Ubisoft Hasn’t Gone Soft: E3 Ubisoft Press Conference Recap

Ubisoft had a real interesting show if you ask me. We started with Jerry Cantrel, guitarist of Alice in Chains, who came out and, ya know, played guitar. This was to announce a new version of Rocksmith, which has a new session mode, where you can play whatever you want on guitar, and a simulated band will come in behind you, playing their own instruments based on what you’re playing. And remember, in Rocksmith you play actual guitars, not controllers. So for musicians, this edition of Rocksmith could be a big deal.

Another highlight of Ubisoft’s show was the new Rabids Invasion game/interactive TV show. Yes, it’s a Kinect game, but the Rabids have always been funny little Ubisoft icons since they came out, and it seemed neat enough. Whether we’ll be able to play it here is a mystery, as we still don’t know how much space the new Kinect needs, but nevertheless it sold my fiancĂ© on the Xbox One even more. Apparently, using the Kinect, you can play certain parts of the TV show, which you watch on Xbox One if I understand correctly. Either that, or you watch the show first, and then the game is updated to allow you to play parts of the episode you just saw. Not clear on the mechanics yet.

One thing I have to say is that Ubisoft over the last couple years has really ramped up what they do with audio. Voice acting and sound are great in basically all their titles now, including Splintercell Blacklist, which was one of the games talked about during this show and is apparently coming out in a few weeks. Based on how it sounds, I personally think the motion capture and voice capture at the same time movement is being embraced wholeheartedly. Of course, it is also true that they changed the actor that actually plays Sam Fisher, but given how good he is, I can accept that. Splintercell Blacklist sounded epic.

But ya know what else sounded epic? Watchdogs, of course. This time it was just a trailer, and no gameplay, but still, it got me pumped all over again. Gonna be a great game, folks, and I know I’ve said that before.

Then there was Just Dance. I uh, don’t really care about Just Dance, and the trailer told me nothing. And speaking of trailers that didn’t tell me anything, or at least didn’t tell me much, Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag had not one, but 2 trailers, both of which were, from a blind person’s perspective, mostly just music and the occasional sound effect or 2. Not saying it won’t be a good game, but I can’t tell based on that.

I’ll close by talking about 2 neat-sounding IP’s coming from Ubisoft. The first is called the Crew, and it’s a sort of MMO driving game. That’s not entirely correct, but I guess it’s close enough. You have a huge, huge open world to drive in, which is basically a simulated united states, and you’re trying to infiltrate and take over a criminal organization. You do so by completing challenges, avoiding police, taking enemy drivers out, and causing general mayhem. Now this is a persistent world, so there are real people doing this stuff all around you. If you play with friends, you can meet up with them and go on group missions. For instance, you can take on a real tough enemy together, one that would crush you on your own, much like grouping in an MMO. It’s a real neat idea, and it’ll be interesting to get a taste of that in action.

The other new IP I wanted to mention is Tom Clancy’s The Division. It’s an open world, action RPG, and I think it’s gonna be great. I will say this, though. During the demonstration, the group that was playing was chatting with each other, and it sounded really authentic, like they were talking through radios. I can only hope next gen voicechat is that good, because right now, most games don’t even try to simulate that kind of effect because it wouldn’t work. Chat quality just isn’t high enough. Anyway, it appears to be fully cooperative, as you play a team called the division who takes on the task of setting things right when a pandemic basically destroys most of the world, and it features pop in, pop out mechanics, allowing your friends to hop in and help you at any point. If this game truly possesses the length and scope of a typical RPG, we could be talking about something really awesome here.

Well, clearly, as I’ve rambled for quite some time now, Ubisoft’s was a much better show than EA’s. What’s next? Why, Sony, of course. More details on the PS4, more games, more… stuff! Stay tuned!

E3 EA Goodness!

The EA Press Conference this year was just about exactly what we all expected, therefore I don’t really have much to say on the subject. Aside from their announcement of Plants versus Zombies: Garden Warfare, which even I’ll admit sounded kinda cute, their focus was on their new engines powering their next generation games. They went over all their sports games as expected, and though I am not really a fan of Madden or Fifa, I am a fan of the UFC games, and I am looking forward to that one. They say this one has full body deformation which sounds graphically neat. Might add to the impact of punches and kicks and whatnot.

They talked about the Frostbite engine, which of course powers Battlefield 4 along with some other games, including, (and this was one of the few surprises of the show), a new Star Wars Battlefront game. Frostbite is a real powerful engine, and even as a blind person, one can tell. Frostbite isn’t just a physics engine, it handles audio as well, and the Battelfield games tend to win awards for their audio design for good reason, so I’m looking forward to hearing every title that uses that engine.

THey also showed the next Dragon Age game, called Dragon Age Inquisition, which is apparently going to be open world, and which I totally drooled over. And to end it all, they show us a trailer of Mirror’s Edge 2, which admittedly I don’t know much about. I have no experience with the first game, and while I respect that this was a big announcement, I don’t really know why. Still, again, it was the EA press conference we expected. Definitely looking forward to some of this stuff, and Battlefield 4’s Commander mode seems pretty cool, but I can’t say I was blown away. Ubisoft might just do that without even trying, just by showing me more Watchdoss footage. We’ll find out!

The Xbox One on Life Support

The Microsoft Press Conference has concluded, and it has left me with mixed feelings. There were a couple game announcements that rocked me a bit, but I’m still not completely sold. For instance, as a blind gamer, the fact that Killer Instinct is making a return is huge. Not just a fighting game that I could, of course, play, but the return of a fighting game I grew up with. That’s pretty epic, I have to say. I hate that it’s exclusive, but what can ya do there? Microsoft owns Rare, the game’s creator. So… ouch. Not a system seller, but still, ouch.

I would like to point out that they opened the show with a trailer for MGS5: The Phantom Pain. It was really long, and the trailer was good, but folks, that particular game is not exclusive. Yes, most of the show’s emphasis was on exclusives, but I would’ve thought that would be how you opened the show, rather than a multiplatform game, since multiplatform games don’t help your case.

We then went a little bit into the Xbox 360, which has a few games coming out, but that’s not why we’re here, so I don’t want to focus too much on that. Suffice it to say the 360 does have a few more games left in it.

Moving on, they showed off some Xbox One games like Rise, which to me only sounded impressive when it started. The audio during the actual combat wasn’t all that great, and I have been informed the combat itself is sort of a Quicktime extravaganza. Of course, it optionally uses Kinect, and Smartglass as well.

I don’t think I’ll go over every single game covered here, but they also showed the Xbox One’s ability to be playing one game while queueing for multiplayer in another. The person in control was playing Rise, but had queued up for a match in Killer Instinct. They got their request, which can be accepted with both voice and via the controller apparently, and I’ll give the Xbox One its due here, it switched from Rise to Killer Instinct really, really fast. It’s sad, but I sort of wonder if that was rigged. No idea. Still, I’ll admit that’s neat.

They then discussed the Xbox’s ability to record and stream gameplay, which as you may know, the PS4 has already announced. The big difference here is that Xbox One will stream to Twitch TV, whereas, (and I admit I sort of forgot this), PS4 actually doesn’t stream to Twitch, it streams to Ustream, which is a significantly less popular service. Still, what may end up happening is an increase in Ustream’s popularity, and here’s why. The Xbox One does support recording and streaming with commentary, which is good, but it’s commentary using the Kinect. If you’ve ever tried to chat with the Kinect, you know the audio is not very good. They’ll have to massively improve the mics in that thing to make that viable.

Now the big blow for me was when Respawn entertainment came to the stage. These are the folks that split from Infinity Ward, and they were here to announce their next gen title, Titanfall. Titanfall sounded freaking incredible for starters, but the big blow came when I was told the kinds of things that wer happening on screen. Imagine a game that sounds like a single player campaign, you talking to your squad before a mission begins, the drop into the mission zone, all that stuf… Except it’s not. The entire game is co-op. Your entire team appears to be composed of real people taking control of these characters, and playing cooperatively in a massive action setting which includes the ability for you to get in and out of huge mechs at will, without any loading time or anything. It really sounded like it was something. I have since heard that this particular game might not remain Xbox One exclusive forever, but that’s unconfirmed.

There were other things. Dead Rising 3 is also exclusive, which my fiancĂ© is into though I didn’t think it sounded that great. Quantum Break sounds like a big deal, but I still have to say we didn’t see enough that I really understand what it is. Project Spark, which is a creative platform similar to Little Big Planet on PS3, seems cute. Overall, it was a conference that focused on games, and it at least is making me think about it. I still have a lot of problems with the Xbox One. I don’t agree with the used game policies, I don’t agree with the connection policies, and I don’t agree with the Kinect always needing to be hooked up. Still, games like Killer Instinct, and Titanfall, make me think that maybe Xbo One can deliver on that at least. It’s very difficult to say yes or no here.

A Matter of Life and Death: E3 Day 1 Pre-Microsoft Press Conference

Well folks, E3 is here. I write this on day 1, a couple hours before the Microsoft Press conference is set to take place. What will we see? Will there be more details on Remedy’s Xbox One exclusive Quantum Break? What other exclusives will we have to look forward to? We will know soon enough. One thing’s for sure, though, the Xbox One is going to live or die on this press conference. They need to deliver games, and not just any games, huge games, because as we consider whether we want to purchase this console, we have to weigh those games against all the things we don’t like about the system. Are there games that will make that worth it? Honestly, I’m not sure, but it won’t be long now before we know the answer. Expect more short blogs like this one as the day progresses, as I intend to provide both pre and post discussion on all the press conerences taking place today.

Xbox 0.5: An Updated Look at the Xbox One

Microsoft recently made several posts clarifying some aspects of the Xbox One that people had a lot of questions about. This was a good thing, but the content of these posts conirms some good things, and some bad things. Here, I will attempt to summarize the big ones.

Before I do that, though, I want to make one thing clear. I am not apologizing for my first post on the Xbox One. It was right at the time, based on impressions that Microsoft gave us at the time, and I certainly wasn’t the only one that felt that way. We’ll see how much all this new information changes the opinions of gamers.

Firstly, the whole game licensing deal. This has been clarified bigtime, though again, it’s not all good news. Microsoft does allow you to trade in used games, and no fee is charged to the retailer, or the consumer who then purchases your trade-in… Unless the game publisher said so. That’s the big thing to pay attention to here. Yes, Microsoft is now not the evil people saying you have to pay a fee, but such a thing can still potentially exist, as Microsoft has given the publisher powers to block that sort of thing. Secondly, you will be allowed to give your disc-based games to your friends, provided they’ve been your friends for at least 30 days, (and yes i’m talking Xbox Live friends), and, once again, as long as the publisher doesn’t block it. Yep, they can block that too. Also, a game can only be given once even when it is allowed, so if you give your friend a game, they cannot give it back. Currently, you also won’t be able to loan games on a temporary basis, but Microsoft says they’re looking into loaning and game rentals.

Now the next piece of info intrigues me, I admit. Taking games to your friends’ houses is OK, but if I read it right, you don’t have to take your games themselves. According to Microsoft, once your games are installed and licensed to yu, you also gain access to a cloud copy. So you go to your friend’s house, sign into your profile, and then you have access to all your games in the cloud. This may be limited to games installed on your console, but I can’t be sure on that one. To add to this, if you’re on a family plan, everyone on that plan, up to 10 users, will have access to all the games on that plan. So that’s cool, I guess.

Lastly, privacy concerns, which I didn’t talk too much about originally. Microsoft says a couple things about this. First, the Kinect isn’t monitoring in an active sense, so they say. If you’re having a conversation, it is not uploading any data. It will upload communication you have with the Kinect itself, and much of that you have control over. For example, an exercise game can get your heart rate data rom the Kinect, but you can tell the game not to use it. A Poker game can use your facial expression in realtime in the game, but you can say no to that as well. On top of all this, you can apparently pause Kinect functionality altogether, and stick with another input such as your Smartphone via Smartglass, or the controller. This is good news, assuming they’re telling the truth about what gets uploaded and what doesn’t. Remember, none of this changes the fact that you still have to have the Kinect hooked up the whole time while the Xbox One is in use.

Next up, some miscellaneous stuff. First, I’ll go briely back to the whole game licensing thing to address the Always Online concern. No, the Xbox One does not require you to be online at all times, but it does require you to connect to the internet once every 24 hours. If you fail to connect, your Xbox One becomes nothing more than a Blue Ray and DVD player. you can play no games whatsoever. The reason for this is that the Xbox One needs to check and possibly update your licenses. Remember I talked about giving games to your friends, well that’s going to mean a license transfer, and of course you’re not supposed to be playing any game you don’t have the license for, so this little measure is to ensure you can’t cheat the system for more than 24 hours. Cool, huh? No games at all. Awesome. I actually know people who have Xbox 360’s, and don’t have an internet connection. Good to know those folks are screwed.

I’ll be nice and end this on somewhat of a high note. Unlike the 360, and very much like the PS3 of today, all game titles will be available both on disc, and for download day of release. This is a positive step, and a necessary one given all the technologies they’re throwing around now. Games in the Cloud and so on. They can’t be in the Cloud if they’re not digitally available for purchase as well. Or rather they could be, it just wouldn’t make any sense. So uh, yay for that.

So again, some new information on the Xbox One. If you ask me, while this does slightly improve the Xbox One’s score, and I do mean slightly, it still leaves it a cringeworthy system, not to mention all this should’ve been clarified as soon as people started going crazy about it all, not over a week later. Yet even now, I’m willing to say this much. We will see how things develop. If the Xbox One can bring the games at E3, it might be able to stand up on those alone. Time will tell. An speaking of E3, expect much in the way of E3 coverage in the coming days. There will be both blog posts, and Audioboo posts as well. See ya then.