Thursday, December 07, 2006

Surgery was a success!

My father's surgery was success! His mitral valve has been repaired and he is currently recovering in the ICU currently. The road to a full recovery will be a long one, but now my father can return to a full healthy state. Thank you to all for your support.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Life's Curve Balls

Yes, I have been bad about keeping this blog up to date. It has been a combination of being busy and being lazy. However, certain events have occurred and driven certain things to a head, and I just to get some thoughts out of my mind and into written form.

Life loves to throw us curve balls. Just as you are getting into a groove or hitting your stride, and things seem to be going your way, something crops up. It always happens and life would be boring with out them. And just like curve balls, some hang and you can crush them out of the park, and others cause you stress as you struggle to deal with them.

I have just been thrown a curve ball. As I was enjoying time with my friends at Villanova on my birthday, I was informed my father had been hospitalized due to problems with his prolapsed mitral valve in his heart. In mitral valve prolapse, the valve flaps bulge (prolapse) upward into the left atrium rather than closing smoothly as the heart contracts (WebMD), and in my father's case blood leaks backward through the prolapsed valve into the atrium. This has caused his heart to work overtime and on Friday (12/1), his resting heart rate was at 140+ beats per minute (bpm). For refrence, your typical resting heart rate should be 60 bpm, and when you're at a full run you'll hit 140+ bpm. His heart was working as if he was running, even though he was just standing still. My father tried to pass it off as he'll just get better, and they'll get his heart rate back down to a respectable resting rate, but I know what was going to soon transpire. I have know about the prolapsed for several months and my father was given a 10 year window in which he could decide to have the operation to fix the valve. Myself and others encouraged to get it done as soon as possible, but being the stubborn and driven man he is, he wanted to push it off. Well, now the open heart surgery is immiment.

This was a nasty curve ball thrown at me, and I did not know how to handle it immediately. It came in fast and broke hard. I was more concerned for my father, my mother, my sibliings, and the rest family for how they were handling the news. I was not so much concerned for my state, but that I could not physically be there to support them. Not only until later, not until now did it set in for me, did I focus on my, thoughts. Even though the surgery is quite routine and common, it is still very intense. The man will have his chest split open, will be dependent upon a heart-lung machine for an extended period of time, and have his heart operated on. This is a man that has inpsired me, that has driven me, that has supported me, and has been model person that I hope I can be. Now he needs my help, my support, and its quite the internal struggle. I am nervous, I am concerned, and I hope for a sucessful surgery and quick recovery for my father.

Tomorrow morning (12/6) my father will have open heart surgery to repair his prolapsed valve and hopefully return his life to a normal healthy status. I have no doubt that he will pull, through, but "worst case" scenarios always creep into anyone's mind. I just ask that people keep him in their thoughts/prayers, and wish a full and speedy recovery for him.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Sony's Playstation 3

So opinions have been flying around about Sony's Playstation 3 for awhile now and I think its time I pipe in. I want to start with a prediction I had all the way back in March '06. I orginally posted this on the forums and here is the orginal link.
PREFACE: This is my opinion and not fact. I welcome others opinions for, against, or totally radical from either category. I look forward to your responses and own opinion.

So the PS3 has all been pretty much delayed until November of 2006 in Japan:

EDIT: Offical delay announced:
I won't be changing post since I went with the assumption it would release in NA and EU in Fall 2006.

I don't know what that means for us North American and European gamers, but probably winter 2007 for NA and spring 2007 for EU. I am, however, gonna go with the fact that launch will be universal in November.

To my point, though. PS3, if released this late, has already been defeated here in North America and Europe. Microsoft did stumble out of the blocks at launch but has installed a small user base that is going to keep growing while the PS3 is stlll waiting to be released. By the time the PS3 launches, Microsoft will command a large share of the market and the share that they don't command they will win over with a price cut. See this is where Microsoft is genius. The problem with the first Xbox is they locked themselves in long term contracts on fixed prices. So as the price of the Nvidia GPU went down to the rest of the market, Microsoft was still paying premium prices for an mid-level GPU. The same goes for the processor that Intel provided and the DVD drives from various manufacters. This killed them since they were all ready losing a significant amount of money on each unit sold and when the price cut came, the bill of materials was still the same. Now with the Xbox 360, Microsoft wised up and followed the route that Nintendo had taken with the GameCube. Contracts with adjustable declining rates. Microsoft will still spend a slight premium on their parts, since the ATI GPU they are using is custom to the Xbox 360, but it won't be exoberant. Hence the X-mas time price cut will be KEY since Microsoft won't take a major hit in the money lost in per unit sold, and when mommy and daddy go to buy a new game system for Johnny 8-year old and see the Xbox 360 for $299 with all the bells and whistles and then see the PS3 for $499-$599, well the choice is clear. Xbox 360 most likely have the same games, Johnny will be happy, and the parents saved $200-$300.

Now the one thing that the PS3 does have going for it is Blu-ray. Blu-ray is going to be expensive, but Sony is going to provide a gaming machine AND a quality Blu-ray player at the bargin price of $500 (predicted price, though. Definitely not set in stone). Taking into consideration that Blu-ray players now are going to be costing $1000+ and they won't drop much more by November 2006 since those hardware companies want to profit off their product are not looking to create and installed user base by taking a loss on their hardware and making up for it on software sales. If Blu-ray movies are in full force and in demand come November 2006, the PS3 could do very well for itself, but it is going to take longer than 8 months to establish Blu-ray as viable movie medium. People are very invested in to their DVD home theatres and upgrading to a 1080p TV and Blu-ray player may deter them.

My second point, and not so business related, is that the Xbox 360 is going to match and/or blow the doors off the first generation PS3 titles. Me personally as game developer, going over in detail the Xbox 360 hardware, there is wealth of power there that we all ready have a grasp on. I do not develop on the Xbox 360, but from an engineering stand point, it is mind boggling. Bottle necks are virutally gone, the potential for complex physics is abound, and the 64-bit RISC processors are damn efficent. I have recently seen the Unreal Engine 3 first hand early this week and it was jaw dropping. To put things in perspective, examining a gun in this pre-production game, the polygon count came in at a shade over 6,000 polygons. The detail was incredible and goregous. The average player model in the Source Engine (Half-Life/Counter-Strike) is only 6,000 polygons. It is truly impressive and even this level of graphical power is still in it infantile stages on the Xbox 360. Come November, when games finally release to the Xbox 360 that are polished and built for the system (not hasty ports like Quake 4, or even Call of Duty 2), it is going to push systems out the door in a hurry. A system that can match the PS3 and probably surpass it at first, and $300 less, the choice is clear. Now I understand some are you are thinking "graphics don't make games, gameplay does." And you know what, you're right, because you are educated gamers. However development usually focuses on joe-blow consumer who is easily drawn in by shiny objects and really could give a shit once the game is paid for by the consumer. A sad, a very true reality. (Side Note: Even though I am young and just starting out I am making it a mission statement that I will not settle for an utter crap game. I will leave a project if I feel what we are going to release is going to be shit. I still keep true to my gaming roots). Now the PS3 is incredibly powerful, but technology is very alien to me, and even to some very experienced and talented developers I know personally in the industry. The PS3 is going to provide a wealth of power, but until we can really wrap our heads around it, it is going to remain largely untapped and not blow the Xbox 360 out of the water until much later aka Xmas 2007.

So in conclusion, I envision the PS3 having amazing success in Japan. Sony has a strong fan base there and the Japanese gamers are clearly not digging the Xbox 360. However here in North America and Europe, the average gamer is gobbling up the Xbox 360 as fast as possible (which isn't too fast, since Microsoft has been slow keeping up with demand) and Microsoft is building their base while their developers and working on and in polishing some very impressive and visually stunning games. I'm sorry PS3, but I think you lost this war before it even started.

Last thoughts on the Revolution
Now I am really loving Nintendo's Revolution, believe it or not. Yes, at first I was very turned off by the "wand-like" controller, but I really think Nintendo going to have great success across the globe. See, they are not looking to compete with the Xbox 360 or the PS3, not at all. Nintendo view's the Revolution as a separate product all together, and will market it that way. I have not seen a Revolution, or even its specs, but its funky controller lets the mind run wild with new game innovations, which this industry really needs, and the back library that Nintendo is going to provide is brillant. Old school retro gamers and the casual gamer will gobble this unit up and at $99-$149, its quite affordable.
I did make some minor edits compared to the orginal post, but strictly for grammar's sake.

Okay, so my prediction was not 100% accurate, but it was damn close. The PS3 had piss poor showing at E3 with games that did not even rival the Xbox 360 (Gran Turismo HD vs. Gears of War and you see what I mean), and the Wii (which I refrenced as the Revolution before, because the name change happened after my prediction), absolutely crushed the PS3 in innovation. While Nintendo was showing how they will revolutionize the way we play games, Sony was busy showing "cool features" like "real-time weapon change" and a motion sensing control that makes you look like a complete schmuck while playing Warhawk. Oh and don't forget RIIIIDGGGEEE RACEEEEEEEERRRRR.

I think the part of my prediction that was spot on, though, was the pricing. I think Jerry "Tycho" Holkins of Penny Arcade fame says it best when asked why he's not buying one, "because its 600 fucking dollars!" $600 is extremely steep for a device that wants to be main stream. Only the 3DO, which failed miserably, and SNK's ultimate gaming machine that came down from the heavens and was targeted to the hardcore market only, the NEO GEO, were released at launch prices of $600 or higher. Neither system was a main stream success. The real kicker, though, is Sony will sell you the console for $600, but if you want to make use of its 1080p technology, you have to fork over even MORE money to get the appropiate HDMI cable.
Where my prediction is wrong is that Microsoft will most likely not have a price cut for the holiday season (they seem very adamant about standing firm at the current prices of $300 and $400), and I think its the right business move that they don't cut it. Their loss per unit is going down as the price of parts come down, and the have no real need to make a price cut since the PS3 is priced $200 above them. The Wii has no set price point yet, but predictions are fluctuating between $200 to $250, which is a hell of alot less than $600.

What I find kind of amusing is the Blu-ray crutch that Sony has been situating itself on seems to be crumbling. The current Blu-ray players are being made to look foolish to the "inferior" HD-DVD players, and the new cutting edge technology of Blu-ray has been having major production problems. Hence the extreme shortage of PS3's that will be available at release, 100k in Japan, 400k in North America, and the European launch pushed back to March '07.

I am also extremely tired of Sony's attitude towards the gaming market and the PS3. I refrence Holkins again as he says,
"All their [Sony's] spin has been trying to create the idea that it is a 'Luxury' console. Well, that's an interesting way to present that information. I'm not exactly sure I buy it. What's more I think gaming is something that people do. I think that gaming is the world's past time, and I think that it is becoming that more everyday. And I think when you throw something like that, it's a road block in front it."
Well said Mr. Holskins, well said. Gaming is not gauged by which platform has more bells and whistles, its about the games that are available, and how and whom you play the games with. Wii with its innovative control, Guitar Hero making ordinary folks feel like guitar gods, and Xbox Live bringing the console gamer finally into the online space that PC Gamers have been experiencing since 1997.

Now, I'm not all doom and gloom about PS3. I must give credit, where credit is due. The PS3 is one hell of machine. The sucker is powerful, only by the numbers, though. Its a bitch to program for, forcing you to think in a multi-threaded fashion. For those not up on computer science, programs are run as "threads" infinite loops that run until the user interrupts them. The PS3 forces you create many of these threads, but each thread is usually dependent on the other so you run into race conditions and major penalities for missed branch predictions. I just re-read what I just wrote, and its still pretty damn confusing to someone unfamilar with software engineering, sorry. Now you could make the arguement that just program in a single threaded fashion for the PS3. Well, you could, but all the horsepower that Sony has been billing is lost then. You'll only be using the main core, leaving the other 7 synergy processors (I wish Sony/IBM would just call them cores) doing jack. The true power of the PS3 is having all its cores work in tandem, which I am afraid to say, is very hard to with gaming software.

So basically, I say this to you Sony. I'm gonna buy your console at launch, but I'm not going to even open it. I quickly turn it around, selling to some parent with more money than sense, snag myself a Wii, a game or two, and pay the rent for the month.

Jerry Holskins comments were taken from interview

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

How I miss College (and how I kinda don't)

So I just came back from a long weekend spent at my alma mater, Villanova University. A fantastic school which I graduate from with a BS in Computer Engineering in December 2005. I still have many friends there and it was great to visit and reconnect with people I hadn't seen since May when I attend the graduation ceremonies. It was great to catch up and just enjoy the company of people who really cared about me and enjoyed having me around.

During this visit, many memories come flooding back of hanging out until the very early hours of the morning, having parties back-to-back-to-back, and just flat out enjoying yourself. My undergrad friends, even though very serious with their studies throughout the week (most of them I think are serious), were so carefree and lived with a zest that I have been missing for past few months. Its something I truly miss, seeming to have minimal responsibilities and living for each weekend.

On the flip side, I also remember the feeling of the dreaded Sunday "homework." I definitely do not missing doing problem set after problem set and bitching with my friends "when the fuck am I ever gonna use this?!" I just remember fundamentals of CPE homework with tedious boolean algebra, karnaugh maps, and logic circuits. Just stuff that would really put a damper on weekend.

Anyways, back to my "normal" life, the "working" world. Fortunately, I don't have to work, I get to make games. I did however learn a valuable lesson this weekend and I hope can infuse an amount of zest and carefree-ness back into my life. I am in control and its up to me to make it happen.

Monday, August 21, 2006

First post

Testing my first post. Nothing special. Just sick of the myspace blogging, so now going with my blogger.