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Overheard at GDC 07: Disney's to blame for no downloadable movies

Sony was supposed to offer full-resolution downloadable movies for the PSP, but the service has never come to fruition, citing "DRM problems." On the GDC showfloor, I overheard one Sony employee talking about how there's one giant stumbling block for Sony's potential movie download service: Disney. The giant media corporation doesn't want to make its catalog of movies available to Sony, most likely due to restrictions caused by their deal with Apple's iTunes Store.

But, why not go forth even without Disney's backing? Surely, Sony Pictures' vast library of movies would be more than enough to satiate a PSP-owning movie lover's tastes. However, as Connect proved, a half-assed attempt at digital distribution usually ends up quite fruitless.

GDC 07: After Burner impressions

Sega's upcoming After Burner is not good. The final version of the game appeared at GDC, and it did not leave a good lasting impression. The graphics are quite lackluster, featuring some aliasing problems, and serious draw distance issues. The game just doesn't look good, near or far. The incredibly slow pace of the plane seems somewhat insulting, making you want to hold the Afterburner button as much as you can. At least barrel rolls look cool.

The gameplay doesn't really add up to much, either. The controls don't feel as tight as the ones featured in Ratchet & Clank's space shooter segments. The lock on weapons are generous, and the highly unintelligent enemy AI doesn't seem to do much to not get killed. They may fire back once in a while, and like in Full Auto 2, it's nigh impossible to tell how you're doing from the craft itself: you'll have to look in the bottom right corner to see a meter. You won't ever feel impact, nor will you feel like the craft is ever taking damage.

It's unfortunate that this game is so uninspired. While the full retail version may have more options, I highly doubt that the core gameplay will get any more interesting. The game comes out March 20th.

GDC 07: DJ Max Portable 2 impressions

Joystiq's Jared Rea loves the Korean import music game DJ Max Portable, calling it "the best handheld game ever". We were both colored quite surprised when we found the game on the GDC show floor: was it a confirmation of an impending US release? Certainly, the gameplay is accessible, regardless of language. Heck, the game has always been in English. A Sony representative wasn't able to confirm a US release, saying they simply "haven't announced anything yet." Watch this video of Jared's expert play. I have to say I was quite impressed, as were the dozens of people that stopped behind us to watch. DJ Max Portable will be available for importers by the end of the month.

See also:
Joystiq: DJ Max Portable 2 spotted at GDC

GDC 07: Firmware gains inspirations from homebrew

Although the PSP hardware may not change anytime soon, the system will still continue to evolve through software. John Koller reminded us that PSP has the ability to continuously expand its functionality. "We have released 13 firmware updates since launch."

I asked him about his stance on incorporating features from homebrew, and he admits that Sony actually watches what the scene does. "RSS is actually from homebrew," he admitted. Future firmware revisions may incorporate some of the additions that custom firmware users have been able to enjoy for months.

Unfortunately, full resolution AVC support doesn't seem to be on the table any time soon. Phil Harrison was actually surprised when I told him that the resolution was locked. John Koller, on the other hand, discussed how the perpetually-delayed PSP movie download service would be one way for fans to (eventually) watch full resolution videos on their handhelds.

GDC 07: PSP won't get redesign; new colors coming soon?

People have been longing for a PSP redesign. It's not happening. John Koller explained that there are currently no redesign plans, regardless of all the rumors that have been on the Internet for ages. One of the main reasons PSP won't get a redesign comes from the issue of screen size: Sony will never make the screen smaller. In fact, the generous screen size of Sony's portable is considered one of the system's greatest advantages.

Rather, Sony is looking to continue to add more value to their existing model. Eventually, Sony of America does plan on releasing new colors, but they're waiting for the right opportunity. It's no secret that handheld owners purchase multiple systems, Koller explained. Especially if they're of new colors. Undeniably, launching a new color will spur sales of the system, even if it doesn't necessarily expand the audience.

GDC 07: PSP will realize its potential this year

In tonight's blogger meeting, I had a chance to talk to Sony president Phil Harrison about his keynote and the suspicious absence of the PSP device: "We didn't talk about the PSP because [the keynote] was 45 minutes," he tried to explain.

John Koller, the man responsible for the marketing of the PSP, then joined in: "We're absolutely not overlooking the PSP." He hinted that the future of the PSP looks very similar to what has been planned for the PS3. "We could start talking about PSP in the same manner as Phil."

Sony recognizes the potential of the system, and promises that in May, they will be revealing some more exciting news. "The promise is there ... [yet] we're well aware of the market realities." What specifically the PSP will be evolving into is still unclear, but it appears as though downloadable media and PS3-style Network features are in the works. From the smiles on their faces, it's clear that some truly exciting things will be happening to the PSP this year.

GDC 07: Crush highlights experimental design panel

There is one PSP game in everyone's mind here at the Game Developer's Conference: it's called Crush. Kuju Entertainment's revolutionary puzzle-platformer was highlighted in an experimental games panel, due to its highly innovative gameplay concept.

One of the greatest challenges of creating such a unique project is trying to predict how the player will respond to it. Will they be able to understand how the gameplay works? Will they get too confused? Stuck? Through endless hours of QA & debugging, the team decided that the game has to explain to the player why one failed: it becomes a learning process, rather than a frustrating, alienating one.

Although Crush hasn't been released yet, Kuju's Alex Butterfield wasn't afraid to think of other possibilities to expand the Crush idea: What if you could crush time? (For example, a block could turn into a bridge; a cockroach into a centipede.) What if you could crush multiple realities, in multiplayer? Would each player have their own reality? The questions become far more challenging to answer, but much more exciting at the same time. Hopefully, Crush will meet an appreciative audience when it debuts on the PSP--I'd love to see a sequel that explores these mind-numbing concepts.

GDC 07: Virtual PSP debuts in Playstation Home

At last night's Sony media briefing, Sony unveiled a plethora of new games and features for their next-gen home console, the PS3. Suspiciously absent was the PSP. Well, almost. Playstation Home, the PS3's upcoming social networking service, has a "Virtual PSP" that allows you to customize your virtual avatar. Sony states that "Your Virtual PSP gives you access to all the navigation, features and options of Home." Although this product placement is a cute way of promoting the platform, there's one thing that will work even better: more games on the system. Hopefully, the Phil Harrison keynote (happening now) will reveal some interesting non-PS3 tidbits for handheld gamers to enjoy.

See also:
Sony fights back; unveils Home, LittleBigPlanet, Killzone, more

GDC 07: The Black Corsair

GDC offers a chance for unproven games, new IPs, and new development teams to get a chance in the spotlight. Nearby Tiki Games' Galaxy's End booth was The Black Corsair, from an Italian game development team, Virtual Identity. This action adventure game combines platforming and multiple fighting styles in an imaginative pirate-inspired world. Although the game is headed to the PSP, the developers are trying to make it anything but small: supposedly, there will be over 100 NPCs to interact with, and over 40 minutes of cutscenes. The supposed 80 hour playtime seems inflated, but it would be incredible if this team is able to pull it off.

The Black Corsair certainly looks interesting. Although I didn't get my hands on the game, it's great to see independent studios try to do something new for our handheld. To find out more about the game, visit the game's official website.

GDC 07: Traxxpad lets you produce music on the go

Eidos has announced a new piece of software from Definitive Software called Traxxpad, which will allow you to mix and use virtual sequencers, drum machines, and keyboards, and export your creations into WAV and MP3 formats. "It's one thing to make a powerful music device, but it is truly impressive to make an application that allows someone unfamiliar with music to make something that sounds professional," said Eidos' marketing manager Kevin Gill to MCV. "That is where Traxxpad excels. This is a piece of software that appeals equally to both aspiring musicians as well as professional music producers."

Certainly, the program will have a fairly limited appeal. However, for musicians that must always be composing on the go, Traxxpad may fit the bill.

[Via DCEmu]

Sony to reveal "interesting announcements" at GDC

Well, duh. CVG pointed out an interview that Phil Harrison did with 1UP, where he reminded fans of the beleaguered company that exciting revelations would surely take place at the upcoming Game Developer's Conference in March. With E3 being a shadow of its former self, many are looking to GDC as the year's big gaming event, with representatives from Sony and Nintendo presenting keynote speeches.

This intrepid blogger will be there, live-blogging from the show floor. Make sure you stay tuned to PSP Fanboy from March 7th for the latest up-to-the-minute info on every bombshell that Sony's sure to deliver the PSP community.

Phil Harrison speaks at GDC about "always on" gaming

GDC is little over a month away, and big names plan on headlining this potential E3 replacement. Phil Harrison, SCE Worldwide Studios president, will speak about "new opportunities offered by advancements in connectivity." Let's hope that this doesn't end up to be like Nintendo's infamous Pac-Man showing at E3.

His keynote, "Game 3.0: Developing and creating for the third age of videogames," will undoubtedly speak about PLAYSTATION 3, but I expect PSP to play a large role in his speech. The concept of "always on" gaming sounds a lot like "Live Anywhere," but unlike Microsoft, Sony has a fully fledged portable gaming device to make "always on" gaming possible.

Expect more news at GDC, which begins March 5th.


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