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!

Lessons Well Learned: Why Sony is Poised to Win This Console War

When Sony showed us the Playstation 4, they did just about everything right. They focused heavily on games, and features that would improve our gaming experience. They also gave all this plenty of time. About 2 and a half hours. All this was good, but now that I think about it, I realize that it wasn’t necessarily the features themselves that made it good. It was the fact that right there, we watched the Playstation brand pick itself up from its loss to the Xbox360, and proceed to grow. The presentation, and some articles afterward, showed us that Sony had taken great pains to learn lessons from this generation, the results of which all carry forward to the Playstation 4.

Most likely the number one thing people hate about the PS3 is how long it takes to download updates, or to download Playstation Network games only to have to install them once they’re done. Sony has crafted answers to both these problems. Updates to the OS, and to PS4 games will download to flash media in the PS4, then installed when they can be, all in the background. That will save a bunch of time as it is, but then we get to downloadable games. The data for these games is going to be compartmentalized, and when you choose to download a PS4 game, you can begin playing your game within minutes of starting the download, even while the game keeps on downloading in the background. The first packet of data might include the menu, opening cutscene and first game area, and by the time you finish that one, presumeably the next area will have been downloaded, and so on and so on. I cannot wait to see this technology in action, and I really hope it works. I believe games will truly be on demand when that happens. To add to this, Sony has said that it will take almost no time even to launch a game. They’re trying to remove the waiting period wherever they can.

Next up, Social Connectivity. I freely admit Xbox Live got it right when they included a headset with their console, and made Xbox Live a huge social gaming network. Now, Sony is following suit, adding their own flavor as well. Playstation 4’s will also come with headsets now, and the port will be in the controller much like it is on Xbox, but it’s the PS4’s Share button that really shows what Sony is doing this time around. With the PS4, you will be able to capture about 10 minutes of your gameplay at a time, and upload that to Youtube and presumeably Facebook. But if that’s not enough, you’ll also be able to stream directly to Twitch TV right from the PS4. It doesn’t stop there, either. If you’re stuck on some part of a game, you can ask one of your friends for help, and with your permission, they can actually take over your controller, and play that part for you. From what I understand, they can do this even if they don’t own that game, as the video feed from your console is fed directly to them using the PS4’s Cloud technology. Pretty sweet, huh? I thought so.

The last thing I want to focus on when speaking of the lessons Sony has learned is something I’ve talked about before, the PS4’s focus on games, and game developers. First of all, Sony restructured their hardware, no longer using that crazy, proprietary tech that made it so difficult for developers to make games for the system. now, because they’re using hardware closer to a high-end PC, developers should have a much easier time porting their games. Add to that that Sony loves, and prominently features independent game developers, and we have a winner. Developers are singing the PS4’s praises already, and with good reason.

Sony brings a lot to the table with their latest console. It’s powerful, yet simple to use for developers and consumers alike. It sounds wonderful, and in my opinion it’s absolutely the right direction to go in. I am left wondering now what we don’t know yet. Could there be as yet unannounced ways in which the PS4 will improve on its predecessor? I wouldn’t be surprised, and I look forward to finding out more at E3 in just a couple short weeks.