Xbox One Reactions

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Two days ago, Microsoft finally unveiled their next in their line of home consoles, Xbox One.

While we can officially add it to the list of “most baffling console nomenclature” along with the Wii U, there’s far more to raise an eyebrow at with this new console. Details are still sparse, but from what we know the system will be slightly less capable in terms of raw processing power than the PS4. That’s not much of an issue for me, especially considering that in terms of architecture both consoles seem have far more parity than the Xbox 360 did compared to PS3. At the very least, we can probably expect both consoles to have games performing quite similarly.

Perhaps the least surprising thing Microsoft focused on was the entertainment angle of the new console. The majority of the conference was taken up discussing Xbox One’s TV features, as well as it’s almost instantaneous application switching. From the demo shown, users should be able to flip between TV, games, music, and more, with just a quick phase to your Kinect.

Youtuber Darkbeatdk’s above highlights clip is a rather apt summary of the system’s reveal. These features were admittedly cool, but for many gamers the focus on TV and entertainment was disheartening. I do share in the sentiment that there was a lack of games shown, and that the three shown off (Quantum Leap, Forza, and Call of Duty: Ghosts) weren’t big surprises. However, prior to the conference (and throughout it, as well) Microsoft has assured gamers that E3 will be the place for games, and I look forward to seeing what they’re bringing to the Xbox One.

That said, there are some things that leave me worried; namely, the inability for Indie developers to self-publish on the system — something both Sony and Nintendo allow. As a gamer increasingly interested in smaller, creative projects, I was disheartened to learn that Microsoft was not embracing this section of the game-development world. Similarly, though I’m not entirely opposed to owning a system that must stay connected to the internet, I did find Microsoft’s vagueness on the subject confusing, to say the least. It seems even Microsoft is unsure about what exactly they’ll be requiring from consumers’ internet connections.

Going into this reveal, I didn’t have many expectations, but I did hope I’d leave it with a modicum of the interest I felt after Sony’s PS4 reveal earlier this year (even though I’m not entirely sold on the PS4, either). Instead, I felt like I had just watched every rumor about the new console come true. What we saw was a company on top making investments in for-sure things: the biggest AAA games; television and movie streaming; NFL and sports apps; and voice-recognition/gesture controls. I’ll be honest, I’m a sucker for Halo and that franchise alone could sell a console to me. It also wouldn’t be hard for Microsoft to win me, and many other gamers, over this E3 but giving us a good look at some of the promised 15 exclusive games coming in Xbox One’s first year. But it’s not all about games anymore, and truth be told, I kinda like the media-hub idea they’re pushing for this new system. It’s a smart move. As many writers have pointed out, the gaming console as we know it is dead, so companies need to widen their net if they want to survive. If we still want the living-room experience, Xbox One and PS4 are really our only bets.

Oh well — there’s always PC gaming!

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Sony’s Big Announcement: Will it Bring Innovation, or More of the Same?

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Today’s a big day; Sony is poised to announce the “future of Playstation” in just a few short hours. We can only assume this means the next Playstation console. I’m very excited, not because I’m foaming at the mouth for a new console, and not because I’m a Sony fanboy  (I haven’t owned a Sony device since the PS2/PSP days); it’s because finally, hopefully, I’ll start to see the changes in video games I’ve been hoping for.

For the past few years, I’ve had a pretty interesting relationship with video games. Mass Effect and Metroid Prime got me back into games in a big way. I was given an Xbox 360, and for the first time in my life became a console-centric gamer. I now own my first handheld in close to 6 years with the 3DS. But at the same time, I found it harder and harder to find the types of gameplay experiences I wanted. I don’t care much for shooters. I don’t play much multiplayer. Neck stabbing or violent combos don’t sell games for me; and most importantly, I don’t play games on my phone. At times, these past 4 or 5 years, I’ve felt left behind in terms of the type of gamer I am and types of experiences I want.

It seems like the driving force behind a game today is “how do we make it marketable?” Who the fuck cares!? Games feel more like products these days and creative experiences. I understand this is a business, but for a while there I really thought we were on to something. I used to see games big and small being talked about as artistic creations, lauded for their creativity and innovation. Now I just see pandering and stagnation. I don’t mean to say that all the big game franchises out there are simply “products,” but from the way games are marketed, to the way they’re covered in the gaming press, to the way they feel and look, the entire medium looks dull.

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There are literally thousands of games out, right now, that you can go play and experience. Games from throughout the medium’s history, from a plethora of genres. There are thousands of unique characters to meet, hundreds and hundred of worlds to explore, and a near-infinite number of stories for you to create. But those games are out. We’ve played them. No matter how much I try to convince myself there’s change coming, it won’t: older games are irrelevant compared to the new Playstation; The Ouya won’t outsell the next Xbox; An iPad will be more appealing to the mainstream consumer than a game console. Maybe, these pandering money-grubbing companies will leave consoles behind and flock to tablets and phones. And though the PC and console markets will shrink, they could be home to the game creators who are interested in making interesting and creative adventures and stories for us to explore. Or, maybe, we’ll all just be playing Angry Birds on our TV’s for the rest of our lives.

Gaming has (hopefully) reached its peak. I say that not because I don’t want people to experience the creativity or innovation of videogames, but because I want the medium to stop caring about catering to the mainstream. I’d be more than okay if the next generation of consoles weren’t as ubiquitous as the Wii, Xbox 360, or PS3. Maybe the gaming landscape would become interesting again.

So here were are, mere hours away at our first glimpse of the next generation of consoles. Whether or not you’re a fan of Sony this is a big day. I am filled with hope and excitement, but also anxiety and concern. The seemingly immenent failure of the Wii U disappoints me because I felt the Wii U represented the type of innovation the industry was (maybe) moving towards. Now, I’ unsure.

I don’t know if I’ll be buying into the next gen consoles. I feel like I’ve been playing (or at least seeing) the same games over and over. I’m ready for new ideas. I’m ready to wowed. I don’t care how powerful these new machines are – I’ll always prefer PC to console in terms of processing muscle. I care about games and experiences. I hope Sony delivers.

Console Anxiety: Mending my relationship with Nintendo

Nintendo

A couple weeks ago, the hard drive on my gaming laptop (also my work and school laptop) went bully-up.

Last week, my Xbox 360 began to randomly freeze after an hour or two of play. It’s still running fine, and certain game seem to do worse than others, but it’s made me apprehensive about even turning it on for fear that it, too, my be wearing out. Luckily, I’m home for the winter break so I can use the ol’ family PC to write and get in a little Street Fighter x Mega Man here and there. But it’s not a long-term solution. I still have a few weeks before I’ll be able to nab a new hard drive, and even if my Xbox wasn’t acting up, beating Dark Souls *again* or wandering ’round Skyrim a bit more isn’t really doing it for me. So instead, I turned to the tiny white rectangle inconspicuously plugged into the TV here at my family’s home.

I’ve been going back to the classics to bide my time when I need my gaming fix — Super Metroid, and Metroid Prime specifically. I’ve also popped in a Zelda game here and there when I have time. As much as it’s strange to say this, I’m reminded the Wii had some pretty cool games, some of which I’ve completely missed out on (Xenoblade: Chronicles, Monster Hunter Tri, Super Mario Galaxy 2, Skyward Sword) as I haven’t personally owned a Nintendo console since the GameCube/GBA.

Anyway, this got me thinking a lot about what I wanted from my games. I’ve said it time and time again on this blog, but I’m a fan of the kinds of experiences that are fun, imaginative, and gameplay driven; games that favor immersion and design over cinematic story; and games that allow me to explore, be it the the world or levels, or the very game mechanics themselves. Nintendo does that pretty damn well.

Similarly, I’ve been putting together my Best of 2012 list, and realizing my pickst are probably going to be a bit different than what other people will be picking. I like new and different; I like creativity; I like it when a game feel like a game, and not a movie, but not just a “toy” either. I feel like we’re finally at a place where there’s a split in the industry between these sorts of feelings and ideas, and the now-common tropes of AAA development, with it’s frankly insulting pandering to the lowest common denominator. I don’t dig that shit, yo. That’s become rather glaring in the types of game I gravitate towards.

But I digress. I had a much longer, much more in-depth post planned. One where I would plumb the depths of my own interests and passions, my own personal reasons for enjoying games. I was going to explore my feelings about Nintendo; my strange, almost apathy towards the deterioration of my current console. I was going to question this strange, nagging feeling in my stomach that the Wii U and 3DS might just be exactly what I want out of a console. That maybe, just maybe, despite all the waggling and partying, Nintendo may still yet be the very reason I play games at all — PC or console, indie or retail. But most importantly, I wanted to talk about how games are changing and I’m not really sure where they’re going, and why that’s okay — except someone beat me to it and did a far better job of it than I ever could. Instead, I’ll leave you with this excellent comic by Zac Gorman, perfectly capturing my own thoughts:

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I’m ready to bet on Nintendo again.

Where to next, Chief? Pondering Halo’s future.

As you’ve no doubt surmised by now, Halo 4 is a great game. Our very own Marshal Ellison awarded the game 5/5 for a whole host of reasons so you should probably go read his review. As for myself, the “number 2” Halo fan ’round these parts, I agree wholeheartedly with Marshal’s assessment: it’s an amazing experience.

But now that the needles have stopped flying and the Covenant have been beat back once again (for now), it leaves one lingering question: where does the series go from here?

Warning: Story Spoilers Past This Point. You’ve Been Warned.

In my opinion, Halo 4’s campaign is the best since the original Halo: Combat Evolved (with Halo: Reach at a close second); it had all the elements that made the first game so great — a new, alien world; heretofore unseen enemies, using powerful weapons and technology; open environments filled with vehicles, guns, explosives, and multiple pathways with which players can utilize to take down their enemies. Everything that makes Halo a great series.

But Halo 4 comes with its own identity, and its own ideas. Specifically, 343 Industry has brought character development and cinematic narrative to the forefront. Now, if you know anything about me, you know how I feel about cinematic story delivery in videogames; specifically, I don’t like it. But Halo 4 was to strike the special median between story and gameplay that only games like Red Dead Redemption, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and Mass Effect have for me in the past. Seeing Master Chief grow over the course of this latest campaign was actually much more compelling than I was expecting. At the end of Halo 3, Master Chief was essentially the same thing he was from the first moments of Halo: CE: a killing machine bred for war. He was a badass, and had his own character quirks (he’s got more than a fair share of luck on his side), and has always been immediately recognizable, but he hadn’t grown much.

By the end of Halo 4, however, we see an entirely different man. Notice the use of the word “man.” For a long time, people wondered if our favorite Spartan II was but a machine, or perhaps a cyborg, with little personality and single-minded in his devotion to his mission *cough*Solid Snake*cough*. But by the end of Halo 4, it is clear he is no machine, but a human with emotions and a devotion to his only companion through the past 4 games: Cortana. In Halo 4, Chief’s primary goal is to keep Cortana safe, and get her home so she can be fixed. We spend hours behind the visor, sharing and taking on the urgency of Chief’s mission. But while humanity may have been saved once again by the super soldier, Cortana dies in the end. This is the first time we’ve witnessed John fail his mission. Ironically, after an event that would leave any other man cold and hollow, John 117 shows more humanity than we’ve come to expect from the Spartan. Visibly distraught, even through all that armor, it is clear this is not the “Master Chief” we’ve come to expect, nor “John 117” the soldier; he’s simply a man named “John” who has lost the only person he ever cared for.

Clearly, there’s a lot of story analysis to be had from the few hours of campaign. Hell we haven’t even scratched the lore-surface, nor the massive scenario implications of the events that take place in Halo 4. In brief, having beat back both Covenant and Forerunners alike, humanity now stands as the dominant force in the galaxy. Throughout the story, the Forerunner mastermind, the Didact, makes allusions to, and grand accusations of, humanity’s rise to dominance. What exactly this foreshadowing means isn’t clear, but it isn’t the only subtext going on here either. In the opening cinematic, Professor Halsey is detained and being questioned about the nature of the Spartans and Master Chief’s true purpose. It is once again reinforced (after having been slightly explored in Reach) that the Spartan II program was set up to breed super soldiers that would quash rebel insurrection around the galaxy. Chief was made to kill other humans; We just got lucky he was there to protect against the Covenant invasion.

The point of all this is, it opens up a lot of doors and makes me wonder: where does the series go from here? It’s been stated by 343i that Halos 5 and will be darker in tone. ODST, Halo: Reach, and Halo 4 are already significantly darker than the original Halo trilogy, so I’m curious just how “dark” it’s going to get. But considering all the new wrinkles made in 4, we could be in for quite a surprise story-wise. We’ve got a beaten and broken Master Chief, humanity on the upswing, and the threat of both a human rebellion and/or a psychotic Spartan II meltdown on the horizon.

Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if we find ourselves behind chief’s visor, this time taking orders from Prof. Halsey (in order keep Cortana’s voice around), but perhaps pointing our DMR’s at rebellious humans before ultimately taking on the Prometheans/Forerunners, and perhaps finding a way to restore the lost Cortana. Of course, I’m just speculating and this reflects my own personal hopes for the series, but let’s face it: Halo 4 ends with the galaxy in a very different place than we’ve ever seen it.

So what does that mean for the gameplay? Well, hopefully, it means we’ll see something completely different.

This is a somewhat difficult point to articulate, but Halo 4′s greatest strength is also it’s biggest weakness: it feels too much like Halo.

Halo 4 is amazing in that it not only looks like Halo, and plays like Halo, it also feels fresh and new at the same time. But this was 343i’s only chance in hitting that perfect mix — the fans wanted more Halo, but can we really take another 2 full games worth of the same ideas and gameplay? 343i has their work cut out for them, and find themselves at a crossroads: more Halo, or find a new direction?

I worry that 343i’s intention is to simply keep the series at a constant pace, despite the new directions taken in 4. However, I also wouldn’t be surprised if this was a transitional experience, giving us enough of a mix between new and old ideas so that we have a point of reference for the next game; “It’s a lot different from Bungie’s Halos, but it still feels a lot like Halo 4” is something I’d like to hear come games 5 and 6. Specifically, I want to see 343i put their own spin and identity on Halo. We’ve already got a new art direction, new music, a new story, new enemies, new technology, new lore, a new threat, new weapons *deep breath,* a new dimension to Chief, an opening for a new AI character, and new faces to recognize NOT TO MENTION a new take on multiplayer…

So specifically, where do I want the series to go?

For starters, really pair down or nix altogether the use of the Covenant. Yes, that’s right: give the Covies the boot. Why are we even fighting them again in the first place? Why are the Elites with them? Where are the Brutes? What became of the Arbiter? Look, we’ve spent 6 games fighting these suckers. I know it’s an odd thought not seeing their iconic silhouettes or using their familiar weapons, but just look at how well 343i integrated the Prometheans in Halo’s universe and gameplay. Sure, the Covies got a visual overhaul, but they fought in the exact same way as they have for the past 6 games, and with the same weapons (which, by the way, no longer sound like the used to). I was actually disappointed when we learned a few months after the E3 reveal that the Covenant were going to be featured heavily in the story. I want to see what Halo can do with new enemies, and to me, the Promethean were proof the series doesn’t need the covenant to be fun or “feel” like Halo.

So let’s get some new enemies to fight. I’d love for the Promethean Knights and Crawlers to return, maybe this time alongside Forerunners or other Prometheans. Or hell, the aliens from Marathon, or have us fighting other Spartans–  I don’t care, just give us something new to fight! And while you’re at it, some new weapons as well.

The Prometheans were the highlight of Halo 4‘s combat

Finally, I’d like to see the level formula mixed up. Reach and gave us larger arenas to fight in, as well as memorable set pieces and a wide array of weapons and explosives, and Halo 4 especially had some new level design ideas to take advantage of the Promethean’s new tactics. But for the most part, we were doing the same things we’ve always done: take warthog to installation, enter installation, escape, enter massive battlefield, take out key points, rinse, repeat. Besides a few clever vehicle moments and some sweet behind-the visor QTE’s, Halo 4 fit mostly into pre-existing level design philosophies. Which, to be fair, is extremely impressive and a triumph for 343i, but let’s face it: Halo is 11 years old. It might be time for some new ideas.

What if we were given even more freedom? What if the battlefields were truly massive? I could imagine a game where there was an open “over world” of sorts, with smaller, more focused areas where the gameplay would resemble the level structure of previous Halos. I’m not talking Skyrim or GTA, but perhaps the team could further utilize their Metroid Prime talent and inspiration to allow for more exploration, some non-linear gameplay, and maybe even the “find a new weapon/ability to access new areas” paradigm. I know this is all just what if’s and daydreaming, but seriously, there are some really cool places 343i could take the series without sacrificing the soul of the series. And I didn’t even touch on the ways the multiplayer could evolve.

To be fair, it’s possible with Halo 4 being on the Xbox 360, 353i had to stay within the constraints of the hardware, not to mention meet certain expectations of the fans. Hopefully, the transitional elements of Halo 4, paired with the switch to next-gen hardware, will not only make for an even prettier Halo experience, but facilitate some creativity as well.

At any rate, Halo 4 is probably the best Halo since Halo. As it stands, it is on the top of my short list for Game of the Year 2012. 343i has taken one of the most beloved franchises to new heights, and I look forward to (and sincerely hope for) a new, exciting future of Halo. 

I’m curious to hear your thoughts as well, on everything from the story, to the multiplayer, to the campaign, to the future of the series — what are your thoughts, reactions, hopes, concerns, etc.? We here at Power Cords love talking about Halo, so please, indulge us!

Next-Gen? No Thanks.

“Next gen,” two little words that make me tense up and feel overwhelmed. Why? Simply put, I’m not ready for it, nor am I remotely excited by the prospect of a new set of consoles.

Some of you may feel exactly the opposite, and I can see why: new leaps in graphical abilities; better AI; sleeker hardware, UI, and control schemes. But I don’t really want any of that. What I want is new experiences, new ideas — even new genres or takes on existing ones — from the games themselves, not the hardware. But the big gaming publishers don’t seems to see it that way.

More Graphics

It seems like the biggest driving force behind the next-gen push (and really any console iteration leap) is graphics. Recently, 2K games president Cristoph Hartman said that the industry can’t hope to evoke any sort of real, honest emotion until games achieve “photo realism.” He cites Brokeback Mountain as his example of the type of emotions games could create, but haven’t yet. To make matters worse, Crytek, developers of the graphically-powerful Crysis series, made a statement claiming that the current generation’s graphical capabilities have been tapped, which somehow means we need to move on to the next set of hardware…

Bullshit, I say. Not to the graphical capabilities being maxed, I’m pretty sure that’s true. But the part that makes me roll my eyes is this notion that graphics are immediately tied to the level of emotion response and entertainment value we get out of games. This is absolutely and unequivocally false. Let’s look at this past generation — one where graphics have been venerated above all else as the major draw to gaming. Off the top of my head, the one genre that has succeed this generation is the military FPS — the “bro-shooter”. These games had mountains of cash pumped into their graphics engines to create as “realistic” an experience as possible. The result? Stagnate, same-y shooters caked in a veneer of brown textures and lens flares. I’m not knocking these games, I’m sure there have been some great titles, but I never touched them because they never looked appealing. Call of Duty, Battlefield, Medal of Honor, Spec Ops, Killzone, Resistance… even games like Gears of War  could be thrown into the mix. Show me a screenshot from one of these “realistic” looking games, and I probably couldn’t tell you which was which. Then again, I could easily point out games like Enslaved, Borderlands, Tribes: Ascend — even Uncharted and Halo, due to their own unique looks and art styles. 

Wait, wait. Don’t tell me…

The problem is, the people saying graphics sell games have a point: when it comes to the (rather large) percentage of gamers who only buy 2-3 games a year, and usually only from the same franchises (Madden, Call of Duty, etc.), graphics matter big time. Being the first thing they see is a screenshot or trailer, this crowd needs to see marked improvements from one year to the next in order to be sold. I don’t mean to generalize, but just take a look at the comment section on Youtube or gaming blogs. You’ll find fanboys and shooter-bros writing off games entirely just because another titles graphics are “better.” So, to a point, 2k games and Crytek are correct: in order to continue pandering to this section of the market, we need to hurry up and jump on board with the next consoles. But not really because that’d be silly.

Development Costs

I’m gonna take a quick tangent to touch on development costs before I return to Hartmans’s rivitingly asinine remarks about photo-realism and emotion.

Games cost a lot; AAA games cost even more. Those graphics engines I talked about earlier require millions of dollars. In an effort to keep up with the likes of EA and Activision’s massive budgets for their annualized franchises, smaller companies are forced to pony up stacks of cash to even hope to compete. We witnessed this with 38 Studio’s Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckonning. Curt Schilling borrowed money from Rhode Island in order to complete the game. The game sold very well, over 410 thousand copies in the U.S., but the Governor of Rhode Island felt that wasn’t enough, calling the game a “failure” for not selling a projected 3 million copies (a rather unrealistic number for a small, niche title). Due to this and number of other internal scandals, 38 dissolved. Now, THQ faces a similar fate, their fate in the hands of gamers who buy games like Darksiders 2. EA hopes to see Dead Space 3 sell over 5 million copies, despite the past games not selling anything near those numbers. Now imagine a game with wildly experimental gameplay and presentation, but whose developers need to sell 5 million copies to see a profit. As Minecraft creator Notch said in response to Hartman’s statement, “you limit the number of new genres if you focus on photorealism.” Experimentation and creativity are always diminished in favor of sure-things.

Leaked picture of Xbox “Durango” dev kit

For instance, at E3 we saw Dead Space 3 paraded about as a bro-shooter. For fans of the series, this was infuriating. We saw the same happen with Mass Effect 3. It turned out that both of these first impressions were false, but it underscores a major problem in the industry. Companies want to compete; they want to have the flashy high-fidelity graphics, fast-paced action gameplay, and huge set pieces to draw in the CoD crowd. But in doing so, they alienate the core audiences. Spending too much money on graphics and homogenizing your gameplay is a dumb thing to do. And what’s more, it’s entirely unnecessary.

Emotional Depth

Okay sure, I’ll admit, I am enamored with beautiful graphics as much as the next guy At E3, I was awed by the Crysis 3 demo; Watch Dog‘s animations made me giddy, and the things Unreal Engine 4 can do are mind blowing. But when I think back to the games that really made an imprint on me, it wasn’t because the looks “real,” it was because they looked unique.

I have several games in my library I hold up as having impeccable art direction. And with most of those games, my emotional connection to the experiences and stories within are stronger because they captured my imagination and creativity. I don’t need to say it for the dozenth time, but Dead Space, Rayman: Origins, Dark Souls, The Legend of Zelda, and Shadow of the Colossus enraptured me with their beauty and atmosphere.

Much like a Pixar movie, videogames that feature highly stilized visuals have been the ones I not only remember best, but have the strongest connection with. Super Metroid’s archaic sprite-based graphics still instill the feelings of exploration and isolation I had the first time I played it. And even though they looks like ass today, games like  Medieval, and th N64 Zelda games have a charm that few games of this generation ever achieved.

As ominous as ever.

But it would be false to say that every emotional experience I’ve ever had with a game was due to creative or memorable art design. No, the single most memorable and impactful part of any and every game is its gameplay.

For me, videogames are game design first, and stories/visuals/music/etc. second (if not further down the list). They’re not movies, not comics. They are unique in the way they allow for entirely different types of stories and interactions to occur. I’ve harped on it before, but games need to chill the fuck out with this whole “imitating cinema” thing. There have been some truly moving stories told in videogames, but if you can’t present them in  way that allows me to PLAY THE GAME, then your game has failed. Heavy Rain is a perfect example of a game that, truly, would be better suited as a movie. I’m a big proponent of the silent protagonist as it allows for the player to connect directly to the world and story, rather than act as puppeteer or pilot guiding a pre-made character down a pre-determined path. But for every Gordon Freeman, there’s a Jon Marston. On the flipside, for every Samus Aran there’s a…. Samus Aran. My point is, games should not be about narrative archs or photo realistic visuals — that’s cinema’s game. No, games are about gameplay and interactivity. We need to remember that.

Silver Lining

Hawken: powerful, yet stylized graphics.

I don’t need a new generation of consoles. I’m perfectly content with what my Xbox 360 and PC can do. I still feel there is life in this generation, if for no other reason than indie/retro development. I don’t care how flashy the next big shooters look. Hell, despite my excitement for Darksiders 2 and Halo 4 (games with stylized visuals that put emphasis on gameplay, mind you) it’s titles like Hawken, Ultima Forever, and the Baldur’s Gate re-release that have me really excited. I’m even excited at the fact that games are still coming out for the Dreamcast.

And like I said, there are plenty of great games still to come on the Xbox 360 for the next year or so, if not longer. And despite my aversion to talk of new consoles, the OUYA has me very, very excited about the future of game development, Free 2 Play games, and indie games. So perhaps there is one new console I’m excited for.

I guess what I’m trying to say is this: I love F2P, indie, and retro gaming, and love the types of games still coming out for these “dated” systems, not because of their graphics, but because of their gameplay. I still love AAA console games, but based on the recent climate of that development scene, I worry about the future of companies like THQ, Square-Enix, Sega, and Even Nintendo and Sony. And while I will always have a place in my heart and on my shelf for the next big Bethesda and Bungie games, they’ve become secondary to the far cheaper, and far more engrossing titles from companies like Mojang, Double Fine, Supergiant, The Behemoth, Frictional Games, and dozens more. My only hope is that I’m not alone in thinking that.

E3: The Good

E3’s now a week behind us, and big reveals and press conferences even further back than that. E3 2012 was a strange year — a year of transitions and wheel spinning, and estrangement. That’s not to say it was a bad show this year, or that there were no great games. On the contrary, there were some great presences from several titles, and numerous developers and publishers wowing us enthusiast crowds with some damn good looking games.

There were certainly missteps, I won’t shy away from that fact. But overall I was satisfied with what I saw. So let’s get into some of the things that grabbed my attention from this year’s E3. Continue reading “E3: The Good”

Thoughts on Rayman Legends Wii-U leak.

leaked  internal Ubisoft development video showing off early gameplay for the yet-unannounced new Rayman game, Rayman Legends, being played on a Wii-U dev kit, appeared on the internet today.

The trailer shows off Legends’ side-scrolling gameplay, featuring 2- and 4-player co-op, tablet controls, and lush graphics — even exceeding the high standards set by last year’s Rayman Origins. It’s unclear just how powerful the system will be, but it certainly looks capable.

The controller in the video is wired, which Ubisoft says is due to only having access to wired dev kits at this time, but I hope maybe we’ll see some sort of charging wire for the tablet as well.

At the end of the video, we see players using small figurines, placing them on the tablet controller’s screen, causing changes to the game. A rabid is placed on the screen, and suddenly Raymna is shown beating up hordes of the little, demented rabbits. They also tease the possibility of an Ezio figure being used. In a statement released after the video leaked, Ubi said this feature is not final — nor is the game — so things may be much different at launch.

However, Ubisoft did confirm that Rayman Legends is in development, headed by Rayman-series mastermind Michel Ancel.

I’m very excited for a new Rayman game, especially if it’s building off of Rayman: Origins — one of the best games of 2011, and my favorite 2D-platformer is years.

As far as the displayed Wii-U footage and prospective feature, I’m curious and cautiously intruiged. I love Nintendo, I grew up on the stuff, and I love Rayman, so I came away awfully excited by this leaked footage. But with word that we won’t hear about a release date or price point at E3 regarding this year’s Wii-U launch, I still feel twinges of apprehension about the new system. Knowing Nintendo will be showing a new Super Mario Bros. and Pikmin helps, but I really hope Nintendo hit it out of the park this year — they need it.

The internet is divided between praise and pessimism for the Wii-U, but seeing Rayman Legends has helped ease some of my concerns, at least for now. E3 is just around the corner, so I’m sure we’ll see plenty more announcements and rumors leading up to Nintendo’s press conference.