E3 2017 Thoughts

Microsoft Xbox One X E3 2017 Conferance

I was originally going to write about E3 broken down by the three major console manufacturer’s but on second thought I decided it was a rather boring E3 this year so I’ll break it down to a few paragraphs instead.

First… Microsoft. They decided to price the XboneX at$500 targeting less than 10% of Americans…. good job? I guess the 90% will live on knowing Microsoft doesn’t care about them. Oh well,  I wasn’t all that impressed by the graphics in the games they showed off as “exclusive” anyway. They also kept touting the “most powerful console ever made” joining previous generations with…. WiiU (if you consider it last gen), PS3, Xbox 1a, N64, and the Atari Jaguar…. ummm ok. Am I the only one that notices the trend? Outside of the XboneX… they really didn’t have a whole lot, probably because the biggest upcoming games they had, they’ve cancelled leaving a ginormous hole in their library, not to mention all the defecting third parties. I think I am mostly looking forward to Cuphead on this console. The backwards compatibility with the original Xbox 1 was also pretty interesting and surprising. But I have no games from that console so it doesn’t affect me at all. It feels like a wild attempt at trying to get more games on the console… I’m sorry  Microsoft, but the Virtual Console hasn’t actually helped Nintendo a ton.

Sony…. I don’t even really remember much of what they announced. Horizon expansion? Oh Uncharted, I thought that game was Tomb Raider for the first half of the trailer, they really need to consider putting the titles in the corner or something. God of War looked really good. And… wait that was pretty much it. Not showing off Final Fantasy 7 Remake or Kingdom Hearts 3, or anything new really. I actually kind of thought they’d announce the PS4 Pro having a new price point of $349 just to mess with Microsoft, but I guess they decided on having a console $100 cheaper being very similar in graphics was good enough.

Nintendo showed a bunch of stuff we already knew about. Except they actually had I would say the 3 biggest announcements of the show with Metroid Prime 4, a mainline Pokemon, and Mario + Rabbids. All 3 had been rumored. I thought Mario + Rabbids looked amazing, I didn’t have much hope for it when rumors started flying early this year but I think it looks like a solid game. I will say that this show made me far more interested in Mario Odyssey. The hat possession looks really cool and some of the worlds look very unique as well. It reminds me a lot of Super Mario 64 mixed with Banjo Kazooie mixed with Kirby. I’m actually likely going to get it. Oh and praise be to Xenoblade, which despite pre-E3 rumors is sticking to a 2017 launch date.

Oh and there’s Assassin’s Creed.

I mean I would say any year that doesn’t have a major console being shown off is going to be a down year, but then… Microsoft had one… and this was actually the first year at E3 for the Nintendo Switch. So why did this year’s E3 seem so….. boring?

And I leave you with this year’s winner of E3… Devolver….

X-Box 360 Review

X-Box One has been out for a year, therefor it is the perfect time for an X-Box 360 Review! Actually, I had never bought one before. I firmly believe that if I want a console, I would like to play games that aren’t better on the PC, and really the 360 has very few games that aren’t available on PC so I never really cared. I have more want for the PS3 and honestly was close to getting one but the price dropped low enough on the 360 that I finally caved and got it.

With that I wanted to share my thoughts on the console…

First, the Operating System. Windows 8 works extremely well on the TV. I have always felt that the OS was best suited for Media Centers and Tablets and seeing it in action on the 360 just furthers that belief. The problem is that it is an extremely limited version of the operating system, and not unexpectedly so. You can’t move things around, when you pin an item, it doesn’t go on your homescreen, instead it goes into a pin section which might as well be renamed favorites. I have also found it is very cumbersome to pin something as well. For instance, I go to videos and to the Twitch icon, and there is no place to pin it from there. Instead, I have to go to recently viewed and then pin it there.  How backwards is that? The real problem though is the rampant advertising. Every screen  has crap  tons of advertising. I would say 80% of the screen at any given time is an ad. there are about 6 screens  with between two and three actual apps and 6-8 advertisements on each screen. Realistically, you probably only needed two screens… Apps and Settings. And then gotten rid of the rest. This made me curious, am I spoiled coming from Nintendo which had a fairly customizable and ad-free operating system? So I checked out screens of the PS3’s menus… and they were ad-free too. Must be an American thing that says the product you own must be filled with ads… the gall that Microsoft also charges for their online service with all these ads is amazing.

I will say that the Xbox 360 has a good variety of apps available. Way more than Nintendo has on their system. The best example I have is Twitch, which isn’t on Nintendo platforms, but they also have apps for SyFy Network, CW, ESPN, and a bunch of other channels I have no interest in.

As a side note, I thought I’d talk about Microsoft’s Avatars… clearly a rip off of Nintendo’s Miis. They are somewhat cute though not nearly as iconic as what Nintendo did. I do like that you can change your clothes and pay for new outfits. As money grubbing as it is,  it is a feature I actually wish Nintendo had instituted with the Wii U. Even something like allowing Mii outfit changes thanks to amiibos would be appreicated but I don’t think will happen. Microsoft’s Avatars aren’t very widely used and are far more gimmick than it was on Nintendo’s platform though. Even though they offer more options, I’m far less likely to PAY for said options due to the lack of use. Ironically, I always felt Nintendo’s Miis were underused, but they are still actually used unlike Microsoft’s.

Anyway who cares about that? I got the newer X-Box One themed version of the system and I do really like  the new design. I think it is a much more sleek design than the older 360s. I think Microsoft did well on this design both for the 360 as well as the Xboned. I was hoping that the system was quieter than earlier versions, and the sad thing is that I think it is. But it is still a much noisier system than the Wii, the Wii U, or my PC. Microsoft has seemingly no understanding that this thing is in the living room. I did get the 4GB version of the system and bought a 500GB HD on the side. I do think the mechanism of installing the HD was super easy and pretty nice but the $40 I paid for it seemed a tad overpriced, usually  they run for $100… considering you can generally  get 2TB at $100 now adays… completely outrageous prices. If you are in the market for an HD, make sure to shop around!

I bought 7 games with the system and had 1 other game previously. The games I bought were SSX, Kameo, Diablo 3  Ultimate Evil Edition, Dark Souls, Enslaved, and Blue Dragon. The game I already owned was Lost Odyssey. I’ve played at least a little of most of them and the graphics are fine. Overall a bit worse than the Wii U generally can pull even in its first year titles and a bit better than the Wii could pull even in its end times. While loading the game initially is loud, the system does quiet down while playing. I heard a lot of Microsoft’s achievement system, and I do like the basis of it. But I kept getting achievements and I had no idea why… unlock a character in SSX that is rather cheap? Achievement! Ok that’s silly. I still like it as a concept though and I had heard that the system became abused by developers which seems to be true.

I will admit that one problem that i had getting into the X-Box 360 and why I was leaning towards PS3 was the severe lack of exclusive titles. I’ve been setting my sights on mostly the exclusives and already feel like I have many of them with games like Blue Dragon, Lost Odyssey and Kameo. Gears of War series, Fable series, Viva Pinata, and Banjo Kazooie are on my radar as well. But outside of that I really don’t know where to go for exclusives, most everything seems to be elsewhere. The next thing I’ve been looking at is what games are better on the 360 and the PS3? This is a good question. I feel like it is a difficult one to get good answers on because opinion is fairly subjective. I have been using Eurogamer as my source of comparisons and that put SSX and Dragon’s Dogma and a couple other games on my radar.

The X-box controller is essentially an evolution of the Gamecube controller. It has an offset right stick with buttons taking prime real estate instead. The buttons are backwards (XYAB instead of YXBA) and this is offputting for someone who is a long time Nintendo player and got used to the standard that was set decades ago. I also dislike the little dots they put on the stick pads. After a good half hour of play my thumbs begin to hurt just because they are rubbing up against those. I’ve never been a fan of the  external batteries, I know Microsoft initially used it as a good thing, but I think it makes the controller wonky. I like the feel of the lower two triggers, though I still miss the click of the gamecube at the end of the trigger pull.  I like the layout overall, but honestly neither layout really bothers me (the other being the classic PS layout of sticks taking the same position on both sides that Nintendo has now followed suit with).

I haven’t gotten the Kinect yet and still debating whether I will. I probably will just for collector’s aspect. But realistically, the best thing Microsoft put out for it in its 3 or 4 years of existence was a dancing mini-game that was part of a star wars game. Microsoft never knew what to do with the thing and then they wondered why no one wanted it on the xboned. Well to my knowledge they still haven’t found a use for it on the xboned,  in fact not even sure if there is a game out there that actually utilizes it outside of standard voice commands. As much grief as people give Nintendo for the Wii Remote and the Gamepad being gimmicks (and the gamepad so far I can’t disagree with), the Kinect is the definition of a gimmick.

Overall, for what I paid it wasn’t a terrible buy. Out of the 3 Microsoft consoles to date, the 360 is the only one I have any interest in as a collector. I am glad I got it for that purpose.

Year One of This Generation’s Consoles.

Today, December 19th, 2014. The Xbox One, from here on out to be referred to as the Xboned, has a sale price at target for $350. You get the xboned, Assassin’s Creed 4, Assassin’s Creed Unity, and a $70 gift card. Which puts the system plus two games at the astounding price of $280. Really good price for a system that has only been out for a year. Now I have been considering shelling out the $$ for a previous gen system now that prices have died somewhat. 360 is currently sitting at $200 and the PS3 is sitting at $250. Both come with games, generally I’ve only wanted the games that come with the PS3. In retrospect I think the PS3 ended with the best games of the system but that is a conversation for another post. But this did get me thinking of whether it is worth the price… even at $280 to buy an Xboned, and this relates to the issues that Wii U had after its first year of selling systems. Certainly the xboned has sold more systems in its first year than the Wii U did, though the Wii U sold more in the first couple of months. After one year, the xboned has sold 9.4 Million units globally while the Wii U has sold just 8 Million Units after two years. That’s bad for the Wii U. PS4 is sitting at 16.6 Million Units after one year. That’s bad for the Xboned.

The biggest complaint about the Wii U after a year was that it had no games. This was undoubtably true, but after a year, the xboned seems to suffer from the same fate. So I kind of wanted to compare the two. I will probably leave PS4 out of this discussion. As a Nintendo fan already I can say that PS4 has more games out now than the Xboned does, and has a very strong lineup coming. I think the PS4 will likely be the console to beat throughout this generation and the numbers are hard to argue. For this comparison. I am going to completely ignore anything that is not exclusive. Why? Because cross-platform games are completely irrelevant when it comes to comparing consoles. I don’t care that Xboned has Assassin’s Creed 4, so does the Wii U. Sure the latest version of Madden is not on the Wii U, but I don’t care about games which require yearly updates with little changes in them  in order to maintain some sort of relevance in the game space. I may count a game which is limited time exclusive but it’ll lose points for eventually losing said exclusivity.

Looking at the best games of the Wii U through their first year…

  • Nintendoland was the launch title they went with that would hopefully sell the system like Wii Sports did, it didn’t. Nintendoland is OK, but not great and I probably wouldn’t have bought if it wasn’t included even at $20 it would have been a questionable purchase.
  • Little Inferno has largely been hailed as a great game and though it has since been released on other platforms, I have heard tales that it isn’t nearly as good without the gamepad functionality.
  • New Super Mario U… It is hard to argue that the game is super fun. it is one of the best of the retro Mario games with really good design. It’s expansion-esque Super Luigi U, which I will not count as a separate game, was a nice though expensive addition to elongate the life of the game.
  • Scribblenauts Unlimited – A cute addition to the series. I like it better than the Unmasked game, but not as well as previous incarnations of the series. I wonder if this series has gone the course, but it still was a pretty good game.
  • Tank! Tank! Tank! – I hear this is a super fun game if you like multiplayer. I haven’t the crowd to play with so I never bothered to pick up the game.
  • ZombiU – I loved the dynamic of starting a new character everytime you die. Very roguelike and cool for a zombie survival game. This game puts survival back in the genre and is overall really good for a launch title. It doesn’t get as much kudos as it should.
  • Pikmin 3 – Amazing addition to the series. I fear the series continues to not sell well and I’m not entirely sure why. I kind of like 2 a little better but this game ranks a close second. Definitely worth a buy.
  • Wonderful 101 – A great idea, unfortunately that has largely been reviewed as a meh game. I have yet to have enough time to really play it.

I did decide not include remakes on this list like Zelda: Wind Waker. And I also tried to stay clear of indie titles because there are a lot and I haven’t played a lot of them. So yeah, overall not great library, especially if  you consider not many people have even heard of Little inferno and tank tank tank.  There were also a few more but not really even to the meh level that wonderful 101 and Nintendoland get.

On to the Xboned.

  • Crimson Dragon – I admit. I was kind of excited by the game. Panzer Dragoon is a very highly regarded game, though really the RPG is what gets the regard, not the rail shooter. It got pretty bad ratings, generally sitting at 50%, but still kind of want to play it anyway.
  • Dead Rising 3 – A good solid game… Good Exclusive. I probably wouldn’t buy it personally but that’s me, to be honest i wouldn’t likely buy ZombiU if it hadn’t come with my system, I’m not a scary game guy.
  • Forza Horizon 2 – Honestly out of all the games before Sunset Overdrive, this is the only one I had heard about that I really wanted to play. Not sure why, I haven’t really been interested in racing games for years.
  • Ryse – This was supposed to be one of the biggest games going into the launch but never really panned out. I would put it in the Nintendoland column.
  • Titanfall – A good solid game, though the amount of hype before versus the amount of talk after is a little disturbing. Probably their biggest game during their launch period.
  • Project Spark – Wonder how much the failure of this game led to the purchase of Minecraft?
  • Sunset Overdrive – To date, the biggest game that gives you a reason to buy an X-Box One, and really the only reason I would seriously consider buying one. The game looks fantastic. Mad props to Insomniac Games.

And that is pretty much their lineup. I guess I could probably include Killer Instinct in the meh column as well, but their free to play method annoyed the crap out of me more than anything. I don’t care if the game is decent, that was bullshit.

Overall, personally I liked the games more on the Nintendo side, Xboned had a few good ones worth going after but just to me not as many. I realize this opinion will be different for those who disregard any game that doesn’t have mass murder as not a “real game,” but I just have a hard time caring about said people. I very much enjoy violent games, why can’t those people enjoy fun games that aren’t violent? It doesn’t make sense to me.

To me the more concerning part is the next year of the xboned. With the end of the first year, you were starting to see production of games ramping up for the Wii U with Bayonetta 2, Super Mario 3D World, Mario Kart, Smash Brothers, and more on the next year. And we were already hearing rumors of Xenoblade X and the next Zelda. With Xbox One… the only thing in the future I have heard about is the next Halo, and I just don’t care.

People, I feel, overrate the games of the first year. In modern consoles, the first year is almost uniformally crappy, even with the PS4. I can excuse that. It’s what that follows that REALLY matters. And both the Wii U and the PS4 have solid lineups planned for next year.  And Nintendo had a good lineup this last year and it was announced at this point last eyar too. That Microsoft has nothing planned but Halo 5 is extremely disturbing and I think even at an amazing price of $280 for the Xbox One. I’m sorry Microsoft… I will pass. I’d rather pay $250 for a PS3 with The Last of Us…

Microsoft Announces Windows 10

Ugh, too much Microsoft news for my taste. So Microsoft this last week revealed Windows 10 for the first time. I gotta say, between the naming of the X-box One and Windows 10 and the purchase of Minecraft for $2.5, I feel like Microsoft is incredibly bad with numbers and math. For realsies though, Microsoft is skipping Windows 9 because a lot of programs look for “Windows 9*” when determining your operating system thanks to Windows 95 and Windows 98. This created a programming problem with some things that worked fine with the code, but because of the name of Windows 9, would have gotten screwed up. Woulda been nice if they kept to nontraditional naming like XP and Vista a little longer, but oh well.

I have seen someone doing a quick run through of some of the features that they have showed off so far. I have an overall meh towards it. They added multiple desktops where you can basically create save states of what windows you have open and switch between those states on the fly. This was a much needed addition to Windows and am happy to see it. So far that seems like the biggest addition.

You can keep the start screen of Windows 8 if you want, but the reality is that only touch screen users will do so. Otherwise all those tiles now have a place in the start menu which is finally returning. I don’t particularly like this as I feel that it makes the start menu seem really bloated. The weird thing about Windows 7 and 8 is that I really love the Windows 8 start screen, but I don’t love that they got rid of windows and the start menu and the task bar as those things made using Windows on the PC less frustrating. I would love it if the desktop was the start screen of Windows 8, but you still had windows over the top as normal and the start menu and everything. So basically remove the icons of windows 7 and earlier and replace it with the Windows 8 Start Screen. Allow for people to customize it with backgrounds still, it really is a style change (preferably allow people to choose which way they like best).

Honestly, I always kind of liked the idea of desktop widgets from Windows 7, but there really weren’t many widgets worth having and it tended to slow down the system more than it was worth. And in this day and age I also think that icons are in need of a desperate update, and honestly I thought the look of Windows 8 was very attractive.  So I’d be all about making that what I saw all the time. I don’t understand why Microsoft needs to make it a one or the other proposition… Why can’t I have the good thing about Windows 8 and the good things about Windows 7 at the same freaking time? Why do I have to choose which one I am using right now? Microsoft, I continue to be baffled by your more recent moves.

Will I get it? I don’t know. So far Microsoft hasn’t shown a lot. I suppose it depends on whether the gaming community follows. A lot of developers went out and said they would not build games for Windows 8 because it was that appalling to them, will they come back for 10? Is there really anything different from 10 to 7 that requires the purchase? I don’t know the answer to these questions right now so I will watch as more info comes in. Right now I would lean to probably not worth the $100 investment for my old PC to upgrade. Probably worth it for any new PC that I have to get a new operating system for (which I actually am looking at right now).

Microsoft Bought Minecraft

After a lot of rumors, it finally happened… Microsoft bought the company that made Minecraft, Mojang, for $2.5 billion. I am overall sad by the purchase, but my general feeling is that it was a good deal for Notch and I don’t blame him at all for pulling the trigger. I mean.. It’s 2.5 billion dollars, would you turn your back on that?

I think the problem with Minecraft is it’s age. Minecraft was released to the public on May 17, 2009 and after a couple of years of public alpha and beta tests, the public version was released on November 18, 2011. Now sitting at over 5 years old, there is a bit of age in the game. Yes profits of the game were up, what 30% last year? That’s an amazing number after 5 years, and I think the 360 sales finally passed the PC sales as well. I am sure this next year will see another rise in profits as well with releases to the PS3 and Xbox One. 1 2015 may be a decent year as well with expected releases on the PS4 and the PSP Vita, though who knows if both of those will follow through with this recent purchase. I wouldn’t be surprised if the PSP Vita one in particular was canned even though Microsoft doesn’t have a portable competitor to put it on. The point is, there might be maybe one more year of good profits before the game starts dropping off, and at that point the Mojang crew really needs to start considering a follow up somehow.

Mojang has tried to make follow up games to Minecraft since it launched. There have been several mini-game/tech demos made during mojams, there is 0x10c, and Cobalt and Scrolls. I feel like there has also been a couple other games but I can’t recall them. The point is none of these games have really worked out. Scrolls in particular started development in 2011 and after 3 years of development is most known for a lawsuit with Bethesda because Mojang tried to trademark the word Scrolls and Bethesda didn’t like that with Elder Scrolls being out there.

This means at some point in time over the next couple of years, Mojang’s next best shot is to make Minecraft 2, in order to get more income out of Minecraft and get all the initial purchases again. The problem with this plan is can Mojang repeat the magic they struck with Minecraft? The thing with Minecraft is that it seems to be one of those games that everyone who tries it loves. The other examples in gaming history that are similar to this that I can think of are Pac-Man and Super Mario Bros. It didn’t matter what kind of gamer you are, whether you were male or female, these are games you love. And Minecraft was in the same boat really. I have a few friends who play the game who I don’t really have in common any other genre. I know a lot of FPS players get into Minecraft even though it isn’t a game that I would generally consider FPS gamer friendly. I have also heard the Minecrackers talk about how the only game that they all have in common is Minecraft and they have a hard time playing other games because there isn’t a shared interest almost anywhere else. About the only people I have heard who dislike the game, really have never played it. Minecraft was special and I don’t think Mojang was going to really be able to repeat it. In fact, trying to make a sequel would have the potential of killing the original player base due to factioning the player base and may even had the ability of lowering the number. 2

So yeah, sell it to Microsoft. Mojang was near the end of the road with their magical horse, might as well sell it while it is still hot and make the most out of what you have. What does Microsoft get? Not entirely sure. They will face the same problem Mojang would have with a sequel but will probably try to do it anyway. I do see potential in offering officially licensed servers, but would have a difficult job making it so no one else could sell Minecraft servers without alienating the existing base. I don’t see Microsoft making back 2.5 billion off this though. Even if they sell servers and continue merchandising push, and Minecraft 2 is a moderate success… i don’t see 2.5 billion. I don’t get it. I mean think about it on this side… let’s assume Minecraft 2 comes out and is a success and sells 2 million units on name recognition alone and let’s say that the cost to make Minecraft 2 is free and they don’t advertise it and don’t sell it in retail… well they just made $100 million… they are still short by $2.4 billion… where do they see the money? To put it into perspective, Disney bought Lucas for $4 billion which included Industrial Light & Magic, Lucas Arts, the Star Wars franchise AND the Indiana Jones Franchise (plus some other stuff like Skywalker Sound). Marvel likewise cost Disney $4 billion. I feel Lucas got ripped off here. But there was serious money in the franchises Disney bought… all Microsoft gets here is Minecraft and from the sounds of it, Notch walks free and doesn’t even have to work at Microsoft.

On Mojang’s side, it’s kind of sad. I mean even though I get it, Mojang was really the company that proved that you didn’t need a big publisher to do it. They were an early indie victor when indies were coming back and they were also a big reason that PC made a come back. And then they went and did their best to support the indie community wherever they could. So to see them sell out to Microsoft seems to fly in the face of what indie is all about, though I don’t blame them. It’s just too bad…

X-Box One… B

Ok, everyone knows that Microsoft announced their new console, named the X-Box One. I mean first of all, I gotta say that I hate the name of Nintendo’s Wii U. And as much as I thought that was a terrible name, Microsoft somehow topped it. I mean Nintendo has talked about how people thought the Wii U was a peripheral to the Wii, however at least there is a distinguished name to it. X-Box One has already existed, it was the first X-Box that Microsoft deleted years ago, and so I have no choice but to now call it the X-Box 1 B or the X1B from now on because I don’t want people to get confused with the original X-Box which I will now call X1A. And you see why I hate the name. Continue reading “X-Box One… B”