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The Elite Controller is the Controller We Deserve

A console’s controller is how you interact with your games. It’s often an extension of the character you’re controlling on screen. It’s how you physically feel connected to the games you play. So the controller should be of good, if not great, quality, right?

Aside from a junk d-pad, the Xbox 360 controller was widely considered the best of last generation, if not ever. Through the hundreds, potentially over a thousand, hours I spent playing games on the Xbox 360, I never got a new controller because the last one broke. In fact, after a decade I only had three 360 controllers; the one that came with my launch console, the one that came with my 360 S, and a wired one to play PC games. That thing was built to last.

I can’t say the same for the Xbox One’s controller. On paper it’s much better than the 360 controller. The d-pad finally looks and feels like a traditional d-pad. Microsoft also added this cool feature called impulse triggers, where the triggers are able to vibrate, and developers can program that vibration to give you feedback on how you’re playing the game. Anyone that has played Forza knows that this is now integral to the experience.

But, to put it plainly, the Xbox One’s controller is built like crap. It feels cheap in the hands, due to its lighter weight and probable thinner plastic mold. My first controller became unusable a little after a year due to the right stick drifting. And the one I got to replace it had a loose left back panel, and you can already see the left control stick starting to wear on the shaft.

Enter the Elite Wireless Controller, Microsoft’s premium controller designed with pro-gamers in mind.

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The Elite controller has a few things going for it, the first of which are the interchangeable parts. They all attach to the controller magnetically. The connections are strong enough that nothing will fly off while you’re playing, but still come off easily when you intend to swap something out.

It comes with three sets of analog sticks, a set of regular ones that all Xbox players will be familiar with, a medium height set with rounded tops, and a tall set. These are great for use in first person shooters as you can be more accurate with your movements with a taller stick. The tall one is still too different for me to use, but I’ve already grown used to using the medium one for Halo.

There are also two different d-pads; the standard cross, and an odd bowl shaped one. The latter of which would be useful in fighting games as you can more easily roll your thumb around.

Around the back of the controller there are a couple of things going on. The triggers have a switch that will stop them, giving them a shorter throw and stops them at their activation point. This essentially makes them digital inputs. As you can probably guess, this is once again useful for FPS’s so you don’t have to waste the fractions of a second to pull the trigger all the way down. I like this feature for Halo and going back to mushy triggers doesn’t feel right at all.

Finally, the most foreign addition, are the paddles. The Elite Controller comes with four of them, two short and two long, that go into the back of the controller. Any digital input on the controller can be mapped to the paddles. A pro-gamer would like this because they no longer have to take their thumbs off of the sticks while playing a game. But they’re still fun to use even if you’re not hyper-competitive. Halo 5’s default layout has the new dash on the B button, making it practically useless in a firefight. With it on one of the paddles however, there have been a few times I was able to dodge and still successfully pop someone in the head. It’s also kinda cool to have manual shifting on the paddles for Forza.

To map buttons to the paddles, or remap any of the buttons, there’s an app called Xbox Accessories. The app will walk you through how to do just that. You can also do things like change the dead zones of the triggers or adjust the sensitivity curve of the analog sticks, if you’re so inclined. As someone that has a family history of arthritis, it’s nice to be able to turn down the vibration intensity, rather that it just being an on/off switch.

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This app has since been opened for use with all Xbox One controllers, but the Elite Controller still has some advantages. The Elite Controller can have two different layouts, so switching between games with different layouts doesn’t mean going into the app every time. And switching between them is easy, as there is a switch on the front of the controller that lets you do that. It’s that easy because your custom layouts are saved locally to the controller. So, if you find yourself going to a friend’s house often to play some split-screen Halo 5: Guardians Master Chief Collection, your custom layout will come with you.

Then there’s the overall build quality of the Elite Controller. It’s SUPERB. The front has a matte finish, and the back of the handles have a grippy material. The d-pad, analog sticks, and triggers are made out of steel, so there’s no worry of them wearing down. The controller is definitely heavier than the standard one, but still comfortable to hold for hours on end.

And that’s what it really comes down to for me. The Elite Controller completely blows the standard one out of the water when it comes to build quality. It is significantly better. But is it a hundred dollars better?

The Elite Wireless Controller is $150. That’s 2.5x more than the standard controller at $60. Given that I was already on my second controller in two years, I think it was worth it. I like to play a lot of Halo multiplayer, so the additional bits are nice to have. If you’re playing a dozen or more hours a week playing Xbox games, especially if they’re competitive multiplayer games, then the Elite Controller is worth the investment.

As of right now, it's hard to come by. It's out of stock on Amazon, and it's not shipping until the end of the year on Microsoft's store. If you're in the market for an Xbox One, the new Elite bundle comes with this controller (Amazon, Microsoft).

If you have any questions, let me know!

And if you're interested in a video version of what I have to say...


Forza 5’s not-so-micro transactions

After playing Forza 4 for two years I had 42M credits. I felt like I had all the cars I wanted in my garage and then some, yet I played the game so much I still ended up with an abundance of credits. This was mostly from multiplayer too, because after 100%-ing Forza 3 I barely touched F4’s single player.

I have no doubt the same will be the case in Forza 5. Even if the borked multiplayer system on the Xbox One rains on Race Night’s parade, I’ll go through single player stuff this time around because Forza is typically my podcasting game. I’ve only spent a few hours with the game since Friday, but acquisition of credits at least in single player doesn’t seem far off from the previous game. Turn 10 says they reward more credits compared to F4, but they also don’t reward cars anymore so you’re forced to spend some credits every once in a while.

In Forza 4 Turn 10 introduced Car Tokens. This is a secondary in game currency that is bought using real money. The idea behind it was, and still is, for enthusiasts to be able to jump into their favorite car right out of the gate. Conceptually this is a fabulous idea.

In practice it was fine in Forza 4/Horizon. I personally never used the complimentary ones or bought any. This was partially because I never felt strapped for credits and also never felt like I needed to jump into any one car immediately.

I’m going to attempt to examine the price difference of buying cars with car tokens (real money) in Forza 4 vs Forza 5. I ended up with a list of 18 cars to do this with. I definitely needed to pick some of the most expensive cars in both games. I also needed to go very low and have some stuff in between. I didn’t want a bunch of random Merecedes and Hondas, so I went for more recognizable stuff as well.

You could definitely go crazy with this if you wanted to, but I don’t think I need much to get my point across. Also, I hated my statistics for engineers class so I’m not exactly bff with this kind of math. Anyway, here’s the list.

Ferarri 250 Testa Rossa

Shelby Daytona

McLaren F1

Bugatti Veyron SS

Enzo Ferrari

2012 Lamborghini Aventador LP700-4

2008 Aston Martin DBS

2010 Audi R8 5.2 FSI Quattro

2009 Lexus IS F

2012 Dodge Challenger SRT8 392

2009 Focus RS

2009 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8

2013 Focus ST

2005 BMW M3

2009 MINI John Cooper Works

1970 Chevrolet El Camino SS 454

2011 Kia Cee’d

Ferarri 250 GTO

In Forza 4 cars were broken into three tiers based on their in game cost to determine how many tokens they would cost.

  • · 0 – 100,000 CR = 1 TK
  • · 100,001 – 900,000 = 2 TK
  • · Over 900,000 = 3 TK

And here’s what the purchasing options were for tokens.

  • · 1 TK = 80 MS pts ($1)
  • · 6 TK = 400 MS pts ($5)
  • · 13 TK = 800 MS pts ($10)
  • · 26 TK = 1600 MS pts ($20)

If you do some simple division the token per dollar ratio breaks down as 1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.3. Since it’d be dumb to buy just one token and 1.2 is close enough to 1.3, I used 1.3 as my ratio for the math of Forza 4 tokens.

So if you buy either $10 or $20 worth of tokens, 1 TK = $0.77, 2 TK = $1.54, and 3 TK = $2.31. Here’s the breakdown of the in game cost and real world cost of those 18 cars.

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In terms of in game credits these cars are wildly differing prices. The car token prices seem reasonable, but with there being only three tiers it doesn’t allow for much flexibility.

With Forza 5, Turn 10 attempted to add more flexibility to their system.

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Unlike the previous game, the token to dollar ratio isn’t nearly as linear. On the screen to buy tokens the $5 pack is labeled as “recommended”, the $20 pack is a “great value”, and the $100 pack is the “best value”. As you can see from the graph that is certainly true. But who the flying FUCK is going to spend nearly twice the price of a game on car tokens?

So this is what I did. For consistency between F4 and F5 my primary point of comparison is the $20 pack, and the token to dollar ratio is 135. Now here are those same 18 cars with their updated in game cost. With the new 0 – 10,000 range of token cost this allows for a much broader range of real world cost for buying cars. But then you do the conversions and… well, see for yourself.

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Even if this is done with credits or another ratio, the graph looks the same
Even if this is done with credits or another ratio, the graph looks the same

Looking at just the in game cost the most super expensive cars have been shifted a little (a max of 6M credits), but otherwise the in game costs remain the same basically between F4 and F5.

The first price column is that ratio of 135 that I mentioned before. The one after it is a ratio of 125 from tokens bought from $10 packs (so one step below 135), and the second to last one is a 160 ratio from $50 packs (one step above 135). The final column is an average of all three ratios used for shits and giggles.

Here’s where people are going to start telling me how my math is wrong. Or, more specifically, how my sample size isn’t fair, or something. But even if you did all 200 cars in Forza 5 the price curve would look very similar. Bottom line, if you want to buy a car with real money, you could be spending more than the retail price of the game. For ONE CAR.

Here’s what Turn 10’s game director Dan Greenawalt had to say on the matter of car tokens in an interview with Adam Sessler just before launch.

Because we set out to serve such a diverse group of people, we have guys that are simulation gamers. They couldn’t be bothered with our whole economy. They know what they wanted. They know they want to get in on Spa with a grand prix car. That’s what they want to do. And so the tokens are there to say ‘if that’s what you want to do, do it’. But the game is not ever limiting you… We don’t see it as a micro-transaction, we see it as a true accelerator. Not there’s a wall in your way, but you want to jump somewhere? That’s your choice, go ahead and do it.

No wall in my way? Really? Pretty sure if that wall is higher than the price of the game, that’s a pretty big damn wall.

He also hilariously says this after.

And also we start you off with 100 tokens, so even from the beginning we just give them to you.

100 tokens?! When some cars in the game cost 100x that, those are useless to me.

At the beginning of this post I said there weren’t any cars in Forza 4 that made me want to jump into them immediately. With Forza 5 that feeling changed with the introduction of open wheel cars for the first time in the franchise. But being open wheel high end racing cars they’re ridiculously expensive. The classic Formula 1 cars and the Indy car are available in free play, but the only way to drive the 2013 F1 car is to buy it. It costs 6,000,000 credits or 10,000 tokens. I wouldn’t think twice about paying $5 to unlock it instantly. Hell, I’d even consider it for $10. But over $70? I. DON’T. THINK. SO.

Turn 10 didn’t go overboard with car tokens, they went nuclear.


Free stuff and permanent changes coming soon.


On this eve...

As sleep eludes me this night before Dragon Age 2 is released a random thought popped into my head; why I love Bioware. I figured I would jot my thoughts down hear for others to read as they come to me. I apologize in advance, as these are not planned out in any sort of order and it's nearly 3 am as I start this.
In a way I'm missing out a bit in DA2. I never played the first game you see. I saw that game as a PC-ass-game. The console version seemed too watered down to give it my time. I badly wished to play the game though, for at a glance I loved the world Bioware had created. Granted, it wasn't terribly original, but I'm a sucker for fantasy RPGs more so than scifi games. Alas, my laptop is garbage, and it can play nothing better than TF2 at a steady framerate. 
I am jumping into the foray now though. The detail to the tactic choices and character stats are still there, but the gameplay looks MUCH improved. I know there are those out there who dislike, even hate, the changes that have been made. Well, stop reading and go away. I don't want your business. 
To my point now though. With both Mass Effect and Dragon Age, Bioware is creating two series in which the player has a realistic impact on the flow of the game. You as the player are able to dictate the outcome from not just two choices, but many. The majority of games today, including most under the "RPG" banner, are linear. They may have some optional side stuff to do, but the end outcome will always be the same. Even in the Elder Scrolls games, there's usually two, MAYBE three, choices in any given situation. Help the dude out, or kill him and take his stuff. Tell the authorities someone is breaking the law, or lie and reap the benefits. Etc, etc. The main quest is more or less linear as well. That being said, please note that I freaking love the ES games. 
That brings me to ME and DA. In these games you're crafting the outcome of the world you're playing in. These otherwise unrealistic fantasy worlds. Some things are set in stone. And of course they must be. Only so much dialogue can be written, so many animations created, so many storylines crafted. But these games give you enough choices that you could play it as if you were in the world yourself, or if you wish to be a true Space Asshole and screw everyone over. Then by the time you're done with the series you could talk to someone who had a different experience than you in between that first title card and final closing credits. 
We are nerds. We have imaginations not bound by reality. Among those in the video game industry who create worlds for our nerdy minds to explore, Bioware is tier one. Not only do they create pretty worlds, but also deep fiction and interesting personalities. And most importantly, worlds filled with character, charm, and delight found in every corner when one returns to it. No matter how many times. :)


First impressions

So this is like Hot Pursuit 2 + Burnout 3: Takedown. No lie. 
I could probably just end it there, but I'll go on a bit more. I've played it for about an hour and a half now. A handful of racer events, and a handful of cop events. It's been so very long since I played HP2 but the Racer races seem like they're out of HP2, but with the new stuff in there (not a bad thing). The rest of the game seems to have the standard array of Burnout type events. 
Racer events also include a "duel", or just you racing against one other car, and you get that car if you win. There's a Burning Route type one where you must get from point A to B in a set amount of time in a faster car you have yet to unlock (straight out of B3, all Burnout games have had them since then, but B3 had more point to point stuff (yes Paradise was all point to point, but the roads were open as well)). 
The Cops have a similar type event, where you must get to a racer bust in a set amount of time. There's a catch here though. Any time you so much as lightly tap a wall (or another car, duh) you get docked 2 seconds from your final time. Thaaaat's a big pain in the ass. And of course you bust Racers as a Cop (like Road Rage events from Burnout if you've never played Hot Pursuit). 
The game is also nice about slowly introducing the special items to you as you play. It would be pretty messed up to have them all right away with the slower cars. So far I've only gotten far enough to use the spike strip with both the Racers and Cops. 
I'm still trying to get used to the different handling cars (you REALLY can't play this like a Burnout game), but it certainly plays well. As expected from Criterion, this is a top notch game.


Dude... Mother Foxtrotting SPACE!!!

Okay, I just saw the tv commercial edited version of the launch trailer. I'm officially hyped for this game. Yay for PR blitzes. About a month ago I figured I would just wait until Christmas to get this game. Last week I figured, yeah, I'll probably be getting it on Tuesday. Now there's not a chance in hell I won't be getting it tomorrow. 
Be it bad publicity or good, this game is getting a good amount of attention regardless. So, between seeing that commercial and having Ryan yell "DUDE, MODERN WARFARE 2 TOMORROW!" I'm soooo ready for this shit. 
PS - Yeah, I totally made this just so I could post that title... heh.

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