For one thing, the story is over. The Locust threat was ended with Gears of War 3. The next game in the series had to resort to telling a prequel story which didn’t even involve Marcus Fenix. And given that the story was a foregone conclusion (being a prequel and all), many reasonably wondered why they should care.
For another thing, if the new game comes out next year, it will be the fifth game in 8 years. The Legend of Zelda series took 14 years (over three platforms) to get to its fifth game. Don’t players want something a little new and different these days?
As I said, I understand the business reasons behind the purchase. I don’t know how much money Microsoft forked over for the Gears of War franchise, but the chances are the next game will make enough money to make the deal worthwhile. All the same, I can’t help feeling that the dead-eyed cynicism is going to generate a backlash one of these days. It may not happen with the Gears of War series. Or the Halo series. Or even the next franchise Microsoft milks out. But the trend can’t continue forever.
Does anybody even care that the Warcraft movie supposedly started shooting today? I’m not even sure World of Warcraft is a very big deal these days any more (although I admit I’m the wrong person to make such a claim since I never played it).
I don’t know who thought it would be a good idea to make this movie. Warcraft is a bog standard fantasy story with orcs, elves, dwarves, and humans in a pseudo-medieval setting. The only good thing I can see out of this is it seems the internet seems to have realistically subdued expectations about the movie.
Which won’t stop some people from complaining that the movie is unfaithful to the games. Those are times that really test my patience with geeks.
Mike Wehner at TUAW argues that “Nintendo needs to embrace iOS as a games platform.” The idea is that since Nintendo is in trouble these days, they ought to stop trying to push the 3DS and the Wii U and just develop for iOS (and I suppose for Android, but TUAW is an Apple-oriented blog).
These kinds of posts irritate me because they always focus on business plans and financial statements. And while Nintendo certainly cares about those things, there’s one other consideration that nobody ever seems to take into account. It’s one simple question:
How are you going to control Super Mario Bros with a touch screen?
I don’t think I have to get into the difficulties of controlling a precise platformer without buttons. I like iOS. I have both an iPhone and an iPad, and I use both daily. But they don’t have physical controls, and until they do, I suspect Nintendo developing for them is a non-starter.
And when people don’t take that into consideration, they reveal themselves to be very shallow thinkers.
The reaction to the Xbox One seems to have been mixed. Looking at this video, I’ve gotten some idea of what seems to rile people up.
I was talking about this with my buddy Jesterspawn who offered his personal theory: the Xbox One is not offering a product to its audience. Instead, the audience it brings is the product. The best way to think of this is to look at television. NBC is not really trying to deliver content to a viewing audience. What NBC is really concerned about is delivering the viewing audience to advertisers which is how they make their money. In similar fashion, Microsoft is looking to use the Xbox One to deliver people to Netflix, the NFL sports network, HBO, and whatever other sources of media it can partner with. Microsoft can then start data mining users to find out TV and movie watching habits, internet surfing habits, game playing habits and so on. Live in-game advertising is probably not far away.
This isn’t a totally novel idea. When you put things this way, the Xbox One actually looks like a competitor not to the PS4 but to Google TV. Google TV is also a system which overlays graphics and information on top of live TV coming through your cable box, satellite dish, or whatever. The main edge of the Xbox One is its interface which combines Kinect with voice controls to switch seamlessly between movies, TV, music, internet, and other media. I’m not sure how much of a selling point that is, to be honest. I can’t say I’ve ever watched a show on TV and thought to myself, “Boy I wish I could switch instantaneously to internet surfing right now.”
Actually, when I do get that urge, I just pick up my iPad.
Which brings us to the central issue with set top boxes like the Xbox One. Every media and electronic corporation wants to sell you one. But there isn’t much evidence that we really want them. Put simply, people have shown that they are perfectly willing to have a videogame console, a Blu-Ray player, and a web browser in separate machines. It’s just not that inconvenient to have multiple machines doing one thing well, and it also avoids giving us features that we don’t need. For example, I am not going to watch TV through the Xbox One because I don’t have cable. I download or stream everything. The smart TV feature on the Xbox One is wasted money for me.
The other issue is that the Xbox One and Google TV are both heavily reliant on underlying infrastructure built by Microsoft or Google. And neither company has the best setup for everything. When it comes to web browsing, I vastly prefer Chrome to Internet Explorer. But if I have an Xbox One, I’m out of luck. If I want to play videogames, I’ll have to use the Xbox One. Google TV has no videogames other than browser-based ones. If I have to find information on the internet, you can be sure that the Xbox One is going to force you to use Bing. Let that sink in for a second.
And that’s just in North America. Netflix streaming on the Xbox One is going to be useless in Asia or many European countries. NFL Sports? Do I even need to point out how little the rest of the world will care about that? Microsoft will have to negotiate deals with media companies all over the world if it hopes to compete on the international stage, and all those separate arrangements are going to be time consuming and fragmented. Meanwhile, many TVs are already coming with built in internet streaming these days.
Microsoft certainly seems to have been smarter about the feature set for the Xbox One than Sony was for the PS3. This may be the closest thing to a set top box we’ll get today, at least in North America. But I can’t shake the feeling that the very concept of a set top box still isn’t all that compelling to consumers.
It’s no secret that many popular third-party games (Call of Duty, sports games, fighting games, etc) don’t sell as well on Wii as their HD counterparts. Call of Duty, ever since World at War, has still managed to go on to sell 1 million copies or more.
It’s a wonder though, that they sell at all. Why? Let’s take a look at a recent trip to a local “large chain” game retail outlet (it’s pretty obvious who it is, exactly):
Notice the “New Releases” wall? This photo was taken yesterday, the eve of a little game called The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword launching in the US. Today, this store will launch the game with the wall looking this way- a game that has already garnered several perfect scores and a wealth of controversy. This is the game to get for that platform this holiday. In this picture, we can barely see two to three display copies of the title at the bottom-right of the wall. Isn’t slightly odd that a Game of the Year contender is so lightly displayed?
Of course, by contrast, Skyrim, Uncharted 3, Batman: Arkham City, and Battlefield 3 are all over the walls of PS3 and 360, with little room for anything else (never mind the fact that posters for said game are also littering the store). When asked for a copy of the Wii version of Modern Warfare 3, the store employee first looked puzzled, then stared at the wall for a good two minutes.
Then, he looks up, and finds it in this shiny, out of the way spot:
Apparently you have to be seven feet tall as well as 17 years old to play MW3 on Wii :
Looking closer, here it finally is. It’s pointless to say that he knew nothing of whether or not this game worked with the Headbanger Headset that they had in-stock (which works perfectly with Black Ops and Conduit 2 on Wii).
It seems even stores are trying their best to tell you that Wii just isn’t a console for hardcore games (in this case, even GOTY nominees made by Nintendo themselves). If mature, serious games can’t even get retail space when it’s clearly available, then it’s no wonder that the average gamer that walks in these stores have no idea that they even exist for Wii.
But you have to wonder: why isn’t Nintendo PR taking care of this, and ensuring that third-parties do also since there are some 45 million potential customers in the US? Why bother making a Wii version if you’re not going to make the effort to ensure that it actually reaches the hands of the hardcore gamers owning these systems?
Do you think this is a good business practice for these stores, and is it a bad call for publishers to allow their games to be shoved out of view like this?
Who’s at fault here, the store manager for portraying a biased display, or the NOA reps that are supposed to do store visits to stop this sort of thing?
The most common tagline associated with any review of Square-Enix’s Imaginary Range is “50% comic, 50% game, 100% awesome.” Actually, it looks like all those reviews might be quoting the same early review and just running with the tagline. Whatever the case, it’s a very high bar to live up to, and while what I’ve seen is promising, it’s way too early to make any pronouncements.
I don’t know exactly how the time is divided up between the two, but Imaginary Range is indeed a combination of comic book storytelling and games. Specifically, Imaginary Range tells an ongoing story in the form of comic-style panels although these differ from traditional comics by incorporating occasional animations, zooms, and pans. There is never anything elaborate, but it does add a little cinematic touch to the proceedings. If you have ever seen the web original series Broken Saints, you will have an idea of what I’m talking about.
From time to time, Imaginary Range will also present mini-games which you must complete in order to move forward. They range from a missile-guiding game resembling Flight Control to simple hidden object searches. Some effort is made to integrate the games into the plot with varying success. For the most part, you probably won’t care. The games are well-done, and some of them are surprisingly addictive. After finishing the main storyline, you can unlock a mode which allows you to replay three of the mini-games to try to get higher scores. My favorite is a vertical shooter in which you must control a laser which can skewer a series of bombs heading toward the buttom of the screen, Space Invaders style, and then set the bombs off to destroy even more bombs. Playing the games also earns you coins which you can use to unlock concept art in the gallery.
Unfortunately, the story itself is a bit nonsensical. What’s included in the app is basically an introductory chapter, and as such things go it’s pretty substantive. We get a decent introduction to a set of characters, watch them fight off an alien force, and even get a flashback which seems to develop a relationship or some kind of background between two of the characters. It’s far too early for me to get a good idea of where the story is going, but the bigger problem is that what I can tease out about the story makes absolutely no sense. From what I can tell, there are two heroes fighting off an alien invasion of some sort. One of them is carrying a Tablet (yes, it’s capitalized as if it’s a proper name for a product) which can create anything imaginable as long as they draw imaginary energy from objects around them. That imaginary energy comes in the form of…well, random shapes and posters scattered around the pages of the comic. The whole system seems completely arbitrary and suspect. Hopefully we’ll get a fuller explanation in future chapters.
Imaginary Range also has a bad habit of having its characters speak in obtuse, vague language which merely leaves the reader confused. I have to wonder if Square-Enix is having localization problems since they have a history of shaky translations (e.g. Final Fantasy VII). Then again, a lot of the anime I watch also tends to be deliberately obtuse, often to the detriment of our understanding and for no particular reason other than to make us feel smart if we actually can figure out what’s going on. As it is right now, I’m willing to wait for more details, but I have definitely been left feeling rather unmoved so far.
At least the art work is excellent. Character designs are attractive and distinctive, and the action is conveyed clearly (although sometimes you will want to zoom out on the page so that you can see the flow of panels properly). This is also crucial for some of the gameplay since the hidden object puzzles depend heavily on being able to distinguish between what you can interact with and what is merely a background object.
Imaginary Range’s biggest flaw has to do with the implementation of its gallery. I don’t mind the idea of unlockable concept art, but I find it hugely problemmatic when the unlocking mechanism is entirely luck based. As I mentioned before, playing the mini-games earns you coins which are used to unlock gallery art. However, you don’t use the coins to buy unlocked pictures outright. Instead, coins are used to buy scratch-off cards (the type you see in a lottery) which you then scratch off using your finger. Uncover 3 icons under the 9 circles and you unlock a gallery. However, whether or not there are actually 3 icons there to uncover is entirely random, and I spent a lot of time buying cards and scratching them off before I finally got one which unlocked a gallery. It gets tedious after a while, and for the life of me I can’t understand why Square-Enix chose to implement their unlockable gallery this way.
Of course, I can’t get too annoyed with Imaginary Range’s foibles considering that it’s currently free in the iTunes App Store. I’m sure Square-Enix is using this release as a teaser for paid content to be released in the future. It’s worked on me to the extent that I would be interested enough to buy the next installment, assuming it has a reasonable price. However, Imaginary Range still has a lot to prove before I’m convinced that it’s truly “awesome.” If the story doesn’t get any better and the gallery continues to be unlocked by scratch-off lottery cards, I’ll have to declare it “good” but not “great.”
So suppose your online gaming network was hacked, leaving gamers unable to go online to play anything. Suppose the perpetrator of this crime got away with player information including potentially credit card numbers. How long would it take you to alert the public about this attack? A few hours? A day?
For Sony, it was a week. A week in which all the meanwhile they posted meaningless updates stating that they were “re-building our system to further strengthen our network infrastructure” and other such vague nonsense.
Sony was not haxX0rz the way Shadow Fox was speculating, but they were recently hacked anyway. And their reaction to the incident was the worst possible.
Companies are sometimes targeted by hackers. Sometimes the hackers succeed. There isn’t really that much shame in being successfully hacked. It’s impossible to make any system 100% safe. But trying to pretend nothing is going on while hackers have a whole week to spread and sell vital user information is not only incompetent but dangerous.
If Project Cafe (as Nintendo is calling it) really is more powerful than the Xbox 360 and the PS3, that’s great and is probably more power than we need. Videophiles claim that some cutting edge games are revealing the age of current gen consoles. I honestly don’t see it. Well, I do if I look really closely and pay attention, but at this point what holds my attention is the gameplay and story. I know a certain segment will never be satisfied with any amount of power, but Project Cafe will be plenty for me. And it really should be plenty for any other developer as long as it’s easy to work with (and Nintendo now has a history of making their hardware much easier to develop for than Sony).
If the new console is launched on time in 2012, the Wii will have had a six year run. Not bad at all. That is, it’s not bad if the launch of Project Cafe signals the end of the Wii. I personally think the Wii will last for another few years after that, especially if Nintendo continues to support it. Project Cafe sounds like it’s aimed at the core gamers market and might not hold much interest to your grandma. If the Wii can exist (and even thrive) alongside the PS3 and Xbox 360, than it can continue on alongside Project Cafe. I expect 2012 will see the launch of more Wii Sports or Wii Party titles to keep casual gamers interested.
Internet posters are freaking out over reports that the Project Cafe controller will incorporate a six inch touch screen. I can’t determine the truth of that rumor any better than IGN can, but I’m not worried about its usability. If Nintendo knows one thing, it is how to design ergonomic, easily picked up user interfaces. The N64 controller has been their clunkiest controller to date, and even that wasn’t so terrible. When Nintendo makes stupid decisions, it is in going with designs that work perfectly for their own games but which do not work so well for games that third party developers might want to make. If a six inch tablet screen is too clunky, I am confident that Nintendo won’t use it. Although I can’t help noting that a TV console with a tablet controller would make a very good web browser.
I will also predict right now that Project Cafe will use global Friend Codes similar to the 3DS. And I’m ok with that. The problem with Friend Codes has never been the codes themselves but the requirement that players must exchange a new code for every online game they want to play. If Nintendo adds in a lobby system, they will have everything they need. But please for the love of Miyamoto, if you decide to incorporate Achievements give players some actual rewards for them!
None of this is preventing IGN editors from offering their opinions and declaring their disinterest before even seeing a prototype in action. Some things never change.
Wow, it’s amazing how far 8 years will change, yet be exactly the same…
For those not in the know, this very thread got me many more contacts in the industry, and several forum members from dozens of other websites have come to know me based on what you see below.
Of course, time will show that this thread has shown its age, as I’ve confused pixel shaders and vertex shaders constantly, though still making the same valid point.
People tend to use performance, or better yet- perceived performance to justify their purchase of a product. The onslaught of negativity towards Wii on-whole in and out of the industry today is proof that this type of bias will never truly end.
After a good-old dive into the world of archived web images, I came across the infamous post itself that garnered several hundred posts and scores of fanboy hate on both ends of the spectrum.
The point of this message board post? To disrupt and expose the “safe-haven” that is popular opinion, and shed light that it may not be as safe as people would think.
In the end, the only thing that mattered were the games- and it’s clear that Resident Evil 4 alone proved that GameCube was no slouch when it came to top-of-the-line graphics, as well as mature content. GameCube (nor Xbox) were ever completely realized last generation because PS2 was the market leader, and unanimously project lead on any major project that spanned more than one console. Direct to Xbox or GCN titles stayed few and far between, and it took a complete teardown and release of official whitepapers of each console several years later to prove that my theory was really close- both consoles were really identical in prowess, and many minor features were better on the graphics side than the other in too many places to count.
Below is the original post in its archived glory- feel free to discuss…
NOTE: images were resourced, and original statement(s) changed to reflect recent news on the subject at hand…
Hello all, this is your not-so-friendly neighborhood Shadow Fox.
In my time in these forums, I can’t help but notice this general observation that Xbox is the most powerful console of the next-gen systems, and some even say it’s 3-times more powerful (which I most certainly have yet to see in a game).
My big gripe is (yes, this is a rant), that almost everyone thinks this, or “knows” this, yet they haven’t a clue how they got this “information”. Who told you Xbox was most powerful? Did they prove it? How? The reason why I say this is because every person I’ve personally met or chatted with on the boards believes Xbox is more powerful because of one of two reasons:
1). The numbers in the specsheets appear higher for Xbox than GameCube, so that must mean it’s better.
2). Microsoft, or [insert magazine or website here] said so.
NOT ONCE have I actually talked to someone believing this propaganda that actually found out the Xbox was more powerful thru a proper benchmark test, or by matching up individual components of the machines to see how they fare against each other in their respective operations. Usually I end up talking to some guy that works at EB or something and ask them what they think, and they say the same thing- they heard it from somewhere else, or saw it on a website that knows next to nothing about the tech of these consoles.
So who’s to say what is most powerful?
Personally I’m quite sure Xbox and GameCube are VERY identical in terms of polygon performance and effects, after looking at the facts on each system’s abilities, though I’m led to believe that Xbox might not be as powerful as everyone thinks graphicswise, especially since Microsoft avoided posting REALWORLD PERFORMANCE NUMBERS (the polygon performance you get in an actual game, not a demo test). Nintendo posted a very generous realworld number of 6-12 million polys/sec, which was surpassed in one of its own launch games at 15mps (StarWars Rogue Leader, which is still currently the most polygons displayed in a game to-date).
So, Microsoft states Xbox can push 120+million odd polys/sec with no effects as RAW polygons, and Nintendo eventually posted that GameCube’s theoretical maximum was 90 million polys/sec with effects (1 texture, 1 infinite hardware light). Microsoft’s numbers appear a cool 30 million polys/sec higher than Nintendo’s, but why do current games barely push over 10mps on this “all powerful” Xbox, and 5 games have already matched 15mps on GameCube (originally started by the Rogue Leader launch game)??
For one, Microsoft’s numbers are indeed inflated. The Xbox’s fillrate is nowhere NEAR 4 Gtexels/sec (more like 250-750 Mtexels, according to developers). Xbox’s system bandwidth isn’t a true 6.4GB/sec, considering any info from the CPU to the GPU and vice-versa is bottlenecked at 1.02GB/sec; one-third of GCN’s overall system bandwidth in realtime. Xbox’s GPU also requires 16MB of the 64MB DDR just to cull a Z-buffer (which is embedded on the GCN GPU at no cost to system memory), and also GCN’s internal GPU bandwidth is more than twice that of Xbox’s (25GB/sec compared to 10GB/sec). Also, Xbox claims to have more effects than GameCube, and better texturing ability in its GPU, when the XGPU can only do 4 texture layers per pass, and only 4 infinite hardware lights per pass (8 local lights can be done, also). GCN, on the other hand, boasts 8 texture layers per pass, and 8 infinite hardware lights and local lights per pass, all realtime.
What this means is that while Xbox relies on vertex shaders and pixel shaders (which BTW are absent from GCN hardware) to do realtime bumpmapping, the same effect is done in hardware on GameCube via it’s texture layers. Xbox also must deal with texture layers per bumpmapped surface per scene, though.
Also this whole processor thing is quite twisted considering Xbox and GameCube are two TOTALLY DIFFERENT architecures (32/64-bit hybrid, PowerPC native compared to 32-bit Wintel). GameCube, having this architecture, has a significantly shorter data pipeline than Xbox’s PIII setup (4-7 stages versus up to 14), meaning it can process information more than twice as fast per clock cycle. In fact, this GCN CPU (a PowerPC 750e IBM chip) is often compared to be as fast as a 700mhz machine at 400mhz. So GCN could be 849mhz compared to Xbox’s 733mhz machine performancewise.
Not ONCE do you hear this fact stated by Microsoft’s PR, nor do you see anything listed that Xbox can be “beat in” on their official specs (no realworld poly count, no realworld fillrate, no listing of simulataneous texture layers/hardware lights per pass, no mentioning that pixel/vertex shaders only do bumpmapping and skinning commonly done on all games now)…
Now, don’t get me wrong; I love my Xbox, but there’s no way we’re EVER going to see more than 30 million poly/sec games in this console’s lifespan, and neither will GameCube. Dead or Alive 3, a game Tecmo said “was impossible on any system other than Xbox” due to the amount of polygons onscreen, is a 9-10mps game, tops. The character models (which were also claimed to be an impossibility elsewhere) consisted of 9,000 polygons each- the same amount of polygons in characters in StarFox Adventures, Eternal Darkness, and even in Luigi’s Mansion (end boss). Resident Evil 0, however, boasts the highest polygonal “low-end” model to-date- a whopping 25,000 poly character. Now why is this possible (even against prerendered backgrounds) on a “less techincal” console? Why isn’t Xbox smothering GCN to death with games that are impossible to be done on any other console?
I’ve constantly emailed Microsoft about this, and I’ve recieved no response other than “thank you for your interest in our product” with a link back to that wretched xbox.com. Nintendo only commented that it’s specs listed are realworld figures, and are reconfirmed.
EDIT: Rare was contacted, and confirmed that StarFox Adventures does indeed display massive amounts of bumpmaps, and realtime reflection/refraction effects by directly manipulating GCN hardware. When asked about one of the largest areas in the game (Krazoa Palace) regarding fillrate and polygonal display, Rare actually stated this was one of the easier levels to get running on the GCN.
EDIT 2: Nintendo of America was contacted, and they simply replied “Maybe, maybe not…but isn’t it the GAMES that matter”??
People say water in games like Bloodwake and Morrowind can’t be done elsewhere. I point to StarFox Adventures, and even Super Mario Sunshine. People say games like Halo have loads of bumpmapping. I point to Rogue Leader, Eternal Darkness, and Resident Evil’s character models and doors. I’ve even heard the gripe about individual blades of grass rendered on Xbox games. I once again point to StarFox Adventures, Mario Sunshine, and even the recent Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. Some Xbox fanboys I’ve run across have even been sore enough to say Xbox has faster loadtimes. I then point to Luigi’s Mansion and Metroid Prime, which are impossible on Xbox because they HAVE NO LOADTIMES (the game is constantly streamed from the GameCube disc in burst packets). Simply put, there’s not one effect Xbox can do that GCN can’t, while this can go the other way since Xbox lacks half of GCN’s hardware lights and texture layers onboard.
While I’m sure Xbox is technically capable of more alone (simply because it has an HDD for potentially larger games; which I’ve yet to see), I’ll have to give the nod to GameCube looking at the facts- which are the games that Xbox has only matched with Rallisport Challenge so far.
Either way, neither console can be proven more powerful than the other unless benchmarked properly, since the machines are so totally different from each other.
A word to the wise: no matter how large those numbers look on specsheets, if you don’t know what the hell they mean they should be taken with a grain of salt.
Now that the PSP is limping its way off the battlefield, Sony is pushing two new handheld devices. One is the NGP (which I’ll talk about in a later post) and the other is the Sony Ericsson Xperia.
In particular, they are making a push for the Xperia PLAY, basically a PSP Go with cell phone capabilities. The marketing push includes a series of ads featuring Flight of the Conchords actress and occasional Daily Show correspondent Kristen Schaal. Here’s one:
As soon as I saw this, alarms started sounding in my head. Sony’s problem has always been that they try to make their products into jack of all trades, and it never quite works. The PSP Go already failed because of its terrible price point. How much is the Xperia PLAY going to cost?
And who is the target audience supposed to be? The kind of person who uses their cell phone to play games is just looking to kill a few minutes waiting in the lobby or sitting on a train. They are perfectly content with simple games such as World of Goo or Angry Birds. Games requiring the kind of high dexterity afforded by a control stick and buttons are probably not in high demand among this group.
Then I saw this other ad and started worrying about something else entirely.
Is it just me or are the graphics in that game really crude? Maybe an FPS wasn’t the best demonstration for this ad. If this is what I can expect from online play on the Xperia PLAY, I would frankly rather stick with the Wii.
You will also note that the other Kristen is playing ome kind of phone with a touch screen. The ad is apparently trying to take a shot at either the iPhone or at other Android devices with a touch screen only. And while it’s true that playing with actual buttons instead of a touch screen is an infinitely better experience, cell phone users just don’t care about that. If they’re playing against each other at all, it’s probably Scrabble. People who do care about that sort of thing probably also want better graphics than are evident in that ad.
Apple has proven that it is possible to make highly versatile mobile devices, but they did that by making sure their device was really good at one particular function first before expanding out with new iterations and software updates. The Xperia PLAY has all the makings of another Sony boondoggle. There’s a reason why Nintendo has openly stated that they consider Apple to be a much bigger competitor in the handheld market than Sony.