some notable successes on the PlayStation Network Store, and some that stumbled from the start, like the downloadable Minis for PSP and PlayStation 3. Which approach will it take with the new PlayStation Vita, a machine that some would argue already faces a battle for survival in an iOS dominated market?

The answer will be found amongst the booming independent development scene, which has snaked its way into every viable platform on the market looking for outlets that will accept a new breed of experimental, left-field, single-minded and funky game play.

Ricky Haggett and Dick Hogg from Honeyslug admit to being "bewildered" by the machine at first, even after they were specifically approached by their account manager at Sony (Honeyslug had previously created the charming Kahoots Mini for PS3) and attended a special Sony developer's presentation in London. They eventually settled on a game, Frobisher Says, that used all the available inputs, from smile detection to the back touch pads and cameras.


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Sony's track record for supporting indie development is mixed, boasting some notable successes on the PlayStation Network Store, and some that stumbled from the start, like the downloadable Minis for PSP and PlayStation 3. Which approach will it take with the new PlayStation Vita, a machine that some would argue already faces a battle for survival in an iOS dominated market?

The answer will be found amongst the booming independent development scene, which has snaked its way into every viable platform on the market looking for outlets that will accept a new breed of experimental, left-field, single-minded and funky game play.

Ricky Haggett and Dick Hogg from Honeyslug admit to being "bewildered" by the machine at first, even after they were specifically approached by their account manager at Sony (Honeyslug had previously created the charming Kahoots Mini for PS3) and attended a special Sony developer's presentation in London. They eventually settled on a game, Frobisher Says, that used all the available inputs, from smile detection to the back touch pads and cameras.


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In the Grand Hall of the Battersea Arts Centre, David Hayward points to a grey triangle, projected onto a screen. "This was part of the most boring PowerPoint presentation I've ever seen," he explains. So starts Hayward's introduction to Bit of Alright, an indie game development conference that pointedly avoids the stolid analysis and rigid formalities of the games industry lecture circuit. Under Hayward's curatorship, this feels more like a get-together than a conference, intended to inspire playfulness and spontaneity in its attendees, rather than subduing them with a deluge of instructional slides, as they sit passively before a droning speaker.

At least, this is how you sense many here would characterise the other industry events that dot the calendar. Other opinions are available, albeit not in abundant attendance. Some might find those supposedly grey and unlovely conferences, with their focus on practical advice and technical detail, pretty useful when it comes to the task of actually producing saleable games, and ensuring the survival of an independent developer in such tricky economic times.

Bit of Alright hints at something of a crisis of identity when it comes to the UK indie scene, which sometimes seems to like everything about self-employment but the employment part itself. The talks reflect that hippy-ish suspicion of structure: there's an informal pass-the-mic style, which causes Dan Marshall's session on the mechanics of death to disassemble into semi-audible group chatter.


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The recent announcement of GFACE - a social media network with Cloud support, backed by Crytek - demonstrates that the concept of "gaming over IP" is likely to gain further traction as viable competition to both current and next-gen consoles. OnLive is out now with a full service, Gaikai is set to follow suit this year, and while there's a strong argument that these emerging technologies are not really a match for the local console experience, it's only fair to remember that these are first-gen technological products. They will improve, and even in the here-and-now they do work, even if the experience is quantifiably sub-optimal compared to local gaming.

The question is, to what extent can Cloud gaming services improve? Much has been made of the fact that even with ultra-fast fibre-optic networks, latency will always be an issue. Similarly, lossless video quality requires so much bandwidth (720p60 is well over 100 megabytes per second) that it's not going to be viable on gaming services. Given that video will always be compressed, to what extent can picture quality - which varies dramatically from one instant to the next - get better?

In this article we'll be tackling both of these issues, presenting the argument that improvements to internet infrastructure combined with optimising the current latency pipeline could well be enough to bridge the gap between Cloud services and what you might call a standard console experience.


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Recent rumour-mongering that both Sony and Microsoft would be announcing next-gen hardware at this year's E3 has brought into sharp focus the oft-repeated claim that both Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 were designed with "ten-year lifecycles" in mind.

"Andy (House) is absolutely right in that we are not making any announcements at E3. I've always said a 10-year life cycle for PS3, and there is no reason to go away from that," Sony CEO Kaz Hirai told the Wall Street Journal during CES in response to the latest round of rumours. Hirai was referencing an earlier denial that SCE president Andrew House delivered to CVG.

"I don't think we're contemplating talking about anything to do with future console iterations at this point," House said.


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When thoughts turn to next-gen console technology, we seek to quantify the leap forward with absolute metrics - and resolution inevitably gets prominence. Looking at the current generation of consoles, technical requirements for Xbox 360 games at launch (which were quickly overlooked) suggested that games should run at a minimum of native 720p with 2x multi-sampling anti-aliasing. A reasonable expectation for next-gen is full-on 1080p with the equivalent of 4x MSAA, but to what extent does resolution actually matter?

An interesting discussion kicked off on the blog of NVIDIA's Timothy Lottes recently, where the creator of FXAA (an anti-aliasing technique that intends to give games a more filmic look) compared in-game rendering at 1080p with the style of visuals we see from Blu-ray movies.

"The industry status quo is to push ultra-high display resolution, ultra-high texture resolution, and ultra sharpness," Lottes concluded.


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The arrival of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 redefined the landscape of games development. Cutting edge gaming software and technology - once the preserve of PC alone - found a new home: game developers that had once pushed back the frontiers of PC graphics and gameplay soon realised that the consoles presented a more profitable, viable market. Creators like Infinity Ward made the switch early, but as the generation progressed, even PC stalwarts like Crytek and id software transitioned across to console-led development.

With PC gaming becoming less relevant, graphics card manufacturers were left facing a big problem: how to make their pricey, enthusiast products more appealing to the core audience when the lion's share of games were mostly console ports. Running these games at ever-increasing frame-rates and resolutions could only go so far - the hardcore gamers wanted more but the development of impactful PC exclusive features could not be justified by the returns. Meanwhile, PC graphics technology continued to improve by leaps and bounds but the standards setting releases like the original Crysis and Doom 3 were becoming ever rarer. There's a strong argument that PC graphics tech was far more powerful than it really needed to be, with precious little to show for the mammoth levels of rendering might on tap.

Make no mistake - even the entry-level enthusiasts' graphics cards of a few years ago effortlessly annihilate the RSX and Xenos graphics cores in the current generation consoles. The venerable NVIDIA 8800GT - for years an enthusiast favourite, and still capable of running most new titles adequately - has the consoles beaten in terms of available RAM, bandwidth, stream processors and virtually any other metric you would care to mention. It can run the original Crysis in all its unoptimised glory at a fair old lick, even at 1080p - something that the consoles can't match, even running on the more streamlined CryEngine 3.


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The notion of consumers as beta testers appears to be growing increasingly commonplace, and it's something of a shame that Skyrim should be getting so much attention for its technical problems when the core package is simply remarkable. In this article, I'll be taking a look at some of Skyrim's most impressive technical achievements, but also highlighting related bugs and issues that are causing concern amongst the userbase. Could they by any chance be related? In some cases, perhaps so.

As the stack of YouTube bug videos rises seemingly by the hour, the question is, how can complex systems and features be fully tested when the circumstances in which they come into play will almost certainly change between players, and when the behaviour of the gamers themselves is so difficult to anticipate? Just how thorough can conventional QA be when we have a game as vast, open and as wide-ranging as this?

Make no mistake, despite the game's miniscule size in terms of compressed game data on the shipping DVD, there's no doubting the scale of the game and the sheer scope for adventure it contains. Bethesda's remarkable compression scheme ensures that the entire Xbox 360 version of the game weighs in at just 3.8GB. Never mind that we're now in the era of the 50GB dual layer Blu-ray: the Xbox 360 version of Skyrim in its entirety would fit snugly onto a single layer DVD with space to spare.


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After the months of aggressive marketing, week one sales suggest that the biggest battle in video games is perhaps over before it has really begun. Based on week one figures, the stark reality is that EA's Battlefield has sold less than a quarter of the amount of units shifted by Call of Duty: Black Ops last year - meaning it would require a monumental drop-off in sales performance for MW3 to be in any way comparable. The biggest video game face-off of the year appears to have concluded with a whimper rather than a bang.

Doubtless, EA will be taking heart from the fact that it doubled its sales year-on-year in comparison with Medal of Honor, and blitzed its previous totals from all previous Battlefield releases, but it's clear that despite the trash talk and the enormous marketing budgets, it's going to take a catastrophic failure on Activision's part not to once again achieve sales domination with Modern Warfare 3.

But what of the respective merits of the games themselves? From a product development point of view, how does the new DICE epic rate against (take a deep breath) Infinity Ward, Sledgehammer and Raven's collaboration?


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This week's release of Battlefield 3 presents a certain proportion of the Xbox 360 audience with an unenviable choice: buy a hard drive or other form of storage media device, or face up to playing a woefully inadequate version of the game. The arrival of BF3, along with other hard drive optimised titles such as id software's Rage suggests that the requirements of game development now outstrip the capabilities of optical drives.

Make no mistake, the difference between Battlefield 3 running with the "HD content" installed and running the game without it is absolutely remarkable. The game is awash with low resolution textures and it's difficult to imagine that DICE would want any one to play through the game with assets as rough as these.

"There's nothing magic about it," BF3 executive producer Patrick Bach told Gamerzines.


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