The Xbox One Lives!

I post this blog both just in case you didn’t hear the news, and because it is the kind of thing you post about. Today, Microsoft almost completely reversed its policies regarding the Xbox One. No longer do you have to check in every 24 hours, you can now trade your games amongst friends and/or sell them freely as well as lend them, and there is also no region lock. In short, all its DRM policies have been nixed. Now, it will be more like the Xbox360 is, which is a very good thing.

There is an interesting tradeoff here. Up until now, with the DRM policies in place, it was implied that once your games were installed, you did not have to insert the disc to play them. Now, much as you do with 360, you will need the disc to run a disc-based game. It’s a change, but certainly not one anyone’s complaining about. That’s what they’re used to as it is.

But just as important as the good changes Microsoft made today are the things that didn’t change, which still need to be taken into account. Firstly, the price. Xbox One is still $100 more expensive than the PS4. Secondly, the Kinect requirement. Yep, that still needs to be hooked up when the Xbox One is turned on. These may seem like smaller concerns now, and I’ll admit I’ve backed off on the Kinect a little since Microsoft has said you can apparently turn all that off if you want, though again it still needs to be connected, but to some people, these are still valid concerns, especially the price. Good news or no, the PS4 still remains the economy choice, and some will purchase the PS4 for that reason alone.

There are even some who actually view this as no change at all. Some say the PS4 should still be praised over the Xbox One for sticking to their guns, and remaining all about the consumer. They say that Xbox One is not making these changes for you, they’re making these changes to give themselves a shot. This is reactionary to Sony’s announcements, and to the tons upon tons of negative feedback they’ve received since the Xbox One’s announcement. To an extent, admittedly a great extent, I agree with these points of view. Microsoft is trying to save themselves, I believe that. These are not changes made because Microsoft loves us, I believe that as well. Still, the fact remains that they did make these changes. This is a step in the right direction, and as my own little way of showing that, I have actually replaced my Xbox One preorder, which some of you may know I had canceled just this past weekend. I just hope this doesn’t mean my fiancĂ© will forget the PS4 exists.

Seriously though, I want to make sure this news is spread around. I want anyone who reads this blog to consider it carefully, both its positive and negative connotations, but most of all I don’t want you to take my word for it. I will totally give you all the link to the post in which Microsoft made these announcements, verified by news sites all over the globe. No, it’s not a hoax.
See? The link is right here!
I hope, as always, that this article has been informative to you all, and that you can now take a second look at where you’re going when the next generation arrives. Whether your attitude has changed, or whether it hasn’t, this has definitely now become much more of a fight.

E3 Day 4 Stuff

Well folks, it’s over. The final day of E3 has concluded, and I’m surprised to say I have a bit more to say this time than last. As before I’ll address the biggest thing first.

It was mentioned briefly, almost in passing, at the Xbox One reveal that achievements would now change, tailoring themselves to the player. That left everyone with a lot of questions, but Microsoft revealed some information about their new achievement system, and I can honestly say… It’s not at all like what they said at the reveal. Here are some details.

First, Microsoft wants all Xbox One achievements to provide an additional reward besides gamer score. It’ll provide that too, of course, but you’ll also get something else to go with it, be that digital art, a map, an unlockable character, things like that. It’s unclear whether they’re trying to suggest that DLC items, or to put it more accurately, items not already found on the game disc could or would be given out with your achievements, but I have to admit it’d be kinda awesome if that was the case.

The next thing to note is that there are now 2 types of achievements. Standard achievements provide game score and the reward I previously mentioned, but then there are what Microsoft is calling Challenges. Challenges are limited time, realtime achievements completely controlled by the developer. They’re cloud-based, and in this context that means that you don’t have to undergo an update to the game for more challenges to be added. These challenges also do not give you gamer score, which actually makes sense, as Microsoft wants to give everyone the same chance at having a high gamer score. Thus, if challenges gave you major points, those who don’t often play, and therefore miss challenge opportunities, would never be able to have those same chances. Challenges do, however, appear as unlocked achievements in your list of achievements for that game, have their own associated special icons, and can provide you with the same additional rewards, (art, maps, characters and so on), that achievements can. To provide perfect examples of what these challenges might be, just look at Rockband. Of course, Rockband isn’t an Xbox One game, but if it was, all those solo and community challenges could potentially unlock achievements or other things for their completion.

And yes, that is another thing as well. There are 2 types of challenges, too. Challenges for a single player, and for the entire community. The example the article gave was related to Fable. Some of you may know that you can, for some reason, kick chickens in that game. This became a popular thing to do, apparently. Well, if the developer noticed people were doing this, or talking about this, they could just say “Alright then, folks. Community challenge. We’ll call it Chicken Kicker 2013. A million chickens must be kicked by the end of the week, and anyone who participates gets the achievement, and this super awesome sword of everlasting doom…” Or something. Pretty neat.

Furthermore, (and I think this applies more to single player achievements and challenges than it does to community ones), the Xbox One will automatically save a Game DVR clip of you earning achievements when you get them. Just another way to show all your friends that you’re awesome, and they may or may not be so. I quite like this, if nothing else because it seems to imply that the amount of clips you can save is unlimited.

Now, there is a third type of achievement as well, but one I find a little less compelling. Ladies and gentlemen, there will also be achievements for nongame-related stuff. The video services will have them, the music services will have them, and so on. Nongaming achievements will also not give you any gamer score, as once again, to do so would be unfair, as it might force someone to listen to a certain song, or watch a certain video they don’t want to watch. The rewards for these achievements might be early access to some videos or music, sneak peaks, or otherwise unavailable bonus content related to them. Things of that nature. Neat, but not as neat as the game-related ones if you ask me. And yes, this is me admitting I’ve found something I like about the Xbox One. Has it changed my overall opinion of the system? No, but I can still recognize something cool when I hear about it.

OK, now a couple of other quick things. First, I talked a little bit about the Division, more in my audioboo than this blog, but I mentioned its pop in, pop out mechanics. I now have a little bit more information on the specific scenario they showed at E3. The person who joined in the game at that time was actually joining from a tablet. He was piloting a drone that flew into the area, and he used it to mark a difficult-to-spot enemy for them. It has also been suggested these drones have other functions as well, and this is not the limit of the ways in which people could have joined. That could have just as easily been another one, or several console players. This does, though, explain the sound effects I mentioned hearing around this part of the demo, and adds a cool little flare to that game I wasn’t previously aware it had.

The very last thing I want to discuss is Super Giant Games’s new game, Transistor. I said before that trailer revealed nothing to me, well now I’ve listened to the demo, and it is intriguing. It’s about a woman who survives an attempt on her life, then finds the weapon that was used to try and kill her, which is a sword called the Transistor. Furthermore, there is actually a person somehow inside it that talks to her, and guides her around, though she cannot talk back. She, for some reason, has no voice, but it is implied that she used to have one. Making this more intriguing, the person within the Transistor doesn’t really seem to know what’s going on, or what’s in the protagonist’s head, which is a huge contrast to Bastian’s omniscient narrator. And that’s not all.

The Transistor, of course, has special configurations that can be accessed as you play, all of which give it, and you, special abilities. One of the neatest ones allows you to stop time completely, and for as long as you want, to lay out a series of planned motions and attacks to accomplish an objective or quickly eliminate enemies, which will then actually take place once you resume time. But the most intriguing thing I heard was this. Transistor is going to be PS4 exclusive, and because of that they’ve been looking into finding unique ways to use the controller. They’ve already gotten the PS4 controller’s light bar, which is most of the time used for games that support the camera, to flash in rhythm with the speech of the man inside the Transistor sword, but what they said right after that got me, as to my knowledge this hasn’t been discussed at all. They said they were also playing around with the idea of having his voice come through the speaker. This seems to imply there’s a speaker on the controller, which again I don’t recall anyone mentioning. If that’s true, I find that extremely intriguing, at least if this speaker produces audio of a decently high quality, because if there’s one thing I really like about the Wii You, and playing games like Arkham City on the Wii You, it’s that. The voices coming through Batman’s radio actually coming through the Gamepad speakers really adds a new element. So we’ll see if that guy didn’t just weirdly misspeak, or if maybe this is yet another awesome facet of the PS4.

And that’s it. Really, it is. I hope I’ve given you a decent amount of news during the course of E3. I know it wasn’t half as much as some of the bigger gaming media outlets have provided, but hopefully the way I consolidated some of the interesting stuff served you well this week. It really was a great E3 this year, and the proof of that is how much I can’t wait for these games. I can’t wait for the next generation to begin!

E3 Day 3 Stuff

Alright, folks, there isn’t as much news today, but a couple interesting things I found out, and one correction as well. Let’s see what we’ve got.

First, the correction. This was just a misinterpretation, really. I said before that Sony announced they had 40 exclusives launching for the PS4 within its first year. This was incorrect. According to a Gametrailers interview with Jack Trenton, Sony has 20 first party exclusives, (still more than the Xbox One’s 15), and on top of that, 40 multiplatform games contain exclusive content just for the PS4. Pretty sweet deal if you ask me, and in some ways better than I originally thought.

Now, a couple quick interesting notes. First, Batman: Arkham Origins does not in fact retain the original voice actors for its characters, most specifically Batman and the Joker. As it is a prequel, they wanted to find younger sounding actors to fit those roles. The most intriguing of these, for anyone who follows voice acting in video games, is the Joker, who is now played by one Troy Baker, a very prevalent actor whose career only seems to be picking up. So hey, if you are going to replace Mark Hamil, he’s a good choice for a replacement at least.

The second bit of news is kind of a fun fact. I don’t know how many of you are familiar with Borderlands, but it’s basically a shooter/RPG kind of game with a focus on its own sense of humor. There’s some DLC coming out for it later this month which is basically a parody of Dungeons and Dragons. This content’s main character, named Tiny Tina, is one of the best characters in the game if not the whole series, and now I know why. Today, I have learned that the voice actress, one Ashley Burch, is the sister of the writer who created Tiny Tina, Anthony Burch. Tina herself is based on a combination of Ashley, and a friend of the family. Guess there’s a lot to be said for good, old-fashioned family chemistry.

That was really about it. Uh, some folks said they like the PS4 controller, lots of folks just continue to like the PS4 all around, but nothing really major besides that first big one. Yes, I watched more game footage than that, but remember i’m not trying to talk about and cover every game, I’m just trying to bring up interesting news about games people tend to follow. Oh wait, there is one more thing I could mention, though there was little elaboration on this. Final Fantasy XV’s combat is not at all turn-based. It’s realtime, which is almost, though not completely, unique to the FF series. There, now that’s it. Heheh. Tune in for more tomorrow, when I expect we may find out about the next WWE game from 2K, and hey, if you’re me, that’s a big deal.

E3 Day 2 Updates

Alrighty then! What I consider E3 day 2, which by the way is considered Day 1 by the general public, is over. A few interesting tidbits came out today that I want to share with you, some of which is new information, some of which is corrections to other information.

The biggest news is this. This was actually something I heard Jack Trenton say during the Sony Press Conference, but I wasn’t sure enough that I interpreted it correctly to make it news. Now it has been confirmed. Playstation Plus is now required for online play on the PS4. Now I can hear you all getting negative, but let me add to this a bit, and clarify things. Yes, it is required, you do have to pay for online play now, but it’s still a better deal than Xbox Live Gold. First, it’s $50 rather than $60 per year, second you still get all the PS+ benefits, including bunches of free games. Third, even if you don’t pay for Playstation Plus, you retain access to all your media services on the PS3 like Netflix and Amazon video and all that, whereas all those things require Xbox Live gold with Microsoft. Now, if you’re still going “But, but, but you have to pay to play online and that sucks!” I still understand, I still get where you’re coming from, but consider this. You may very well get what you pay for. Almost all online games on the PS3, not all, but almost all, are plagued by lag. With this new model, that may no longer be the case. So it can be considered a negative, but I urge you to try not to do so, at least not too much.

Secondly, a couple of interesting corrections. Both Final Fantasy 15, and Kingdom hearts 3 are apparently not PS4 exclusive. This strikes me as slightly weird, as it will be the first time a Kingdom Hearts game is on Xbox anything, but so be it, I guess. Me, I’m gonna get that one for the PS4. That’s where it started, that’s where we’ll conclude it. Otherwise I don’t mind much.

Here’s a funny one, though. Elder Scrolls Online is also going to be on Xbox One, so I do have to concede that little point I made about the PS3 taking in all the MMO’s. Ah well. Once again, that’s fine. Remember, we got solid numbers for PS4 exclusives, even if we haven’t necessarily seen them all yet. 40 within the first year of release. That’s still awesome.

A couple of quick additions regarding specific games. First, Killer Instinct is going to be a Free to Play game that will give you 1 character, namely Jago, and allow you to play as him in every way. You can play the full single player, you can take him online, all that with no additional charge. Then, if you like him, or just the game in general, you can buy additional characters of your choosing. Alternatively, they are going to release a complete edition that you pay for up front and all things will be unlocked. Killer Instinct also has some new mechanics, including something called Instinct Mode, which you can use as a combo cancel, even on an ultra. In the example, the player did a combo, transitioned into an ultra, canceled into Instinct mode, hit another basic combo, and went right into another Ultra. If I understood correctly, all this became one giant combo. Ah, Killer Instinct, I do love thee.

Additionally, a little more information on Titanfall. Apparently not every character in every scenario is controlled by a person. There are AI pilots and AI titans, (humans and mechs), to fill out the battlefield so you always have the challenge of a team battle. The match itself, in terms of the number of player-controlled characters in the demo during the conference, was a 7 on 7 match. So still not bad at all. Figured that’d be worth mentioning to make sure an awesome concept like Titanfall is as clear as it can be.

There were other things shown off today, including Watchdogs and Beyond, but I don’t feel there was any truly significant information besides the fact that I was right about what I suggested in one of my Audioboo posts, which was that the mobile companion for Watchdogs is not Smartglass, it’s its own app. This allows it to work with any version of the game, which I agree with. You can use it to both help your friends, and if you want to, hinder them, and even try to hack into them to totally ruin their day. I kid actually, they want to keep it fun. Any death caused by another player is just reversed, and you’re put back into your story without any kind of penalty. It’s kinda a competition between players that can happen at any time.

What else happened today? Well, the Nintendo Direct video played today, but there wasn’t much to it. Apparently only about 9 games are coming out for the Wii You within the next year, and most of them put out by Nintendo. There was a new Bayoneta 2 trailer, which we expected, a trailer for the new Smash Brothers game, which we also expected, Mario 3D Land, Mario Cart 8, Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze, the HD remake of Windwaker, a game just called X, a game called XY something or other, and one more. It was also announced that Megaman would be in Smash Brothers, but if you’re curious, there was nothing else about Smash Brothers. Nothing about newly added mechanics, just Megaman. And that was it. Absolutely the expected from Nintendo, and nothing more. They were right not to hold a press conference, because they just didn’t stack up, not even to Microsoft. Just a bit more proof that the Wii You is going down.

And that was pretty much the day. I will keep combing around tomorrow and Thursday, watching footage and whatnot, and bringing you more of this if there continues to be more to bring. See ya then!

Sony Lays the Smackdown!

Yeah, I’m saying it right here and now, Sony wins. This is a fact that is extremely difficult to deny, and one which I will explain. If you want a more dramatic version, check out the Audioboo post I’ve already recorded.

Sony started their conference by discussing the PS3, and where it is right now. They talked about how it was still strong, and they would prove that by showing some of the titles that were still coming out for PS3 by year’s end. They began with the title coming out soonest, The Last of Us, and went on to show games like Grand Tourismo 6, and of course the highly anticipated Beyond: 2 Souls, as well as a few other games.

They then got straight to business on the PS4, letting us all know that the folks working on the games we saw during February’s PS4 reveal have been hard at work on their games. They showed us the progress in the form of 4 new back to back trailers for each game: Infamous Second Son, Driveclub, Nack, and Killzone Shadowfall. They then announced that every one of those titles except for Infamous Second Son will be a pS4 launch title, and that Infamous will come out in the spring of 2014.

There was other footage as well, such as trailers for Diablo 3, and Batman Arkham Origins, which will both contain exclusive content for the Playstation Platforms they can be found on. Batman will contain exclusive DLC and a 1960’s Batman Skin, and Diablo 3 will get special Playstation themed gear, such as an amulet that resembles Nathen Drake’s from Uncharted. Makes it kinda easy to choose your platform when deciding which system to get your multiplatform games on.

In fact, the exclusive content didn’t stop there. Why? Because this is one of the things Sony is very good at. There will also be exclusive content for the PS4 versions of Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag, and Watchdogs, both of which got live Gameplay demos on stage as well, and both of which were absolutely fantastic. In the case of Watchdogs, the exclusive is a skin, and an entire hour of additional content solely for the PS4. Great stuff!

Sony then spent some time showing us just how dedicated they were to the indi development community. They started with Super Giant Games, the developers of the acclaimed Bastian, and their new game Transistor, which to me is still pretty cryptic. One of those music only trailers. But then, they went on to showcase about 10 indi developers and their games back to back, which was quite special, and more than Microsoft did. On top of that, they announced that indi developers, with the launch of the PS4, would now be able to take advantage of a self-publishing program! I’ll bet they all grinned when they heard that. Sony showed us that they love them, and they’re making their lives a whole lot easier. Congrats.

Now, the super awesomeness starts. Square Enix shows us 2 trailers. The first one is a Japanese language trailer for what used to be Final Fantasy Versus XIII. I say used to be, because apparently they have now decided that the story, the characters, and the gameplay are different enough, even though it takes place in the same universe, that they can call it Final Fantasy XV, and that’s exactly what they’re doing. Really big news, but the second trailer is what had me grinning like a fool and whistling along to a well-known theme. Square Enix has finally, finally announced Kingdom Hearts 3. Yes, at last it’s coming. They skipped an entire console generation, but Kingdom Hearts 3 is now in development. They had extremely, extremely little in the way of actual footage, so don’t expect a release anytime soon. In fact, I’m pretty sure the guy said 2015. That hurts my brain a little, but at least now I have it to long for. I am such a nerd for that series. Oh, and speaking of nerds, Elder Scrolls Online is also coming to PS4. I actually find this funny, because Microsoft was the one talking about how their system could support all these MMO’s with their cloud computing technology and whatnot, yet the PS4 is bringing most of the MMO’s. Final Fantasy XIV, DC Universe, and now Elder Scrolls online. Weird, huh?

OK. I think that covers almost everything save for the last demo, but I’ll get to that momentarily. It’s time to tell you all why Sony really won. It’s time to blow your minds. The best part about this is, they did this entirely blatantly. A virtual slap in the face to Microsoft, and without shame. Jack Trenton, president of Sony Computer Entertainment America, came out and said outright, with an accompanying slide on screen that showed the world his words, the PS4 has no restrictions on used games! You can trade your games in, you can lend them to a friend, you can sell them to a friend… It’s all up to you! Once you buy that Playstation disc, Sony says it’s yours to do with as you see fit. This is absolutely huuuuge news! Along with that, since there are no license restrictions, there are also no connection restrictions! You don’t have to check in every 24 hours to play your PS4 games single player. If you have no internet connection, no matter. You’re good for single player no matter what.

Now you might think old Jack was done, but you’d be wrong! he also announced that your Playstation Plus membership, if you have one, will be carrying over to the PS4 without any additional charge or anything. If you’re a PS+ member, you’re a PS+ member. And on top of that, (yes, he’s still not done), if you’re a PS+ member when the PS4 launches, you will receive Driveclub, the PS+ edition, for free! Folks, this is a launch title, and you’re getting it for free! Of course, I didn’t miss the fact that it is the PS+ edition, and that probably means it’s a bit chopped down, but there’s probably a way to purchase or unlock the rest of it for a discounted price, and ya know what? That’s still awesome! Again, launch title. So yeah.

The next bit of news didn’t actually come until later, but I want to put it here, in the river of awesome that flowed from the conference. That is the pricepoint. Folks, in case I didn’t mention it, the Xbox One is retailing at $499. The PS4, ladies and gents, is $399. A hundred dollars cheaper in the US, and about the same in other territories as well, though I admit it is still more expensive there than it is here. Still, that is, once again, huge news! These are the blows that Microsoft will struggle to recover from. PS4 is now not just the right choice for those who don’t want any restriction on their games, it’s the economy choice as well! This may make developers take a hard look at the PS4.And if you’re thinking about Titanfall for Xbox One, I heard tell Respawn was considering making it a PS4 game in the future. now, it seems to me they most definitely will.

There was another bit of news about PS4 supporting cross-game chat, but I didn’t feel that was as big as the torrent I just threw at you. And there were other things as well that I didn’t really go over, such as the PS4’s new video services they’ll be launching, their partnership with Redbox, and apparently some other things too, including, apparently, the WWE. Seems you’ll be able to watch Payperview events live via the pS4, and probably the PS3 as well, since they don’t tend to restrict that content. Even the vita might be able to take advantage of that.

There wasn’t a whole lot of information on Sony’s partnership with Gaikai. They did confirm at last that it will indeed provide access to PS3 games via the cloud, but still nothing on whether you’ll be able to redeem your previous purchases and gain access to the games you already bought. That worries me a little. Starting all over for me would be a big deal, as I have, well, I have a lot of PS3 games. Still, there is so much awesomeness here that I’ll wait for more information on that.

I suppose I should mention the Mad Max trailer too, but I don’t honestly know the character. It was a big announcement, and people seemed delighted, but I can’t really speak for it. Still, it was there, and it’s PS4 exclusive, so there ya go.

OK, we’re finally almost done. The last game they showed was Destiny, which we’ve been waiting to see since its announcement. This game sounds pretty sweet. You’ve got guns, some really powerful ones from the sound, some that shoot lightning and whatnot, but then you’ve also got magic. Warlocks and Fireballs and so on. It’s really need, and it’s also a persistent world. Along with doing whatever it is you’ll be trying to do, there are also world events. they showed us this as a big team of players had to take on a huge, huge boss, along with his minions. They took it down, and that’s how it ended. Now, Destiny is a multiplatform game, but Sony assured us they had partnerships with Bunji, its developer, and because of that, the PS4 version was the place to be, as it was going to keep growing and growing beyond the game’s release.

And that was your Sony Press Conference. Again, if you ask me, a huge, undeniable, unquestionable win for the folks at Playstation. Microsoft is in for some serious struggles. The exclusives they showed off were pretty good, as I’ve admitted. There was even Halo 5, which I don’t think I even mentioned before, but it was there. Kind of expected though. Anyway, the exclusives were there for MS, but they might lose those quickly save for those they developed themselves unless they can do something to keep themselves afloat. The policies are better with PS4, there are actually more games, (Microsoft tells us 15 exclusives while Sony says 40), and even the pricepoint is better. Hard times ahead for Xbox One, but good times ahead for us gamers I think. And now I shall retire, having preordered my PS4, and written this fabulous blog. If my combing through footage over the next 3 days reveals anymore news, you can expect some more blogs and or Audioboo posts then. We shall see what happens. Until then, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading these, and that my blogs have provided you with some idea as to which console you might choose, or at least which games you might take a look at. Peace!