Archive for August, 2013


Microsoft learning from the WiiU

A day or so ago I posted about how Microsoft appear to be expanding their market by making the XBox One more of a media centre device that might attract the interest of more casual gamers as well as the hardcore crowd. Whilst their marketing strategy is a little off you can see that they are still watching their competitors and learning from feedback.

One thing that I’ve noticed lately, and that I think is quite exciting (and would be even more exciting if I had more friends) is what we can learn from the WiiU.

WiiU's propriety screen - for your eyes only!

WiiU’s propriety screen – for your eyes only!

WiiU’s screen controller is a gimmick in some games, a place for a UI where you can easily see a map or your inventory, but I can see a lot of potential in the WiiU’s big clunky screen controller, because in multiplayer games that big clunky controller can give one player a privileged view of the game, which creates a whole new mechanic. That was probably the one thing that could have sold the WiiU to me. However, it turns out you don’t need a WiiU to create this mechanic.

At E3 Battlefield 4 showed off the commander mode with one commander issuing instructions to other players through a tablet device, demonstrating that you don’t need a WiiU to create this mechanic.

The Battlefield 4 Commander has a complete view of the battlefield

The Battlefield 4 Commander has a complete view of the battlefield

More recently and Gamescom Fable Legends was announced, which allows four coop players to face off against hoards of enemies that are controlled by a masked villain, who has a similar privileged view of the battlefield.

Fable legends pits 4 coop heroes against one villain who can place enemy units, set up ambushes and generally be a bad guy.

Fable legends pits 4 coop heroes against one villain who can place enemy units, set up ambushes and generally be a bad guy.

Again, this functionality is achieved using xbox smartglass, which allows a tablet or a phone to be used as a rich UI remote control. This does everything that I liked about the WiiU, with all the extra power of the “real” next-gen consoles. These two games show how you could use this mechanic in both competitive and cooperative gameplay mechanics, and that’s quite exciting (provided you have enough willing friends to make it work)

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XBox vs PS4

I’ve been watching the storm heading up to the console wars with both a personal and a professional interest. Despite a lot of criticism that seems to be based on little more that Sony’s superior smoke and mirrors I feel like I’m still falling on the side of the XBox One.

xboxonevsps4

I was concerned that this was nothing more than my not being impartial and holding on to some brand loyalty but the more I think about it the more it makes sense, to me at least. Both machines seem to be more PC like that in previous generations, and games cost so much to make these days that I really don’t think it’s financially viable any more to make a game exclusively for one console or the other. Exclusives are all in the form of DLC, or DLC before another console. I can wait! It seems that the systems are pretty comparable on a technical level, and although I had reservations about how much of those resources the always on Xbox’s OS would take up initial reports seem to indicate that it’s the PS4’s OS that will take up more RAM.

At the E3 launch event Microsoft were criticised for having too bigger focus on TV and Sport, and yes, they did that at the wrong place – at a games conference – but what I see is a company trying to expand their market and build a unified media centre, whilst Sony are being loyal to the console gamers. I don’t have a problem with Microsoft creating a bigger market – but they should have realised that at E3 they should be addressing their audience – their current market.

Microsoft have been criticised for their higher price, but you do seem to get a lot more for your money because of the bundled in headset and a kinect 2. Now, you might not be interested in a headset and a kinect 2, but bundling these things with the console opens up new opportunities for developers. If you develop a game for the kinect 2 you’re no longer reducing your market – all of the xbox one owners will be able to play. That creates new opportunities for developers. I think that the Kinect 2 is vital in realising Microsoft’s vision of an all in one system to serve media to your front room.

Microsoft have backtracked on some things, but I think that their vision remains intact. Microsoft want to deliver software as a service, and introduce the market to ideas that really enable the use of the cloud. So far, the indie development plans for XBox seem to be promises that will come later. As of today established Indie developers can apply for Dev Kits, but Microsoft are still promising that every XBox One will be able to be converted to a dev kit in the future – but when?

Recently Microsoft announced that FIFA 14 would come bundled with all XBox One consoles in Europe. This is one way they are trying to close the price difference between their next gen console and Sony’s. I have no interest in this – can I Swapz for Madden25 Plz.

Being a bit more biased – I think the XBox One has a bigger rival for their market share, but it’s one that they probably won’t be that worried about. That’s the great line up coming on the XBox.

GTA V looks epic!

GTA V looks epic!

GTA V looks great and is probably going to be the biggest game ever on the Xbox 360. I’m also really looking forward to Arkham Origins.

I have high hopes for Batman Arkham Origins too.

I have high hopes for Batman Arkham Origins too.

But can I justify investing in two new games just before buying a whole new console?

Summer Cinema Roundup

I’ve been going to the cinema a lot more than usual recently, and in spite of that I still seem to be missing things that I had planned on seeing. In this post I’m going to summarise three films that I did manage to see though.
The first is Pacific Rim. It was pretty much what I expected. Much like any of the sequels to Fast and the Furious this was real “check you brain in at the door” stuff. Giant monsters come out of a giant crack in the sea bed and start terrorising all of humanity. Humans band together against the common enemy to create giant robots that are so complex they need two pilots to be controlled. In order to be effective these pilots share a mental connection to one another.

Giant Robots fight Giant Monsters - What more do you want?

Giant Robots fight Giant Monsters – What more do you want?

The highlight for me was when a robot smacked a monster in the face using a battleship as an improvised baseball bat.

I also took my better half to see Monsters University – the long awaited sequel to Monsters Inc which tells the story of how the main characters of Monsters Inc met. I’m a big fan of all Pixar films, and Monsters Inc is no exception. Monster’s University suffers slightly from not living up to my expectations for something that I’ve probably unfairly placed on a bit of a pedestal. It was a great film none the less.

Monsters University. I hear that they let pretty much anyone in!

Monsters University. I hear that they let pretty much anyone in!

More recently I enjoyed the new Wolverine film. It was much, much better than the Wolverine Origins offering from 2009. It was a little predictable, but good fun all the same. Lots of action backed up with just enough story to justify it. I didn’t really like the Venom character, who seemed incredibly underdeveloped but that aside it’s worth the price of entry.

Hugh Jackman has bulked up considerably since the first X-Men film

Hugh Jackman has bulked up considerably since the first X-Men film

Finally, I took the opportunity to see Kick Ass 2. It seemed to have a lot more story than I remember the first film having. Perhaps that’s because the key characters are more familiar we’re continually developing as a results of the events in the first film.  Jim Carey wasn’t quite as irritating and Jim Carey sometimes can be, but he also seemed a little superfluous. Perhaps he wasn’t very annoying because he wasn’t really in it for very long.

Kickass 2 - bloody violence and bad language

Kickass 2 – bloody violence and bad language

Kick ass is still exactly what you would expect however. Lots of fighting and over the top comic book violence which isn’t for everyone. I still found I enjoyed the film as a whole and it may even be an improvement on the first. There were some pretty funny moments too, mostly provided by the films inept wannabe super villain.

So that’s my round up of recent films. Next stop – Elysium.