PSP rAge LAN
I was quite enthusiastic about getting some PSP multiplayer in at last year's rAge Expo, but between taking partin the main LAN (which will go from 700 attendees last year to 1200 this year!) and taking part in the Game.Dev presentations, I really didn't get time. This time I have not committed to either of these portions of the event (though I am looking forward to checking out some of the Game Dev stuff) and have decided to try and push for some kind of PSP LAN initiative myself. At this point it looks like it will be happening in the foodcourt on Saturday (10 Sept) between 11:00 and 15:00 and response on the NAG forums has been pretty good.
New PSP firmware and matching demos
Sony have released firmware 2.8 for the PSP which finally includes the ability to use sensibly named and located folders for all media as well as some other nice features. Once again they are using the lure of a new demo to encourage installation of this firmware (this time it's World Tour Soccer 2). Both the firmware and demo are available through direct or PC download from www.yourpsp.com. While I quite like the idea, I hope that we will not be limited to recieving demos only when Sony has a new firmware available.
The World Tour Soccer 2 demo is actually surprisingly fun considering I don't typically enjoy those sorts of games. I will definitely not be buying the full game, but it's nice to have a quick demo of the game available should I ever feel in the mood for that sort of gameplay. It offers a sampler of three of the game's many modes (no multiplayer unfortunately) and looks, sounds and plays pretty well. It's by no means the most technically impressive game on the system, but it certainly isn't ugly either.
Another new demo that requires the 2.8 firmware is a Japanese version of the sequel to Archer Mclean's Mercury, a wonderful and terribly underrated puzzle game that was released near the system's launch. It is unfortunately not available through yourpsp, but can be found here. You will have to copy the demo to PSP\GAME\UCJS10043\. The gameplay is largely unchanged, but the look of the game has definitely been given a major overhaul. I am still trying to decide whether I prefer the old 'realistic' look or the new cel-shaded approach. The game is certainly far more colourful, and the cartoony appearance and styling somehow seems to add a certain amount of urgency to the game (as opposed to calmness induced by the original's zen like combination of music and looks). I thouroughly enjoyed the first title, and with the promise of far more levels and even a variety of multiplayer modes, I'm sure I'll be picking up this title at some stage.
About a week ago, Microsoft announced that it was preparing a media platform and brand called Zune, confirming months of rumours and speculation. The platform will include media players, the first of which will most likely arrive before the end of the year if various sites are to be believed. This marks quite a major change in strategy by Microsoft in it's attempts to combat the iPod, switching from a dependance on third party vendors to their own devices-a move which must have ruffled a few feathers in companies like Creative. I spent a little time trying to dig up some useful information on Zune, but there really isn't much worth mentioning right now. Little more than the name has been revealed at this point (a strange choice on it's own, being very similar to Creative's Zen brand). I also get the distinct impression that the few sites out there at the moment are staged, part of some kind of viral marketing and hype-building attempt by Microsoft. This may sound a bit paranoid, but there's just something about these sites that seems off. They are just too gaudy and ugly, yet they have perfect renditions of the actual Zune logo, in colours matching the site layout. There is even one that boasts some rather bizarre Zune parody comedy that just seems too instulting to be taken seriously. Most of these can be found through www.zunelist.com. Microsoft are by no means strangers to unusual marketing techniques, with the bizarre ilovebees.com Halo marketing campaign behind them.