next gen

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.

 

 

Wishlist: Top Ten Launch Titles for Xbox “Durango”

Will it have a 16 core processor? A chip to block used gaming? Will it need to have constant internet access? No disc drive or a blu-ray? A terabyte of cloud space? 7000 AMD graphic card? Kinect 2.0 built-in?

Ok, I’ll briefly jump on the bandwagon here in the midst of the next-gen rumor craze and throw out my suggestions for what would make a killer Xbox launch line-up. I’m sure we’ll see plenty of sports titles from 2k and EA, so I skipped on those for this list.

10.

What: Star Wars: The Old Republic, World of Warcraft, Guild Wars 2.

Why: Yes, I know these games are already out on the PC, but that’s not the point. This would be a statement that simply says we now do MMO’s. Throw in a promise that a Marvel and Fallout MMO are on the way and they’ll have fans eating out of their hands. Speaking of Fallout…

My Vote: 50/50

9.

What: Fallout 4

Why: Fallout 3’s vast open world and general RPG goodness made it one of the best games to appear on the 360. Its sequel is hottly anticipated, would go great alongside a Fallout MMO announcement, and would sell a ton of systems. Oh, and please give a tease for Elder Scrolls 6 while you’re at it. Please.

My Vote: 70/30

8.

What: Killer Instinct

Why: Rare needs to make a comeback. The Durango needs an awesome fighting game to help get it off the ground. Fans have been begging for this years on end. The timing couldn’t be better. Throw in some teases for a new Banjo, Kameo, Perfect Dark, and Conker. Launch it alongside Kinect Fit 2 and prepare to watch systems fly off shelves.

My Vote: 40/60

7.

What: Halo Wars 2

Why: Halo 5’s 2014 release is still another year away. Hype it up by releasing a fully redefined sequel to the Halo RTS. You can even port over Starcraft 2, Shogun 2, and C&C Generals 2 just to show that the Durango will bolster a powerful line of RTS titles. While you’re at it, throw in SimCity. One can dream, right?

My Vote: 30/70

6.

What: Samaritan

Why: Did you see the youtube vid? No, seriously, did you watch it? Then you have your answer. Launch it and announce that a Gears of War prequel trilogy is coming soon.

My Vote: 60/40

5.

What: Dragon Age 3

Why: Bioware pulled a sophomore fumble with Dragon Age 2. Same thing happened with Devil May Cry and they rebounded nicely. Bioware are still some of the best storytellers in the industry and I think DA3 will cement that. A Mass Effect 4 and Jade Empire 2 announcement as well…sounds awesome. Hopefully MS follows that up with a healthy list of coming attractions in the RPG genre including The Witcher 3, Dark Souls 2, and some JRPG goodness.

My Vote: 80/20

4.

What:  Fable 4

Why: I really enjoyed Fable 1-2. Fable 3 felt rushed and I have no intention of trying Fable The Journey. Fable can learn from Kingdoms of Amalur, Elder Scrolls, and, even, Zelda. Make us remember why this series garnered so much praise in its beginnings. If you want to release a new Forza game at launch and push Fable 4 back a few months you won’t receive a complaint from me.

My Vote: 60/40

3.

What: Alan Wake 2

Why: The first one was a true psychological thriller with a killer plot. American Nightmare showed promised for the combat aspects of the title. Combine the combat with the story on new hardware and produce a AAA title worthy of moving systems. Go ahead and use the time for announcing that Splinter Cell 6 will be another Xbox exclusive and is in the pipeline. You can even throw in Rocksteady’s next blockbuster hit to run alongside it as a launch title. But please give us more Alan Wake.

My Vote: 90/10

2.

What: TimeSplitters 4

Why: This one has been a long time coming and plenty of rumors have surfaced in regards to its development. I’m sure the Durango will have a new Call of Duty to play and probably another Battlefield. Maybe you throw in Crysis 3 within a few months of launch? Workout a way to bring Rainbow Six Patriots to the party? Timesplitters 4 gives you a unique First Person Shooter that core gamers will love.

My Vote: 70/30

1.

What: This is it. A brand new IP from Xbox. A beginning to a new series that will show that the Durango is serious about core gamers. What will it be? It best be creative, well made, and lots of fun. A great story. Be what the Uncharted series was to the PS3. A breathe of fresh air.

Why: The Xbox 360, in its later years, began catering too much to the casual player. Fewer exclusives, too many gimmick kinect games, and a lot of bone-head moves that left gamers scratching their heads. Let’s turn that ship.

My Vote: 50/50

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