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Friday, June 7, 2013

(Games) 2013 E3 Pre - assessment - PC and games I hope to see

PC has become a force again, which is nice as console gamers and publishers were telling us for years how PC gaming is dying or dead. Publishers hate piracy and the PC has quite a bit of pirated games, and they love the smaller percentage of piracy in consoles and favored them. Consoles being cheap and this generation being HD, gamers could have a PC like gaming experience without the bulk, hassle, and price of a gaming PC.

As the console generation aged though, the PC really started coming back. After the Xbox 360 launched in 2005, many PC gamers were only playing MMO's and RTS games on them. PC's that were the home of first person shooters gave way to Halo and Call of duty on consoles. Most of my PC gaming friends only played on consoles for years. As Steam and other digital download sites improved, and games were released that had controller support built in, PC gaming started coming back.

Steam really brought me back to PC gaming, I love the service. It has the most amazing and customer pleasing sales, a great interface which is easy to use, makes installation and uninstallation of games a snap, and has a Xbox Live like chat service. Steam released big picture mode last year and it literally turns your PC into a gaming console. My current gaming PC smokes my Xbox 360 and for the first time in years, I bought a new PC game over a console game (Bioshock:Infinite) With all the games I have bought on Steam for cheap, in a few years time, I have almost tied my Xbox 360 library, mainly due to all the sales, bundles, and deals. As I go into the next gen, I find myself realizing that I'll still be focusing heavily on PC, and only buying Console games for exclusives and titles that my friends who have consoles want to play. I have a 2560x1440p monitor, I love playing games at that resolution, it's unknown if consoles will even try to support that, I doubt it.

1). I hope to see Bethesda announce Fallout 4 at E3. They have been really quiet on it, and not much as leaked other than it might take place in Boston. With the amazing job they did on Skyrim, and that they released the last DLC for Skyrim this year, I would think they would have something to show. It's using the same engine as Skyrim, so it wouldn't take as long as Fallout 3 to Skyrim. I loved Fallout 3, and I cannt wait to see the new title :)

2). Square-Enix is releasing a new Thief, and I cannot wait to see some gameplay. I'm glad these Ion Storm/Looking glass properties are still around!

3). Dragon Age: Inquisitor - I hope Bioware shows us some of the new Dragon Age. I loved the original, enjoyed the sequel, and hope they listened to the fans on the sequel and make the third game the best yet.

4). Mass Effect - I think it's too early for Bioware to show us a new mass effect game, but you never know. I would think this would be the year for a new Dragon Age to be shown, and next year Mass Effect. I place it on this list because stranger things have happened,

5). Witcher 3 - I have seen some beautiful screenshots but nothing of the game in action, I hope they give us a proper trailer and gameplay reveal.

6). Hellraid - I already wrote an article on it, but I cannot wait for this Heretic style game. I just wish Activision would allow Raven to make a new game, and make it like the original. I am very happy that this game is coming.

7). Shadow Warrior - I loved the original, and enjoyed it even more than Duke Nukem. I loved the humor in the game and hope the remake/reboot keeps the humor going. I realize that in today's politically correct world, a game like the original would just get too much negative press.

8), Rise of the Triad - I am hoping to see more of the single player, as I have seen quite a bit of the multiplayer. I loved the original Dos game back in the day, it's multiplayer was hilarious.

9). Day 1 studios hinted at a Mechassualt like game based on a new IP, but were bought out by Wargaming in January. I had hoped to see this game happen, maybe something will be shown then.

10). Watch Dogs - I'll probably get this for PC unless I get a PS4, this game looks amazing. Best looking game of E3 2012

11). Elder Scrolls Online - The jury is out on this and I need to see more gameplay vids. A beta or alpha version video was released a few months back and the game looked bad. The videos that the developers have released looked really good though, so i hope this one turns out amazing. I have been a Elder Scrolls fan since Daggerfall.

12). South park: The Stick of Truth - I'll probably get this on PC. I love the show, and this is a must get game for me.

13). Sacred 3 - I enjoyed the first 2 Sacred games, so I hope to see more of this one at E3.

14). The Dark Eye: Demonicon - A Open world RPG, I love them, and I look forward to hearing more about this game.

15). Wasteland 2 - This game keeps the flavor of the original and it's isometric gameplay, and is the father of the original Fallouts. I hope to see more of and be impressed by this game.

16). Wolfenstein - I loved Return to Castle Wolfenstein, and I hope this game is something similar. It has a new futuristic motif, and I hope that they pull it off.

17). Project Eternity - I hope to see more about Obsidian's new baby. The game looks like it's retro in gameplay with all the modern bells and whistles graphicly, like a new Baldur's gate. I can't wait to see it in action :)

18). Saint's Row IV - Loved the last game, and I hope I love the new one. I imagine that they will make a great game, the last Saint's row was one of the best open world city type games I have played.

19). Mafia 3 - I love Mafia 2 on PC, the 1940's really came alive in the game and I want a new open world game like that, hopefully based in the past again.

20). Two Worlds 3 - I havent heard anything, but I hope it's coming. I enjoyed the first game the most, but the 2nd wasnt bad.

There are alot more I'm interested in, and will probably talk about them after the announcements at E3.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

(Games) 2013 E3 Pre - assessment - Nintendo

Nintendo's performance this year has been worrisome to say the least.

The Wii sold like crazy as it was cheap compared to the PS3 and the Xbox 360, had a unique casual oriented controller so that anyone could easily pick up and play a game, it was the right idea at the right time.
It flew off shelves and became the "It" Item, where people who didn't really play games or need a console were told about it and suddenly had to own it. Places like nursing homes bought it so that they could have Wii parties, and the Wii Fit sold a ton as a great way to lose weight and have fun. It wasn't a HD console and as the console lifespan continued, it's game looked less and less attractive. Third party games didn't sell near as well as Nintendo's own titles, and they stopped making games for it. The people I know that bought a Wii barely played it compared to their other consoles, and broke it out for parties mostly. The casual gamers that bought it, barely played more than a few titles the entire time they owned it, literally buying it for Mario Cart, Wii Sports,Wii fit, and older downloadable SNES and NES titles. Some of the Wii owners I talked to thought the Wii-u was just the controller, and not a new console. The marketing early on really made it seem it was the controller, and not a completely new console. Most of the casual Wii owners I knew didn't show any interest in it. When i explained that it is a whole new and better unit, these casual gamers told me they were happy with their Wii and didn't plan on buying one.

Last year at E3, Nintendo announced it's new console the Wii-u. I had hopped to be wowed by the console, I was thinking about buying one right up to the E3 reveal, and then was no longer interested. It wasn't much better than what we already had in the Xbox and PS3, it was more expensive than both, and didn't have the titles I expected. I had hoped for a Super Mario 64 style game, and it didn't happen. None of the shown titles really excited me, I was disappointed. The crowd at the end of the 2012 Nintendo conference was much more laid back and reserved compared to usual Nintendo console reveals. I remember watching the crowd at the end as they viewed the Nintendoland fireworks and noticing they were quiet, I think they were all going "This is it?"

It amazes me that a year has past and I still feel that way. The Wii-u sold well at first, and then sales have been a trickle ever since. It's been outsold by the Xbox 360 almost every month, and even the Wii has outsold it at times. Nintendo really needs to up it's game at this years E3, or else the console is dead in the water. MS and Sony are showcasing their new consoles with all these abilities and power, and the Wii-u is really underpowered compared to them. The only way Nintendo can save the Wii-u is to bring the franchises that Nintendo fans love,. but will it be enough to save the console?

Things already look bad when Nintendo announced that they wouldn't be having a conference this year. Instead, they are going to do a Nintendo direct, have games playable at best buys across the country, and
show some on the floor. They evidently feel that they cannot compare this year to the glitz and power of what MS and Sony are going to do, and are doing their own thing. I think this will be fine for Nintendo fans, but might be a negative when it comes to the main news media. I hope Nintendo knows what it's doing.

I figure we will see a new Zelda game (Windwalker remake?), a new 3D Mario game, a new Mario cart, a Wii Sports like title, and maybe a new smash brothers. The only title that could get me to buy a Wii-u now is a direct sequel to Super Mario 64 and a price drop. The Wii-u started at $350 and the 32GB deluxe edition is selling for $358.99 on Amazon right now as I write this. If the PS4 and Xbox One is around $399 as I expect, then I bet they drop the price to $250, otherwise the console isn't going to sell. This could be a tough year for Nintendo, Third party publishers aren't really supporting it heavily as their initial titles didn't sell that well.
Ubisoft is really the main holdout and Square Enix is releasing an updated version of Deus EX:Human revolution. As I bought that title on Steam with DLC for $7.50 and it's free on PS Plus this month, It's hard to say whether that title will sell at newer prices on a new system. I hope it does, its a fantastic game!

In closing I'll just say that this E3 Nintendo has much to prove and show to get interest in their system again.
Nintendo needs to wow and gather excitement, I hope they manage to do so.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

(Games) 2013 E3 Pre -assessment - Part 2 - Sony

Sony's fortune reversal (at least here in the states) has been something to see.

They went from being the number one console with the PS1 and PS2 to being in third place behind Nintendo and Microsoft. The trash talking Ken Kuturagi and Kaz Hirai came out with towards the original Xbox and the Xbox 360 was just amazing in it's arrogance. This trash talking was followed up by the announcement that the next gen doesn't start till Sony says it does, that the PS3 was $599 US dollars, etc. Gamers were disgusted and fed up with Sony, and even long time Sony fans started migrating to the Xbox 360 as that is what their friends were playing. Xbox 360's one year start over the PS3 really helped MS capture a foothold in the market, partially thanks to the fact that the PS3 though being released one year later, wasn't actually that much more powerful than the 360. In fact, games looked better on the 360 thanks to its full use of all its 512mb of memory compared to Sony's halving it to 256mb of slower memory and 256mb of faster memory, the 360's ability to upscale without performance cost to 1080p, that PS3 had issues with antialising on it's initial releases, and that it's much more complex system architecture made it difficult for developers like Bethesda to make it's games perform as well. Games that were created for the PS3 and used it's resources looked great, but games porting between systems suffered.

That was 2006 and now it's 2013 and Sony is releasing the PS4 at the end of this year. Sony ate alot of humble pie and it was good for them. Ken Kuturagi is out, Kaz has been promoted, Phil Harrison works for MS now, and the arrogant rhetoric and posturing is gone. Sony is now a hungry company, eager to regain it's foothold as gaming's premier gaming brand, and MS is in Sony's old place, coming across as a company not listening to it's consumers and having an arrogant attitude that they know best.

When the PS3 was launched the idea was "it only does everything". With the reveal of the PS4, the motto was games, games, games, and that the PS4's focus was on games. Xbox One is now the media focused console that plays games, and does it all. What did work for MS, Sony is now doing, what didn't work for Sony, MS is now doing. It's just a strange reversal, and I think that Sony is doing the right thing.

Let's start with the PS4 hardware, we really know only specs and the controller. They did not show the console at the reveal, as they actually hadn't determined what design they were going with for sure at that time, What we do know is very promising however. The PS4 is going to be the most powerful console this time, there is no question this generation, We heard the Sony fanboys talk about how the PS3 was actually the more powerful console, which was only partially true. The PS3's Cell CPU was more powerful but complex, the RSX GPU though was not as good as the custom ATI GPU in the 360, simply in how the games looked. As the generation went on PS3 caught up, but not without alot of growing pains.

This time both the Xbox One and PS4 are based on x86 AMD CPU's, there is little difference between them per what we know right now. They are both 8 core compared to the Xbox 360's 3 core, and the PS3's one core and 7 SPU's. This should make porting games from PC to console much easier, and not as complex to develop for. The GPU is where it gets interesting, as the Xbox One's 768 SP unit's have been compared to a AMD/ATI 7770/7790 and the PS4 compared to a ATI/AMD 7850/7870, with the overall performance difference of 33% in favor of the PS4, and a whopping 50% difference in shading performance.
This is like upgrading a video card in performance, that is an amazing difference. The PS4 has the edge in memory as well, as it has 8GB of GDDR5 compared to the much slower GDDR3 in the Xbox One. The PS4's memory will have higher latency, but almost 3x times the bandwidth. I imagine the Xbox One and PS4's games will look very similar at launch, but a few years down the road, the PS4 is going to pull ahead in graphics and performance. This doesn't mean that the PS4 will outsell the Xbox One, the Wii outsold them all this gen and it was the cheapest and least powerful console.

The PS4's controller is interesting, as they made some major changes compared to the Xbox One's. The PS4's Dualshock has a touchpad now, which should be interesting for pinching and zooming displays in games, as well as being utilized as multiple buttons and swipe gestures. The new controller has a share button that allows you to create and share game videos with your friends. it uses the cloud and can also allow a friend to play a game on your console. MS hinted that the Xbox One would also be able to do this, though it doesn't have a separate share button. It also has a speaker in the controller which can be utilized for game voice, but that might end up being more of just a gimmick. Admittedly, I have never been a big fan of the Dualshock controllers as I never liked the thumb sticks right next to each other, preferring the angled sticks of the 360 and the Xbox S controller. I am looking forward to seeing if this one will work well for me.

I was really impressed with the gamer focus of the PS4. They came out of the gate being games, games , games, rather than MS's TV, TV, TV, Sports, Sports, Sports. I think Sony gets it this time, I hope MS learns from them. As of this writing, we don't know anything about the actual console design, except for a few teases. With MS going the big black box route, I am sure the PS4 will go the more slimmed and futuristic playstation look we expect.

Games shown were Knack (A Mark Cerny family friendly title), Killzone:Shadow Fall, Battlefield 4, Driveclub, Assassin's Cred IV, a new Infamous game, Deep Down, Watch Dogs, Diablo 3,. Destiny, The Witness, Quantric Dream's new game, Media Molecule's new game, etc.
It was refreshing to have real gameplay, the most notable was the Killzone Demo. It looked really good, like Crysis 2 or 3 on a high end pc. I didn't see any graphics that made shiver with excitement, but I think that is coming at E3. That will the real test of the new consoles, where MS and Sony show off their best games and titles. I think this could be the first gen in awhile that I may want to own both next gen consoles, They have such different feature sets and abilities. It depends on how Sony and MS listen to their fans and customers and if they implement DRM and have restrictive policies. I love Xbox's franchises, but I don't know if I want a Xbox One as it currently stands. I hope MS changes its tune. If Sony doesnt go the restrictive route MS does, it might force me to go PS4.

Regarding games Id like to see, My favorite ongoing PS franchise is Twisted Metal. I haven't played one in years as I haven't owned a PS3, but I hope to see it on PS4 since I may get one. A game that would sell me on a PS4 is a remake or sequel to Jumping Flash, which was a PS1 game I loved. 

In closing, I think Sony did a great job at their reveal and got their fanbase fired up for E3. The MS conference had the opposite effect. I hope Sony gives us alot to love about the hardware and show more on its games and cloud services. Having some PSplus subscriber game love would be nice too, something MS lacks!

next up - Nintendo

Monday, June 3, 2013

(Games) 2013 E3 Pre - assessment - Wecome to the Next Gen!!

If you have read any of my previous posts regarding last year's E3, you know that I view this time of year as a gaming Holiday. These are the days that developers and publishers reveal their upcoming AAA titles,. their new hardware, and new IP (hopefully!). This year it's June 11th though June 13th.

Before E3 hits, I thought I'd actually write what I would like to see this year, and my thoughts on what the big three (Sony, MS, and Nintendo) are going to show and announce. I also will list what I hope to see on PC.
I am also going to talk about the new consoles. (This will be a long one....)

Let's start with Microsoft. (Confession: I am an Xbox fan and bought the first two Xbox's at launch.)
MS has had a very difficult time since late last year and then after their Xbox One reveal earlier this month.
Microsoft seems very focused on the media capabilities of the Xbox one, and their reveal was literally summed up in a Youtube video as TV, TV, TV, SPORTS, SPORTS, SPORTS, CALL OF DUTY, CALL OF DUTY, DOG, CALL OF DUTY

It's also of course, the new watercooler

Seriously though, I have never seen a console announcement go this badly in my entire life. I have seen funny and underwhelming E3 appearances or product announcements, but never a announcement that had so many people up in arms. Most people were just underwhelmed about the reveal, the rage didn't start till after it was over. MS's Phil (former Sony Vice President) Harrison's interview where he mentioned the console needing to check in every 24 hours online (so if your internet was down a xbox for you) which came after months of speculating and anger about a always online console, the talk of DRM and no used games, or changing the way we currently use used games, the required Kinect which had to be connected for the console to function, and the lack of a cohesive and transparent message from MS regarding the outrage just fueled the fire. Gamers literary went nuts, and there was enough negative press to print and fill a pool with it and drown in. MS even disabled the comments on their own Youtube channel regarding Xbox One videos.

All the above plus no backward compatibility, 33% percent less powerful than the rival PS4, no self publishing for indies, the Xbox One being region locked, some type of visual DRM regarding moviesachievements for watching TV, and it's taken weeks for MS to come out and give us a clear message on what they are going to do and not going to do. According to online reports, the reveal was one of the most watched ever online, and per IGN's poll, also the most disappointing. As of this writing, MS still hasn't really given clear indications of it's plans. Xbox fans are not happy. It doesn't help MS's that their execs are not really making the message clear or in a positive way.

Let's talk about the good now, and forget about the bad for a moment. The Xbox One has a HDMI in that you can connect your TV to and control the TV with the new more powerful Kinect. It's voice activated and you can tell it what channel to watch. (I keep thinking that if I was a kid and had a brother playing a game, I would love walking by his room and yelling "Xbox Lifetime" so it changed from his in progress multiplayer game to a lifetime movie (You know that's going to happen lol) It uses the Smartglass tech even more than before to work with your smartphone and tablet. They are going to have their own TV programming on Xbox live and announced a new Halo live action series. They will have a deal with the NFL and it will be great for fantasy football players. It's not really the reason I want a console, but there are some great features there if thats your thing. I am not into Sports and don't watch TV and movies all that much. The new features that are media based don't really matter to me. (Rather than link everything, You can watch the actual reveal here)

The Console itself is kind of a strange departure from the 360, and more of a throw back to the original Xbox. I loved the original Xbox and even "The Duke" controller, so the size doesn't really bother me all that much. The streamlined and slim Xbox 360 design was a big departure from the original, and MS seems to have gone back to it. I have seen many derogatory comments calling it a VCR but I actually like the black stereo receiver or cablebox like design. The Xbox One has a ton of outputs and inputs on the back, way more than I expected and compared to the 360, that might be confusing for some, but being a Geek, any input is a good input lol. The slot loading drive is a great touch and is Blu-ray this time. While that is great, it seems to mean that like the PS3, you have to install a game to the HD before playing and thats a complete drag. That along with the PC like insides of the unit make it more of a PC than console. I guess the days of placing in a disk and playing it immediately are gone. The unit has a 500GB hard drive that will quickly fill up so the Xbox One has USB 3.0 that will allow for USB 3.0 storage. Thats great but I would have rather had a removable drive like the 360 or PS3. If the Xbox One's Hard drive dies, you cannot repair it yourself which I dislike. Supposedly it's HDMI only, so anyone still using component will be unhappy. I hope that it works with VGA adaptors, I have on old projector that I might want to use it on sometime.

The best thing so far about the Xbox One (I'm going to call it Xbone from now on) is the new controller, it looks awesome. It's a redesigned 360 controller with some very nice new features. The best new feature is the rumble triggers so you can have feedback when using them, that might be alot of fun or a gimmick, i wont know till I actually try it. They got rid of the bulky battery pack and its a smooth back now, it has a micro or Mini USB connector, it uses AA batteries rather than proprietary battery packs. It has a better designed thumb pad, bumper buttons are better designed, and a very clean look overall. It's not backward compatible with the 360, and I have no idea if it will work on PC out of the box. I imagine with the USB cable it should work, but wireless wise I have no idea.

The new Kinect looks HUGE compared to original kinect, and very different looking. It is much more powerful this time, and should actually be useable for games other than casual or dancing games now. They have improved the latency issues, and upped the specs quite a bit. It now has a 1080p camera rather than just VGA, has a closer useable range (which is one reason I never owned the original), can track up to six people rather than two at a time, and does it all faster. I have heard that you will be able to scan yourself into a game and possible create a real avatar based on you. That will be a neat feature if true :) Currently, there are some security issues that many are concerned about.

Overall the jury is out on the Xbone, as until MS tells it like it is, many people will be on the fence. I think they are hoping that once people see the console in action at E3 and all these games they are planning to show, people will just forget about all the negativity. I think people (especially gamers) have long memories so I hope MS actually listens to its fans and customers, and doesn't do a typical MS move "Where we go, the world will follow".

Game wise, the reveal was a major disappointment but they said they are going to focus all that at E3. I am not a huge Call of Duty fan. I loved the original two games of the series, and the first Modern Warfare, but lost interest after that. Call of Duty 2 is still my favorite in the series and I was blown away the first time I saw it on the 360 and PC. So, I wasn't that excited about the Call of Duty:Ghosts reveal but I did think it looked interesting and it was pretty. I love animals and I tend to dislike games that have dogs in it as they always kill the dog or place the dog in a unwinable situation to tug at your heartstrings, and I imagine this might the case with COD:Ghost. They showed a Forza trailer but I am not a huge racing game fan, I love Rallysport games in that genre the most, so I guess im looking forward to a next gen Dirt title.

I'm a big fan of Remedy, so I was excited about a new remedy game but disappointed that it wasn't Alan Wake 2. Sam Lake, Remedy's writer, released a very cool video about why the new game wasn't Alan Wake 2. The video had a nice little ending that was geared to AW fans. I hope that we will get a sequel someday, but I haven't finished American Nightmare so I guess I should do that first. I am really looking forward to Quantum Break. I first Played AW on Xbox 360 but bought the PC version laer on Steam, it's so much better on a great PC :) Quantum is supposed to run alongside a TV style show, so it will be a bit like Defiance I guess.

They hinted at things to come art E3 with 15 exclusives and 8 new franchises, and that they are spending a Billion dollars in development. There was an article saying that MS bought rights to games because they were running behind on exclusives so that may be the case with that billion spent. Rumored exclusive games are the first game from the studio that was formed from COD developers Infinity Ward.

Update: - I should have mentioned some games I am looking forward to seeing from MS. Fable 4 is number one, Halo 2:Anniversary edition kind of remake, more RPG's, more platformers, a new mechassualt, less Kinect type of games.

MS says that they are aware of the anti-DRM movement and and I hope that they listen to their fans and take notice. What they decide to do might affect how well the Xbone does this gen, or consoles in general if the PS4 goes the same way. MS has given much goodwill away to Sony and their PS4, and Sony has been very quiet, letting MS take the heat and not being clear what they are going to do. I suspect the publishers made this a must when discussing support of the new consoles, and Sony is being pressured by them to follow the same route. Gamestop said in an article/statement that 70% of used game trade in's go back into the costs to buy games and gaming hardware. If DRM does get pushed, they better lower the prices like Steam does or I see the PC becoming a force in gaming again. With Steam and a Xbox controller, you literally have a next gen console now, but its' more expensive, confusing to some, and usually bulkier. I love the PC, and I see the new consoles PC like insides being a boon to porting games easily to PC's, so hopefully no more bad ports and even more of those games coming to PC.

MS has alot to prove at E3 this year, I hope they do it right, and tell the gamers out there what they want to hear, and stay true to what gamers want. I guess we shall know in less than a couple of weeks.

Next Part: I'll cover Sony and the PS4.