Tuesday, November 17, 2009

pure wipeout

this past weekend i had a chance to tackle a project that had been sitting on the bottom of my priority list for a few years: recording video from my playstation portable.

while i don't spent a lot of time with games (and the device was a gift), there is one game that i've played at least once almost every day for the last four years. wipeout pure is perfect for someone who feels a little guilty anytime they're not doing something productive. it's a racing game with no learning curve and even simpler controls: left, right, thrust, use weapon, absorb weapon (recharge energy) and reverse camera (look behind). weapons and speed bursts are picked up from special pads on the track. each race consists of up to five laps of about thirty seconds each, making the game perfect for playing while waiting for my computer to finish presumably more important tasks.

unfortunately, while it supports video, there's no way to record activity on the psp and even though the latest model now sports a video-out port, the new port only supports hdtv monitors, and according to reports, does so poorly for games. i don't have an hdtv and it's been several years since i've turned on a tv anyway. (who needs to when you can get the highlights online?)

so, two quick trips to home depot and about an hour of tinkering produced this contraption:


it's cobbled from four corner braces, a length of pre-punched metal sawn into three pieces, and a bunch of nuts, bolts and washers. a somewhat rickety affair, but it doesn't have to hold more than 20 ounces while resting on my lap and belly. despite now having to play at a distance, the only thing that took getting used to was playing the psp without its custom case:

the psp is not for the ham-handed, but logitech's playGear pocket clear transparent hardcase (which i affectionately dubbed "the casket" and into whose upper inner liner i cut a "glory hole", shown above, for displaying the screen while closed) gives you more to hold onto and more room for your thumbs, which results in a more natural grip. playing games without it always feels cramped.

what follows is one lap around "sol 2", a 4400m racetrack suspended 30,000ft among sun-splashed clouds and air traffic. the video quality does no justice to either the psp's famous crisp bright screen or wipeout's world-class game environment and special effects. the action recorded includes a "quake" weapon (a devastating wave of destruction), rockets, mines and a bomb dropped in my face. (the soundtrack is my own substitution. in fact, i always play with the audio off.)


but the real reason behind recording wipeout was to capture for posterity a little move i discovered on the sol 2 track. wipeout doesn't give the player any opportunity to move beyond the track, but i found a way to push the upper envelope just a little, with some help from the "booster" weapon.

unlike most of wipeout's 16 tracks, sol 2 is unwalled for part of its length, right before a steep drop-off. the only small bit of retaining wall in that section is sloped, presenting the racer with a tempting small ramp. firing up a "booster" while racing up the wall will send you sailing high above the track and the other racers:


oops. unfortunately, using the retaining wall itself as a ramp is often a mistake; it can send you into the clouds nose-up and sky-blind, unable to see where to land if you don't sail past the upper bounds of the track into oblivion. (actually, contrary to my melodramatic editing, leaving the track is not fatal; your ship is merely returned to the spot where it was three seconds prior, penalizing you that time.)

experience taught me to aim instead for the space between the ramp and the guy wire. (the space on the opposite side of the guy wire, out on the "wing" structure, will also work, but you're now skirting the outer bounds of the track.)


here's another vault, with a quick peek behind us at the top of our leap:


remember folks, you saw it here first!

1 comment:

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