No Sleep News – 9/9/15 (No Sleep 4 Gamers)

No Sleep 4 Gamers is apparently down right now. I’m keeping the blog alive by posting this here. I’ll move it over and add images/links as soon as it comes back up. Until then, the news as normal is below:

This week marks a couple important anniversaries, some interesting info about games on iOS coming to light, and yet another game breaking bug in an open world game. There’s also a bit about game piracy in the early 2000s, and an excellent podcast.

The News:

There are two anniversaries in gaming that are well worth talking about today. First up, all the way back in 1995 (a cool 20 years ago) we saw the release of the PlayStation. This marked the mainstream movement of gaming to the next generation, setting up the platform for brilliant RPGs and the start of some excellent series. It was a great console (let’s be honest for a second – I basically only own a PSP as a glorified portable PSX) that paved the way for even greater things.

The second anniversary takes takes us to 9/9/99, and the release of the Dreamcast. While something of the opposite of the success story that was the PSX (Sony went on to make the insanely popular PS2, Sega went on to stop making consoles), the Dreamcast was a safe haven for creativity, innovation, and color. Bright, brilliant games (Sonic, Crazy Taxi, Jet Set Radio, Skies of Arcadia, and I need to stop or this will go on forever) and exciting new ideas (online multiplayer as part of the console experience) were not enough to save the Dreamcast. It was before its time, but even though it didn’t make it, a lot of its best ideas are holding out and living on.

A list of the most popular apps on iOS has been released (by App Annie), showing two very interesting facts. First, there are no games in the top 10. That’s right, not a one. Second, of the top ten games, the newest one is from June 2013. No games made in the last two years have been able to break into the top 10. I feel like this says something very interesting about the state of phone gaming, and potentially offers some sort of important insight, but I won’t lie, I’m not sure what it is. If you have any idea what this might mean, I’d love to hear it.

The trouble with open world games is the same as their biggest draw: the huge number of possibilities. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain has already been found to have two missions where using Quiet has the possibility of making the game impossible to finish. It’s a shame for those that have already encountered it, but a wonderful reminder that we live in a time where patches are not only possible but easy.

You Should Know: Dreamcast Game Copying

In honor of the Dreamcast’s 16th launch anniversary, it’s worth taking a moment to talk about the feature that made it possible to fill out your game library by buying a stack of blank CDs. The Dreamcast used a proprietary format known as Giga Disk or GD-ROM. These disks stored about 1.2 GB of data, unlike the 600-850 MB of a typical CD, but for a much more affordable price than the 4.7 GB DVD format.

Security on the GD Rom disks was rather simple: it used a hidden table of contents that prevented PCs from reading the data on the GD portion of the disk. This would have worked great, if not for persistent hackers using workarounds to access the data anyways. By downscaling or removing video and audio (if the game used more than a CD worth of space), it was possible to fit the data onto a normal CD. Thanks to an included but unused feature of the Dreamcast, it loaded the games as CDs instead of GDs, avoiding looking for the security features.

Did this problem contribute to the downfall of the Dreamcast? Maybe. If nothing else, fear of games being stolen wouldn’t exactly help convince more developers to port titles to the Dreamcast, and lack of storage space as graphics and game length were exploding would have put irritating limits that developers wouldn’t have wanted to deal with. It’s a shame – the Dreamcast (like the Saturn before it) was a utopia of innovation. At least it’s well remembered now, even for all its problems.

You Should Listen: Idle Thumbs

Idle Thumbs is one of many gaming podcasts. It benefits from an excellent team that’s fun to listen to (even when they get off topic (especially when they get off topic)). The gang is all involved in the games industry (production or journalism), and play a lot of interesting titles. From the latest triple A release to weird indie titles, they play and discuss all sorts of games.

These folks are how I first learned about itch.io and the joys of strange and excellent indie titles. They also are an excellent source of laughs, be it from Nick talking about Sims Nick cheating on his girlfriend and the resulting (digital?) guilt, or the educational and slightly paranoid robot news. It’s not for everyone (and not every episode is a guaranteed home run), but I highly recommend giving it a listen.

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