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So, here is what happened: I got an Xbox 360 as a gift for Christmas. I had requested it as a gift because I knew that to purchase it on my own would mean a few months of saving; something I’m not good at. I’ve got student loans to pay and blow to snort; there’s just no room for savings in my life. I appreciated the gift and received it with the grace of Ernest Borgnine; but, in the back of my head I braced myself for the added expense of having to buy at least one new game a month. (I don’t rent; renting is un-American; I like to own my media.) Now, if Christmas came every month, or if I lived below the Mason-Dixon line, (which comes to the same thing) I’d be set. I could ask people to buy me 360 games for the monthly Christmas. But, no such luck. And so, I readjusted my budget to absorb the extra $60.00 or so every month. I was set…

…or so the Hypno-Toad would have me believe.

I plugged the shiny Xbox 360 into my 21 inch TV and holy shit did it blow goats.

Backtrack time: I’ve had my 21inch Toshiba TV with a built in VCR since my freshmen year of college. Obviously it is not HD. Still, it has served me splendidly through the years. After I got my PS2 it also got the much needed addition of a component that I understand kids these days like to call: the “DVD” player. Whatever the kids call it in their jive talk, it allowed me to watch movies and play games. I had a set up. Sure there were times I wished I had a bigger TV but those were just dreams of a man on the edge of insanity. I wanted a bigger screen but I did not need it.

Fast forward to now: the want has turned into a need – forcibly.

Does she come with the TV?

This is something I had no warning about. There was no sign on the box saying: “you must have a sizable HDTV at your house to validate the purchase of the product.” I knew that it was HD compatible but that is a far cry from: “must have a huge HDTV or the product is rendered virtually useless.” No one had mentioned this to me. I did not get a postcard or a fax; I did not even get a text message with alternating capitalized and lowercase letters. I had to find out through bitter experience that next-gen consoles (with the possible exception of the Wii) need, ney require, big screen HDTV’s. I could not see a damn thing on my 21 incher. The set up that had served me admirably through my affair with the PS2 was proving wholly inadequate in handling the ‘extreme!!!’ nature of the 360. I don’t mean that I could not see characters or environments. I mean the dialogue subtitles and the interfaces of all the next-gen games were literally indiscernible. It had nothing to do with sharpness; the damn things were just too small.

I tried to play Assassins Creed, Mass Effect and Oblivion and after about half an hour into each of those games I was more frustrated then Wilt Chamberlain on a Lesbian cruise. I could not see any written designators; I did not know what any sections of the interface achieved; I could not read the dialogue; and sometimes I could not see the enemies until they came to me in a dream later that night. At first I tried to deal with this by placing the TV on my chest so that the screen would be 3 inches from my face. But after my chest caved in and my eyes started to bleed I had to give up on that solution. For a while I thought there was an issue with the console, but then I played some Xbox games on it (KotOR 2, Jade Empire) and those were fine in terms of visibility. (Although, I had played those games before and I was already familiar with their interfaces and game play mechanics. Someone new to those games may have strained their retinas as much as I did with the new games.)

Does he come with the TV?

So, it seems to me that the design of the nex-gen games specifically, presupposes that you will have an HD jumbotron in your house that will render those tiny letters and equipment screen components in a discernable size. This suspicion was confirmed when I transported my fun box to my lady-love’s abode and plugged it into her 48-inch-I-want-to-have-babies-with-it-HD-flat-screen-TV. All glory to the Hypno-Toad! Here, finally, I was doing next-gen the way it was supposed to be done.

The problem of course is that now my 360 sits at my honey-munchkins place and I only play it when I’m at her domicile. Why? Because I can’t fucking afford to buy an HDTV with the dimensions of Barry Bonds’ head. I could not afford to buy the console to begin with remember?! And a decent TV that would do it right would cost twice as much.

I say all this not as a pure rant but as a warning to those like me who live normal lives with normal sized non-HD television sets who might be thinking about spending the last of their barely scraped up dough on a next-gen system. Unfortunately, next-gen developers do not go out of their way to ensure that regular TV users can play their games. I’m not expecting the same quality as I would get in high definition but I do expect for my game to be playable. So, be aware folks. There is a catch when buying into the next-gen dream. And unlike my penis, that catch is at least 38 inches long and comes in HD.

Do they come with the TV?

17 Comments

  1. Tyson said on January 26, 2008:

    I hear ya, it is pretty much pointless to own a next gen system unless you have a decent television to go with it. Now having said that, I think Microsoft and Sony are pretty certain that if someone is going to drop $400-500 on a machine to play games, that those people can probably afford the hidden costs that come with each system. Good wires, extra controllers, a Live membership, etc. Seeing that you got the system as a gift, I can understand the gripe though.

    The new systems need a price tag that reads something like this:

    Xbox 360 Elite
    $500.00*

    *Prepare to drop another $500 to make the system work like it should.

  2. Stefan said on January 26, 2008:

    To confirm what you were suspecting about the Wii, it’s a totally non-HD system, offering standard def either in interlaced or progressive scan. I have no complaints running it on a 19″ screen day to day (although that’s in part because my place is small enough that you can’t sit very far away)

    The flip side to this is that I have heard people complain when they hook the Wii up to the gigantic 12,482,520p HD displays…it really is a matter of matching the console output to the display device’s resolution, because anything else requires scaling of the image. When you scale down, you have to interpolate, which at the very best blurs things slightly and causes loss of detail. Scaling up causes severe aliasing, which can be minimized in a few ways, but those also tend to blur edges and reduce crispness.

  3. Stefan said on January 26, 2008:

    And when I say “console output” I should really have said “rendered image”, since I believe both the 360 and PS3 scale in-system before outputting the image in composite.

  4. jay said on January 26, 2008:

    Tyson, a Neo Geo or 3DO or even a $400 Saturn, $300 PS1, or $320 Atari 5200 (which were relatively more expensive back then with inflation), only required standard old TVs. There is the assumption that everyone knows this is NEXT GEN and HD because we are gamers and pay too much attention to this. Shota along with I’d guess millions of others simply love games but don’t pay much attention to the technology portion of the hobby. If MS and Sony think it’s so obvious you’d have all the proper gear they should stick a little thing on the side of the box declaring it.

  5. Shota said on January 28, 2008:

    Jayson is right on the money. When I think about a system my first and often only concern or rather point of interest is about the games that come on it. I never think about the peripherals – ‘ooh, wireless controllers, sexy skins’ – or even the mind blowing technology that you can find inside – ‘oh, this console has X amount of processing power, and is HD compatible.’ And I want to defend this attitude. I’d even venture a guess that most people are in my position; or maybe it’s just my secret wish that people should care more about the actual games rather than if the console plays blu-gay discs and has such high quality of resolution in HD that you can easily construct an elaborate fantasy about being fellated by your favorite video game character. (Mine’s the blue chick from Mass Effect)

    My main point is: It’s fine to have HD be the “proper” way do next gen, but it should not be the only way. And Tyson, while I think you are right, I also think the fact that

    “Microsoft and Sony are pretty certain that if someone is going to drop $400-500 on a machine to play games, that those people can probably afford the hidden costs that come with each system”

    is terrible. Screw them for that assumption. A lot of us care enough about gaming to buy their system with our last dollar and when the hidden costs virtually triple that price well that’s liable to stick in anyone’s craw.

  6. Christian said on January 28, 2008:

    Companies have assumed gamers are way ahead of the times when it comes to gaming displays since the beginning. I used R/F switches up to and through the Dreamcast days. I just started using component cables for my PS2 last year. I have always had to go out of my way to get things working best for me, and it always did drive me nuts.

  7. Matt said on January 28, 2008:

    This indeed does suck. I am one of the lucky ones however, having an HD set before I even got one next gen system. Remember the whole “text is illegible in Dead Rising” thing? Yeah, that would suck major balls. Wouldn’t there have to be a new font system or something to correct this issue though? It’s like you can have HD graphics (with shit fonts for SDef), or SD graphics with good text, not both. It may be too much of a hassle for Msoft, one where they don’t see much of a return on. And it may be an issue of “Well, HD demand is rising, let’s focus on that and be ready for the future.”

  8. pat said on January 28, 2008:

    i would like to add my voice to shota’s and say that i know nothing about technology and really don’t care all that much, but that i do care about games.

    incidentally, i think this is why i play far more console games than pc games.

  9. Christian said on January 28, 2008:

    question – does anyone know if these font issues and whatnot are prevalent in PS3 games that are played on a Standard Def TV? The answer would create different scenarios

    1) if yes, then Sony are fucking retarded for not including component cables with their purpoted “True HD capable” console.

    2) if no, then they somehow managed to create something that is also Standard Def. friendly, and Microsoft more than anyone is alienating consumers the fastest.

  10. Stefan said on January 28, 2008:

    I’ll chime in as someone who does understand the technology at least somewhat, but who still can’t use HD because I run all my systems out to a computer monitor. Sure, it can support HD resolutions, refresh rates, and vidoe signals…it has been able to for ages now, but because everyone in the games industry just can’t get enough DRM, next-gen consoles won’t output HD to it.

    Even with the proper converters, my ps3 just blacks out the screen to punish me for not using “official” HDCP-enabled HD. (Which not all HDTVs are, and only 2 really expensive monitors support – they sure didn’t advertise that limitation before I got it either) To access X on my PS3, for instance, I have to boot it up and login using composite video, then launch a VNC server and effectively route video over the ethernet to another box on my local network, since I can’t just use the high-resolution output built into the box.

    So despite my knowledge of the technology being passable, I’m left in Shota’s camp, where I can’t use the whiz-bang new features of the next gen consoles without dropping more money than I have free at the moment, or would want to spend even if I had it.

  11. Matt said on January 28, 2008:

    Not to be a douche (still ending up being one anyway), but most retailers do have finance plans. I got my HDTV from Sears for $30 a month (cost $1,000).

  12. Shota said on January 29, 2008:

    Matt, I’ll join you in your debatable douchebaggery and say that the best deal I’ve found is at COSTCO – a 38″ LCD flat screen Visio TV for $600.00. I’m a big fan of COSTCO for the way they treat their employers and was happy to see this deal there. I’d rather save up over 2 or three months and get that than be slowly paying for my TV over the course of a couple years, but that’s just a personal preference.

  13. TrueTallus said on January 31, 2008:

    I’m also with the throng of Shota assenters on this. I’m in a remarkably similar boat (though I actually did save up to buy the thing instead of being gifted with it) and I can’t help but be frustrated at the whole range of options available to me.

    I could keep playing on the TV I have (state of the art back in ’92) but I’m starting to think all the eyestrain I get trying to read conversation options in Mass Effect isn’t normal. Unfortunately, my understanding of the actual technology side of things is so limited that I’m not even sure what kind of TV to buy if I DID decide to go out and max out a credit card. Stefan’s last comment left me huddled in a corner with my eyes glazed over- like Pat I avoided the pc for JUST THIS REASON. Back in my day we didn’t have all this cord learnin’ and output learnin’.

    Anyone have any reputable links to help someone desperately ignorant come away from their forthcoming HD shopping experience satisfied?

  14. Christian said on January 31, 2008:

    I understand Stefan’s post because its all nice computer jargon.

    I know enough about HDTV’s to say this; First too many types of models, which confuses people. Second, I don’t like what they push. I hear CRT HD’s offer some of the best picture, but are massive. I used to find ghosting to be horrible on old LCD’s and the current ones still don’t have the rich tones of black that I like on a CRT display. Yet these are what are pushed more than anything (light, thin and sexy don’t factor into my mind when making a purchase like this). Third, the technology evolves too much. I’m sure many people bought 720p displays right before 1080 enabled sets became feasible. I think sometime soon, when 1080p becomes more than an exotic item, I’ll settle for something and replace the dying HD my roomate has in our house. That, or get a plasma screen and have everyone laugh at me.

  15. Billy said on January 31, 2008:

    Im going to sound like an a-hole… but who the hell still uses a non-HD television these days? They’re not nearly as expensive as some people think. You can pick one up for 4 or 5 hundred dollars from WalMart if you want to. I mean… HD has been out for a while now, its not exactly brand new. Its like those people who clung to using VCRs a few years into DVDs life began. As if the 1000s of small video rental outfits who weren’t prepared for the change going out of business wasn’t clue enough. X_X

  16. jay said on January 31, 2008:

    According to a nine month old study, 72% of Americans. You’re approaching the question from a tech savvy perspective. The question the majority of Americans are asking is why buy a replacement for something that works?

    I’m not saying gamers shouldn’t buy an HD set, just defending the idea that you don’t need to be the Unibomber to not have one already.

  17. Tyson said on February 1, 2008:

    Shota, stay away from those Visio televisions, they are not the greatest quality-wise. I have seen a lot of them get returned over the years when I was at Costco. Right now, I am going to say that the Sharp Aquos line is probably my favorite television out there and plan on picking one up as soon I am am financially stable.

    And everyone, I am not dead, I have just been way to into my new 360 Elite to write anything. A full article on my experience is coming soon.

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