You've worked on projects that have shipped for plenty of different platforms. What impressions about the quirks of the different consoles have stuck most in your mind? What seems to define each console most for you as a dev?
After working on each of the big platforms, here’s how I would describe each console from a development perspective:
Playstation (experience: PS2, PS3, PS4, PS Vita)
Developing on the Playstation is a lot like working on a foreign import car. You’ve seen the specs and you know it’s really powerful, but all of the documentation is in Japanese and nothing is built with standard parts. In order to actually get any of that extra power out of it, you either need to spend a huge amount of money and effort for gain that probably won’t result in bigger profits, or you skip the extra effort and the performance gain that would go with it. Trying to decipher the documentation is an exercise in frustration. Getting any kind of tech support is worse - they just haven’t seemed to put any real effort or money into communication. They try and they have been trying for years, but they’re pretty solid proof you can try really hard and still not quite accomplish your goal.
XBox (experience: Xbox, Xbox 360, Xbox One)
The Xbox is a super smooth riding 4-door sedan. They want to be the flashiest and most powerful, but usually isn’t. It suffers a bit from being the newest of the bunch, and thus doesn’t have the storied history of its competitors. However, the Xbox comes from a long line of products that put their developers at ease. They provide support for industry standard tools and all of the help and documentation you could want. Developing for them is easy and painless, and they have a solid and growing market. Unfortunately, they don’t have the numbers abroad that they do at home - especially in Asia, where it’s more of a novelty than a real choice. It’s a real shame too, because developers would love to use this platform more, just because of how easy it is to develop for.
Nintendo (experience: Gamecube, Wii)
Developing on a Nintendo platform is like trying to seat four full-sized adults and their luggage into a Mini Cooper. It looks cute on the outside, but things that would fit comfortably into a “normal” car end up uncomfortably cramped and in places that you wouldn’t expect. Nintendo doesn’t put the same level of hardware into their consoles. They make things intentionally different - so much so that it’s hard to develop or build anything that would work in other cars. A non-trivial amount of effort is spent just making things fit within technical constraints and not look or perform terribly, because their hardware is so lacking compared to their competitors. I remember the engineers on the only gamecube title I worked on having to do a lot of really wacky stuff because we kept running out of memory, including trying to store non-audio data in the special 16 megabyte audio/disc I/O buffer. We could build stuff just for the Nintendo consoles, but it costs just as much to build on it as either of the other two and there’s a lot fewer people who own them and would buy our games. Nintendo doesn’t make things easy or cheap for third party devs, and the results are often ugly looking when we attempt cross-platform development. In a world without budgets or technical constraints, it would almost certainly be fun to work on a Nintendo console and really try the weird stuff… but reality always rears its ugly head.
On this day in music history: November 10, 1967 - “Days Of Future Passed”, the second album by The Moody Blues is released (US release date is on November 11, 1967). Produced by Tony Clarke, it is recorded at Decca Recording Studios in West Hampstead, London from May - November 1967. By late 1966, The Moody Blues are at a crossroads musically and professionally after their initial success. The band go through personnel changes, and begin moving away from playing R&B and blues covers after their second proposed album “Look Out” is shelved. Thousands of pounds in debt to Decca and with their contract about to expire, comes an unlikely solution. Hugh Mendl, the head of A&R suggests that The Moodies record a rock & roll version of classical composer Antonín Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9. Mendl explains to them that the purpose of the album is to launch Decca’s newly established Deram label, and to also demonstrate the label’s new Deramic Stereo Sound (DSS) recording process. Giving them full creative control, they agree to the project. Working along side conductor Peter Knight and the London Festival Orchestra, “Days Of Future Passed” is conceived as a concept album depicting life through the course of a single day. It is a cycle of seven songs complete with orchestral interludes and spoken passages by keyboardist Mike Pinder, who also uses a Mellotron throughout for instrumental sounds and effects. Regarded as the beginnings of “progressive rock”, the mixture of lush orchestral accompaniment and psychedelic rock makes an immediate impact upon its release in the UK. However in the US, it takes considerably longer for it to find its audience and make a similar impact. Initially released as a single in January of 1968, “Nights In White Satin” fails to chart in the US. The follow up release “Tuesday Afternoon” (#24 US Pop) fares much better. “Nights” belatedly becomes a huge hit, peaking at #2 on the Hot 100 in November of 1972. The revival of that song also sends “Days” into the top five. In time, it becomes one of the definitive albums of the era. “Days” is remixed in 1978 when the masters of some songs on the original 1967 mix have deteriorated and become unusable. The year before, it is also remixed into quadraphonic stereo and released on open reel tape. It is also released as a DTS audio disc in 2001 with a 5.1 surround mix. The album is reissued numerous times over the years, being most recently remastered in 2006 as a two disc Deluxe Edition. They are hybrid SACD’s featuring the stereo and new 5.1 surround mixes on the first disc, with the second featuring mono single edits, outtakes and recordings from a BBC radio broadcasts recorded in September 1967 and January 1968. It is also reissued as 180 gram vinyl LP by Friday Music in 2012. “Days Of Future Passed” peaks at number three on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: November 20, 1971 - “There’s A Riot Goin’ On”, the fifth studio album by Sly & The Family Stone is released. Produced by Sly Stone, it is recorded at The Record Plant in Sausalito, CA, Winnebago Mobile Studio and Home Studio - 783 Bel Air Road, Los Angeles, CA from Spring 1970 - Fall 1971. With Sly & The Family Stone’s enormous success during the previous two years, mounting pressure from their record company, along with drug abuse and deteriorating relationships within the band make the recording process a long and hard one. Amid the tense and acrimonious atmosphere surrounding them, bassist Larry Graham and drummer Greg Errico both leave the band during the sessions, leaving Sly to fill in their parts by playing bass himself on many tracks, and employing the use of the then new Maestro Rhythm King drum machine. The resulting album is darker, stripped down, and funkier than previous efforts. It spins off three singles including the chart topping “Family Affair”. It goes on to become one of the most influential R&B albums of all time, also being inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1999. The album receives a long overdue remastering on CD in 2007 with four additional bonus tracks, noticeably improving upon the muddy and often noisy sounding original CD release of the album. Though with the better audio quality, the aural shortcomings of many tracks are the result of the original multi-track master tapes being repeatedly overdubbed on and erased, until the oxide has worn off. The reissue also restores the original “flag” cover artwork and photo collage on the back of the original release. Later issues of the album do away with the orginal cover artwork, instead using a cropped version of the live concert shot of Sly used on the inside of the LP gatefold. It is also reissued as a 180 gram vinyl LP by Sundazed Music, also replicating the the “newspaper headline” hype sticker found on the first pressing. "Riot" is also released a high definition hybrid SACD (Super Audio Compact Disc) by ORG Music in tandem with Sony Legacy in 2013. ORG also issues a limited edition double vinyl LP set, mastered at 45 RPM. Also in 2013, reissue label Get On Down Records releases the album as a limited edition gold CD boxed edition, featuring a hardbound book with rare photos, and an extended essay by A. Scott Galloway. “There’s A Riot Goin’ On” spends two weeks at number one on both the Billboard Top 200 and the R&B album chart, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
Stroboscopes were used to test the speed of your turntable. You’d put the disc on, shine a light on it directly, and let it spin. The radial that appeared to be perfectly still corresponded to the correct speed on your turntable.
Kirsty Young’s castaway this week is Ed Sheeran. His songs have brought him two Grammys, four Brit awards and global success. Shortly after the release of his latest album, Divide, tracks from it occupied nine of the top 10 places in the UK singles chart.
On this day in music history: March 2, 1983 - The Compact Disc makes its debut in the US. Research and development of the technology begins in 1974 when engineers from Philips Electronics of The Netherlands begin developing an optical audio disc designed to have superior audio quality and durability to the vinyl record. Two years later in 1976, Sony Electronics of Japan create their own prototype digital audio disc, with a 16 bit sampling rate of 44,056 hz per second. Philips and Sony Electronics begin working together in 1979 to design a new digital audio disc in a joint venture. The discs are five inches in diameter, are made of polycarbonite plastic and aluminum, and are etched with a binary code that when read by a laser turns the information back into an analog signal. The discs maintain the 16 bit sampling rate increased to 44,100 hz with a maximum running time of seventy four minutes. The first titles released by Polygram and CBS are a combination of classical and pop music titles. The format revolutionizes the music industry, surpassing sales of vinyl records and cassettes by 1985.
Notes: — Encore moved to end of 1st Set to fit show onto 2 Discs — Seamless transition between 2nd Set and Encore — Thanks to Paul Scotton and Joani Walker for the Cassettes — He’s Gone Deadicated To Len Bias
Set 1: d1t01 – Tuning d1t02 – Alabama Getaway -> d1t03 – The Promised Land d1t04 – Friend Of The Devil d1t05 – C C Rider d1t06 – Loser d1t07 – Desolation Row d1t08 – China Cat Sunflower -> d1t09 – I Know You Rider
Set 2: d2t01 – Tuning d2t02 – Saint Of Circumstance -> d2t03 – Gimme Some Lovin’ -> d2t04 – He’s Gone -> d2t05 – Smokestack Lightnin’ -> d2t06 – Drums -> d2t07 – Space -> d2t08 – The Other One -> d2t09 – Wharf Rat -> d2t10 – Throwing Stones d2t11 – Not Fade Away