Halo Infinite: Death or Revival?

After taking a couple of weeks to allow the gameplay reveal of Halo Infinite to simmer in my thoughts, I confidentially can say I’m excited about what I have observed. However, not without a certain degree of reservations. Expectations are sky high, and the internet is ablaze with memes of Craig the Brute, but the real question is where does the flagship title for the next generation of Xbox go from here?

In truth, the next generation of Xbox is more GamePass than it is Series X. And Halo becoming a live service, or a platform that will be continually updated over a ten year period, fits in with a GamePass oriented future. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing either. The lore of Halo is rich and expansive, and the fact that Infinite begins on Zeta Halo delights my inner child to no end.

My main concern here is the rating: please let it be Mature as opposed to Teen. Considering this is the home of the palace of pain, Mendicant Bias, and the Primordial, not to mention a simultaneous war against the Banished and Cortana-led Prometheans (honestly, I think she’s been corrupted by the Flood). Will the precursors return? Will the flood invade from the far reaches of space? What of Atriox? So yeah, this is some rich soil for story to be grown over a prolonged period of time.

I adored the gameplay they showed off on July 23. I really did. It felt far more like Halo than Halo 4 or 5. I dig the grappling hook and the drop shield. I also thought the interaction between the pilot and Master Chief was well crafted. The AI appeared solid, and this Escharum figure got my blood pumping. Halo Infinite is hitting the right notes so far in regards to story and gameplay, two of my key ingredients in developing a good game. It’s a solid foundation to build on.

Also, the multiplayer going free-to-play doesn’t bother me. I’m hearing rumors of a Battle Royale mode being added, and as long as they include classic modes the series is famous for, this should fit in just fine. Going free should, in theory, create the largest player base in the history of Halo. Will there be Mircotransactions? Possibly. I saw a rumor of a Battle Pass and I’m not overly worried about it. I’ve also heard if you buy the physical copy of the game you won’t have to buy a battle pass. While this is unclear, a 120FPS multiplayer Halo packed with all the goodies the series is known for, plus a battle royale mode and the largest player base in history, leaves me satisfied for now.

Last bit of the good feels: knowing story expansions will be free also makes me happy. Not to mention this is a OPEN WORLD Halo game with RPG elements. Yes, please. New weapons? Check. Will there be new vehicles? Dual wielding? Assassinations? Space combat? Different worlds to explore? An entire ring to transverse? The musical score is already shaping up nicely. Honestly, I feel the negativity online towards this game thus far has been misplaced to a large degree. Plus, give me more Craig! And on a side note, I’ve heard rumblings that Forge is going to be epic.

Ok, now on to the negative. The graphics, while colorful and definitely a call back to CE, were still flat. There was no ray tracing (and apparently this will be an add-on? Needs to be day one). I did see some improvement between the gameplay reveal and the trailer they released right after. Still, a lot of work needs to be done. And the sound from the weapons also left me underwhelmed. My gut feeling is a lot of this will be fixed over time after the game is released. I think this is a mistake. This title should be a graphical powerhouse. It doesn’t have to wow in the “realism” factor, but it needs to be the best looking Halo ever, while keeping in line with the series art style. I feel like I’d be beating a dead horse if I continue on this line of thought, but seriously, 343, you have a $500 million budget. Improve the visuals.

Losing two legacy weapons, the magnum and shotgun, is unacceptable. I like the idea of customizing weapons and introducing new variants, but don’t remove legacy weapons. They are staples of the franchise. Include them.

The gameplay area they decided to present, underwhelmed. It felt lackluster when taken in the context of: here’s the next evolution of the biggest franchise on Xbox. The pop-ins were concerning. The fact that this was the most “stable” demo the game has thus far is concerning. Will it be released with bugs? Memories of the MCC launch come to the forefront of my mind. Will this launch be drenched with glitches and broken elements? Will the game be delayed?

Overall, I tend to lean more on the positive side of things. I am optimistic regarding Halo Infinite. I have faith that 343 is doing all in its power to do the series justice. Microsoft has essentially granted them a blank check, giving them all the financial backing they need to be a success. I would love to see destructible environments, the ability to create missions in Forge, and a more in-depth melee system. I’m also still waiting for the day I can take out an enemy base, jump into a starship, fly into orbit, engage in space combat, land on an enemy ship, blow up the enemy ship, and head back down to the enemy base where I get shot down and parachute onto an enemy tank in the middle of a massive ground conflict. Am I dreaming? Maybe. But isn’t that what next-gen console launches are supposed to do? To cause you to dream about the possibilities? To imagine the limits that will be pushed? Here’s hoping that Halo Infinite is everything it needs to be and should be.

Xbox July 2020 Showcase

The oddness of this next gen transition cannot be overstated. Some of it has to do with the wild circumstances we find ourselves living in: pandemic, protests, unhinged politicians, and rising global tensions. Few of us go untouched by it. Additionally, Sony and Microsoft have completely different marketing strategies. It’s mind blowing how different they are. Meanwhile, Nintendo must have taken a vow of silence, choosing to stay mum on just about everything. It’s frustrating sometimes.

The Ubisoft event a couple weeks ago proved to be a letdown. The Nintendo Direct earlier this week delivered plenty of meh. That Sony Conference last month? Ok. Not bad. Nothing heart stopping. The Xbox May Conference showed some low budget titles, but nothing spectacular. The July 2020 Xbox Showcase? Solid. 8 out of 10 even. Still, nothing jaw-dropping. Nothing screaming next gen. Where is the game justifying the purchase of these next gen systems?

The half a dozen trailers presented in the pre-show accomplished a glimmer of hope. After all, they had some solid surprises with standouts like Hello Neighbor 2 and Balan Wonderworld. And the main event itself offered a refreshing splash of diversity with a multitude of genres being touched upon. But if it failed in one arena, it would be the obvious lack of gameplay.

Halo Infinite opened the show and the gameplay blew me away. I actually loved what I saw. Upon closer examination, I was a bit disappointed in the texture pop-ins, and the graphical detail (not to mention the lack of Ray Tracing). Everything else though felt like classic Halo, only smoother and bigger. The trailer they threw up after the event did a better job of getting me pumped up for the release. Overall, I’m satisfied with what I saw and am not overly worried about 343 touching up the game before release. But exactly how has this game taken advantage of being on the Xbox Series X as opposed to the Xbox One? I don’t know.

After that opening, the rest of the games didn’t bother with extensive gameplay demos. Hellblade 2 is getting inspiration from Iceland. That’s it. No other update. Forza looks like a 2022 title. And while Avowed and Fable were two of my favorite reveals, I’m going to assume 2022-2023 release windows for both. No gameplay teaser.

State of Decay 3 looked terrifying, but again, another short trailer. The Medium looks good. I liked most of the games they showed, to be fair. However, not once did my jaw hit the floor. Not once did I stop and exclaim this to be a next gen revelation. And I left what should have been an eye opening showcase, perhaps the most important showcase in Xbox history, feeling the show was just solid. Not great. Not excellent. Not revolutionary. Solid.

From my understanding, Xbox held a lot back. Time will tell if this strategy pays off. Banjo? Perfect Dark? Elder Ring? Apparently Xbox wants to counter the Sony event taking place on August 6. At this point, will either of these companies rise up and show us what next gen gaming is truly capable of? Will they stop trying to outwit and out maneuver one another long enough to impress the masses? Right now, neither system has convinced me a purchase is warranted. Maybe that’s something they need to keep in mind.

Let me end on a brighter note. Listen, the pro-consumer things that Microsoft is doing are incredible. Xbox Game Pass is the best deal in gaming. All gamers should support it. Xbox Live appears to be going free. Smart Delivery is awesome. The backwards compatibility (that includes an uptick in graphics and frame rate) is exciting. Seriously, I wish Nintendo and Sony would take note. Xbox is doing a ton of things right. They’re listening to fan feedback. They interact with their fans! They also have games now. All they need to do is show off that killer app, that God of War level tease. That’s all I’m asking for.

Quick Goodbye, A New Hello

When I first set out to build a social media platform, I did so with the intention to simply have fun. Yes, I realized the pressure put on young writers to have a massive online presence. (By the way, this is completely wrong – social media presence is not as valuable as you might think). Indeed, it was one thing impressed upon me during my one year studying professional writing at Taylor University. I’ll never forget my first writing conference either. However, I never wanted to take social media too seriously, nor did I want it to become a massive time sink. It was a tool, and outlet, and no more.

If 2020 has shown me anything, it’s centered me on the things that really matter. I’ve drawn closer to God, I’ve dug deep into a foundation firm in truth, enjoyed valuable time with my family, and spent a good chunk of my days considering my future: dreams, goals, and plans. I also watched a good many people, for lack of better words, go crazy. Social media became a roller coaster descending deeper and deeper down into madness.

There was no room for fun. No, not anymore. Jokes were forbidden. Free thought, frowned upon. No room to agree to disagree. Think as I think or else. Like the wrong tweet, follow the wrong person, or believe the wrong thing, and you’re canceled. Not a good option for someone as absent-minded as myself. And they don’t just cancel your social media. They come for your job, your home, and even your family. I watched people I knew get sucked in, becoming shadows of what they once were. I then watched as others I knew were consumed right before my eyes and there was nothing I could do to stop it.

Dramatic? Maybe. I’ve witnessed a generation arise with itching ears and a desire to do good, but who lack a foundation of truth. Lines are draw in the sand with no room for unity, for compromise, for common decency or for love. Those who profess to be experts but lack practical experience. Who theorize upon couches but can’t be bothered to get their boots dirty in the trenches. They think, but only what their party tells them too or what the mob dictates. Problem solving? No. Critical thinking? No. Full of words, but no substance. Full of morality but no morals. And everyone is at each other’s throats, as if at war, and no one is slowing down to just take a breath…and breathe.

So, to that, I say my quick goodbye. A quick goodbye to Twitter, to my author page on Facebook, and to the vast swath of social media I built the last three years. I reached around 80k people a week. Not bad. Could be better. But it wasn’t on my terms. I didn’t control the narrative. Instead, people can take what you say and make it sound like whatever they want and that’s not for me.

So, as I consider whether I will keep my personal Facebook and Instagram, the last remnants of social media outside of YouTube and my website, I’m relieved. A giant weight falls off my shoulders. The stress melts away. My time is freed for school, work, writing, guitar playing, martial arts, church and family. This website is a wonderful outlet for building something as I see to it. Gradually, but steadily. Without censorship. Just with a freedom to create.

I’m super stoked about writing projects in the works. I have massive opportunities opening up for me, career wise, while my family continues to grow. The world may be on fire, but I won’t be burnt. I’m not going to live a life in fear. Instead, just love.

I want to encourage others. To write the good stories. To tell the tales I have always wanted to explore. And I’m doing so in pursuit of the God who loved me so much he died for me, in my place. I don’t know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future. And I know who has a hold of me. And so, this is my new hello. Welcome to new beginnings. Feel free to stick around. It’s going to be a wild ride.

Insightful Gaming: PS5 Reveal!

No e3? No problem. The Sony Reveal Event delivered one of the best “directs” to date, and led me to wonder if e3 will even be necessary in 2021.

First, the design. I hate it. I love the fact there are two skus, a disc and disc-less option, but the thing looks like Alienware made a router – futuristic and wacky. No price. No release date. And I’m still curious about how loud the thing is going to be. At least the controller is slick.

So, disappointing design aside, the games are where it’s at. And Sony delivered. Spiderman: Miles Morales. Horizon Zero Dawn 2. Resident Evil 8. Ratchet and Clank. Kena. Pragmatic. Twenty-five in all. Anything mind-blowing? No. But enough great games to elicit a genuine sense of glee in me. I enjoyed what I saw. The games looked fun. Partially because they actually showed gameplay. Partially because they showed a bunch of games exclusive to the PS5. And the rest because I’m finally excited about next generation gaming in the fall.

After being on the receiving end of a one-sided fist fight for the better part of a year, Sony has captured the momentum for the next generation. They got the games, while hinting we haven’t seen everything yet. Xbox has the bigger beast, the better online service, and a Game Pass with no equal. Their backwards compatibility is ahead of the curve, and they have an ace in their sleeve by the name of Phil Spencer. But can they answer with a gaming showpiece in July? Only time will tell. For now, consider this as Sony’s way of saying, “Rumors of our demise were greatly exaggerated.”

Author Talk: Writing Update!

Finally. I can share some big updates on several projects:

1. I have four manga/comic projects in development with the following codenames: Vehemence, Eliam, Nebula and Fallen. At one time, I was preparing to do my own manga studio. But then Vehemence got a publisher. And then Covid-19 hit and that transformed the comics industry.

So the publisher is now working on creating what would essentially be the American equivalent of Shonen Jump, albeit with some modern twists and more pop-culture coverage. I don’t have full details yet, but all of my manga projects are tied to it. I also will be involved as a staff writer, conducting interviews and maybe writing articles. From what I gather at this point, it would involve work from indie creators all over the world. Hope to have more details soon.

2. I am in talks to join a very unique podcast. It’s a choose your own adventure storytelling series. I am super stoked about this. It has such a fun premise and comes from the team who produced the award nominated Strangers and Aliens podcast.

3. My novel, A Grim Awakening, is coming along really well. Little by little, each day. I intend to have it finished by the end of 2020. This does push Sugar Coated, Singularity, and other novel projects into next year.

4. Busy summer: school, Tableau workshop, Salesforce Admin workshop, SQL, Python, Advanced Excel, black belt test for Kenpo, and PI exam. Whew. I didn’t even mention guitar and getting back into the gym. One day at a time, gang. One day at a time.

So that about wraps up current news. I am super stoked about everything. I cannot wait to show you some art work, and reveal names and all the people I am working with. They are super cool. It would take something this awesome to return me to journalism like work (Infuze was 14 years ago). But this is special. Really special. More info to follow, so stay tuned.

Spolight: An Analyst Prospective

I have not been given the prestige title of “Influencer” or “Twitter Expert.” What I do have is 13,000 investigative hours over a seven year period. As an All Source Analyst, who works as a private investigator on insurance claims and with law firms and insurance companies, I’ve specialized in intelligence, investigations, and data. I may not have a blue check mark, but I have worked a legal case…or two, or a thousand or so.

It frustrates me to no end witnessing this movement of “I feel it so it must be true.” If your morality is based upon feelings than your foundation is nothing more than sand. You lack an anchor, and are driven to and fro, just wherever the wind takes you. And when it comes to a court of law, your expression of outage and virtue signaling is meaningless. If not outright harmful.

What I want is justice. No one should have to be in fear of a police officer. Not now. Not ever. And what we all observed in that video of George Floyd being killed was horrific. But, yes, but, what is happening may sink his chances of having justice. And this makes me angry.

Issue: the case was racially motivated. Many seem to forget that in America, you are innocent until proven guilty. And it takes more than an accusation to make a charge stick. But Floyd was black and Chauvin was white! Yes. And? What does that prove? What evidence do you have to prove that Chauvin was racist? Police officers are notorious for not having a strong social media presence. I checked. He already scrubbed his. The fake accounts some of you have made will not help investigators. So what proof do you have that this was a racially motivated murder?

There was a lot of diversity among the officers on the scene. I did not hear any racial slurs during the video. Did I miss something? In a review of the footage, I see a proud, arrogant man kneeling on the neck of an “opponent” he had subdued. It was wrong, disturbing, and a disgusting display of pride. But racist? Can you prove it?

Then take into account that Chauvin was married to an immigrant from Thailand. A little research suggests her longtime friend was a director of diversity. He worked among a diverse crew of officers. Remember, on a jury of 12, the DA must convince them all. The defense only has to sow the seed of doubt into the mind of 1.

Issue: the elevation to 2nd degree murder may have sunk the case. And for those petitioning for 1st degree: stop. 1st degree murder implies Chauvin premeditated the killing. So, he knew Floyd would attempt to use a counterfeit bill? That a clerk would call the cops on him? And it would be during his beat? I want Chauvin to do time, not walk free.

Chauvin and Floyd worked together! Ok, and? I worked security at a massive retail store in the heart of one of the biggest cities in the country at one time. They regularly had police officers work a shift. I hung out with one of them. The rest of the security guys didn’t. Working security shifts (Floyd worked inside, Chauvin worked outside) does not prove 1st degree, premeditated murder. Did Chauvin stalk Floyd? Did he threaten him? Did he have a wall in his house dedicated to display his hate of Floyd? No? Then 1st degree won’t stick.

2nd degree doesn’t have a great chance either. Besides the police being protected by a powerful union that can afford incredible attorneys, 2nd degree means you must prove intent. Did Chauvin intend to kill Floyd? Can you prove it? Intention means motivation and inner thoughts. So where is your proof? Did Chauvin say it? Oh he mocked Floyd. But did he say he intended to kill him?

The “throat on neck” is a terrible submission technique. It tells me police officers need better martial arts training. However, this technique appears to be popular. I already witnessed another officer doing it to someone on video in the past week. Only the person didn’t die. If Chauvin can show it was a typical thing he did to a suspect resisting arrest, it will disprove intent to kill. Is it excessive? Yes. Is it an abuse of power? Yes. Is is poor training? Yes. Is it intent to murder? Do you think it will stick with a jury?

3rd degree murder was a perfect fit. It seemed likely and easily provable. But 2nd degree? 1st degree? The chances of an acquittal just rose significantly.

Issue: but we have video. Meaningless. I’ve done cases with hours and hours of footage. It meant nothing to the jury. There are juries that have been more impacted by an episode of CSI than actual evidence shown during trail. What has a greater impact? Probably the rioting and looting. Probably all the toxic craziness on social media. And, probably the character of Floyd. The defense will use this. The felony assault of a pregnant woman? Yep. The porn career? Yep. The use of a counterfeit bill? Yep. They will paint him as a dangerous subject. They have testimony the officers struggled for 10 minutes to get him into the vehicle. This will impact the jury.

The preliminary reports of the autopsy are out, but it will be a few weeks before the full report are ready. I’ve read hundreds of them. Right now we are hearing reports of drugs in his system, evidence of covid-19, and that he had a heart condition. If true, the defense will hire an expert to expound on these points. They only have to plant a seed of doubt in 1. That’s it.

There’s a conspiracy! A cover-up! You need to get used to the word allegedly. You need to prove allegations before you start flinging that term around. It works in political theater, but not in a court of law. It doesn’t help the case. I want justice. I don’t care about virtue signaling. I care that a man died over a fake $20 bill. I’m mad that a cop sat on his neck mocking the man as he died. But, did the cop know he was dying? Did the cop have enough justification to believe that Floyd was lying? Floyd was a big man. He had struggled for 10 minutes. Is this enough to create doubt in the minds of a jury?

Issue, the main issue: real change. We need unity. We need a foundation of truth that is built upon a rock that doesn’t blow away like sand. We need better trained officers and reforms to come to our local law enforcement agencies. We also need to remember that cops are people too. We need to eliminate racism wherever we find it, standing for truth and justice. We need to vote. To pray. To repent.

The upcoming court case will not be easy. I’ve worked on cases against police officers. They are not easy. You need to have an airtight case. Even then it might not be enough. And when the stakes are this high, you can’t afford to be wrong. But maybe the DA is just that good? I don’t know.

Well, those are my two cents as an analyst. If I were working this case, I’d work from the angle that Chauvin was a power mad cop who let his abuse of office get to his head. He’d committed more than a dozen abusive acts and nothing happened. He felt untouchable. He put himself above the law and violated his oath to office. He killed a man. So my research would be to prove this. To prove he was a prideful, violent, arrogant police officer.

This case could be used a centerpiece for driving reform in police departments across the country. A deep background on the officers may uncover a nugget or two. It only takes a single bread crumb to break a case wide open. So support whoever the investigators are working this case. And may justice be served.

One more issue: the other officers aided and abetted the murder. Did they? Does standing around constitute that? Again, feelings don’t matter. Did they fail to perform their function to serve and protect? Yes. But were they knowingly assisting in the murder of a man? Can you prove it beyond the shadow of doubt?

It won’t be easy. The peaceful protests do work. But don’t let it end there. Take action. Vote. Unite. Seek peace. Cry for justice. Make a difference. And don’t sink this case.

Spotlight – Tragedy Produces Crime

Liability cases can be tricky. Worked on a case once that turned from a AOE/COE into a subrogation once we uncovered the cause of death was a faulty support system installed by a 3rd party. Sadly, the death occurred just before Christmas. Another case involved a man who sued a major car maker because their car caught fire due to the man’s DUI influenced wreck. Still another saw a man lose his wife, of fourteen years, and his four children when the SUV exploded.

Yes, the cases are often sad. And sometimes, they include a twist. Like the time a malpractice lawsuit turned into a mafia operation. No joke.

Picture this: man goes into hospital with chest pains. County hospital misdiagnosed him (I’m not sure how they didn’t suspect a heart attack), and he dies. Family sues the country for a few million. I am tasked with checking in on businesses and assets on the deceased and his immediate family.

Here’s where it got weird. Ownership of all the businesses, all of which were involved in medical supplies, were being transferred to family friends. This included all the businesses which should have been owned by the subject’s spouse and children. Nope. Every business was transferred, and even the property deeds were being toyed with.

This case became so confusing I had to generate a data model to show all the relationships and connections between family and friends (including phone numbers, addresses, etc.). I also ended up doing bank searches and spot checks. I found some of businesses even changed their name or registered out of state.

The funny thing? They weren’t asking for more money. No, everything was being done to keep prying eyes away from their books. Allegedly, the entire thing was some sort of mafia racket. I didn’t stay on this case long enough to see it through. I handed over my findings to the county and we all went our merry ways. One of the craziest plot twists ever. Not the most insane though. I’ll leave that story of the vegetable turned real estate mogul for another day.

Insightful Gaming – How Xbox Wins NextGen

I’m pretty stoked about next gen. 60fps? True 4K? SSD? Unreal 5? Ray Tracing? Sign me up. I have a feeling RPGs, stealth games and platforming are going to be huge. We also might see some incredible PC style strategy games finally hit consoles. And maybe, just maybe, a good Superman game. We have three systems: Xbox Series X, PS5, and Switch Pro (come on, it’s a given). In this quickie post, how can Xbox win next gen?

This is nothing more than a wishlist. I am not using any “insider info.” Nope. Just thirty years of gaming, my skills as an analyst, and my thoughts on where the industry is and where it can go. With that mumbo, jumbo out of the way, let’s get down to business.

June Event:

All about the hardware. Xbox Series X. Maybe the cheaper version, Xbox Series S. Elite Controller 2.0. Talk about Game Pass and X-Cloud. Demonstrate how Xbox Live is bigger and better. Then do a full power presentation.

If I were in charge of marketing, I’d press the following: Most Powerful System. Best Online Experience. Best Controller. Full Backwards Compatible. No censorship. Then emphasize Smart Delivery. I’d also ensure the event was only a day or two after Sony’s June event.

Lastly, I’d show-off some 3rd party titles. New Batman from Montreal? Superman from Rocksteady? Cyberpunk 2077? Harry Potter RPG? New Splinter Cell? Talk about how Xbox is the premiere choice for all third party titles. Then announce a bunch of timed exclusives. Hardcore gamers hate them, but it makes a significant impact on the market in general. Also, make the Flight Simulator the showpiece. End the presentation blasting the theme song from the 1990s X-Men animated series – yeah, Sony has Spiderman. We have the X-Men.

July Event

This first one is a long shot, but it makes sense. EA makes most of their money from live services. Live services work well with sport titles and Dice war games. They do not like single player experiences. Xbox wanted BioWare before. Plus, Respawn and Visceral Games would be perfect fits. Lastly, EA has never been a big fan of the Star Wars license. So they can unload it.

So the conference opens up with the announcement BioWare is now an Xbox studio. The Original Mass Effect trilogy, the Dragon Age trilogy, KOTOR I & II and Jade Empire are all being remastered alongside Saber Interactive. 4K resolution. 60fps. New content. Better gameplay mechanics. They show teasers for a new Mass Effect, Dragon Age, Anthem 2.0, and Jade Empire 2. But no rush. They then announce they are making KOTOR III alongside Obsidian.

Obsidian shows off dlc for The Outer Worlds, Grounded, and Pillars of Eternity 3. They also tease The Outer Worlds 2 and Alpha Protocol 2. Sega makes a statement that all of their new games are coming to Xbox: Persona, Yakuza, Sonic, Virtual Fighter, Phantasy Star, Atlas, and Total War. Then Total War announces they are working on a Halo RTS. This is followed by a string of 3rd party exclusives: Alan Wake 2 (Remedy), Marvel vs DC (Capcom), Dying Light 2 (Techland), Scalebound (Platinum), and Elden Ring (FromSoftware). This leads then to showing off a host of JRPGs that are finally coming to Xbox.

The Coalition show dlc for Gears Tactics, and then tease Mech Assault, Gears 6, and Jedi Academy. Ninja Theory show updates for Bleeding Edge, and then show Hellblade 2. They finish with teases for Project Mara and Odyssey 2. Trailers for Age of Empire 4 (Relic), Forza Motorsport 8 (with teaser for a new Forza New Horizons), Killer Instinct (no longer made by Rare), and then a bombshell: Bungie is once again an Xbox Studio. They drop trailers for Destiny 3 and a new IP and they tease they will be tackling Battlefront.

Rare shows off Sea of Thieves 2.0 with NPC crews and a host of improvements and additions. They show trailers for Everwild and Banjo and hint that they are not finished with Conker or the Battletoads.

The Initiative blasts onto the stage with a futuristic spy thriller reboot of Perfect Dark. They also tease they are working on X-Men and Deadspace. Then the trailer for Fable 4 is dropped by Playground Games. This segment is finished off by ReSpawn showing off Titan Fall 3, Apex Legends 2.0, and Jedi Fallen Order 2.

People Can Fly announces they are now an Xbox Studio. They show off a new IP and then tease they are tackling a reboot of TimeSplitters. Cause why not? Xbox then drops teasers for what multiple in-house studios are working on. A nice ten minute showcase of multiple games spread across multiple genres.

We then get teasers for Starfield, a new Witcher game, and that all dlc for LA Noire 2 is time exclusive for Xbox. Larian Studios comes out to say they are now an Xbox studio and Baulders Gate 3 and Divinity 3 are coming to Xbox. And then a partnership is announced: Xbox will be working with Bandai to create a Full Metal Alchemist game. They show off improvements to MineCraft and Fortnite before ending on a full reveal of Halo Infinite.

New weapons, new vehicles, improved melee, dual wielding, more assassinations, bigger environments, better stealth mechanics, and your armor takes on battle damage. You can also smash throw walls and drop a building on enemies – options are almost limitless to how you want to tackle missions. Hundreds of npcs make for huge set pieces. More WOW moments. The banished, the flood, new alien species, massive boss battles, space combat, and awesome Halo music. They reveal the biggest campaign ever with improved multiplayer and even a battle royal mode. 343 Studios then ends with a teaser for ODST 2.

August Event:

Obviously, this is where they should announce the price – $400 for Xbox Series X and $300 for Xbox Series S. They then announce a September release for Series X and a November release for Series S. They wrap it up with a showcase of the return of Summer Indies. A host of indie games will release every summer, starting with a ton of exclusives in August. Lastly, they mention that Game Pass, at least a limited version, will be coming to the Nintendo Switch in addition to Xbox Live for Switch. It’s a rad partnership and gives Xbox some serious momentum.

Summary:

Ok, so 90% of this is fantasy for sure. There could be curveballs, like ZeniMax or CD Projeket Red becoming an Xbox studio. Or maybe nothing happens and we get all hyped for nothing. But this is my wishlist, and I’m sticking to it until my dreams are dashed to pieces.

Spotlight – The Unknown Dad

The legal disputes and drama surrounding the death of a family member never cease to amaze me. One heir search was supposed to be easy: a man married for forty-six years to one woman and four kids. By the time I was done, I located sixteen total children spread across three mistresses in addition to his wife. So yeah, next of kin cases are messy.

This particular case I worked on involved the death of a minor. They weren’t even a teenager yet. The mother, “Jane,” had signed a sworn testimony that she had no idea who the father was. An important thing when it comes to claiming a hefty life insurance policy. Odd as well. Did she really not know who the father was?

I retrieved the birth and death certificate for the minor. Jane had made sure to list the father as “unknown” on both official documents. A geofence didn’t reveal much either. And a sweep of obituaries and memorials gave no mention of the father.

I ran family and probate searches, in addition to a marriage/divorce record sweep, focused on the county Jane presently resided in. She married a man a few years ago, even had more children, but her husband was not the father of the minor in question.

An initial social media search did not provide any further answers. So I kept digging, focusing on Jane’s siblings. And sure enough, one of her siblings posted a memorial video. About eight minutes into watching it, I noticed a 8-10 second clip of a man holding the minor. This man would turn out to be the father.

I went back through Jane’s address history, identified the possible counties she lived in around the birth of the minor, and ran another civi records search. No marriage or divorce records were found, but bingo – a child supper order.

The name of the father was listed on the order. I attempted to contact Child Support, but they are never very cooperative. Instead, I ran a social media on the father, confirmed his social media presence by matching multiple data points, linked him to Jane’s siblings, then reverse engineered his social media profiles so I could find his info on closed source databases.

Jane lived in California. The father was now living on the other side of the country with his wife. He was a registered sex offender (statuary rape between like a 19 year old and a 17 year old). This was likely why Jane thought it wouldn’t be a big deal. And he had been paying child support to Jane for years. In fact, the order was still active. Not only did she know who the father was, she had been receiving monthly checks from him!

So Jane had committed perjury in an attempt to collect all that life insurance. The result, of course, was being charged with insurance fraud. Still, extremely sad that a minor’s tragic death was overshadowed by such pettiness. But such is life.

Spotlight – You Got The Wrong Guy

The feeling hit me as soon as I finished putting in the request. When you have been doing cases as long as I have you learn to act on those gut feelings immediately. It only takes a single hunch to crack an investigation wide open. And in this case, it proved an accused man to be innocent.

So I put the asset and employment searches on hold. I conducted a second, more thorough read of a poorly written police report. The incident was a hit and run. Some damages to a vehicle, but no fatalities. No witnesses. Police looked into the case, but not much had been done. All we had was the license plate of a vehicle and the name (we will call him Jack) and the his alleged address.

The address came back to Military housing. A sweep of the area identified three subjects by the name of “Jack,” but only one had served in the military. A check of his military records showed he served his country for two years. He left the area some 9 months after leaving the military, and moved more than 3,000 miles away. His spouse finished her time in the military just 5 months after he did, and also left the area.

I then uncovered two clues: the vehicle involved in the hit and run had been sold right before Jack left the area. And Jack had bought a new vehicle just a couple months before leaving the area. A vehicle history run on his new vehicle placed that vehicle some 3,000 miles away at the time of the hit and run incident. The history also showed the subject had indeed left the area, and was still the owner of this newer vehicle. Additionally, a vehicle sighting report, in additional to a property deed owned by Jack and his spouse, proved the subject no longer resided in the area of the incident.

I ran the plates of the vehicle involved in the hit and run. I found multiple violations and citings since the vehicle had been last sold with multiple drivers and charges that included not having registration in the vehicle, not having motor vehicle insurance, and not driving with a valid license.

It turns out that Jack had sold this vehicle after leaving the military. His wife and him then moved far away and got on with their lives. However, the people they sold the vehicle to never turned in the paperwork to the DMV. Jack was still listed as the registered owner of the vehicle at the time of the hit and run.

Thankfully, I was able to prove that Jack had no involvement whatsoever with the hit and run. No need for an asset and employment check. He won’t be facing criminal charges or a lawsuit. Instead, we were able to narrow the field of suspects down to three individuals, making the lives of field investigators that much easier.

Morale of the story? Work on your discernment. Go with your gut. Don’t do something if it doesn’t feel right.