mircosoft

e3 2014 Review

Conferences

Micosoft
Grade: C+
xbox one
Review: I was thrilled that Microsoft dedicated an entire e3 conference to games. And they managed to deliver a solid showing. As a big Halo fan, the Master Chief Collection should keep me satisfied until next fall’s Halo 5: Guardians arrives. However, it’s everything else that remains suspect. Scalebound looks promising, but Fable Legends appears to have lost all the magic that made the original so good (in my eyes, the series has been in serious decline since Lost Chapters). Crackdown 3…well, I am still aching from the mediocrity that was Crackdown 2, so that title has a lot to make up for. Project Spark looks like fun, but I have a bad feeling it will not live up to expectations. Sunset Overdrive looks funny, but I am still not sure what to think especially after hearing from numerous sources the game felt “floaty.” It hurts knowing that all the third party titles shown, given previous history, will look and run better on a PS4. Yea, they finally did the right thing by getting rid of the Kinect, but where does that leave the Xbox One? The entire system was built around the Kinect. Microsoft left this dilemma untouched for folks like me who have yet to purchase an Xbox One to ponder. And it is worrisome. The biggest highlight of the conference was Ori and the Blind Forest, which looked beautiful, but it’s not enough to justify a $400 purchase.
Next Time: The original Xbox had Halo and Knights of the Old Republic to convince me it was worth a purchase. The Xbox 360 had Halo 3 and Mass Effect. The Xbox One is in sore need of another AAA franchise. They really need a WOW moment. What about the Samaritan demo Epic showed off a couple years ago? A huge selling point for me would also be to make backwards compatibility a reality.

Sony
ps4
Grade: B
Review: Another solid showing even if the conference lost some steam with the awkwardness in the middle. Bloodborne, The Order 1886, Driveclub, and Little Big Planet 3 all look to be fine exclusives. I am not sure what to think of the exclusive title Let It Die, but at least it shows Sony is not afraid to take risks. The highlight of the show for me was definitely No Man’s Sky. And after confirming that the trailer showed for Uncharted 4 was running on the in-game engine, yea, that is a must buy title for next year. But that’s next year. What about this year? I am still left wondering what all the other Sony in-house studios are working on. And really, nothing shown made me think I need to run out and purchase a PS4 right this instant. The most exciting titles announced were multiplatform.
Next Time: Where was Last Guardian? How about that open world RPG Guerilla Games is working on? Games, games, games. That is what this system sorely needs. The potential is there and I know the games are coming. Offering up more teasers, surprises, and wow moments will knock the next conference out of the ballpark.

Nintendo
wii u
Grade: B-
Review: Welcome back, Big N. Legend of Zelda certainly offered up the WOW moment Nintendo needed to make the Wii U pop up on my radar. And with the success of Mario Kart 8 and another Smash Bros game due this fall, things are finally starting to look up for them as well. However, 3 major things give me caution: 1. The void that was third party support is deafening. It makes me wonder if this system will go the way of Gamecube. I would hate to purchase the system this year and next year have Nintendo release a new system. I can’t shake the feeling that this is a major possibility. 2. Hearing from a few sources that the Star Fox that was announced may be nothing more than a glorified tech demo disappointed me for sure. 3. Where was Metroid? Yea, as the conference came to a close we were left with a little tidbit that an announcement may be made in the near future. But here is the problem: delays. Everything on the Wii U feels like it is being delayed. Xenoblade. Smash Bros. The system is on life support as it is. It needs games, not delays. And see, this is where third party support would come in handy in keeping the system afloat.
Next Time: I need assurance that Nintendo doesn’t plan to abandon ship with the Wii U. This conference was a start in the right direction. But its baby steps when really Nintendo needs to be running. Unveil the games. Open the wallet for third party support. Oh, and how about allowing more than a single gamepad to work per Wii U?

Top 5

the-witcher-3-screenshot-2
1. Witcher 3-It’s beautiful. The cities are thriving. The environments are so colorful. The combat looks fluid. This game continues to wow me with every showing.
batman
2. Batman Arkham Knight-Batman done right. Everything I have seen from this final chapter of Rocksteady’s epic trilogy screams awesome. My only worry is story. Arkham Origins has had the best story of any of the Arkham games and that was even done by Rocksteady.
dragon
3. Dragon Age Inquisition-Bioware appears to have a megaton hit on their hands. I have loved everything I have seen and greatly appreciate that Bioware’s pledge to listen to fan feedback wasn’t lip service. My only gripe? The cities. Or lack thereof. Will there be cities to explore? And will they be as thriving as they are in Witcher 3 or will all the NPC’s be stuck in mud?
No-Mans-Sky-concept-a
4. No Man’s Sky-The idea of exploring an infinite galaxy sounds incredible. The atmosphere looked beautiful. And every player starts the game on a different planet? How cool! But will this game live up to the ambitions of its creators?
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5. Evolve-I came into this e3 without a concern or care in the world for this game. After watching it in action, I can safely say I was so wrong for ignoring it. Fun is the word that best describes it. An incredible amount of fun.

Surprises

lego
1. Lego Batman 3. Ok, don’t laugh. I loved Marvel Superheroes. And this comes from someone who is not the biggest fan of Lego games. So color me surprised when I saw this and thought, “Wow, that looks like a blast.” I’m keeping this on my radar although I am not guaranteeing a purchase. Not just yet.
shadow
2. Shadow of Mordor. I’m sold. The Nemesis system is one of the best things to happen to this new generation of consoles. The game looks and feels great. If the story can be on par from the gameplay that was shown than this will end up being the LOTR game I have always wanted.
rainbow six
3. Rainbow Six Siege. I’m a little sad that Patriots was canceled after showing so much promise. However, the hostage situation multiplayer matches looked fantastic. It made you think. It made you sweat. If this game can continue down this path it will not only distinguish itself from COD and Battlefield, it will also be a blockbuster hit.

Honorable Mention

far-cry-4-3
Far Cry 4-The game looked beautiful. I have major concerns with story. I also question Ubisoft’s ability to create a living world. And does there need to be so much profanity? It may be an attempt to come across as cool, but to me it is just lazy writing.
Assassins-Creed-E3-Unity
Assassin’s Creed: Unity-Perfect time period selected what with it taking place during the French Revolution. Four player co-op? Yes. I was particularly intrigued by the murder scene investigation the player stumbled across. However, I am a bit turned off but what I feel is too much hand-holding in Ubisoft’s games. Also, after Assassin’s Creed 3, I am still fatigued with the series. So much so that I never bothered played Black Flag. This game has my attention, but it is surely divided at this point.

Disappointments
1. Mass Effect Trilogy-So maybe I got my hopes up. But seriously, this would have been awesome to have on the next gen consoles. 1080p/60 fps, all dlc included, and the combat in ME 1 tweaked to perfection. But the conference came and went without even a whisper of its existence.
2. Mass Effect 4-Concept art? Really? The game is playable, but all we get is concept art? Listen, I know you don’t want take the attention away from DAI, but still. A teaser trailer would have been significantly better than a few pieces of concept art.
3. Bioware’s New IP-Ok…what did I just see? A building. Day and night cycle. Right. What’s the point? Give me a name. A teaser trailer. Something to latch my excitement upon. This felt absolutely pointless.
4. Star Wars Battlefront-I get it. You went to some locations. You’re staying true to the Star Wars brand. But this feels like a theme that was pretty consistent with the entire EA conference. We have lots of cookies in the oven, but nothing to show right now. Like, nothing. No teasers. No game footage. Nothing. I don’t know whether to be excited or stumped. Therefore, I am left disappointed.
5. Last Guardian –You vehemently defend the notion the title is not canceled, but can’t so much as show a building with a day and night cycle. Man, we got that from Bioware’s IP. And what, Last Guardian has only been in development since the rise of the Grecian Empire under Alexander the Great. If it’s canceled, admit it. If it’s in development, then show it. At this point, you need make a decision and stick with it.

Overall, e3 2014 was a “Play It Safe” event. I understand the reasons. However, the lack of WOW moments has made what was a solid show mostly forgettable.

Not the ‘One’ I Was Looking For

 

I’ve been gaming since the days of the Atari. I remember Pong, Asteroids, PacMan, and Invaders. I migrated over to the NES at the ripe age of 8. It was then I was introduced to the likes of Mario, Donkey Kong, Zelda, and Contra. Does anyone remember Commando? I owned a SNES and a Sega Genesis. I played an NEO-GEO (Bonk’s Adventure!) and the terrible Virtual Boy (Mario Tennis bathed in red). I owned the original Gameboy and clocked in hours on Metroid II and Tetris. I did the same with Sonic on the Sega GameGear. Remember Mario 64? My N64 rocked my world with its 3-D gameplay.

I beat Metal Gear Solid on my PS1 and dominated my friends at PowerStone on the Dreamcast. My PC gaming days date back to the likes of Wolfenstein, Doom, and Command & Conquer (you know, before EA ruined it). I owned the first Xbox and have played on both the PS2 and PS3. The GameCube may have been my last Nintendo-owned console but that hasn’t stopped me from playing the Wii from time to time.

I currently own an Xbox 360 with an extensive library of close to 60 games. That number doesn’t reflect the number of games I have either borrowed or traded in. At its peak, it was the best console I have ever owned. Mass Effect, Halo 3, Bioshock, Super Street Fighter IV, LOTR Battle for Middle-Earth II, Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Fallout 3, Dragon Age Origins, Red Dead Redemption, Crackdown, Alan Wake, Fable II, Borderlands and cult classics like Super Meat Boy. Then Kinect came out and the gaming world as I knew it changed.

Sure, there are still a lot of great third party games coming out. Bioshock Infinite, Tomb Raider, Dark Souls, Skyrim, Max Payne 3, and the like demonstrate there is still creative juice left in the industry. Halo Reach and Halo 4 upped the campaign effort but lost the magic of multiplayer. Fable 3 was a travesty and Fable The Journey a joke. Crackdown 2 was flat out mediocre. Kinect Fit and Dance Central received more attention than sequels to Halo Wars and Alan Wake. New IP’s were ignored in the face of expanding entertainment services.

Let’s get one thing straight. Thanks to poor quality choices on Mircosoft’s part, I have owned as many as four Xbox 360’s. It was worth it, in my mind, because the library of games was that fun. Because Xbox Live was that much superior to the PSN Network. And because I really enjoyed my gaming hobby.

Times change. I have grown up and matured. I’m married now. I write novels, work full time, and look forward to doing more university work. I read books, watch movies, and chill with friends. I have lots of hobbies that include martial arts, snorkeling, disc golf, fantasy football, traveling, weight training, biking, and board games. I still love good storytelling. Therefore, I still enjoy a great game. But the announcement of the Xbox One has all but killed my enthusiasm for this next generation of consoles…

 

A Forcing of Gimmicks

            What started out as kind of a neat, tricky gismo is now a required element for the Xbox One. Namely, the kinect. So far, 0 kinect games have so much as registered a notch in my interest scale. Star Wars Kinect continues to give me the shivers to this day. Did they really manage to top Superman 64 is sheer terribleness? I’m sorry, but dancing around my living room like a drug crazed chimp doesn’t excite me in the least. Yelling at my TV and then having it talk back to me conjures images of Skynet and I hear that voice, “Hello Dave.”

Then there are the privacy matters. This is a big issue for me. The Kinect is always on, always watching, and always listening. Ok, so Mircosoft said that there will be an option to shut it down. They also gave a speech in similar fashion to what the President said this past week. “You can trust us. We are not listening. We promise.” And now 1984 is coming to mind.

I don’t need a device, made by a company that has already been shown to be handing over personal information to the US federal government, in my home that can be used to spy on me. Here’s the thing, I have nothing to hide,but what do you think are the benefits to such a device? You’re munching on a Domino’s pizza and a bag of Classic Ranch Dorritos and washing it down with a can of Mountain Dew. Your gameplay time is suddenly interrupted by, gasp, a commercial for Domino’s Pizza! Then another one for Mountain Dew! And then a third one for Dorritos! What a coincidence, right?

What really bothers me is the patent that Mircosoft spent $20,000+ on for Visual DRM. The Kinnect can detect heartbeats and body heat. It can be used to determine how many people are in a room watching a TV show, a movie, or playing a game. It can also recognize voices. It can then be used to force you to pay extra if too many people are watching said movie, TV show, or video game. No way a corporation would ever try to pull a stunt like that on consumers, right? Making you pay an extra $2 per person over a restricted limit set on DVD, Music, and Video Game purchases? Think again.

I have this thing in my house that can be used to monitor everything I say and everything I do. A thing that can be used to sell my information to advertisers and restrict my use of the entertainment I purchase. A thing that already makes me look like an idiot when I’m dancing around the living room trying to get it to work. And I wish that was the worst of it.

 

Always On, Rights Lost

 

The Xbox One must connect to the internet once every twenty four hours. People who don’t have the internet or can’t get it are simply out of luck. But there is a deeper issue here, namely, my rights as a consumer. It is already bad enough that my games have a mandatory install programmed into them. Just how long is that 500gb hard drive supposed to last before it is filled and needs to be upgraded?

To put it simply: making me check in once every twenty hours to play a video game is absurd. If the Xbox servers go down for any reason, I can’t play my games. How long will it be before companies like EA and Activision decide to kill servers for a particular game to force people to buy the new installment? That would never happen, you say. Think again. Suddenly you can’t play Battlefield 4, Madden 13, or Dragon Age 3 because those servers are shut down and your “digital ownership rights” to the game could not be verified. Not only is a $60 purchase down the drain (not to mention money spent on DLC), but the game is completely useless and can never be played again. Period. What’s to stop publishers from doing that? The kindness of their hearts? Really?

What if my internet is out? What if I’m in a location that gets no internet? Since when did a game I purchase become a loan instead of a purchase? What gives Mircosoft the right to force me to check in once every twenty hour period? And am I supposed to believe that Mircosoft is on the cutting edge of technology? Yea, Zune was a real hit. And Windows 8 only caused the biggest decline in sales of PC’s in a single quarter in the history of that industry.

Tell me again, oh great innovator, why it is that I should trust your “innovative approach” to how I am to enjoy my entertainment? And since when did you take it upon yourself to dictate how it is I am to experience my entertainment? Rules and regulations for borrowing a friend’s game? Restrictions on the used game market? I don’t receive money on used book sales, why should publishers get funds for used games? It sounds like a system of nickel and diming that will lead to the complete demise of the industry as we know it.

 

But Wait, There’s More!

            Oh yes. 15 exclusives and eight of them will be brand new IP. Given Mircosoft’s history, I do not expect much in the way of quality. Ryse, Lobocycle, Quantum Break, Fortnight…yea, not all that interested. Killer Instinct…but will the original team be working on it (likely not). Halo 5? Gears 4? Fable MMO? Crackdown 3?

The most unique, creative expressions in gaming are found in the indie market. That same indie market that Mircosoft not only has a poor reputation with but they will continue to forbid self publishing. Therefore, all those great indie games will be steered straight into the laps of PC and the Playstation 4. Meanwhile, the Xbox One gives achievements for watching Real Housewives and has a button for ordering pizza. Terrific.

 

Is This It?

            I don’t know. The Playstation 4 might be just as restrictive. We won’t know until all the smoke and dust has cleared from e3 next week. In the meantime, the Xbox One, a console that comes across as a glorified cable box, has done all it could to dampen my enthusiasm for next generation consoles. PC gaming is costly but is making a whole lot more sense to me right about now. At the end of the day, I want a good game with a great story and stellar gameplay. I don’t want to be nickel and dimed to death. That’s why I avoid F2P games like the plague. And that’s why I may be avoiding the Xbox One in similar fashion.

 

 

One Man’s Junk

We forsook the aged for youth.  We placed our value on progress over understanding, innovation over experience, instant gratification over pondering consequences.  In short, evidences of our great knowledge are everywhere, but wisdom is seldom found

This dilemma has no other explanation.  The digital revolution brought us e-books and mp3’s.  Television and movies can be streamed.  Comics, magazines, and newspapers can all be read on tablets.  We are fine with this because of convenience.  We are enamored with it because the technology looks so pretty and smells so good.  We have failed to consider the long term impact on intellectual property rights of the goods we buy.

When book stores and comic shops completely go the way of record stores, perhaps then that cartoon light bulb will flicker on above our heads.  Loss of ownership over the goods we buy?  Nonsense, right?  Yet, that is preciously what has been gradually happening in the interactive entertainment industry.

Imagine the repercussions a ban on used items could have.  You would be paying for the right to “borrow” items to live on and those said items can be stripped from you at a moments notice.

That’s the attitude behind proposals to eliminate the sale of used games.  One idea gaining a lot of steam is inserting a chip into next generation consoles that disable them from playing used games unless you pay a rental fee.  Game publishers protest that they are not making money off the sale of used games.  However, authors don’t cry they don’t make a penny off used book sales.  Directors don’t hide their heads in shame over the sale of used DVDs.  What makes games any different?

It began with the digital revolution.  Today it is common place for new games to be released as bug filled messes.  It can be patched later, if they get around to it.  In order to inflate the price of the game past $60, certain elements are packed into downloadable chunks and sold separately.  Buy the game used and you are forced to pay for an online pass.  Don’t think for a moment that other industries are not taking notice.

Who owns the property you buy?  Well, if its 100 percent digital, it’s easy for publishers to say they do.  You are paying to be entertained by it and no more.  Your rights to use can be canceled at any time and will be nonrefundable.  We are essentially feeding a big, bad wolf that will turn on us at any moment.

A clear message needs to be sent by us, the consumers.  Corporations are deaf to protest rallies, picket lines, and angry letters.  The only thing they listen to are dollar signs.  We must speak with our wallets.  If that chip goes into that system, I don’t buy it.  If the game is broken, it can stay that way on the shelf.

Yes, piracy is awful.  I understand that artists deserve to be paid for their work.  However, I am against hurting honest consumers, like you and me, because of a few rotten apples.  It’s time we ponder long and hard over the long term effects of a completely digital society.  Are these fancy technological advancements really to our benefit?  Or will it be to our decline?

By D.L. Timmerman

Writerofthings1@gmail.com

Next Gen Gaming

The rumors are spreading on the internet faster than the latest viral youtube video.  Spend too long eyeballing quotes from one “insider source” and you’re likely to have it debunked by an update a minute later.  Going on seven years, this is the longest gap between generations of game consoles in the history of the interactive entertainment industry.

To put this into perspective consider that the Xbox 360 was behind computer technology when it hit store shelves in November 2005.  Translation: console gamers are fumbling around in Gremlins while their pc buddies are cruising by in BMWs.

Over the past seven years we have seen an explosion of digital content.  Add to this the majority of yearly best sellers in the gaming world contain some element of multiplayer, and it’s safe to say that online functionality is now a staple of gaming.

Coinciding with the advancements of technology this past generation has brought is the cost of production.  Stars Wars The Old Republic and Red Dead Redemption had budgets exceeding $100 million.  Big budgets mean that the price for failing to meet sales margins may lead to layoffs and bankruptcy.

We already know that the Nintendo Wii-U will be launching this fall and will incorporate the use of an innovative tablet controller.  What direction will Sony and Mircosoft take?  Let’s put aside Sony’s present financial woes for the moment to offer up some conjecture:

The sale of used games has hurt the industry for years.  Rumor has it that a chip will be inserted into the new Xbox that will disable the play of used games.  True or not is beside the point.  This is a major issue that will be addressed in some form.


Expect an expansion of Xbox Live and the PSN Network. You know the new Xbox will have an updated Kinect attached and Skype will be squeezed in.  Both systems will allow every release to be purchased digitally.  And fully anticipate the new Xbox to have a Blu-ray player.

I would love to see new consoles crammed with enough new technology to make even the purring engine of a Ferrari jealous.  The reality is that Mircosoft and Sony will probably go the cheap route and offer up a cpu and graphics card powerful enough to play next gen games.  That would entail offering up older but working technology that would bring the price of consoles on par with where they are now.  It still stands that the Xbox controller needs better D-pad functionality.

Backwards compatibility is a must.  Not to mention a killer line-up of launch titles.  The Xbox 360 has been lacking 1st party titles and exclusives.  They risk losing core-gamers in their pursuit of a causal audience.  The PS3 has been hurt by inferior online play and developers unable to take advantage of the hardware.  This is why most multiplatform releases are generally better on the Xbox.

Uneasy economic times make for a puzzling transition.  I think we will see the new Xbox hitting store shelves late 2013, followed by the PS4 unveiling in 2014.  The next generation of gaming must pave the way for new trails to be blazed and worlds to be explored.  With interactive storytelling in its infancy, next gen gaming could prove to be a defining moment.

by D.L. Timmerman

writerofthings1@gmail.com