Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Updates - Assasin's Creed, PS3 Divx, NMT

Assassin's Creed
Ubisoft finally released the Assasin's Creed patch that fixed up the freezing issues. After completing the final portion of the game using the patch, I have to say that it appears that they have removed the freezing bugs entirely. The graphical bugs are still there, but it doesn't matter so much to me anymore since I've beaten the game. It seems it doesn't have a whole bunch of replay value. I might go around and collect all the flags one day when I beat Ratchet and Clank and the new Mario game.

PS3 Firmware Update
Sony released the newest firmware for PS3 (2.10). The updates include support for the final Blu-ray specification, and a full Divx-blessed MPEG-4 implementation. I'll be doing some testing with different formats to see what all plays and what all doesn't, but I hear that basically Xvid and Divx both play from media (hard drives, CDs, etc) but that streaming Xvid doesn't work. I'll post my results.

Networked Media Tank
In other news, I was finally "invited" to order that Popcornhour NMT. In case you didn't know, because of all the demand and buzz around the device, they are are allowing customers to place orders on an invitation basis. You sign up in an invitation queue, and when its your turn you get an order invite that is good for two days. Its kind of like preordering to guarantee that you'll get the NMT eventually. So I'm excited about this device should be in sometime in January.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Assassin's Glitch

I got Assassin's Creed for PS3 even after reading the mixed reviews. All the reviews I've seen echo the same thing: repetitive gameplay. So with this in mind, I decided to go ahead and buy it anyway. I figure its about expectations: I wasn't expecting a lot of variety, so I wasn't disappointed. I'm now on the sixth assassination into the game and I am still not bored with the gameplay. Saving citizens is probably my favorite part of the missions you can complete: there is something satisfying about owning four or five guards and then walking away stealthily just in time to hear the investigating guards say "Who has done this!". And all the RPG folks who are used to getting engrossed in a story will probably have no problem with the verbosity of this title (there is a LOT of dialog). Does it have real stealth on the assassinations? I've only managed to pull off ONE truly stealth assassination so far, so I'm thinking no. Is it a hell of a lot of fun to fight and stealth kill guards, scale the rooftops, pickoff archers with throwing knives, and fly through the air for cinematic hidden blade kills? ABSOLUTELY. The game falls short in several areas, and could have been one of the most amazing titles ever. But having known what to expect a priori, this title is still really really fun.

And now the bad part, the reason for the title of this post: the game is glitchy as HELL. And on multiple levels. For example, there are blatant graphical bugs, like people and smaller details like pots and boxes being drawn-in off in the distance. I even once had a guy draw in about three feet in front of my eyes. Aside from the intermittent framerate drops that last for a second or two, after one assassination as I was running back to headquarters, the framerate dropped to about 10 fps or less (no lie) and stayed that way. It was unplayable. And I don't mean for 5 or 6 seconds: it was several minutes. There was no more guard action or chasing, I had cleared the alert, etc. and it still lagged.

And these graphical glitches are the upside. When I next entered headquarters to complete the assassination in 10fps mode, it froze on the next load screen. I rebooted (luckily it had saved the assassination) and tried to leave for the next city. The load screen froze again while riding my horse out of town. All told the game froze about 4 times on Saturday, and twice yesterday. They are always slightly different too:
  1. The load screen where Altair can walk around never goes away. I was gone for half an hour, and when I came back it was still "loading".
  2. White "fast forwarding" screen freezes, but you can walk around "underneath" the white screen. It was frozen like this for minutes, but I could run and climb and hear myself doing these things from the audio.
  3. During a pickpocket while I was locked onto a guy, all he characters including myself stop moving and I can't pause the game, but the camera can still be controlled.
  4. Straight up freeze in game.
Basically, it seems to me that I get one freeze that requires a reboot once every 1.5-2 hours of continuous gameplay. When I notice this sort of mean time before crashes and freezing of software, I immediately think "memory leaks". Its the same reason that Firefox 1.x is pretty much guaranteed to crash if you use it without quitting it for 3-4 hours. You'd think that the developers MIGHT think to run some sort of primitive memtest or profiler on some real gameplay scenarios. It appears to me that they didn't. There is word from Ubisoft that they will be releasing a patch addressing these issues. Let's hope that it doesn't take TOO long to come out. All told though, this game is still striking me as so damn fun that I don't really care.