Sony PlayStation Experience Thoughts

PlayStation 4Over the weekend, Sony hosted their second annual PlayStation Experience conference. It’s kind of become a second E3 for Sony, where they’re able to show off their games right before the holiday and keep the buzz high on the coming year’s games. The keynote showed off a good mix of huge exclusives, but what I liked was the real focus on a lot of smaller titles. That said, there was one thing that kinda soured my feelings on the event – and it’s no fault of Sony this time.

Uncharted Nathan Drake Collection

First let’s talk about a few of those games they showed off. Opening the show with Uncharted 4 was a bold move. I wouldn’t say it’s a big stretch to say that game is Sony’s most anticipated exclusive – probably by a pretty clear margin. And while they really didn’t show off a whole lot, they did show a pretty big addition to the game – branching dialogue trees. There’s still plenty about it that we don’t know – including whether the different dialogue choices will have major impact on how the game unfolds. That, however, was pretty much end of the end of that level of game. Sure, Street Fighter V is a PS4 exclusive, and sure they showed some Call of Duty: Black Ops III – a DLC PS4 exclusive; but I think in general most of the games shown were a step down from Uncharted‘s hype level.

Where I think the keynote really shined was the last third – where Sony put the spotlight on third party and indie studios. We saw games like 100 Fr. Robot Golf, Ni No Kuni II, Ace Combat 7, and Golem all get announced. Also getting some strong time was the PlayStation VR. I think it’s a cool system, but VR is still so hard to show off on stage to really make it look exciting, plus I still think it’s a little gimmicky. What I think helps the PSVR out is that Sony has really bought in, and has a lot of developers working on games for it – and those games hit a number of different styles. There are more artistic games like Eagle Flight and Golem, very tongue in cheek games like 100 Ft. Robot Golf and Modern Zombie Taxi Company, and serious triple A quality games like Ace Combat 7.

Final Fantasy VII

Now, as cool as I thought the show was, there were two parts where I saw some issues show up. And like I said, they weren’t Sony’s fault at all. One revolves around Final Fantasy VII Remake – which we finally got to see some actual gameplay of. I thought that the Kingdom Hearts influence is perfect and helps bring that 20 year old game forward into the modern RPG world. That content isn’t where the issues showed up though – instead it’s that we got a press release Sunday night that seemed to say that the game will be episodic. Twitter exploded – I saw tons of professional people start complaining about it – and we don’t even have a release date yet! Never mind we don’t officially know that it’s episodic or how it will work. People really need to cool their jets on this and think about it for a second. Detach yourself from the fandom of the original. It’s a 20 year old game. If I want to play that game, I’ll play my copy of the original. I don’t want the exact game with fancy graphics. RPG’s have evolved a ton in those 20 years, and I think what Square Enix is doing could be exactly what the whole franchise needs. Think about what Square could do with an episodic set-up. Each episode could focus around building backstories for the characters. They already have built a universe around the original game with a couple spin-offs. I think that basically is a given now that stuff from those games will show up now. And I saw people worried about the story now. I would remind them that the pacing on the original was pretty damn slow. You have this intense first section in Midgar, then the pacing hits a wall. The story is still great, but streamlining it could actually be the best thing that has happened to FFVII since Advent Children. Focusing an entire episode just around the events in Midgar could help focus that section even more. I just think that people are really overreacting about the episodic announcement. Hell, if it is episodic, it could be coming out next year as opposed to 2017! Relax, enjoy the fact that we’re getting a remake of one of the best games OF ALL TIME, and one that we never even expected to get.

Destiny

The other kinda nasty reaction was, perhaps unsurprisingly, in reaction to Destiny‘s announcement. We expected Bungie to show something off, and they detailed the new holiday event, which will begin tomorrow and run through the rest of December: the Sparrow Racing League. It’s literally content that we, as a whole community, have been asking for since the launch of the game; and I saw tons and tons of people yelling at Bungie: “That’s It?!” Again, relax, step back and think about this for a second. Yes, The Taken King is starting to reach its limits – I do think that Bungie needs to share with us the next content soon. But right now probably isn’t the best time. We’re expecting a massive live-game update this week, with a major rebalance to the weapon meta, along with the first class rebalance in a year. Which you might notice is another thing to we’ve been yelling at Bungie about forever, and can’t be a small undertaking. Add in the fact that this month holds the biggest commercial holiday of the year, at least in the U.S. with Christmas; which always brings with it a pretty sizable increase in players. Finally, after the Festival of the Lost, we kinda got the idea that Bungie was starting to figure out ways to have live-game seasonal events. Going into the weekend, I saw a few posts over on the subreddit wondering about a Christmas event. Instead of a specific one around the holiday, we get a three week long event with the SRL; which again, is something we’ve been asking for since launch. I think when you add those all together, this weekend wasn’t the right time to announce the next DLC. We are definitely getting close to that line though, so I hope Bungie has a good plan ahead for it; but again – chill out a bit folks. Enjoy the racing, enjoy the amazing games out right now, and remember that the point of playing these awesome things we call video games is to have fun.

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Early Thoughts on Xbox One Backward Compatibility

Xbox 360 Logo

I recently got into the Xbox Preview Program, and as such have been able to look into the new backwards compatibility feature on the Xbox One. Now, it’s far from complete, there’s still plenty of details that Microsoft is working out – that’s what the whole point of the Preview Program is about. That said, the list of games that are currently available does have a couple that I have on there, so I’ve been able to play around a little bit.

Battleblock Theater

To start with, I’ve put my time in with one of the downloadable games – Battleblock Theater. The game itself is an interesting game – puzzle based platformers are always fun, and this one is no different. If anything, because it’s from The Behemoth, it’s got that much more character to it. But that’s not the important part here. What is is how well the emulation works. And in my experience it’s been pretty close to flawless. It took a while to load up the 360 environment – at least the first time it did – but other than that, it’s been really smooth so far. No framerate issues, no sound issues, and the controller hasn’t had any sort of input delay – at least that I’ve noticed. If this stays true moving forward – and the list of digital/arcade titles grows more expansive, this could really be a big step towards moving 100% on to my Xbox One.

Now, I say that I’ve used the downloadable game option so far. That’s because I only have one on-disc game that currently available on the Backwards Compatibility list – Mass Effect. Now, I love that game, and I love that series. But playing that is a major time commitment – and I already have a number of games going right now. Between Destiny, Fallout: New VegasBattlefield: Hardline, finishing Dragon Age: Inquisition and really starting Witcher 3, my plate is pretty full – especially considering I want to get a chunk of these done before the fall season kicks up. Now, I expect the discs to work just as well as the digital games do – my only concern with them is whether or not an install is required. If it is, then storage is an even bigger issue than it already was. Early adapters with the 500Gb Xbox One will all but be forced to get some form of external storage moving forward. It’s either that, or some major curating of installed games is needed. But that’s a problem for another day – and not one that’s unique to the Xbox.

Fallout 4 – The E3 Game of the Show For My Money

Fallout 4 Box Art

Every blog and gaming website out there always gives a game of the show. Mine was going to be Fallout 4 going in to the show – and after everything we saw about it during the show, it was cemented. I think it was probably the game that we learned the most about – especially of the games coming out this fall. Going in, all we knew was that it existed. After the Bethesda showcase, we knew so much more. Release date, confirmed setting, details of character creation, world building/customization and combat all got expanded on. Add in Fallout Shelter, the upcoming companion app along with the Pipboy Edition and I think it’s a really strong pick.

Personally, Fallout is one of two games that I will get this fall, no matter what (the other is Rock Band). Sure Halo, Call of Duty and Taken King all look good too, but they just didn’t grab me like Fallout 4 did. And that’s all just from a gameplay standpoint.  Then we get to two big details that really should be getting more attention then they are. First, for Xbox One gamers, there’s the added bonus of Fallout 3 along with it. For players that maybe missed the game almost 10 years ago, that’s a fantastic bonus. The details are still missing – is this a download on the Xbox One, or is it just a Xbox 360 download and it will be one of the new backward compatibility options. Will it allow people to double up on gamerscore? Will it include the five DLC packs for the game? All that needs to be answered before November, and I expect them to.

Pipboy Edition

The other great detail is the prospect of the Modding community being able to share their work on consoles. Some details here have been confirmed. The PC dev kit will be out early next year, and Xbox One will get access to the mods shortly thereafter through the Bethesda.net service. This honestly could be the biggest game changer in Fallout 4‘s lifespan. Bringing mods to consoles has been a pipedream for players for years now – really ever since consoles went online. Bethesda being at the forefront on this also just feels right – their games always seem to benefit greatly from the modding community. Granted the mods will be a little curated for the consoles – probably looking for trademark breaches and mods that would impact the rating (ultra-violence/nudity mods) – but they definitely look like they’re going all in here. And that could make Fallout 4 the most flexible console RPG in years – the potential mods here are crazy.

November may only be a few months away, but we still have the slow months of the summer to get through. There are definitely a few games worth looking into this summer for sure, but damn, the fall can’t get here fast enough.

What the Destiny Interview Really Amounts To

DestinyThe big news floating around the web this week – especially in the Destiny community – is an interview that Eurogamer conducted with Luke Smith from Bungie. The interview is definitely worth reading, not just for the reasons the web is talking about. The focal point for the interview here is talking about the pricing for the upcoming expansion for DestinyThe Taken King. The meat here though isn’t so much what Luke had to say about that, it’s much more about how he said it.

Let’s start with some context. The interview took place either at E3, or right after E3. That’s a crazy busy time already, and add in the fact that he was apparently feeling under the weather, that’s a bad combination for a hard hitting interview. The writer over at Eurogamer did a really great job of trying to get an actual answer about the pricing situation – mainly as it amounts to the Collector’s Edition for The Taken King. For the most part, his questioning revolved around paying for content a second time – the Collector’s Editions include the base game, as well the previous expansions, and are also the only way to get certain in-game bonuses. In particular, the interview focuses on the new emotes included, and that this is currently the only way to obtain them.

That, at least initially, was the real issue here. As it currently stands, it doesn’t look like there’s any real plan to change the pricing or bundles for The Taken King. There’s still a few months to go, but it might already be too late to make those changes. After the interview though, the focus has changed around a little. The tone that Luke took really came across as confrontational at best, and really arrogant and entitled at worst. Regardless of whether or not that was his intention – that’s not important at this point – Bungie faces a pretty serious issue now. The initial reaction from the fanbase – especially over on Reddit – has been a call for boycotts/and cancelled pre-orders. Now, I don’t know that the right answer here is. I do think that Bungie has to do something here – and quickly. Personally, I’d love for Deej this week in the update to mention that they’re looking into the pricing/bundling for the Collector’s Edition; and also they should probably keep Luke out of the PR/interview spotlight for a while. He’s fine to have in ViDocs – that makes sense after all with him being a developer.

Destiny Taken King Collectors Edition

This is a weird story to talk about – the fanbase is pretty vocal on both sides of the issue. I do understand that some of Luke’s comments kind of allude to microtransactions making their way into Destiny – and that’s great, but there are way better ways to say that. Even if they aren’t ready to talk about that, there is a better way to say “well…maybe we’ve got some stuff in the future” rather than talking about putting a video on the screen and that making us throw money at it. But to me the biggest victim here is Destiny. And that’s because of the timing of this. E3 is when the good vibes tend to be flowing pretty high – Bungie had those going after the show. The Taken King looked really good at the Sony show, and the info coming out of the show floor seemed to have a pretty good feeling for the new content. Hopefully Bungie can get this sorted out quickly and get back on track here.