A Farewell to Ryan

It's time to reflect.

I feel unsatisfied with myself because a lot of the things I want to write here are the worn and obvious clichés about death; nothing we can say can make this okay, it’s all very sudden, it doesn’t seem real, I keep waiting to see the guy pop up alive and well tomorrow, etc., etc. They’re clichés for a reason though. I think there’s been a voice in many of our heads telling us that we don’t deserve to be this upset because we didn’t know Ryan as a personal friend. In fact in the past I’ve even seen people in the community try to invalidate the deep appreciation many of us have for the staff by telling us “They’re just a bunch of normal guys”. These are the same kind of people who try to shut down serious conversations about video games by telling us “They’re just games”. Fuck that mindset. We shouldn’t trade in our sincere passion for things and concern about people for a brand of 2Cool2Care apathy. Ryan was a human being like you and me, but he was a great one, and the fact that you could so easily see he was a real person like the rest of us was part of what made him so great.

I liked Ryan for a lot of the reasons I like the rest of the staff. Thinking all the way back to the founding of this website, I’ll always have a huge respect for him and the other guys who made their exodus from Gamespot in the wake of Jeff’s firing, and as a co-founder of the site, Ryan started something amazing. The Giant Bomb staff are a group of people who are funny, talented, well-connected, and know how to run a website. They’re the perfect package you want in your games press, and they are doing something different. There are a lot of places out there that have gotten into the cycle of printing every press release that comes their way, that are kept alive by being plastered with tasteless advertisements, and that have so many scripted videos and flashy virtual sets that you don’t feel like you’re being spoken to by actual people. In starting and running Giant Bomb, Ryan, Jeff, and the rest of the staff have created a site that escaped these common problems of video game websites, as well as many others.

A man of the people.

Giant Bomb has managed to be this haven of incredibly dumb and amusing shit, and yet at the same time been hugely informative and had a very human and humble face. I think that describes exactly what Ryan brought us as well, and I think it’s why even in a tragic time like this, a lot of Ryan’s work on the site can still bring us plenty of smiles and laughter. He provided much of the fuel for both the genuinely enthused discussions about video games among the staff, and the surreal musings on barbecues, hummingbird masks, space ponchos, Koffings, Riff Raff, Bait Car, and more. On top of this, he always seemed like such a warm and friendly guy. Certainly, this is how he is being remembered in the writings of those who knew him personally. Like many of the other Giant Bomb staff, it was his ability to project his wonderful personality that has made us grow so attached to him, and is a large part of why it’s hard to know he’s no longer with us.

Because he seemed like a friend to all of us, and because he’s worked for a website that has spent the majority of its time creating content out of various different basements, it’s also easy to forget just how important a force Ryan was in games coverage, but the signs are there. The outpouring of support from games journalists, their outlets, and the gaming community has been amazing to see, and Ryan’s name even popped up as one of Twitter’s top worldwide trending topics for a time. I never thought I’d see that. As both part of Gamespot’s iconic old guard, and as an integral piece in this self-stylised explosives-themed gaming website, Ryan has been a fantastic writer and presenter.

His absence is going to create a particularly noticeable gap in future content because for the live shows and podcasts, he was our helmsman. He was the guy who was there to steer us into the madness of TNT and Unprofessional Fridays, to tell us that it was Tuesday and we were listening to the Giant Bombcast, and to lead the charge as an enormous pie was flushed down the toilet. When you’re this close to the site, watching and listening to the content being released every few days, the staff become almost like a weird extended family, and Ryan was the father of that family. His experienced and comfortable approach to what he did almost tricked us into forgetting that in relative terms, Ryan wasn’t that old of a man, and as with anyone who dies young, the really heart-breaking thing is knowing everything Ryan won’t get to do that he deeply deserved to. It’s not my place to talk about his personal life too much, but I think we all know that perhaps the saddest part of this is that he won’t get to grow old with his friends, his family, and his new wife, and that is a real tragedy. My heart goes out to all those people because I can’t imagine what they must be feeling right now.

<> Mr. Davis.

On a more professional level, Ryan won’t get to see the next generation of consoles and games for which he obviously had so much love, and he won’t get to see where the website he founded goes in the coming years. I think we always had this vision of him, Jeff, Brad, Vinny, and the rest growing older with the site and covering video games well into the future. That’s no longer going to happen, and the thought of a Giant Bomb without Ryan Davis is an utterly bizarre one. We all know that the sad fact is we will never be able to replace him. However, nothing will be able to take away the joy that Ryan has given us, and the effect that he’s had on this and other sites over the years. Naturally, the first place many of us turned when we heard the news was to the countless hours of excellent content that Ryan has been a part of, and though he may no longer be with us, he lives on in the website he's left behind. I’m honoured to be at least a small part of that site, and I’d like to end this with a quote from the man himself back in 2008, speaking about Giant Bomb at the time of its founding:

"We're still just four guys, and we still feel that there's plenty of places to get 'coverage' out there. Our focus will be on commentary and perspective on the significant goings-on in video games. And, you know, fun! We don't want to run sales numbers stories. There's enough business out there in the game press, everyone trying to be Serious Journalists. I've got big respect for the way guys like N'gai and Totilo carry themselves, but no... I'd rather do stuff that makes me laugh... I'll be honest, I wasn't 100% sure this was going to work before we launched, but the response we've gotten so far has been so overwhelming, I'm confident that we're doing something that no one else really is."

Goodbye Ryan, you're already missed.

18 Comments

Nintenthoughts

I'm still not sure how I felt about Nintendo forgoing an E3 press conference this year, in favour of a special Nintendo Direct broadcast, but in many ways it seemed reflective of company’s position in relation to the other console manufacturers. You still occasionally see people criticising Nintendo’s console for its inferior hardware or lack of online support, but we’ve known for a long time that Nintendo are playing a very different game from Microsoft and Sony. In a way it makes sense for games enthusiasts.

This ain't your Xbox.

We already have two competitors in the market giving us higher end hardware, it seems advantageous to have an alternative competitor that is providing us with systems that are cheaper and using technology in unconventional ways. We already have two competitors providing us with lots of online multiplayer and media streaming via our consoles, it makes sense to have someone else who places greater focus on local multiplayer and connecting with people around us in other ways. At least, this looks good on paper. We’re not exactly buried in quality third-party games on Nintendo’s consoles, and inventive applications of technologies like the Wiimote or the Wii U touch pad seem few and far between. This pattern goes back to early on in the Wii’s history, where despite innovation supposedly being a cornerstone of system, it became somewhat infamous for its particular brand of “shovelware”; a collection of low budget, low quality, motion controlled-based games for the casual gaming crowd, that were often rehashing the same gameplay concepts over and over.

Project Revolution

It’s easy for us to conflate our personal opinion on these games with the opinion of the wider public, perhaps the casual crowd on the whole enjoyed these releases, but there was something a little uncomfortable about them. Not only was seeing so many drab and unimaginative titles disappointing for gamers who owned a Wii, but the primary purpose of the Wii was to welcome new people to gaming, and give those who’d never otherwise pick up a controller, a little piece of the enjoyment that this entertainment medium has brought us over the years. However reasonably or unreasonably founded it was, there was this troubling idea that many third-party companies were using the casual crowd’s limited knowledge of video games, and unfamiliarity with the industry, to exploit them into handing over money for games that weren’t that concerned about the enjoyment of the player. While I am being rather speculative here, it could be theorised that this impeded the Wii’s ability to welcome in a new gaming audience, and meant that for some players, video games were just going to be an amusing new fad until they got bored of the third-party studios’ endless mini-game collections and cheap licensed products.

Whatever the case with the shovelware, it also felt like motion control games in general didn’t progress far beyond the tech demo-style early releases. Some combination of business and game design issues came together to mean that a lot of the gameplay experiences revolving around arguably the most fundamental feature of the Wii, were shallow and derivative. Even now it remains unclear where exactly motion control games go next. The Wii was rich with first-party titles, but its lower end hardware meant it wasn’t getting the same kind of high quality third-party games we were seeing on the 360 and PS3, and the games it was getting weren’t particularly innovative. It seemed unfortunately like it was far too easy for the same thing to happen to the Wii U, and it kind of has.

Tablet Trouble

You get the sense that this thing has a lot of unexplored applications.

Where supported, being able to pull your games off of the television to play them on a tablet is a practical and useful feature for many, but there are almost no developers choosing to do something different with the Wii U’s unique controller, and in gameplay terms, it has largely just become an expensive inventory and map display system. I’d be very surprised if we see many games utilising it in a way that doesn’t just feel like more tech demos. This time round Nintendo had a potential opportunity for a different kind of leg-up on the competition though. Launching long before the other consoles of the next generation, they had a limited window in which their hardware was on the same level as Microsoft and Sony’s current consoles, in theory allowing them to release more popular cross-platform games on their system.

Either they have decided that still isn’t their strategy and have deliberately refrained from picking up a lot of those games, or they’re just unable to get the games they want. Maybe it’s a combination of the two. The Wii U library now includes Watch_Dogs, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Batman: Arkham City, and so on, but some of those bigger titles are coming out, or have come out, a significant amount of time after they’ve already been released on other consoles, and the Wii U is still far from the third-party powerhouses of the 360 and PS3. When Nintendo get a big third-party game the reaction seems to be a slightly depressing “That’s pretty good for Nintendo”.

Even the first-party games that have been a large part of the draw of Nintendo’s past few systems have been largely absent from the Wii U, and as many have identified, this has no doubt contributed to the poor sales of the machine. There’s been no 3D Mario, no Legend of Zelda, no Super Smash Bros., no Metroid, no Mario Kart, and none of the other games people expect. The absence of a casual gaming crowd on the scale we saw for the original Wii also left Nintendo in an interesting position for E3 2013. It was predictable that they were going to make announcements to fill those gaps in their first-party line-up and keep the same franchises going that they have been for years now, but what about the casual market on which their previous success hinged so strongly?

The first-party games are at least on their way.

The casual games offering at this year’s E3 seemed to be a new Wii Party and a new Wii Fit, suggesting that Nintendo believe that these, along with the announced titles from their classic franchises, will be enough to win back as many casual fans as they’re going to get, or that they’re just not as invested in building as large a casual base as they used to be. For people who love Nintendo it looks like some of those much-loved first-party titles are finally coming, with a 3D Mario, Donkey Kong, Pikmin, Super Smash Bros., Yoshi game, and Zelda: Wind Waker remake on their way, but many of these games are going to hit more than a year after launch, and I still worry about whether an entire console can be kept afloat by a bulk of first-party titles and a smattering of third-party gems. The 3DS is still getting by pretty well, and maybe the Wii U will become greatly profitable, but sometimes I'm anxious for Nintendo in the long-term.

The Nostalgia Machine

On a more personal level I’ve grown a bit estranged from them, partly because, like many others, I feel I’ve already played everything Nintendo has to offer. There’s a startling degree of polish to their games, and an unmistakable charm and nostalgia in a lot of what they produce, but it feels like there’s so much talent locked up in that studio that’s wasted remaking the same few games until the end of time. I think that’s why in recent years, I’ve been more interested in Nintendo’s returns to less well-explored franchises like Luigi’s Mansion and Pikmin, than I have been in a new Mario Kart or Zelda. Some would call Nintendo’s continual iteration on their popular titles them staying true to their roots, but in my mind it’s the opposite.

Franchises like Mario and Zelda exist in the first place because Nintendo were eager to use their child-like creativity to birth games that were original and different. As the years have rolled on it seems that in some ways they’ve turned into a very different company, and that the drive or philosophy that originally spawned these great game series has withered. The NES era was their real creative renaissance, bringing with it Mario, Zelda, Metroid, Earthbound, Kirby, Advance Wars, Fire Emblem, F-Zero, and more. The SNES era wasn’t as ground-breaking, but we still saw new games like Pokemon, Donkey Kong Country, Mario Kart, and Star Fox. Creativity seemed to recede further with the N64, but the console played home to new 3D interpretations of their big titles, with such well-remembered games as Mario 64, Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Mario Party, and Super Smash Bros. Inventive reimaginings were wearing thin by the time of the Gamecube, but it kicked off Metroid Prime, Animal Crossing, and Pikmin, and Warioware came out on the Gameboy Advance in the same generation.

We're a long way from this.

How many new game ideas did Nintendo’s developers have in the Wii era that didn’t seem like they were just aimed at casual gamers? How many games for the Wii U feel like they’re genuinely something new at all? Breaking down Nintendo’s history and looking back, I think it becomes clear just how dry the creativity well has become. Even focusing on new games in their existing franchises, they seem to be less and less ambitious with the new ideas they have for series like Mario and Zelda. This is a shame, because part of the wonder of these games to begin with, was in the discovery of these fantastic new worlds Nintendo were laying out before us.

We Would Like to Play

Don’t get me wrong, in an ideal scenario, with all the disposable income, I’d probably buy more Nintendo games and play a good chunk of them, and I still enjoy dipping into a Pokemon here and an Animal Crossing there. But I see Nintendo taking an approach to their games which is upsetting. They’re fostering a combination of repetitive first-party games, and third-party games that neither match up to the AAA releases of the other consoles, nor use Nintendo’s hardware in an interesting fashion.

I think there are people who because they don’t like what Nintendo is doing, think Nintendo will fail, or downright want them to. I think there have been people who have judged far too quickly that they definitely know the fate of the Wii U and who it does or does not appeal to. I don’t want to be one of those people. As I said, Nintendo can provide us a potentially worthwhile alternative to the other companies, competition is always important in the console market, there’s still something great about the games they make, and I can’t really predict the future of their consoles. The criticism I aim at Nintendo is not because I don’t like them, but because I want to see them play host to the best games they can. There’s also something endearing about the way Nintendo appears alongside their competition.

Maybe the reality is that Nintendo games exist the way they do because of the cold, calculated decisions of a bunch of businessmen, but they’re in some ways the underdog of the console industry. I love the work that’s done by Sony and Microsoft, but on occasion it feels like you’ve got a software manufacturer on one side, an electronics manufacturer on the other side, and Nintendo are just this humble group of ex-toymakers who want to create games that can make people smile and bring friends together. I hope that’s something those guys keep getting to do for a long time to come, even if they might never be quite the franchise creators they once were. Thanks for reading.

31 Comments

Full Circle

The Community's Voice

It has to be admitted that the recent clashing of horns between Microsoft and Sony has really brought out the emotion and passion in a lot of gamers. People were ready to be vocal and stand up to what they perceived as an injustice against loyal customers, and for a lot of this I was on board, but it once again became an occasion for the gaming community to prove there’s no problem so big that they still can’t treat it with a heavy dose of hyperbole. It was surprising how much traction the theory that the new Kinect was a super-secret spy device gained, and even in the relatively saner suburbs of the internet, people were accusing anyone with a pro-Microsoft stance of being “shills” working for the company, or just generally being compromised in their ability to give an honest opinion. Granted, Microsoft’s scarily bad PR job on the Xbox One did a lot of damage, but it was interesting how once again, with just the right combination of buttons pressed, large swathes of the gaming community turned into a paranoid and irrational rabble out for the blood of whoever they perceived to be siding with the enemy.

A machine more controversial than perhaps Microsoft expected.

But now Microsoft has overturned their decisions, they’re removing the restrictions from the Xbox One, and so the storm should have subsided, right? Nope. To some degree the remaining unease over Microsoft as a console manufacturer seems perfectly justified. While they may have changed their minds now, nothing can erase the memory that they were entirely prepared to bring down the hammer and sell out a certain portion of their userbase for more control over people and their games. I also don’t think Microsoft deserves a big pat on the back and a cookie for not screwing over the people who have been their customers up to this point. They’re not so much doing something good now, as they are refraining from doing something bad. Having said that, I think some still fail to recognise how dramatic this move was for Microsoft as a company.

I’ve seen people criticising Microsoft for abandoning their old policies because it was once said that them doing so wasn’t as simple as flipping a switch, but now they have just “Flipped the switch” and made them go away. Of course, in reality it’s not that simple. Microsoft scrapping those policies meant them breaking the promises to all their business partners about what kind of console they were going to provide, and the collective effort, time, and resources put into the DRM on the Xbox One is essentially wasted. This was a decision with some serious negative repercussions for them, and for what they did I can’t help having a certain respect, but some gamers have other ideas. I’ve seen people attacking Microsoft on the basis that they “Backtracked”, because a small number of consumers have this bizarre notion that changing your mind to incorporate new circumstances and information is inherently a bad thing. I’ve even seen people take pot shots at Microsoft because conceivably they could reinstate their DRM via a patch to the console. This is certainly something to be cautious of, but you can’t attack Microsoft on hypothetical decisions they might make, but haven’t.

Still, on the brighter side, we have an example here of games enthusiasts being able to have a real impact on the industry. Some seem to be treating this as a situation where the changes Microsoft have made are purely the result of direct uproar from gamers, and this seems reductionist; we don’t know what Microsoft’s pre-order figures looked like, we don’t know if their investors, retailers, or other partners were a little too concerned with their policies for their tastes, and I’m willing to bet that Sony’s E3 reveals rumbled Microsoft a little. But directly or indirectly, people speaking up and rejecting the restrictive policies Microsoft were trying to impose made a difference. As much as people might tell us that discussions and collective consumer decisions can’t change anything, it’s once again been proven that’s just not true.

The Case for DRM

I feel like we should all stop saying "The Cloud", but it's been said so much that's what it's called now.

The thing that really surprised me about the reaction to Microsoft's 180 on their policies was the abundance of posts declaring that Microsoft had made the wrong decision and were holding back industry progress. With the abandonment of the intended Xbox One restrictions, also came the abandonment of discless play, games being tied to user accounts, and digital game sharing and selling. Arguments are also being made that now the console no longer requires a broadband internet connection that can check in every day, that developers won’t be able to utilise “the cloud” as effectively as before, and that Microsoft are no longer forging their way into a more digital-based future where games will cost less, be more convenient to purchase and use, and will deliver greater profits to the people who create them.

Some of these criticisms I agree with. Being able to play without the disc or lend games digitally to other people were genuinely great features, and I’m all for the rise of digital distribution when it's done right. However, I can’t help but think the Xbox One might have a better formed feature set if it weren’t for this last minute switch around that the company brought on themselves. If they’d sat down from the start with intent to marry a console experience for everyone with new digital freedoms and advantages, there would have at least been the opportunity for them to create a better set of policies, instead of rolling out a plan which they eventually considered unviable, cancelling it, and now having no time to replace it. At least, this is the case for now. Things are a bit up in the air, but judging by Marc Whitten’s comments, Microsoft are probably interested in taking their bearings and seeing what they can do in terms of new features some time after the console launches.

As far as the cloud goes, with the power of the next-gen consoles, it will likely be a while before most games need to start roping in external servers to help with number crunching, but Microsoft don’t seem to be just cutting off developer’s access to their processing servers, so I can’t see anything to stop game creators from still saying “This game requires an internet connection because it uses outside computers to do its job”. There will be a lower percentage of Xbox One users who can accommodate an always-on connection now, but it’s not as if this changes the number of people in the world that can support an always-on connection, and even under the old policies there would have been a serious problem of some users not being able to support cloud processing. Obviously, someone who does have broadband internet that can check in every 24 hours has a more reliable connection than someone who doesn’t, but there’s still a big gulf between that and them being able to maintain a constant broadband connection that won’t drop out.

Not all digital stores are the same.

I’m also sceptical of the idea that we would have had a virtual utopia of cheap digital games and huge benefits to those who wanted to trade-in under the old policies. I do believe we could have seen a rise in the accessibility and a fall in prices for digital titles, but the Xbox One was never going to be like the Steam it’s been repeatedly compared to. One of the major differences between the two is that Steam does not have complete control of the digital PC market, while Microsoft does have complete control of the digital Xbox One market.

Steam exists in a competitive environment where if they don’t keep offering cheap prices and plenty of sales, someone else can shuffle in and start doing it instead. On the Xbox One however, Microsoft has a monopoly by design. While there are competing prices for games between the consoles, on the Xbox, Microsoft can set the price of their games as high as they want, and that is the Xbox price. Similarly, yes, Microsoft could have bought your games for more than they would have sold for in a brick and mortar store, but they also could have done whatever they liked when they bought your games, because they would have been literally the one buyer to sell to. Rooting for a future where Microsoft has such a degree of control over the sale and purchase of their games is to root for a monopoly over healthy market competition. I also reject the idea that the control that the console would have given companies was good on the grounds that it would have made them financially safer, and less likely to deal in unscrupulous practises like online passes or tacked-on multiplayer. Why I believe that could be a whole blog in itself though.

Building a Wall

But okay, you might still be thinking that these features, even with their potential flaws, would have been great ideas that Microsoft were wrong to throw out. Again, I agree to some extent, but we mustn’t forget why this console was so controversial to begin with. In many of the posts and articles of those lamenting the old Xbox policies, I’ve seen the original issues with the policies outright ignored, or even waved away as irrational arguments coming from people incapable of free thought. I’ve spoken before about why I think a lot of connection-based restrictions are bad, but for the Xbox One the short version is that it would have excluded those who buy pre-owned on-disc games, locked out most of Europe, Asia, about half of South America, and all of Africa at launch, and no matter what people like Cliff Bleszinski may say, everyone does not have everything connected to broadband at all times, and many people just aren’t able to have it that way.

A rather different machine than it was this time last week.

The people who’ve rallied against the Xbox One’s DRM policies have been accused of being short-sighted, because the Xbox One may seem terrible to us now, but hey, think of the future. I think in these accusations there’s a certain degree of far-sightedness, because yes, more people should be thinking about that console in the long term, but the bottom line is that right now we’re not in the future, and among having other problems, Microsoft know that console is built for a heavily digital age that many of us are not yet living in. Heck, even if you have a perfect internet connection, it’s been proven over the last couple of years that no games company is big enough to avoid server blackouts which severely affect their customers, and if your console has to sign in to verification servers to run, there remain unanswered questions about what happens the day those servers turn off.

The Way Forward

I find it unsettling that there are so many supporters for the policies that would place a barrier between passionate hobbyists and the games they want to play. It’s a weirdly corporate attitude that says “Well fuck the people who don’t have much money or live in the wrong places, the important thing is that the people with lots of expendable income who live in well-connected areas of wealthy western countries get a more advanced console”. I’m sorry, but I fail to see this as “progress”. I believe games and the systems that we play them on should be inclusive, not exclusive, especially when the gaming community still has so much growing to do, and gaming is already too exclusionary to too many people.

One of our great dangers right now is focusing solely on this issue of Microsoft’s policy flip and forgetting all the other potential problems with that console. Microsoft is still offering a less powerful piece of hardware than Sony, for more money, that isn’t supporting indie devs anywhere near as well. But I’m glad that this change has been made, I think it’s a good thing. The digital-centric future of gaming machines that the Xbox One was forging towards has not been lost, it’s just been delayed. We’re going to get there, but with any luck we’re going to get there the right way; without screwing over a large portion of the gaming population, and without handing over a copious amount of control to the publishers and manufacturers. Thanks for reading.

15 Comments

E3 2013: Outside the Conferences

While the E3 press conferences are consistently entertaining, every year there’s a plethora of interesting games outside of them that via written pieces, livestreams, and a huge host of other content from the hard-working people at sites like Giant Bomb and Gamespot, we get a glimpse of. Here are some of the E3 2013 games outside the press conferences that were most noteworthy to me.

The Crew

I just wanted to get this one out of the way upfront because of the rather disappointing way it’s demoed. Many of the gameplay systems in The Crew still look great, but it was a bummer to see and hear that the controls in the game feel loose and the road surfaces slippery.

Fantasia: Music Evolved

I can taste the colours.

A lot of people were angered by the initial trailer for Fantasia: Music Evolved, and the way that it depicted little to do with the Disney film the game claims to reimagine. In practise however, the game actually looks surprisingly good, blending rhythm-based motion control swiping with simple but vibrant visuals. The use of particle effects is actually quite beautiful, and the way you can pick your path to different music styles as the songs progress is a nice touch. The game still doesn’t seem to have much to do with that old Disney classic, but the lesson here seems to be never doubt the quality of a rhythm game made by Harmonix.

Sonic Lost World

Sometimes it’s hard to tell how much of the trouble with the current Sonic games is to do with the specific design direction they’ve been taken in, and how much is to do with it just being rather difficult to blend precision platforming with high-speed movement, especially in 3D. Sonic Lost World seems like it at least has something going for it though. The level designs appear unconventional but inspired, with the demo featuring a cylindrical Green Hill Zone-type world that wrapped round on itself, followed up by an odd candy world where the ground was made of Twizzlers, and doughnuts drifted by psychedelically in the background.

Gameplay-wise I’m not entirely sure how to feel about Lost World. You can now apparently change your movement speed so you can slow down and walk through careful platforming sections, but speed up for the simpler more deliberately speedy areas. There’s a camp that says slowing down is the last thing you want to do in a Sonic game, and another less represented camp which says the speed is just the reward. I don’t entirely know which one I sit in, and while I seriously doubt this will be the Sonic series’ return to form or anything, there might be something cool here.

Bayonetta 2

A big hell dragon getting whipped or something.

Considering Nintendo are so invested in their family-friendly image, it’s pretty ballsy of them to publish that gory game with the sex-powered stripper witch, but looking at how unashamedly insane the last game got by the end, it’s hard to see how Bayonetta’s fight against the forces of heaven could take place on a larger scale, or how the game could get any more outlandish. Fighting horse creatures on the back of a burning jet plane as it flies through the city is a good start though. The fast-paced hack-and-slash gameplay also looks fun, even if it doesn’t look to break that far from the combat of the original game. There seems to be a certain degree of backlash over Bayonetta’s new hairstyle of all things, but I think it’s respectable that the game’s artists redesigned the character in a way that isn’t going to be considered conventionally “sexy” by many.

Eyes on the Solar System

This one isn’t a game, but it’s partially relevant, and I thought it was interesting. There was actually a man from NASA’s jet propulsion lab at E3, showing off some software developed by the organisation. The program in question is a simulation of the solar system running in the Unity engine that lets you see the movement of planets, satellites, and other celestial objects in real or non-real-time from the year 1950 to the year 2050. The program has also allowed people to follow along with certain NASA-related events, and included a live simulation of the Mars Curiosity Rover landing. You can use in-browser or download it over here, and it looks fascinating.

Super Smash Bros.

It was pretty cool to see that Mega Man and The Villager are coming to Super Smash Bros. during the Nintendo Direct presentation, but I’ve become a little obsessed over Nintendo’s later announcement of the Wii Fit Trainer as a playable character. I didn’t see it coming, and while it seems really dumb (in a good way), it completely works at the same time. Outside of Saint’s Row and Bayonetta this may be the craziest thing I saw at E3.

The Evil Within

I’m not a fan of the survival horror genre, so after hearing that Shinji Mikami was planning a game that would return survival horror to its roots, the premise didn’t exactly grab me. That being said, the opening of the game intrigued me. With its minimal UI and at least initial focus on strong disempowerment of the player, this one could turn out to be a bit of a gem of the horror world. I’m surprised it hasn’t got more attention.

Saint’s Row IV

When you're the President, you've probably earned the right to smash up a few cars.

I loved Saint’s Row the Third, or at least the main story missions of that game, but I’ve been worried about Saint’s Row IV for a couple of reasons. It looked at one time like it could end up being a slightly altered Saint’s Row 3, and as with Bayonetta, I was concerned that the developers wouldn’t be able to top the abject madness of the previous game. However, if the demo they showed was representative of the full game, there are few reasons to worry about any of that.

The superpowers, which are reminiscent of Prototype’s gameplay look like great fun, letting you sprint your way into oncoming cars sending them flying, jump ridiculously high, run vertically up the side of buildings, fly through the air, and pick up and throw things telekinetically. And that’s all before we’ve talked about the Dubstep Gun. I’m sure the set-up of each character being dragged into a Matrix-like virtual prison where they have to face their own personal nightmare will provide plenty of laughs, then there was my favourite bit; a point near the start of that game where as President you are literally asked to press LT to cure cancer, or RT to end world hunger. Yeah.

Hohokum

This game seems worth mentioning less because I thought it looked outright good and more because it was unconventional. In the game, if it can be called a game, you take control of a colourful, thin, and one-eyed serpent-like creature. The beast constantly moves in whatever direction it’s facing, but you can manoeuvre it through the game world, exploring surreal and artistic environments. Hohokum isn’t about completing explicitly laid-out goals to progress, but is instead about discovering the small parts of the world you can interact with and the puzzles scattered around it. I’m worried it might feel like there isn’t enough substance here, but the game has an original look and sound to it, and could be quite relaxing.

Batman: Arkham Origins

Why do we fall down Master Wayne?

I think it speaks to how many big games there were in the press conferences this year that gameplay of Arkham Origins was show floor-only content. As you’d expect the game seems to be playing it fairly close to the acclaimed formula of Arkham City, while building some interesting new things on top of it. Fighting your way through the prison city of the previous game was exhilarating, but there’s something fun in a different way about being able to start clearing up a city where people actually live, especially when the new “Crime in Progress” events mean that you can hear about criminal activity as it happens, and show up to foil it on the fly.

The ability to go to crime scenes, pause and rewind a reconstruction of the event, and collect more evidence to work out what happened, may also help flesh out the gameplay for the detective work a bit better than the “Scan the thing” or “Follow the trail” goals of previous games. While the combat of course looked fantastic in the previous instalments of the series, it may look even better in this one. Animations in the fights seem more detailed and flow faster, and the game plays around with slow motion in the combat slightly different than Asylum or City did. Warner Bros. also showed off some of the new combat mechanics and weapons, such as enemies being able to counter player attacks, but the player being able to counter those in turn, and a slick “Remote Claw” tool which can be fired at an enemy or object, and will then latch onto another enemy or object to create a line between the two or pull them together. That stuff looks really exciting.

Duder, It’s Over

E3 this year was amazing. It’s a bit of a bummer to see Microsoft doing what they’re doing, Nintendo have down-scaled their E3 presence, and the gaming industry still faces a lot of the problems it always has, but there were a selection of varied and spectacular games this year, not just making good use of new graphics tech, but pushing out the boat in many other ways. Here’s hoping things will be as good next year. Thanks for reading.

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E3 2013: Ubisoft and Sony

Ubisoft

It’s something I’ll say to anyone who will listen, but I miss Mr. Caffeine. The Ubisoft press conferences have fallen into this odd pattern of almost deliberately being filtered through a series of bad jokes followed by deafening silence, but no one has ever leaned into it with as much commitment and tragedy as he did. Still, Aisha Tyler continues to feel like an adequate replacement. As a presenter she’s actually pretty good, but the humour comes off as mystifyingly awkward enough to provide some entertaining moments. Hm? Oh right, video games.

It's beautiful in its own goofy way.

Ubisoft opened strangely, perhaps more so than EA. It was surprising to see a video game conference kicked off by Jerry Cantrell standing there playing guitar solos, but it was also rather shocking to learn Rocksmith had sold enough copies to warrant a sequel. Rayman Legends is still looking great, not just because it has more of Rayman Origins’ excellent platforming, but also because it could have easily used an art style identical to Origins and looked great, yet Ubisoft decided to go one further and give it its own unique look. The last Rayman had visuals like something from an excellent cartoon, this one has visuals more like something from an excellent painting.

The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot trailer was rather painful to watch. It was a bit like one of Valve’s Meet the Team videos, except all the jokes were along the lines of “He fell over”, “He’s swearing”, “That frog is vomiting”, etc. A lot of people seem to be excited for South Park: The Stick of Truth, but I find myself rather neutral towards it. It looks like the TV show and seems like it has moments in it that could have come straight from an episode of South Park, but how it will play is another matter.

Things picked back up when The Crew became the conference’s new point of focus. I mentioned how much I want a Burnout Paradise 2 in my last blog post and this looks like it could be the closest thing we’ve seen to it yet. It has that excellent open-world driving at its core, the world looks huge, and like many similar games it’s trying to break down the hard divides between single player and multiplayer experiences. The Watch_Dogs trailer was also very cool, although I did expect Ubisoft to have some gameplay on offer. Rabbids Invasion didn’t appear particularly engaging, but we’re obviously not the target audience for that title.

Tom Calancy.

The conclusion of the conference was uncannily similar to how Ubisoft ended their conference last year. A stylised video that covered the details of a current wide-scale threat to humanity, followed by some gameplay of a great third-person shooter game that seemed to have come out of nowhere and blurred the lines between environments and sleek futuristic UI. The Division’s gameplay came across largely as the same combat we’re familiar with from the flood of cover-based shooters from the last decade or so, but its initial set-up gives it a lot of potential, and its innovative interface could present an action RPG where even basic menus, markers, and points counters become visually engaging.

Sony

The general opinion at the start of Sony’s briefing declared that all they had to do to beat Microsoft was get from the beginning to the end of their conference without announcing the same kind of nasty restrictions for the PS4 that the Xbox One is facing. Not only did Sony manage that, they did a whole lot more while they were at it.

Among other games, the conference’s opening showcased more of Quantic Dream’s Beyond: Two Souls, but while it is graphically impressive, telling us what Beyond actually is as a game seems like Quantic Dream’s last priority, and at this point it’s looking like a fair possibility that it could be another modern military action game or another Heavy Rain, essentially taking the form of a movie full of QTEs and dialogue choices. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but suffice it to say I feel a bit lost.

Just so you know, if you want to play as that awful Azrael Batman you're crazy.

The new Batman: Arkham Origins trailer brought a grin to many faces, and although I'm not as captivated by the villains they’ve showed in Origins as I was with the antagonists of Arkham Asylum and Arkham City, having the chance to get another dose of Arkham’s empowering stealth, combat, and traversal mechanics is still a very enticing prospect. I’m not the biggest fan of steampunk, but the trailer for The Order was intriguing, largely because it managed to keep its monsters ambiguous and mysterious. I hope it doesn’t just turn out that they’re werewolves. The Infamous: Second Son trailer also was also a nice treat, and it felt like the characters in there actually seemed more human and relatable than the characters from the Beyond trailer. Really, Sony showed off so many games it’s impossible for me to mention them all here and still keep this something close to a brief review.

Quantic Dream’s tech demo for The Last Sorcerer was both mind-blowing as a piece of modelling and animation, and amusing. I’m not the kind of person who usually loses it over the latest graphics technology and more realistic rendering methods, but it’s undeniable that there was something amazing about the subtle expressions that were captured in that demonstration. Up to this point in the conference it felt like Sony’s offerings had been impressive, but I think it’s here that the conference took a turn and became something really special.

It was great to see some friends of Giant Bomb up on stage showing off games they really cared about, Transistor looks like it has something seriously going for it, and the way that Sony showed their commitment to independent game developers overall was beautiful. Microsoft had one indie game at their show, Sony had eight. I think they’re a company that understand that truly embracing independent developers is essential to ensuring your games are doing plenty of original and different things, instead of just being one big mountain of AAA titles. With a new generation of consoles, the temptation is also there to just show big 3D games that are utilising the raw power of the new hardware to make things look as realistic as possible. It was great to see that Sony aren’t afraid to show off some 2D games that are being inventive with their art styles.

It's time to buckle some swashes.

Moving on, Kingdom Hearts and a new Final Fantasy I could care less about, but the Assassin’s Creed IV demo was very exciting, even if it did have its technical hitches. I’ve played a lot of Assassin’s Creed and I thought it was a series I was done with, but I have a particular weak spot for pirates. There seems to be an inherent difficulty in basing what is largely a platforming game around people who spend most of their time sailing the oceans, but if the demo was anything to go buy they’re striking a good balance between having you frolicking around the seven seas and bounding across the rooftops of coastal cities. Who’d have thought naval combat would have become such a popular part of the Assassin’s Creed games.

It seemed unlikely that they’d top that demo, but it was here that we finally got to lay our eyes on some fresh Watch_Dogs gameplay. Looking at Watch_Dogs, I see a lot of the same things in it that made me like Deus Ex: Human Revolution. I like its cyberpunk elements and the game’s general focus on hacking and electronic systems, I like the dark dystopian tone, and I like that it has a narrative that touches on real problems we’re facing today and are likely to face in the near future. There’s something more than just that to it though. Most third-person open-world games let you empower yourself through weapons, and display your physical prowess over your enemies. Watch_Dogs has a firearm, but it’s also a game that seems to have a major focus on mind games, and causing anarchy and destruction without ever having to lay your hands on a person. It’s cool to take down an entire army with an assault rifle or assassinate elite guards by careful use of your wrist blades, but there’s something uniquely empowering about being able to instil panic with a few clicks on a smart phone, playing psychological tricks on your enemies, or causing complete chaos while everyone around you is oblivious to the fact that its you doing it.

Destiny didn’t catch my eye like I thought it would, but it may still have something going for it. The environment and character design seemed rather bland, and it was hard to see how the RPG shooter mechanics improve on something like Borderlands, but the public events could be a legitimately enjoyable experience, and games like this and The Elder Scrolls Online show that we may finally be reaching an age where the console MMO is a reality. However, it was the announcements either side of the Destiny demo that were the briefing’s real shining moments.

Fatality!

Some have called what happened at the end of the Sony conference the final nail in the Xbox One’s coffin. I’m hesitant to make such a bold statement. I’m sure there will be plenty of people who naturally transition from the 360 to the One, Microsoft have a lot of marketing power, and even if I’m sceptical of it maybe the media features of the One will be a draw for some people. What’s certain though, is that Sony dealt a significant blow to the Xbox One that night, and I think we saw a little piece of gaming history. There’s always some degree of trade-off between the consoles, but the advantages that the PS4 is going to have over the One are rather staggering.

Unlike Microsoft, Sony are offering a console where players can share games freely, used games aren’t restricted, you don’t need to repeatedly connect to the internet to play offline, and indie devs are truly supported, and all of this is coming at a lower cost than Microsoft are offering for their machine. It’s a little disappointing to see the PS4’s multiplayer functionality get locked up behind a paywall, but Sony have worked diligently to avoid the mistakes of the PS3. Instead of confounding programmers with cell architecture, they’ve worked with devs to create a machine easy to develop for, and instead of alienating gamers with an uncomfortably high price point, they’re providing us with a console where it really feels like they want to give the consumer as much as they can.

In some ways I don’t want to see Microsoft pummelled into submission here, I think they come out with some excellent system exclusives and they have the ability to provide quality products and services, but at the same time I feel ecstatic to see Sony respect the consumers and developers where Microsoft have disrespected them. While the crowd at Sony’s conference was often too loud for my tastes, seeing people chant Sony’s name from their seats was elating, and in a way I want this to be devastating to Microsoft, because it will send a message to the rest of the industry about what happens when you don’t treat your customers right. Gamers often put up with more bullshit than they collectively tell you they will, but it’s usually because they’ll get something they really want from doing so. This time, there’s an alternative to the bullshit.

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E3 2013: Microsoft and EA

In all honesty, I didn’t have the highest expectations for E3 this year. I suspected that we’d see some real gems on show, but with ever-rising budgets for AAA games urging companies to play it in safe in what they create (a problem that’s likely to be made worse by more advanced sets of hardware), I was worried that we’d see too many games that looked like they were scared to do something new.

The run-ups to new console releases have traditionally been a time for publishers and developers to present original and enticing games for a fresh generation of systems, but I was concerned that it was all too easy for this E3 to be a repeat of last year’s conference which showed off some real winners, but also drew criticism for its copious offerings of predictable shooters, boring motion control titles, and iteratively designed sports games. For this reason I was pleasantly surprised this year to see press conferences with plenty of games treading new territory, and companies interested in offering up something new and imaginative. Let’s take a look at those conferences.

Microsoft

It’s interesting how Microsoft’s job at E3 moved from just being about making exciting new announcements to also being about trying to win back fans from the Xbox One reveal fallout. Still, there’s nothing to turn gamers back around like just getting up there and showing quality games, and that’s what Microsoft did.

Sandals are in this year.

While I’m not on board with everything their game is doing, one of the developers that really stepped outside their traditional wheelhouse was Crytek, who instead of presenting us with another modern shooter game, went for a slightly unconventional melee combat title set in ancient Rome. There’s such a wide variety of potential settings for games, it’s a shame that so many go for “The post-apocalypse”, “A modern war”, “A LoTR-style fantasy setting”, or any other frequently used template. Ryse is a AAA game that is using an exciting and underutilised time in history for its backdrop, and might well be doing it with some real style. Hopefully they’ll go easy on those quick-time events.

I still maintain that Sunset Overdrive looks like a cross between Mirror’s Edge and a Tango advert, and I’m not sold on the character design, but the vibrant and playful world has me keeping an eye on it. The new Forza looked beautiful, and the idea of an AI driver who copies your playstyle and races against other players in the game really appeals to me. Remedy’s Quantum Break has an idea behind it that could be ground-breaking if they can pull it off right; having your actions in a game influence a TV show, but I’m a little sceptical of ventures like this one, they do have quite a big potential to go wrong.

Project Spark however, is a game that looked like it had a tight grasp on what it wants to do. It possesses a charming art style, and I’ve just never seen anything for consoles that lets you build gameplay scenarios like this. Not only does it look like it would be fun to dive into those creative tools, but with the potential flexibility of what they showed, I’m sure people will create some crazy user content for that game. Obviously it can’t provide the kind of creative freedom that something like Game Maker does, but when you can start allowing users to make logic routines for their gameplay scenarios that function similar to program code, it opens up a lot of fun possibilities.

Things got awkward.

Killer Instinct didn’t really grab me, I can’t particularly see what it has over any other fighting game out there, but coming after the Project Spark demo it did make me think about how weird some of these developer presentations are. The people running the press conferences go to such lengths to make them polished and professional, then end up trotting out game creators like the ones in these demos whose attempts at casual banter come off as painfully scripted. I’m all for putting the real developers out there to show off their games, even if they’re a little stilted in their speeches, but these extensive and cringeworthy back-and-forths during gameplay are baffling to see at E3 in the year 2013. In fact at one point it got legitimately uncomfortable.

On the more surprising side of things, there was Dead Rising 3 and its new take on the aesthetics of the series. In a way, the more serious look for the game makes sense. They’ve probably reached the pinnacle of how crazy they can make a silly version of Dead Rising, but even with that in mind it’s hard to shake the fatigue for the dark, gritty zombie game. I guess at least you can still strap an electric saw to a sledgehammer and throw it at a dude.

Battlefield 4 might unfortunately have been the least exciting thing I saw at the show. It had some nice setpieces, but it really was the derivative grey shooter of the conferences. I’m sure people that like that series are pumped, but for most of that demo you could have told me I was looking at Battlefield 3 and I would have believed you. On the plus side Titanfall presented a much more exciting take on the modern military shooter. At first glance it looked like a dull amalgamation of CoD, Metal Gear, and a number of other popular action games, but if the parkour-infused, hectic combat they showed is what we’ll be experiencing in the final game, it’s hard not to see Titanfall as something worth following.

Below's distant camera helps create a sense of a large, empty world.

Finally, the look of independent rogue-like Below was visually captivating, and it’s always good to see the indies get some stage time. Ultimately, all the good games in the world won’t mean that the new Xbox doesn’t have restrictive online requirements, an objectionable approach to used games and a host of other problems, and the announced price of $499/£429 does rather sting, but if nothing else, Microsoft showed off a pleasing collection of new titles.

EA

Sure, why not?

One of the greatest things about E3 is just seeing how bizarre it gets sometimes, and that came through loud and clear as what at first looked like a Battlefield trailer then turned into a demo for a Plants vs. Zombies third-person shooter, before a man from Popcap announced Peggle 2, jumped in the air, did a fist pump, and then disappeared backstage. The general attitude to Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare seemed to be cautious acceptance, and it’s one that I share. I’m a bit burned out on tower defence, but it looked like a game that real thought and effort had been put into creating.

Need for Speed: Rivals played well, and I consistently enjoy seeing that one of my favourite games of the current gen, Burnout Paradise, is still influencing a lot of what’s going on in the racing genre. Although, I always become slightly melancholy looking at these games and knowing they’re never quite the Burnout Paradise 2 I want them to be. Still, the car-smashing combat, high speed racing, and points-based rewards of Rivals looks exciting. They may have even worked out how to get the series’ cops vs. street racers concept working better than ever.

Unfortunately the conference’s main payload was more or less the predictable; a length and dreary look at the upcoming EA Sports line-up. Not only are EA playing a game here where features like “The ball bounces up and down more realistically” are meant to be great innovations, but the presentations felt more like marketing spin than enthusiastic studios showing off their work. When it came to FIFA, the speaker began spouting off a series of buzz terms that didn’t really mean anything like “Stadiums full of emotion” and “The artistry of football”, and it wasn’t exactly endearing seeing a UFC fighter tell a room full of the gaming press how they must love other human beings kicking the shit out of each other. This stuff doesn’t do much to help EA’s image of a bunch of men in suits more concerned with marketing and sales than anything else, but they must be well aware of this image by this point, and basically don’t care to change it.

There is a god.

The conference plodded onwards with another foray into Battlefield 4 and I know I wasn’t the only one who’d tuned out by this point, but then came the closer. Mirror’s Edge 2 is one of those games that you really want to get excited about seeing at an E3, but know that if you did, you’d most likely be setting yourself up for disappointment. Yet, there it was. It’s not as if the original game was some flawless masterpiece that we want to see more of, it had its problems, but the striking visual design and unique gameplay made it a game that a lot of us aren’t going to forget any time soon. I’m happy that even under what is usually a cut-throat corporate entity like EA, a Mirror’s Edge 2 can exist.

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The Media Men

Don Mattrick presents: Logos.

When it comes to video game press conferences I think people have the tendency to get overly-cynical. The bars get set incredibly high, people want the core gamer to be catered to at all times, it’s easy to be myopic about these things, and there is a certain satisfaction in complaining, and so every year I think we see a fair bit of melodrama surrounding the big three. That being said, I think one of the defining things about the Xbox One reveal has been that while there may be a certain amount of unhealthy cynicism going around, reactions that would be far too negative if they were in response to most other conferences, feel largely justified here.

A Balancing Act

When we tune in to these events we expect a certain amount of time to be put aside for demos of motion control games that we’re probably never going to play, and segments of sporty talk about how you can use the sports app to fill your sports box with the latest sports sports. With the variety of people using consoles today, we can’t expect every second of every conference to cater to our own personal tastes. I’m somewhat playing devil’s advocate here, but maybe there’s a certain amount of give and take that has to happen with these things. Even if that is the case though, Microsoft seemed to be much less about the giving and much more about the taking.

It was crystal clear throughout the conference just what Microsoft wants their new console to be; an all-in-one home media centre that acts as a combined games console, cable box, stereo, and more. It’s an ambitious goal, and yet one that in many ways is playing it safe. We sometimes see things in the games industry that seem difficult to pull off because the ideas are so new and untested, and while Microsoft are bringing some new ideas to the table, they seem more interested in taking existing ideas and cramming them all into their system. It’s a strategy that will pay out very well if they can pull it off, but one that also risks them entering the next generation as a kind of “Jack of all trades, master of none”.

This conference could have been so much more.

Additionally, while some gamers have a tendency to overestimate how much their personal approval affects products, it must also be acknowledged that Microsoft have to walk a fine line here, between pleasing the more traditional gaming audience and reaching for a new audience of casual gamers, families, and similar folk. Nintendo's press conferences are a great example of how you can target a large new audience, while still presenting plenty for die-hard video game fans. Microsoft’s show felt nothing like Nintendo's, and there is a possibility that in trying to reach out and please everyone at the same time, companies can end up simultaneously alienating their loyal fans and failing to net a large enough new audience, eventually finding they have a smaller consumer base than they did when they started. The question has to be asked here, exactly how appropriate is it to invite the gaming press and millions of other gamers to watch your presentation, when the majority of it is going to be anything but games?

The Message

Press conferences and the talk that follows them are largely about communicating information though, and while the widespread criticism that there was too much sports and TV talk and not enough games is both important and valid, one angle I’m seeing getting much less coverage from people is what exactly Microsoft have communicated over the past few days. Whatever they want to be communicating, the message to me has seemed clear; that video games are worth less of their time than ever, that they care about a theoretical fandom of the Xbox as an all-round media centre more than they care about us, the loyal base of customers that already exist for them, and that they’re still fine sidelining independent developers as long as they’ve got the big corporations on their side.

Sir, the sergeant requests one tummy rub, ASAP.

What Microsoft have showed us of the Xbox One contrasts poorly with Sony’s Playstation 4 reveal. I gave the PS4 some degree of flack for not being backwards compatible, but at least Sony were offering some sort of alternative to stream games from older platforms. I’ve also strongly criticised Sony for playing it so safe with many of the games they’ve showed, but at least they were showing games. I don’t think Sony were fully catering to the gaming audience, but you went away from their conference seeing that they were invested in providing us, the core audience, with games, and in working with developers across the board. Microsoft seemed to not give a fuck about much of the core audience and dev community because they wanted to show off their fun new media options and tout some tech demos from the big developers. I’m still mind-boggled that their closer was Infinity Ward showing that they had motion captured a dog and now have more realistic dogs in Call of Duty. We give a lot of light ribbing in the face of these presentations, but this is something that deserves to be outright mocked.

The Omni-Box

Perhaps more dangerous for Microsoft as a company is the point that has been raised by some that the Xbox One may conceptually be a poor idea. The success of this device as an all-round media machine relies on a theoretical group of people who are involved enough in home entertainment to want a box that will stream TV and films, play music, make phone calls, etc. but somehow haven’t got devices to do this already, or can’t find better devices for the job than the Xbox One. There also seems to be this big assumption that in the age of high tech TVs, smart phones, tablets, and PCs, that people actually want to do all these things via a box connected to their TV. Even the base idea of having a device that plays TV through your TV is somewhat ridiculous.

There's a possibility that this is not the powerful strategy Microsoft think it is.

I’m willing to admit that in some ways the Xbox One’s snap mode is mind-blowing, and I’m sure there is some real potential in its media-centric features. I use my Xbox 360 to stream content on a semi-regular basis, and I don’t think many of us can make entirely reliable concrete predictions about where this thing is going, but some serious questions should at least be asked about the applications of this device when Microsoft are throwing so many of their eggs in one basket, and when this console is going to have such a long lifecycle. How often do you simultaneously want a game running and media being streamed? How much do these media features really have to offer someone outside the U.S.? Who thinks the preferred device for making phone calls is their television? Couldn’t the media features here be more conveniently provided by smart TVs and other devices in the coming years? I remember back to the PS3’s old tagline of “It only does everything”, and the way I used to think it was just silly, because the idea of one machine that truly does everything is a myth.

In terms of the presentation we saw, I think what happened was that Microsoft wanted to push really hard on the media angle out of the gate to make it clear that they were more focused on non-video game mediums than ever, and perhaps because they thought that most of the video game content would be more appropriate for E3, a video game conference. But it’s clear that this console is going in a direction that not everyone is going to agree with. I’m sure that whatever the state of the Xbox One overall, we’ll see developers producing some truly stunning games for it, but the path Microsoft have taken is one that I’ve seen far too much of the video game industry take in recent years. It’s one where they have so much potential to create something mind-blowing and are squandering it, and right now the early Xbox One details are the best argument I’ve seen for getting a PS4. Thanks for reading.

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Perpetually Connected

I don’t like always-on DRM. I know that’s not a particularly original opinion, but as much as this point gets made, always-on DRM has remained a significant element of the games industry, and people both inside the industry, and more surprisingly, outside of it are still defending the practise with some very poor reasoning.

The most common argument for always-on DRM is that everyone has all their gadgets constantly connected to the internet these days so why does it matter? We have wi-fi in our homes, and high speed internet connections have been widely available for years, so if everything else is always-online, why shouldn’t our games be? The problem is these ideas don’t line up with reality. When we as individuals are constantly connected to the internet and have lots of other people around us who are, it’s easy to project that idea out to the general public and think that’s how it is for everyone, without looking objectively at the situation.

The Connectivity Barrier

Getting precise figures on how many people have internet access is difficult, but a survey from the George Washington University in 2010 concluded 29% of people in the U.S. didn’t have internet access in their homes. Granted, if you don’t have an internet connection in your home you’re less likely to be the kind of person that plays video games, but already we can see the always-on myth dispelled, and companies making their games unplayable to almost a third of people doesn’t exactly seem like a good place to start. However, even when people do have some kind of connection, it may be unreliable, work via phones, not be able to support multiple devices at the same time, etc.

Obligatory picture of something networky.

In 2012 the FCC reported that 119 million people in the U.S. are without access to high speed internet, that is an internet connection with a minimum of a 4 Mbps download speed, and a 1 Mbps upload speed. 19 million of these people just don’t live in an area that supports broadband internet. All you have to do is bring up DRM on online forums and see that even among people clearly committed to video games, there are plenty of anecdotes of how they’ve been in living situations where they just couldn’t get a reliable internet connection. There are plenty of regions around the world, especially rural ones, where there’s no option to be always-on, and there are plenty of people who even with high speed broadband can’t guarantee a connection that’s entirely fault-free, I was in that position for years.

Despite being the country where many of these “Everyone is perpetually connected” arguments come from, and the western country that is the primary target of most video games, the U.S. has actually been shown in the past to be lagging surprisingly far behind many other countries when it comes to providing proper internet access, and there are many countries even worse off. If you’re travelling or away from home you often can’t guarantee an internet connection either. Then there’s the problem that many ISPs place download caps on connections. If you’re one of the people in this situation you could well be dissuaded or limited from playing your always-on games.

There always seem to be a large number of people who expect certain aspects of the world to move forwards at a speed that is unrealistic. There are people who think print media is dead and that discless consoles are going to appear in a flash, and from a similar mentality comes the idea that we’re already living in an age where everything owned by everyone is connected to the internet at all times. It would be wonderful if we were living in this perfect world, but that’s just not the case.

Servercide

The problems don’t stop at home though, and you probably know what’s coming next. Games that rely on large numbers of interconnected servers to run have had a history of network trouble at launch, but always-on games specifically have faced a couple of recent events that have seriously called into question the ability of even the biggest companies in the industry to support these systems. It's been so done to death I know you don't need me to explain what was wrong with the SimCity launch, but the fact that wrapped up in it was possibly the biggest advocator of DRM in the industry is especially damning.

Never forget.

The Diablo III situation also reflected very poorly on always-on DRM advocates, not just because even a large company couldn’t provide customers the product they bought for such a long period of time, but because Blizzard specifically should have been the last people to have server trouble. They’re the guys who run Starcraft II, a game with a hugely dedicated online community, and World of Warcraft, an MMORPG that’s supported a player base of upwards of 10 million, but even these networking geniuses were chillingly susceptible to network issues.

Heck, remember the Playstation 3 crisis from 2011? Despite Sony being one of the biggest competitors in the games industry, it didn’t stop the 77 million users of the Playstation Network being forced offline for about a month due to a cyber-attack. Imagine if that had been the DRM servers for a game or games. These are just a few examples of where things have gone very wrong in recent history, but we know that there are constantly hiccups happening with the servers for various different games all the time. Again, I wish we lived in a world where companies would always manage to keep their game servers online for everything, and maybe one day we will, but right now we’re not. In some ways this inevitability of server-side issues is worse than many users having connection issues on their end. It’s one thing to sell a product that a lot of people know they can’t use, and another to sell one that users justifiably think they can use but then breaks on them. I think that’s the point where it’s not over-the-top to start talking about breaches of consumer rights.

We also know that these DRM servers can’t last forever. There have been plenty of technological systems seriously hurt by a lack of planning ahead, and we’ve seen multiplayer servers for even relatively young games shut down. In five, ten, or twenty years how many DRM servers can companies guarantee will be running? Not only would it be very disappointing to have your games one day stop working, but if we have a number of prominent games come out now which use always-on DRM and those servers go out, that is going to have a seriously negative impact on the “retro gaming” scene in the future and is very bad for the preservation of our medium.

Empty Advantages

Some have tried to argue that having customers be always-online is beneficial to them because it more readily provides them with useful services. This was the position of id Software employee Tim Willits who used the example of players being able to receive updates without rebooting their game to try and demonstrate the advantages of always-on, but I can’t see any sense in this argument. For those who genuinely want the advantages of being online and are able to connect to the internet, they can have their game always connected to the internet regardless of whether it contains always-on DRM or not.

The DRM doesn’t help those who want those online features be any more online, all it does is exclude those who can’t or actively don’t want to maintain that kind of connection. In fact the default state of many, if not most games these days, is to go online by default, but run offline if an online option isn’t available. Why would you actively go against what customers want and can accommodate, to provide no advantages to the people who have chosen to use your online services? Willits also implied something I’ve seen said more than once, that it’s only a “few” people who object to always-on DRM, but we know that’s not the case. I’m not trying to beat up on Willits specifically here, but I think his points paint a good example of the bad ideas that often get thrown around by always-on supporters.

The Debate

For as critical as I am of always-on DRM, it is at least an attempt to tackle a more serious issue that is a problem for the games industry. I don’t want to start a debate on the ethics of piracy, but I think we can all agree on one thing; that there are a significant number of people out there who obtain games through piracy instead of paying for them, and that a significant amount of money that would otherwise go to the people who make and release games is lost that way. Being people who quite like playing video games this is a problem for us.

Here thar be customer relationship difficulties.

It’s sometimes said in these debates that companies have the right to put DRM in their games and prevent piracy, but that’s often a kind of non-sequitur argument, very few are arguing that companies don’t have the right to do that. As I said earlier we may start reaching rights issues when always-on DRM prevents purchased games from being playable, but even if a company is working clearly within their legal rights, that doesn’t mean that the products they’re making are any better.

There’s a constructive debate to be had about how anti-piracy measures we may not like could be a good idea if it leads to companies being able to take more risks and put more money into their games. These debates are difficult, because being able to provide objective figures for these discussions seems like an almost impossible task, however, no one should be under the impression that this kind of DRM doesn’t negatively impact and provide major barriers to entry for some consumers. We must also remember that requiring a constant internet connection is far from the only way to combat piracy.

Always-on DRM is a technology which shuts many gamers out from games, makes things harder for certain end users, and potentially leads to purchased games being unplayable for periods of time and given a finite lifespan. A poor argument is often made against DRM; that because it doesn’t prevent piracy entirely, that there’s no point in it, but it doesn’t need to prevent piracy to be useful, it just needs to limit it. However, this limitation has often meant that pirates get a superior product, while loyal customers are punished. If always-on DRM is to be justified I think you need a hell of a good argument.

The Good News

We may seem doomed to just be delivered an increasing and endless number of titles that require us to be constantly wired-in as time goes on, but there is a brighter side to all of this. We can remember that despite there being a major issue with some games using always-on DRM, that a huge number of companies still just don’t use this technology in their products. We all know that the companies really pushing this technology are a small number of players in the industry who have quite a lot of power. However, even a couple of these companies have started to back off and admitted that DRM is not a viable solution to piracy.

A promising sign to us all.

While I don’t think they ever got the credit they deserved for it, in 2011 Ubisoft, who had up to that point been including always-on DRM in all their PC titles, stopped using always-on DRM in their games entirely, citing the fan outcry against the practise as the reason. Even EA labels president Frank Gibeau has come out and said DRM is a “failed dead-end strategy” and declared “it's not a viable strategy for the gaming business”.

These could just be empty words. Blizzard denounced DRM in 2010, only to go on to create the Diablo III disaster. From what Gibeau said about SimCity it may also be that EA will increasingly try to make games online-centric so they act as their own form of always-on DRM, similar to the way they tried to push online passes by cramming a bunch of multiplayer modes into games. Still, it shows that even a company like EA no longer want to be affiliated with this kind of technology. I think that’s especially shown through in how much they’ve recently tried to distance themselves from accusations that they forced always-on DRM into SimCity.

I sincerely hope that in the future we can see companies find a way retain profits without hurting their loyal customers, and for now if you disagree with the use of DRM, keep making noise about it, because despite what some have said, it’s obviously making at least some difference. Thanks for reading.

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Genrelisation

When we discuss game genres, most of the arguments seem to involve working out how to properly sort certain games into the right boxes; arguments like “What is an RPG?” or “Is this game Survival Horror?” seem to be some pervasive versions of this, but I think we have far bigger problems on our hands when it comes to looking at genres. Defining genres and properly sorting works into them is an important and sometimes difficult part of talking about games, and problems with doing so plague all media. Just go into a CD store and watch them try to work out where the dividing line between “Pop” and “Rock” comes. However, games in particular seem to have found an odd collection of genres that are to some degree arbitrary, and in many ways unhelpful. It’s not just that it’s occasionally hard to sort the right games into the right boxes, but more worryingly I think our system of boxes is flawed to begin with.

The Flaws

"Puzzle games"

For starters, sometimes games are very specifically sorted into certain genres or sub-genres, but far too often vastly different games will be declared part of the same category. To give an example, the undoubtedly niche "Rogue-Likes" get their own genre/sub-genre, but Portal and Tetris are said to both be part of the same “Puzzle” genre. Similarly, “First-Person shooters” and “Third-Person Shooters” are considered major genres in their own right, despite being essentially the same idea with different camera angles, and yet very different experiences like Mass Effect and Final Fantasy are both lumped together as “RPGs”.

If you look to other mediums like television or books, genre classifications focus on the overall experience the TV programmes/books/whatever else provide; there’s horror, romance, drama, etc. Like any genre classification, they’re vague descriptors, but they aim to treat the work as a whole to effectively give their potential audience some idea of what they’re going to get out of it. Whereas many game genres zero in on a mechanic or handful of mechanics as though they define the entire experience, and attempt to paint a full picture of a game using them.

This is what creates a large part of the aforementioned grouping problem, because even if say, Vanquish and Splinter Cell feel like very different experiences, merely by sharing the same mechanic or two they both earn the title of “Third-Person Shooter”. The idea that the non-central mechanics, narratives, and aesthetics may need to be taken into account to properly sort games often goes out the window. Imagine if movie genres were defined by a single collection of cinematic techniques, or book genres were defined by vague plot structures. It seems crazy, and yet it’s basically what we’re doing with a lot of games.

Games just seem to be less effective in the way they define genres than other mediums.

We have alleviated this problem to some degree by putting together different genre terms and including aesthetic descriptors to give ourselves terminology like “Modern Military FPS” or “Cartoon Puzzle Platformer”, and I think this has done a lot of good, but these are far from altogether solving the above problems, a lot of the time these terms don’t get used, and slamming together different words like this seems an inelegant solution that could present other issues. All in all, the fact that we try to stack multiple descriptors on top of each other in this way highlights that the base terms that we use to describe games don’t do their job properly.

Game genre names also aren’t very descriptive in a lot of cases. You know what you’re getting with, say, a “First-Person Shooter”, but a “Shoot ‘em Up”? That doesn’t really describe what’s going on in that genre as opposed to any other genre where using guns plays a big part. Why are there “Role-Playing Games” when you play a role in just about every game? And why are only a small fraction of the games where we go on adventures called “Adventure Games”? We can also see that while other mediums have genre names that sum their works up in one or two words, video game genres have names long enough that we have to start using acronyms for them before we even start adding extra descriptors.

The Effects

Now you may be thinking at this point that bad genre classifications aren’t really a big problem, and in some areas they’re not. You can easily argue that we all know what these genre terms mean, even if they’re poorly named, and that even if these terms don’t give us much information about the overall content of the games, we’ll find that stuff out soon enough anyway because we like to dig deeper into games. And yes, this is largely true, but I don’t think any problem should be just waved away, and as I see it there are larger issues than this. Perhaps there’s something to be said about how our fuzzy collection of genres may reflect that we don’t have an incredibly evolved vocabulary for talking about games, and that current genres may cause problems with sorting games on websites, but what I want to talk about are two other rather major problems that have the tendency to be easily overlooked.

I think we have an issue of inaccessibility on our hands.

Firstly, while we, the kind of people who browse video game websites, have few issues understanding the contents of games, bad genre classifications really don’t help people outside the medium, people new to the medium, or people who don’t play a lot of games. There are already way too many barriers facing people who want to play any video game that isn’t on a phone, tablet, or Facebook, so we should definitely be trying to stay away from unnecessarily enforcing more. Seriously, think about how much talking you’d have to do to explain to people what each genre title means.

This is where I think the act of smashing together jargon to be more specific about game genres largely falls down. Throwing around terms like “MMOFPS” or “Fantasy Action RPG” only makes it harder and more intimidating for people who don’t play games to find games they do want to play. Even for those who only buy two or three games a year, I seriously doubt they all know what this terminology means, and when the basic terms you’re using to describe your medium are often confusing and excluding, I think it’s inarguable that something’s gone wrong. If you’d never read a piece of fiction in your life, you’d still have a pretty good idea of what you were getting from an “Action” or “Drama” story, but with video games you probably wouldn’t know what exactly makes a game “Real-Time Strategy”.

The second issue is that I think that the way we classify games by genre alters our perception of games. It’s very easy to see the genre of a game as being the fundamental thing defining it, and accurately describing the experience as a whole, but under the current system of genres we have that’s just not the case.

Now, I wouldn't dream of saying we should just throw away terms like "Shooter" or "Hack-and-Slash". When used correctly these are effective descriptors of fundamental parts of games, we need them. However, I still think we can come up with better terminology for what games provide us at a basic level, and better ways of thinking about what defines games overall. Obviously a big change is not going to come any time soon, but I still think it’s interesting and useful to look at how genres could change, and to think about what make a game what it is.

Possible Alternatives

There may be better systems out there.

While I’m not sure they’re not the first people to come up with it, I think the BAFTAs have a pretty good system for summarising and categorising games. As opposed to most other video game awards which sort games by traditional video game genres, the BAFTA awards for video games essentially use four genres; action, strategy, family, and sports/fitness. I’m going to discard those last two genres at this point, because as we’ll see any games from them can essentially fit into the other two genres, and they only really exist as part of the BAFTAs due to the fact that they target audiences that most other games traditionally just don’t. So let’s take a look at action and strategy.

We often think of “Action Games” as being any game full of guns and explosions, and “Strategy” games as being any real-time or turn-based strategy game. However, from the context of game mechanics, action games can be seen as those games which test hand-eye co-ordination, reflexes, timing, spatial awareness, and so on. Most current action-adventure games, shooters, fighting games, rhythm games, sports games, and racing games would qualify as action games. Strategy games are those games which require tactical thinking and problem-solving skills, they generally move slower and require deeper thought than action games. RTS and TBS games would be examples of strategy games, but so would many puzzle games, adventure games, management sims and some RPGs.

If we define games as being either “Action” or “Strategy” we’re obviously being less specific about the central mechanics of games in our genre definitions, but this system is simpler than what we have, more descriptive of the experience we get from a game’s mechanics as a whole, can be more easily understood by outside parties, and better describes the differences between many games that are currently being inconveniently lumped into the same genres. Of course there are a lot of games that won’t fit straight into the action or strategy categories because they contain elements of both, but they can be described as action-strategy games. Many action RPGs qualify for this category. I’ve slotted some games into the table below to give an idea of how this system works, but if we wanted to go one further and be more accurate with our descriptions, we could even plot these games on a spectrum that runs from action to strategy.

There’s a problem though. While a system like this cuts to the core of what we get out of gameplay, even at a basic level we can’t define a game a game simply by its gameplay mechanics, and that was one of the exact things I criticised the current genre categories for doing. We know games are more than just the sum of their mechanics. For example, we could call both Starcraft and Fallout strategy games with a degree of action, and that definition wouldn’t be wrong, but anyone who’s seen those games knows one is much more about the strategy of battle, overcoming opponents, and tactical warfare, while the other is about exploring a world, meeting characters, and progressing through a story in your own way. The kind of system shown above just can’t account for this, but maybe there’s something that can.

In December of 2010 The Escapist showed off what they called their genre wheel, a wheel around which we could plot all existing games and game genres, but that uses two different aspects of a game to define it. Across the Y axis of the wheel is the same action/strategy categorisation from above, but across the X axis, The Escapist include a spectrum that runs from exploration to conflict. On the exploration end we can see games that are about exploring worlds, stories, pieces of music, vehicles, and tools. While on the conflict end are games about facing off against opponents, however, I think it makes more sense to use the conflict category to describe games about competition, and overcoming challenges.

There is an issue with the wheel structure; it doesn’t really allow us to consider games that may fall right in the middle of these four categories, even if there’s not many of them, but for those purposes you can just turn the wheel into a graph or table as I’ve done below.

Adding a second dimension to the classification system makes it somewhat harder to sort things, so you may not agree with the way I’ve arranged all the games here, and that’s fine, but the point is that with a system like this the bad lumping together of games simply based on their gameplay is easily solved, with games that may have previously been erroneously classed as being similar now sitting at very different ends of the spectrum.

Under a system like this basic genre titles could change from running along the lines of “RPG” and “Brawler” to something like “Action-Conflict” or “Strategy-Exploration”, and honestly this is the best system I’ve seen. In some ways The Escapist example is sadly less notable than the BAFTA one, because while I believe it’s a better system, if it was only utilised on The Escapist it wouldn’t be a big part of games coverage, but even they don’t seem to really use it. However, we can clearly see the advantages a genre classification system like this provides; it’s straightforward, treats games as a whole, and it’s easy to see someone unfamiliar with games picking up new games with these kinds of genre names on them. Thanks for reading.

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The Playstation 4 Event- Part 2: The Games

Last time, I talked about the hardware and services that the PS4 promises to provide us. My feelings were mixed, but I liked a lot of what they showed. However, the features of the console itself were not the subject of the majority of the briefing, the games were. Again, I don’t wish to seem needlessly cynical here, but this is where most of my issues with the event are. In the moment, a fair bit of what was shown on screen was pretty exciting, but the more I think about it, the more worried I am by the implications of what Sony presented.

A lot of Sony's games were graphically amazing, but there's much more to creating a new console library than that.

A new console is in many ways a new beginning, it’s a window in which companies have the opportunity to express great creativity, and take advantage of the new tools they’re being provided to create something different, it’s the literal starting point of a new wave of games. It’s times like these where developers should have the chance to bring a console new IPs, experimental games, and fresh takes on old IPs. At Sony’s presentation, I just don’t think we saw a whole lot of this, and even when we did, a lot of the presentation was more concerned with trailers than talking about actual gameplay. You’d think at a video game conference people would be more worried about the actual game part.

The New

Let’s start by taking a look at games that weren’t part of existing franchises. There was Knack, which seems like it could have a lot of potential, but we have very little idea what it is outside of the basic story. There’s Drive Club, a racing game with progression mechanics where the presentation basically consisted of “the graphics on the cars look real nice”. The Witness is shaping up very nicely, and I’ll give more credit to that one than most, but I still don’t feel like I know what it is as a game. Then there was Destiny which I’m very excited for, but again, the information on it is still very vague, and all Bungie could really bring to the conference was slightly more in-engine footage.

Even when it seemed like there was going to be a new announcement, it just didn’t happen. The big speech about the government infringing on the rights of citizens and real-world threats just turned out to be pre-amble for a CGI trailer for Infamous, which far from being about politically controversial behaviour, was about a guy shooting fireballs. Square Enix’s reveal of a “New IP” was actually a trailer for a game which we know nothing about, set in the Dragon’s Dogma universe, and it was felt necessary to have a big hype speech from Blizzard to announce what turned out to be a Diablo III port. It wasn’t just the games that were worrying either, but the tech demos.

Tech Demos

Impressive, just not what it was billed as.

When David Cage took to the stage and began talking about the evolution of movies into a powerful storytelling medium, I was genuinely engrossed, but I just don’t buy his line that the thing holding us back from seeing characters that are human and relatable in games is that they don’t have 30,000 polygons. Visually, Quantic Dream’s demo looked amazing, which only makes me wonder why it was framed as a narrative thing, rather than a graphical thing. There is also the unfortunate matter that in the past Quantic's presentations haven't necessarily been reflective of the final product.

Media Molecule’s demonstration of Playstation Move sculptures was impressive, but I still doubt the Move controller is that easy to use for that kind of task. Their subsequent demo was essentially just a demonstration of Wii Music, a game released in 2008, while their dancing characters, which were somewhat charming, were essentially being controlled by nothing more than players moving the Move back and forth.

A New Beginning?

Guys, again, I’m not trying to be pessimistic here, but we need to be realistic, otherwise we’re just setting ourselves up for greater disappointment in the long term. We need to think, “What games did Sony show that we know enough about to make some kind of judgement on, that looked like they were actually doing something worthy of a new console?”. Sony’s promises were that they were revolutionising gaming, that they were bringing something truly new to the table, that they were giving all new tools to developers, and that they were building something worthy of the Playstation legacy. If this is true, why aren’t we seeing something more than first-person shooter #439, a prettier Forza, an RPG with swords in it, another Infamous, and so on?

This Sony presentation scares me, because in it I see a large part of what continually worries me about the games industry as a whole. I’m not one of these people who thought that the games industry was all sunshine, sparkles, and originality 20 years ago, then everything changed, or that Sony is alone in these problems, but what I worry is that Sony’s conference reflected an increasing unease with the act of presenting new ideas. That as the stakes rise and investments in development projects get larger, that there are fewer games taking real risks, and that instead companies are opting to recreate a lot of what currently exists, with a few common features and nicer graphics bolted on. This doesn’t feel like stagnation, but it certainly doesn’t feel like a revolution, or the birth of something new.

I wish we could have seen more presentations with the spirit of Watch_Dogs.

You may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned Watch_Dogs yet, but that’s kind of the point. Sure, not everything can be as amazing as Watch_Dogs was, that demo was phenomenal, but if Sony recognise how amazing it was, why weren’t there more people there to do what Watch_Dogs did? The demo of that game wasn’t just impressive because of the graphics, it wasn’t amazing because it was part of a big existing franchise, and it wasn’t even enthralling because of the way it used the features of the Playstation 4. The Watch_Dogs demo was as good as it was because it actually managed to show a game that had an original and exciting world, and original and exciting gameplay. It wasn’t Ubisoft showing a trailer for a game, or talking about the technology behind the game, it was them showing the actual game, an original game, with a focus on the gameplay. How many other times did that happen at that conference?

I understand that this is all pre-E3 and that there will be much more to come, but it can’t be ignored that this is the event that Sony created to represent the Playstation 4, to put in peoples’ heads an idea of what this console will be, and if this is how they choose to represent their games library, that’s worrying. It’s often mentioned when people criticise the games libraries of new consoles, that consoles rarely have fantastic launch line-ups in general, and this is true, but surely that’s something to criticise in itself, and this isn’t just an issue of quality, but perhaps worse, an issue of originality.

Duder, It’s Over

Your move, Microsoft.

I only judge what they showed so harshly because I know Sony can do spectacular things, there are some amazing features in that console itself, and I want to see the same quality in its games library. Hopefully we’ll see even better from them later this year. As a side note, I see people saying that Microsoft will have to put in a lot of effort to outclass Sony, and while I agree, I think we’re going to see something more special from Microsoft than just a better or worse PS4.

As more features and services become viable on consoles, the console manufacturers have not just the ability to try and outdo each other, but also provide something different than their competition. In many ways I think the optimal thing for the next generation would be if our consoles provided us the widest range of services and features available, both being brilliant in their own ways. Thanks for reading.

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