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!

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.