Thursday, October 30, 2014

30+ minutes of Freedom Wars Gameplay

Assassin’s Creed Unity - Time Anomaly Trailer

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor - Lord of the Hunt trailer

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Current(Next) Generation of Consoles: One Year Later

          Seems like just a short time ago when were all waiting for the XBOX ONE and Playstation 4 to launch.  Getting over the horrible Wii U launch, everyone was just looking for some new hardware.  For most people who considered themselves “hardcore” gamers the choice was clear; Playstation 4 for the win.  For all those people who doubt the power of the gaming community just look at the sales numbers for the XBOX ONE, PS4, and Wii U over the course of the last year.  The PS4 is firmly in first place, XBOX ONE in Second, and Wii U bringing up the rear even behind the Vita and the 3DS, in most months.  This sheds light on a bigger story.  The dedication of the each company to the people who they want to buy their console.  I just won a XBOX ONE(thanks Ubisoft), otherwise I STILL wouldn’t have one.  If, for reason, I should win a Wii U or come into $350 that I can’t find a use for(yeah right); I’ll buy a Wii U.  Now, perhaps your thinking I’m a Sony fanboy or perhaps my view is too skewed for it to matter.  But let me tell you this, I love great games regardless of platform.  And since Wii(the original) and the last year of the XBOX 360 life cycle it is hard to be anything but in Sony’s favor.  Companies make or break their business these days not by their marketing dollars or the public face they manage to squeak out.  No, these days, they make it on the games.  If you cannot deliver you are not going to do well.  Let’s clear some things….

      The Wii U was going to be the next greatest thing for Nintendo.  People were supposed to take to it like the Wii.  Except that the closer we got to launch it seemed that Nintendo needed to lean on the alienated enthusiast market to get it’s market share back.  But when the system launch it had mostly ports, no amazing first party game.  In the two years since, Nintendo has managed to put out a handful of really good games.  But only a handful and their third party support is non-existent due to both a small install base and the incredibly underpowered console. Oh and did I mention that there are studies that show that Wii owners are still confused as to what the Wii U is; yeah I could have never made that one up.

     XBOX ONE was supposed to be the central box for your media hub.  Problem is that no one wanted that, no one even wanted a Kinect.  Of course, most game journalists were saying this months before E3 of the launch year of XBOX ONE.  Seems like Microsoft thought it knew best.  A few months later, due to very poor sales they decided to drop the Kinect and focus mostly on games again.  But it took the console practically failing and the cutting of a great number of jobs at Microsoft.  XBOX ONE is just starting to hit it’s stride and with the price cut that started right around the time of this writing, I’m sure that the console will do much better over this holiday season.  Due in no small part to some AAA games that are exclusive to XBOX ONE.  But they have a lot of ground to make up.

      PS4, while some features talked about during E3 last year are still MIA on the console.  And there are certainly some issues with the console becoming a bit Indie top heavy.  The steady stream of descent games and with some good surprises like Evil Within and Lords of the Fallen.  The system is well on track to embrace the avalanche of good games coming in February of 2015.

       But this is far from the end of the story…  The general consensus of players and reviews seems to be that this generation of the console is not good enough.  The games should be more innovative, have better graphics, and of course have better stories.  Even while many players still pray to the altar of the indies where most games couldn’t afford to have a story if it was the central theme of their game.  What has created this monster?  Well, other than many people in games journalism growing too old for their jobs(those who have played over 1,000 games in the last three years need not apply, PLEASE). 

      The other thing, with the XBOX 360 and PS3 life cycles lasting FAR TOO LONG.  Probably more than five years too long.  The PC gaming market has really grown some teeth.  Many games not only have to go up against others in their genre.  But the console and PC versions of the game are always being compared.  When this happens too much over too many games.  We get the kind of statements like, “Well obviously the ONLY way to play this game is on PC.”

    This was the case before the launch of the XBOX ONE and PS4 for just about every game that came out.  Areas of games had to be removed or down rezzed so much that the game looked completely different on their PC counterparts.  While the power of the XBOX ONE and PS4 has not been fully explored.  It seems like the power of the PC is in full effect.  A developer has a choice whether to lower their total expectations to get the game on the PS4 and XBOX ONE or throw a whole bunch of power at the PC and make it the best version.  While many of us have computers, few of us have the kind of PC that could easily best a PS4 or XBOX ONE in raw graphics power.  And if we do, then the thought of buying an XBOX ONE or PS4 is laughable.  Of course there are console exclusives and such but the being able to play some games that are last generation only in much higher resolution or current generation games at maxed out specs is certainly a good substitute.

     What am I trying to say here?  Easy, if you have 2 or 3 grand for a PC that can play any game out there on max settings and  are set for the next two or three years; then your business is already lost to Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo.  This is what I was afraid of when heard the specs of the new consoles for the first time.  I was like, “wait, doesn’t that seem kind of low to you?”  As it turns out, I think it is, even today.  With the TV world ramping up for a medium priced 4K onslaught.  I find it hard to understand where developers are fine with their games not being able to run at 1080p 60fps.  Now graphics aren’t everything(as just about every game journalist reading this, is crying at the screen right now).  But it is the easiest way to sell new consoles.  The average person walking by and being blown away by the graphics is an easy way to sell both consoles and games.  The rest is for an ever decreasing game journalism community to point out to their readers. 

    The rise of the indies is fantastic in one way but in another way; the unorganized, uncurrated way in which just about every service has them, is getting a little bit annoying and troubling.  A few years ago, the gaming press as a whole was completely ignoring the indie scene.  There were probably around 200 games a year coming out for indies and it wasn’t very easy to get press or have your game known at all.  These days there are more like 2,000+ Indie games coming out a year and the gaming press frequently spend a descent amount of time on at least 10% of these during slow periods during the year.

     There are certainly the people, most people who love Nintendo and PC gaming, that feel that Indies are the best place to find good games.  But there are only so many adventure/video novel games I can play or 2D platformers with 8 bit graphics.  I lived through that era, and MAN AM I GLAD IT”S OVER!  This was the reason I didn’t play games or was interested in them for almost ten years(they looked crappy and they played more or less the same).  I have to admit that there are definitely some gems amongst all the garbage.  But just like music, picking your favorite indies is pretty damn subjective and while I do still love some of the old timers at sites like IGN, Gamespot, etc…  Their tastes in games are WILDLY different from mine.

    Not to get too off topic.  My basic argument here is that the expectations on current generation games are directly proportional to the practically non-existent expectations for the average Indie game.  This is HORRIBLY unfair.  Having your site use the same 2-3 number score to reflect the last 10 games or so; is really not helping anyone.

Reader:”So this game is 7.8 that makes it better than the one you just ranked 7?”

Game Reviewer:”No, not really, each game is different, each score is different.”

Reader:”  Really?  So what difference does it make then.  Just say the game is good or bad.”

Game Reviewer:”Well, that doesn’t work on Metacritic.”

Reader:”Well, what difference does Metacritic make when each score is different?”

   Hence, the pointlessness of the argument that just about every major outlet uses when called out that they really only use the 5 numbers of the their 10 number scale for reviews, more than 80% of the time.  This is a bigger issue for game journalism and the outlets who support them.  But this is getting a little out of hand.  When an outlet runs a review of 6 for a game and then subsequently talks nonstop about the people who work for the company playing a ton of it and how great it is.  I think someone should have paid more attention to the initial review and less to getting said review out the week the game comes out.

   All is not doom and gloom.  The games that are coming out this year and those that are coming in the first part of next year, look to be some of the best we have had in a while.  I think that the view of the new consoles held by the average person is unreasonably bad.  While things are not all sweet and wonderful.  I think we have to realize that we have reaped what we’ve sown. 

    Overall, we should be happy with the results.  I think anything else is just unreasonable and not unaware of the realities of what is possible in the industry right now.  Maybe in ten years things will be completely different games will be wonders of innovation at every turn.  But until we get back on track from our ten year hiatus of laziness.  I think we should be pretty happy with what we have gotten on average most games are better than average and believe it or not; far better than they were on the XBOX 360 or PS3.  Wake up and stop looking to the PC for your comparisons.  You didn’t spend two grand for your console, don’t expect it to perform like you did.  I certainly can’t wait for next year.  Things are looking good so far.

    

November free Stuff for Playstation Plus: More Indie games, not that there is anything wrong with that...