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UMD DEMO DISC HITS JAPAN

The second issue of Famitsu PSP had a special treat trapped inside its pages: the world’s first UMD demo disc! Sony has always claimed that UMDs are cheap to make, and a magazine bundle is nice proof. The actual contents are a bit sparse, with only a playable demo of action-RPG Tenchi no Mon. No videos, no music, no game saves—well, there’s always Issue #3.

UMD VIDEO KILLED THE MP3 STAR

On UMD—Sony’s proprietary disc format for the PSP—games are region free, but UMD videos are highly region restricted; Japan’s and America’s UMD game markets are largely identical, but the markets for UMD videos have taken rapidly divergent paths. In Japan, the most popular UMD videos aren’t Hollywood blockbusters, but music video collections. Right now, there are more video collections available than “regular” movies, with plenty more on the way. Synergy with Sony’s Japanese music label and the lack of international licensing issues make them an easy and attractive proposition.

Collections are 2,500 to 4,000 yen (about $23 to $36) and movies are around 4,000 yen. Though high by U.S. standards, these prices are competitive with Japanese DVDs. Each collection includes six to 12 video clips; some include “making of” videos and tour footage, as well. Top-selling artists like Chemistry, Mika Nakajima, Yuki, and Asian Kung-Fu Generation are available on UMD. Music videos are a natural fit for the Japanese marketplace, as most urbanites have a 30- to 60-minute train commute each day—too short for a movie, but just long enough for a few videos.

BUILD AN ADVENTURE!

Old-school adventure games may be dead in the States, but they’re alive and well in Japan, where the genre still sells to a small but sustainable audience. Japanese adventure games tend to be dialogue heavy and focus on simple puzzles, character interaction, and branching narratives. The closest Western equivalents would be the old Infocom text adventures or graphic adventures like Myst (Ubisoft) or Escape From Monkey Island (LucasArts). The best-known Japanese adventure is the dating sim Tokimeki Memorial; mystery and horror games also top the list.

The adventure genre’s easily scripted gameplay and high-content/low-cost factor make it a favorite of smaller development houses. And now, From Software (Armored Core, Otogi for the Xbox) is making adventure-game creation possible for the masses. From’s Adventure Player software for the PSP lets you create your own adventure games. The software comes with three full adventures, with more than a dozen “mini-adventures” planned for release via download.

Most exciting about Adventure Player is ADVP Studio, the PC-based creation tool for your PSP adventures. Previous “creation games,” such as RPG Maker (Agetec), required gamers to build their games on the target system itself. This made it extremely difficult to use custom graphic and sound resources in the game and made programming and text entry cumbersome. By separating the creation platform and the gameplay platform, Adventure Player provides far more freedom than found in previous console-based creation tools. The PSP is the first console—portable or otherwise—to connect easily and freely to the PC. Imagine creating custom car decals in Photoshop or using simple XML to script events in a custom skate park. Simple and free PC connectivity is one of the PSP’s secret weapons and one that more developers should take advantage of in their second generation of game software.

EMULATION HITS THE PSP; SONY HITS BACK

When the PSP debuted, Sony proudly announced that it would never force owners to install unwanted firmware upgrades. This noble stance lasted only until hackers started running unsigned software (emulators, for example) on the 1.0 firmware, proving that it’s easy to be idealistic when profits aren’t on the line. Less than one week later, new games required a firmware upgrade before they would run. The default U.S. firmware, version 1.5, was recently compromised as well—will Sony take the same hard-line stance with its U.S. customers?

Copyright © 2005 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. Originally appearing in Official U.S. PlayStation Magazine.






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