Posts tagged " halo "

KD Radio Episode 11: Back in the Saddle

July 9th, 2017 Posted by KD Radio - Your Non-Elitist/Retro Gaming Podcast, Podcasts No Comment yet

Your regularly scheduled KDR is back! Surprising absolutely no one, we’re still playing Ark and Zelda. Vendor is excited about the SNES classic, Shaline is looking forward to the new Assassin’s Creed mobile game, we had a relaxing challenge and many listener emails.

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Shank’s Spiel: Uncovering My Destiny

July 31st, 2014 Posted by Shank's Spiel 1 comment

Destiny was perhaps the most confounding puzzle I’ve had to solve in a while. Specifically, I wanted to figure out exactly what Destiny is. Now, Dave will tell you that it’s nothing more than a Defiance clone in his endearingly trollish way, but I don’t subscribe to this.

It took me ages to figure out, but I finally puzzled out just what Destiny truly is. The answer may very well be different to those of you who played the beta over the last week and a half simply because your experience with the game was inherently different to mine. And that’s fine. But for me, I really needed to understand what this game is and crucially, what this game isn’t.

I admit that I was on an emotional roller coaster ride with the beta. And I don’t mean this in the way that The Last Of Us left me emotionally drained (and will do so again after I play through the Remastered edition…possibly next week’s Spiel). I began the beta with excitement, which then quickly deteriorated into disappointment.

I was disappointed by the seemingly repetitive gameplay, the shallow open play spaces, and the frequent and definitely noticeable frame drops. The Crucible, Destiny’s PVP, simply wasn’t compelling enough. I didn’t feel the urge to explore. The honeymoon was over.

It was during this disappointment lull when I realized I would have to tease out what Destiny actually is. This process took the better part of a week, but in the end, my findings were well worth the effort. And perhaps surprisingly, what I found wasn’t all that surprising.

After I made this realization, I began to have fun with the game again. I saw the game for what it was and understood what it wasn’t. Slowly but surely, I became cautiously optimistic for the game again.

And this is where you come in. You want to know what I puzzled out. My findings are multifaceted, so let’s explore them thusly. First and foremost, Destiny is absolutely not a “next gen” experience, nor did I ever take it for one. The term “next gen” is pretty much meaningless simply because I own a PC that is quite literally 3.5x more powerful than my PS4. Even on my older PC build from 2011, I was already enjoying “next gen” with the likes of Battlefield 3 with components more powerful than my PS4…in 2011.

Destiny is not some groundbreaking new experience that wasn’t available before. Sure, it may not have been possible on previous consoles, but this type of game has existed for years and years on the PC. Just because this type of experience wasn’t available on consoles does not make it “next gen.” It’s just “catching up” to PCs.

As a brief aside, what I experienced in The Crew beta truly blew me away. That is an experience I haven’t seen on consoles nor PCs. Even though an experience like this could have been done on PCs for years, the fact is it never was. While the visuals were average, a truly seamless open world United States on such a titanic scale is something I have never experienced before. Because of that, The Crew looks to be one of those upcoming titles that will provide a truly new experience.

Destiny is not an open world game either, despite the misleading marketing implying the game’s open world nature. The play spaces are too small to provide for truly rewarding exploration, with random “missions”…if you can even call them that…scattered throughout the world.

These missions are so banal and derivative that one wonders what Bungie actually intended to accomplish with the structure of these Explore missions. They are half-assed, weak, and provide no incentive to actually complete them. This Explore mechanic is by far and away Destiny’s weakest component.

Bungie should have either ditched these missions entirely and focused only on the story missions and multiplayer Crucible, or, they should have created a true open world where you really can travel to the distant horizons shown off by the skyboxes. The fact that Bungie failed to do either is an absolute travesty of what should have been.

But no, these useless asinine Explore missions are not why I am cautiously optimistic about this game.

The greatest realization I made about Destiny, the one realization that liberated me from my cavernous disappointment, is this: Destiny is simply Bungie’s next evolution of Halo. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Bungie learned a lot with Halo. You can see this learning throughout the games they worked on. Combat got tighter, movement more fluid, and story more epic. The culmination of a decade’s worth of development and learning is brought to the forefront in Destiny.

Even though I was exposed to a short sliver of the campaign during the beta, there is clearly something larger at stake, and understandably so, as Bungie wouldn’t have wished to reveal substantial plot points during the beta.

The gunplay, movement, enemy AI, gorgeous soundtrack, sound design, and skybox all scream Halo. The Crucible multiplayer, which is what you’re watching now, is quintessential Halo. Even reloading the shotgun feels so very classic Halo.

This isn’t a bad thing at all. I absolutely love Halo. Even though Bungie is near the bottom of my list of developers who push tech, they are near the top for art, storytelling prowess, and gameplay mechanics. In this regard, I can really appreciate what they’ve done in Destiny.

And this was the piece that took me so long to figure out. Destiny felt familiar while simultaneously seeping cognitive dissonance into my experience, thus leading me to my disappointed phase. The art and storytelling was compelling enough, but the the utterly disappointing Explore missions and overall free roaming experience left me puzzled and frustrated.

But then I began to take a closer look. Destiny is unquestionably Halo. What Bungie have done is retain what made Halo great, that is, retain the epic scope, art design, compelling multiplayer, and shooting mechanics, while introducing RPG elements wrapped in a newly crafted story.

That is Destiny.

To many, this is a bad thing and entirely unattractive. To me, however, this is great. Is this a “next gen” experience? Absolutely not. Is this this something that’s never been done before? No. Is this a revolutionary new experience? Certainly not.

Destiny is none of those things. What Destiny is, however, is Bungie’s spiritual successor to Halo. And this, more than anything else, has me cautiously optimistic about this unbelievably over-hyped game (IGN).

Now, you all know my stance on preordering. I don’t preorder anything unless I implicitly trust the developers and publishers and I believe in their product. They need to earn my trust. On top of that, I absolutely do not support the segmenting of content only to be repackaged and sold to the consumer as “Day 1 Edition.” Destiny has not earned my trust yet, and neither has Activision. This is a game I will not preorder.

Instead, Destiny is a game that I will wait for reviews for and seek out additional gameplay footage post launch. I still have outstanding questions regarding campaign length, level cap, and story variation. If I like what I see, I will buy it. If not, I won’t. It’s that simple.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to play more Last Of Us. Console Master Race.

ASTRO A38 Headphones Hands On Preview

June 15th, 2014 Posted by News Archive 1 comment

Typically when you think gaming headsets, one brand really comes to the forefront of your mind. ASTRO gaming headsets have sponsored some of the best eSports players in the world, as well as being the official headset of some of the largest event in our sport. Oftentimes that pedigree comes at a price, normally something along those lines being outpriced to most consumers. Acquired by Skullcandy in 2011, this allowed Astro to continue to make the superb quality headsets they are known for, but to also design and create headsets for the more budget-friendly consumer.

Last year at E3, we had a chance to check out their new headset at the time, the PLYR1 (which I used for quite some time, personally). Astro/Skullcandy were back at E3 this year to showcase a new product what isn’t specifically gaming-centric, but extremely impressive nonetheless.

The Astro A38 Headphones were created with mobility in mind. Giving a person studio quality audio fidelity while also being very ergonomic to the consumer. Available in both a white with yellow trim and blue with grey trim, the A38 headsets are fully bluetooth enabled and feature some of the best noise cancelling drivers I have ever experienced.

The Astro A38s - Audible awesome where ever you go.

The Astro A38s – Audible awesome where ever you go.

This is a product not designed for consoles, but rather for the mobile user. Using wideband fidelity bluetooth 3.0, the headset pairs effortlessly with phones, tablets, mobile devices, Playstation Vita and so on. Other features include:

  • Microphone with active noise cancelling
  • 15+ hours of battery life w/mic; 20+ hours when listening to music
  • Auto shut off when not paired with device (5 min timer)
  • Bluetooth AAC High fidelity playback

When I put these on for the first time, the plush earpads were extremely comfortable. I’m not one who likes bulky headsets. I am personally more of an earbud kind of guy. I use a headset with my PC for the best quality, but on the go I don’t like the weight or the stockiness of most large headphones. Plus, I simply think they look weird. These are smaller than the normal headphone and sit comfortably around your neck when not in use. In fact, they are so lightweight, our presenter Thaddeus mentioned that he sometimes forgets they are there.

The headsets themselves are able to be outfitted with your favorite Tag set, as with all Astro headsets. Some new Tags that Astro is coming out with include some League of Legends tags, Watch_Dogs, Assassin’s Creed, Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare and a few others. Chose to not sport your favorite game, you can use some great lifestyle tags, as pictured below.

A38 Lifestyle Tags 2

 

To showcase the sound quality as well as the noise cancelling properties of the A38, I watched a simple trailer on a tablet the headphones were synced to. I checked the volume to see if the tablet was blasting the audio for the effect, but it was only about halfway. I placed the headphones on my ears and I already could tell that I would not hear anything else once I pressed play. The volume in the room was noticably more quiet with the A38s on. Once the music was playing, I could no longer hear the conversation that was playing out in 2 feet next to me.

I would also point out that the conversation was lost to the void not because the music was just loud, but because the way the headphones form to your ears really blocks out the noise. It doesn’t cover the entirety of your ear, but rather simply just sits on them and covers your earhole perfectly. That is not to say that the headphones can’t be loud, just simply that they don’t use the volume as the tool to cancel out background noise, which is nice to hear finally.

The highs, the mids and the bass were perfectly balanced, which is hard especially with the bass. During the beta testing, some testers complained that the headphones weren’t loud enough, so they raised the volume by 6 decibels. This is outrageously hard to do without distorting and losing some of the bass. If the brief moment I spent with the headset can attest, they did not lose any bass, in fact I would venture to say the bass sounds better on this headset than mine back at home.

The A38 is slated for a late summer 2014 release, and will be available for $230.

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Also announced at E3 is a partnership with Halo and Astro Gaming. As a result, Astro will be the manufacturer of officially licensed Halo branded headsets. In addition, another really cool product was shown, one that personally I will really want to try on my PC and Xbox One. A wireless PC dongle is available and compatible with wireless Astro headsets. This is made especially useful if you use the same headset for multiple systems, like I do. Instead of having to unhook and re-hook your headset to the new device every single time, you can leave the wired plugins at the console and use your Wireless dongle at your PC. Now you can simply just bring the headset to the room and leave all the wiring (or lack thereof) at the system!

The dongle will be available in a few different ways:

  •  By itself it’s a $40 purchase
  • $239.99 with the A50 PC edition
  • $339.99 with the A50 PC + Console Edition (which is cheaper than the normal price!)

In the end, this is different it was a nice reprieve from the hustle and bustle that is the E3 show floor, but a very welcome reprieve. The headset shown is definitely a must have for those who walk to work a ton, or are looking for a headset to block out everything but your Vita game while on a bus or train. Or maybe you workout and are tired of those wires getting in the way of your workout equipment? The A38 will definitely be the way to go.

Thanks to Astro Gaming for allowing us to check out their product and the couch in their waiting room! It was much needed!

Who Is In the Best Position After E3: Microsoft or Sony?

June 13th, 2014 Posted by News Archive 1 comment

In this generation’s console war, who was left standing the tallest after E3? Microsoft or Sony?

Both companies had decent weeks at the show, but Microsoft clearly needed the best showing in order to try to win back some of the momentum they’ve lost to rival Sony over the last few months since the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One launched.

Let’s begin by looking at Microsoft and examining how they stand.

Slow and Steady

Microsoft’s press briefing on Monday was a tribute to gamers and all things gaming, focusing entirely on some of the titles people can expect to be playing on their console in the next couple years. While the idea and execution were brilliant, the content of the briefing was certainly subpar. Many of the games were some we already knew about, and the new titles announced were certainly nothing that rocked our worlds.

But that’s not to say their showing was a disappointment. Games like The Division, Halo: The Master Chief Collection, Call of Duty, Dragon Age, Evolve, and Sunset Overdrive gave the conference a level of excitement it needed. But all of these games had been revealed or shown to some degree, and nothing felt like a surprise that swung the tide dramatically in favor of Microsoft.

PlayStation on the other hand, made a massive blunder that could have potentially lost all the momentum it has garnered so far.

Uncharted Territory This Generation

The conference began with Destiny, followed by the announcement of a white PlayStation 4 and DualShock 4 controller. Sony then re-focused back on a long barrage of games, similar to how Microsoft did. They showed The Order: 1886, Little Big Planet 3, Bloodborne (which was a new announcement by the way), Far Cry 4, Battlefield: Hardline, and No Man’s Sky. But then, suddenly, Sony slipped on a slippery slope… They delved deep into their upcoming releases of PlayStation Now and PlayStation TV, which devolved into announcements of media streaming, TV shows, and other non-gaming information. It was all entirely unnecessary. Fortunately, they recovered at the last moment and ended the conference in dramatic fashion by showing The Last of Us Remastered, Grand Theft Auto V, and Uncharted 4.

Personally, I was horrified by those 20 minutes or so where Sony focused entirely on the sorts of things we like to bash Microsoft for focusing on in its unveiling of the Xbox One in May of last year. This didn’t seem like the appropriate time to be sharing this information, or at the very least, to be spending this much time on it. Had those 20 minutes not existed, Sony would have blown Microsoft out of the water.

But those 20 minutes did happen, and as a result, we now must weigh the consequences and decide how this will affect them in the future. To be honest, I was surprised how little online reaction I saw in regards to this blunder, and it’s possible I overreacted. Personally, I was on Twitter and texting with friends about how much I thought Sony was ruining it, how they were sinking themselves, and how the momentum just shifted in favor of Microsoft. But what most people seem to remember from this conference is No Man’s Sky, Destiny, and Uncharted, not the crap in the middle.

I’m actually quite excited about PlayStation TV and PlayStation Now, not because I want to watch TV or movies or anything, but because the device and service will allow me to stream PS4 games to a different TV in my house. This will come in handy when the TV that the PS4 is hooked up to is otherwise unavailable. Additionally, PlayStation TV and PlayStation Now will allow me to stream PlayStation titles I don’t currently own directly to my TV. So, for example, as much as I’d love to play Gran Turismo 6, I didn’t want to buy it with Driveclub in the imminent future. But in a couple years after I’ve beaten the world in DC, I can buy or rent GT6 and stream it directly to my TV.

So really, I’m not upset about what Sony shared at the conference (except the whole comic book TV show thing – seriously what the hell?), it’s just that this didn’t need to be shared at this conference in so much detail.

Congrats! You Didn’t Screw Up!

I truly believe Microsoft won the day at E3 this year, and not because they had an amazing conference, but because they didn’t screw up. Phil Spencer, Microsoft’s Head of Xbox, led the way and gave gamers exactly what they wanted: games. There weren’t any major new reveals, which in the end may be good, considering the nature of today’s industry and the inevitable delays, but it was decent. I have to tip my hat to Microsoft and say their future looks much brighter this year than it did after last year’s gut punch from Sony.

Sony, you messed up. It may not hurt you dramatically, but if you’d left out the junk in the middle, I believe you had a chance to deal a severe blow to your competitor. Not a knockout punch, as it would take more than a snappy E3 conference to take down Xbox, but it could have been enough to build on your lead.

In the end, I’m happy Sony did screw up. It’s better for gamers when consoles are truly competing for our business. I don’t want a world where one console is dominant, because that company then loses all incentive to innovate. My biggest fear is that Sony will get complacent, arrogant, or even worse, indifferent. They have a sizable lead over Microsoft right now, but all it would take is a few executives thinking they are invincible to ruin all they’ve built so far.

So, how do we stand after E3? Solid. Sony is in great shape, and they just need to keep their wits about them. Microsoft is improving and getting better every month. It won’t be long before they catch and maybe even surpass sales of the PlayStation 4. But regardless of who leads in sales, what matters is that gamers win in the end. Because when Microsoft and Sony continue to try to outdo the other, that can only mean good news for us.

Congratulations Microsoft on “winning” E3 by not over-showing your hand. Sony went all-in when they didn’t need to, and you clearly have a few tricks left up your sleeve. The ball is now in your court to do with as you will. Let’s see what the next year brings.

Early Alpha Impressions of Destiny

June 13th, 2014 Posted by News Archive 3 comments

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Bungie’s pedigree for making triple-A science fiction first-person shooters is well-known and long-standing, with its Halo series being one of the most popular and best-selling in the world. Formerly a Microsoft baby, Bungie has moved to a multi-platform game developer with its upcoming release of Destiny on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. As if to stick it to its former partner, Bungie made a deal to offer exclusive content and an early alpha for PlayStation 4 owners.

But as a PS4 owner, I can’t say I have been eagerly anticipating the game. Personally, even though I was a diehard Xbox fan in my younger years, I could never get into Halo. I never enjoyed my time playing the original game, yet I continued to buy the sequels (hoping to find what it was that people seemed to love about them) until I eventually gave up and passed on Halo 4 completely. Try as I might, I could never figure out what it was had millions of people clamoring for more from this series.

To interject quickly, I am not trying to bash Microsoft in light of the fact that I am now a PS4 owner. As I mentioned, I was a bonafied Xbox fan-boy, picking up the original Xbox on launch day and not looking back until about a year and a half ago when I purchased my first PlayStation (PS3). It wasn’t until I played and fell in love with the Uncharted games and The Last of Us that my allegiance shifted, as I’d never experienced anything like these titles on an Xbox console. But even today, I still want Microsoft to do well. So please, don’t take my Halo disinterest as Microsoft bashing.

So, with a very pessimistic attitude I hopped into the Destiny alpha last night. To my surprise, my attitude instantly changed when I looked up at the sky and noticed how beautiful it was. I saw mountains in the distance and wondered how to get there. I looked around my surroundings and noticed that, while I was seemingly alone, there was a lot going on. A factory with tall towers stared down at me menacingly, ships flew overhead, and explosions rattled in the distance. I was quickly intrigued to find out exactly what was going on and what my role in all of it would be.

But, first things first, I wanted to see how far I could explore in this little slice of the game, and hopefully get a sense for how open (or not-open) the game really is. Is it going to be a linear game masked in a seemingly open setting? Or will I truly be able to roam and play at my own pace, exploring the galaxy my way, and joining in the fight when ready?

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I started down the path in front of me and was quickly ambushed by some silly-looking alien things. The rifle I had after choosing the Hunter class was loud, but didn’t seem to do a lot of damage, as I went through nearly a clip and a half (around 36 rounds total) to handle three enemies. Regardless, I cleaned up my mess and headed off down the path again. Shortly, I came to a fork where I could continue to the right and head towards the random objective I was assigned, or go left and see if I could find a bridge to cross the big body of water that separated me from my mountain. I chose to instead walk straight down to the water to see if I could swim across.

Nope. You can’t swim. You die. Lesson learned.

A quick reload put me right back on the ledge where I was before and decided to go left this time to look for a bridge. As I rounded a bend I encountered another group of three enemies, the same exact enemies I encountered before, and again handled them with relative ease. I was about to resume my search for a bridge when I noticed a little shack that had what seemed to be a hidden staircase going down. Out of curiosity, I decided to go see what was down there.

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After creeping through the dark for a minute or so, I eventually ran into about six or seven enemies, and instead of an indicator displaying their level (like the first few I encountered had), there were question marks displayed (???). Assuming this meant they were much higher-leveled than me, I decided to turn and run, but I couldn’t. Because I was dead.

I quickly realized this must be a Destiny dungeon and that I was not nearly ready to test this out quite yet.

After reviving outside the dungeon, I continued looking for a bridge. Sadly, I eventually learned that there was none, and only a big wall that stopped me from going any further. So I turned around decided to wander the other direction and see if I could get across the water that way. But, I never found out because as I got past that original fork and climbed to the top of a hill, I noticed a very beautiful sunset in the distance. I sat down to watch how the sky changed over the course of a day/night cycle, and was very impressed with the difference. It’s the little things.

Which means this is a great time to talk about the visuals. I’m certainly not as well-versed in this area as I should be, but the game looks very pretty. I spent several minutes looking at my shadow on the ground and watching how it moved and changed when it came across other objects. I was staring at this random bush, slowly moving side to side to see how accurately my sun-created friend was portrayed on the branches, and I have to admit, I was impressed. The falling snow added a nice ambience and felt real. The horizon in the distance looked like a photo, but not like it was simply hand-placed in the background. Again, it felt real.

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I didn’t notice any framerate issues, and the entire experience felt very fluid and smooth, much like Killzone: Shadowfall on the PS4. Graphically I would say the games are about on par with each other, and it would take a pretty close inspection for me to pick out any significant differences. In short, the game looks great.

Eventually I stood up, turned around, and decided to continue on my quest for finding a way across the water. I got into a few more firefights with the same three enemies before finally realizing that so far this is just Halo – a game I don’t like. I was having fun exploring, but I realized there wasn’t really a whole lot to explore, at least not yet. Exploring the map never granted me any XP (as far as I could tell), I never found any treasure or ammo/weapon crates or anything, and so I began to wonder what the point of exploring in this alpha was. And even worse, is there any point to exploring in the finished game itself? Or is this simply going to be a run ‘n gun action game set in a Halo-esque world fighting the same three monsters for weeks on end?

Obviously, I know that the monsters will change, the map will open up, and I’ll understand what I’m doing a little better, but I’m not sure that’s something I’m ready to do. If Bungie can tell us there are reasons to explore the world, or that the game is truly open and I can go anywhere at any time, then I might be all-in. But from my brief experience so far, I simply don’t care.

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I know you may be thinking, “But you didn’t group-up or do a dungeon with other players!” But I’m not one to play multiplayer or cooperative in these kinds of games, because I don’t like people relying on me to be available. My schedule is erratic, and having a baby means I often have to interrupt gaming sessions to go put her back to sleep. I don’t like people needing me to be available in order for their game experience to be fun and productive. So if there is a heavy lean on that in this game, again, I won’t care.

This may be one of the biggest games of the year, but unless I am won over by more time in the alpha or some announcements from Bungie detailing single-player exploration, I probably won’t be playing. It felt way too much like a Halo/Defiance/Borderlands mash-up, and to me, those are three of my least favorite games or franchises of the last decade.

But that Battlefield: Hardline beta on the other hand…

Shank’s Spiel: Ruinous Remakes

May 29th, 2014 Posted by PC, Platforms, Playstation, Shank's Spiel, Steam, Xbox No Comment yet

We now sit seven months out from the launch of the new consoles last November. It’s fair to say that apart from a very few triple-A exclusives, current offerings unique to either system are slim. Remember, games like Assassin’s Creed IV and Wolfenstein are available on various other platforms, adding to the verisimilitude of available content on these new consoles. Even Titanfall, Microsoft’s supposed Xbox One killer app, is not exclusive to the Xbox One, as it can be purchased on the Xbox 360 as well as the PC.

Curiously then, we are left with a smattering of cross platform and indie titles to hold us over until the next big triple-A exclusive comes along. What to do? Those of us fortunate enough to be able to invest in multiple platforms can pass the time on other titles such as Mario Kart on Wii U or on the multitude of endless PC offerings via Steam, GOG, and Green Man Gaming. However, those gamers who only have one system or the other are in a bit a bind. What to do?

Recently, there has been this trend of bringing back games from last generation onto these new systems. Tomb Raider Definitive Edition most obviously comes to mind. However, we now know that The Last Of Us Remastered is coming to the PS4 this summer. On top of that, a remastered pairing of Metro 2033 and Metro Last Light are coming to the new consoles and PC as Metro Redux. There are even rumors of a Halo Master Chief Collection coming this fall to Xbox One, featuring a remaster of Halo 1-4.

Now, all this seems fine and dandy. However, if you dig a little deeper, the Tomb Raider Definitive Edition and Metro Redux games are effectively PC versions of the game ported over to the consoles with some minor additional enhancements. Similarly, while I am personally ecstatic to be able to play The Last Of Us and Halo 1-4 with far superior visuals on my current consoles, all four of these examples – Tomb Raider, The Last Of Us, Metro, Halo – are all the same exact game as they were on their original platforms. That is, apart from shiny new visuals, nothing else is fundamentally new.

And herein lies the problem. These remakes are nothing more than old ideas brought to the market once again. They’re not even recycled ideas, as the word “recycle” implies a new use from old material. There is no new use here. There is no new spin on the original ideas. These remakes are literally the same exact ideas with a shinier coat of paint. Nothing more.

What this means is that these developers are not contributing to the progress of the industry…at least for the time being. Old ideas are, by definition, old. They’re not new. They’re not even a new take on an old idea. And in this industry, this means lack of growth.

By literally copy and pasting the same idea, no new experiences are being created. Instead, these remakes only serve to artificially drag on the current consoles’ lifecycle even longer than it needs to be. This in turn slows growth and progress to a crawl. And I’m not solely talking about technical progress. Any progress and growth with respect to new ways of storytelling, interaction, and gameplay mechanics all get deferred by a few months to a few years.

This isn’t good. This isn’t progress. It’s a step backwards.

I understand the appeal of these remakes. Really, I do. These remakes provide a way for those gamers to play these titles on their new consoles in case they did not play these games in their original form. And, like I’ve mentioned countless times, I’m genuinely looking forward to playing The Last Of Us on my PS4. And you can bet that if this Master Chief Collection rumor pans out, I will buy it on Day 1. After all, who doesn’t want to relive their favorite games?

However, my concern does not lie with the short term impact these remakes can have. Frankly, the short term impact is slim at best, only providing us gamers with nostalgic experiences. It is the long term effect I am concerned with.

In addition to the negative effect these remakes have to industry growth, they can also negatively impact the PC. Remember, the PC is a constantly evolving platform. New components are released every few months so the opportunity to upgrade is always there. As such, the PC is a dynamic platform compared to the static nature of consoles.

Due to the evolving nature of the PC, and because constant remakes of older titles can drag on the current consoles’ lifecycle, the PC will only get further and further ahead of these consoles. Meaning, it will not be long before even a moderately equipped PC will far outstrip these consoles. PC versions of cross platform titles will suffer as developers “hold back” certain features simply because of aging consoles.

Does this sound familiar? It should. This is the same situation that happened last generation, albeit under slightly different circumstances. However, the resulting effect was the same. A longer console generation resulted in the PC grabbing an impossible lead. Should this cadence of releasing remakes continue, it’s all but guaranteed that the same thing will happen this generation.

I am most definitely concerned that publishers may see this remake business as a profitable one. I honestly believe that the long term implications of this cadence are destructive to the industry at large and only foster the conservative business mentality rather than allowing developers to forge new ground.

One year from now, I don’t want to hear or see anything about any remake coming to the current consoles. If I do, well, then I guess I’ll have to create a remake of this piece…

Halo 5: Guardians Announced

May 16th, 2014 Posted by News Archive, Platforms, Xbox No Comment yet
Hero_Halo5Image courtesy of Xbox Wire

This morning, Bonnie Ross, General Manager at 343 Industries, posted an announcement on Xbox Wire about the new Halo game. Titled Halo 5: Guardians, this next chapter in Master Chief’s epic journey is set to release in Fall 2015.

The game is being targeted to run at 60fps and on dedicated servers,

In the past, “Halo” games have pushed the Xbox forward, showcasing the console and its ecosystem in entertaining and innovative ways. Making a “Halo” game that runs at 60 frames per second, on dedicated servers, with the scope, features and scale we’ve been dreaming of for more than a decade, is non-trivial.  It’s a task that we, at 343 Industries, are taking very seriously to ensure we deliver the “Halo” game that fans deserve, and a game that is built from the ground up for Xbox One.

Ross continues, explaining that the scope of Halo 5 is beyond anything that has been attempted in previous titles. The game will also run on a new engine,

“Halo 5: Guardians” is a bigger effort than “Halo 4.”  That applies to the content and scope of the game, as well as the technology in what’s now a brand new and more powerful engine.  Certainly there are some core elements carried over from prior games, but we’ve invested a huge effort in retooling our tech to take full advantage of the Xbox One’s hardware and ecosystem to create worlds and experiences worthy of next-gen.

Ross write that the team at 343 have learned a lot from past titles and with their own development on Halo 4 and that Halo 5 will be a game that, “incorporate the things we learned from “Halo 4” about technology, aesthetics, performance and scale – and perhaps more importantly, understanding and embracing a community of gamers who love what lies at the heart of this game, and the limitless potential of the “Halo” universe.”

More information is to come at E3, of course, with Ross commenting on a “journey” rather than a “destination”,

Many fans noted that I was very deliberate with my phrasing on stage at E3 last year. I spoke about a “journey,” rather than a destination – and that journey definitely begins in 2014 with a giant leap, rather than one small step. We’ll give you much more information about our plans for this year at the Xbox E3 2014 Media Briefing on June 9, and we’re confident that “Halo” fans will be pretty excited about the special plans we have in store.

My Take:
It’s interesting to note here that a framerate was mentioned but not a resolution, leading me to worry, perhaps prematurely, that Halo 5 will not run at 1080p native resolution. One should keep in mind, however, that Fall 2015 will mark 18 months since the announcement of DirectX 12. Meaning, Halo 5 could be one of the first DX 12 games released. If this is the case, the low level nature of the DX 12 API may allow for further optimizations resulting in true 1080p60 gameplay. One can hope.

Forget About Last Gen

February 27th, 2014 Posted by News Archive 5 comments

Does that title anger you? Does it anger you because you don’t have a new console yet, or because you are still playing on your old one? Does it anger you because you may think that we don’t need new machines yet?

If I have elicited such a response from you, I’ve done my duty and perhaps doomed the necessity of this piece. However, if you are confused by this admittedly ambiguous preamble, I encourage you to keep reading.

The console business is just that – a business. As of May 2013, cumulative sales for the Xbox 360, PS3, and Wii were 254.2 million units, with this figure undoubtedly higher as of this writing. As of late last month, worldwide sales figures for the PS4 and Xbox One were 7.2 million units. Again, this number will be higher as of this writing and again, this is irrelevant. The real point is that these numbers illustrate one irrefutable fact. The install base on last gen consoles is substantially larger than that of the new consoles.

From a business perspective, the decision to develop on the platforms with a larger install base is quite clear. Larger install base means more consumers. More consumers means more money. At the very core of our industry, this is what business means. And from such a perspective, I can respect the decision.

However, I am not in the console business – at least on the actual business side of things. I am a consumer. And it is in this mindset that I write this piece. As a consumer, as a proponent for our industry, as a gamer, developers should forget about last gen.

Let us consider for a moment the longevity of the last gen consoles. Xbox 360 released in 2005, with the PS3 and Wii following suite in 2006. When the 360 released, I was a senior in high school. In that time, I have graduated high school, graduated college, and am currently in the second job of my career. All of this in a span of just over 8 years.

8 years.

When these machines were released, specifically the 360 and PS3, they were the technical crown jewels of their day. Now, however, my phone will trounce them both. They are positively ancient by technology standards.

Ah, you might say, but both of these platforms have produced amazing games very late in their lifecycle. And you would not be wrong. Halo 4 from 2012 and The Last of Us from 2013 are amazing games. They pushed the aging silicon so incredibly hard. But again, this is not my point. To me, the only thing this represents is optimizations that were necessary in order to stay within the incredibly low hardware ceiling.

This isn’t a good thing. I constantly think about what these late lifecycle games would have looked like and performed had they been developed for more powerful hardware. I firmly believe that the core gameplay would have in fact improved. With new power, the developers would have been able to realize their true vision for the game instead of struggling to find spare of bits of memory. And of course, the visuals would have been markedly better.

Today, the new consoles are out on the market. This is the perfect time for studios to come out with new IPs taking full advantage of the extra power. This is a good thing. Rather than continuing to cling on to ancient hardware, new ground can be broken. Emergent technologies can be explored and new technologies can be developed. This is progress and is at the heart of the technology industry which video games are very much a subset of.

As a gamer, I don’t want more experiences on my old machine. I had 8 long years of that, and this is not a complaint. I enjoyed the games for those 8 years. But no longer should it be acceptable to continue to develop on those consoles. I can point to several cross platform, cross generation titles that feel distinctly “held back” simply because they were released on older hardware, and I’m not only pointing at the visuals.

Assassin’s Creed IV and Call of Duty: Ghosts are just two such examples. You get the feeling that if they weren’t shackled to older hardware, Ubisoft and Infinity Ward could have done so much more. Larger world/maps, fewer to no load screens, more intelligent AI, and of course, much improved visuals.

Just recently, I learned that developer Turtle Rock is not developing Evolve for Xbox 360 nor PS3. They site a negative impact to gameplay as the primary reason. However, looking deeper, they explain that the negative impact to gameplay would have come from the technical limitations of those machines:

“We’re out in nature, where there’s trees, bushes, rocks, there’s a lot…It’s a high density of foliage and props…. In Evolve, if you fade trees and rocks, now the monster can’t hide. We’ve changed the gameplay.”

This makes me happy as it is indeed encouraging news. As 2014 continues, I’m sure we will see fewer and fewer cross generation titles – and this is a great thing.

Not only will this put the focus on developing technologies for these new machines, but it will also force adoption from consumers. This may sound anti-consumer, but really, it’s to our benefit. The more consumers who use these new machines will encourage more and more developers to develop on them. This in turn creates more and more new experiences. This is good and absolutely necessary for the health of our industry. We need to move forward, not linger on the past. We need to embrace new hardware and new technology with open arms, not cling on to the safety of the well-known.

If you’re not moving forward, you’re falling behind.

Destiny Beta

October 5th, 2013 Posted by News Archive, Platforms, Playstation, Xbox No Comment yet

Destiny – a world shaped by the developers of Halo and publishers of Call of Duty – will be entering Beta testing in early 2014. You may ask, “How do I get in?” The answer is simple and you may already be qualified: pre-order. Select worldwide retailers (here) will provide a limited 9-digit code that will enter players into the Beta group upon redemption at http://bungie.net/beta where in depth instructions can be found as well. Those fans who qualify and pre-ordered before October 1st, 2013 have been entered automatically and will receive their entry code via email.

From day one Destiny has been an incredibly bold vision that Activision shares with Bungie. Destiny is a massive universe that is populated by the players, and for that reason we need fans to get their hands on the game, fans all around the world. We can’t wait! – Bungie president, Harold Ryan

Destiny Beta will begin for those who registered early 2014 on Xbox 360, PS3, Xbox One, and PS4

360 Gamepad Support Coming to Halo: Spartan Assault

August 27th, 2013 Posted by News Archive No Comment yet

A free update, arriving later this week to the Windows Phone exclusive Halo top-down shooter, will add Xbox 360 controller support. The update will also have five new missions and is dropping microtransactions all together, which are presently in the game. The update is named Operation Hydra and will be available in the Windows Store on August 29th and a demo on August 30th.

Do you play Halo: Spartan Assault? Tell us what you think of the game and the addition of controller support below.

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