Tag Archives: Halo

E3 2016: Nintendo, Microsoft, And Sony

Hey Gamers,

Once again, I excitedly share the news about being invited back to E3.

Like, as excited as making bacon pancakes excited.

Like, as excited as making bacon pancakes excited.

I have always found E3 to be one of the biggest highlights of the gaming year, and having had the pleasure of experiencing a couple firsthand, my opinion has only been strengthened in it’s resolve. I always cover the show as Editor-in-Chief of Gamersyndrome (as I will this year, too), but due to server issues, I can’t even log into my own site right now. Oh the frustrating irony of it all.

Like Batman being locked out of the Batmobile.

Like Batman being locked out of the Batmobile.

Like every year, before the show, I always enjoy talking about what we can expect, by throwing around some fun speculation, and generally, shoot the shit about what the fuck we are waiting for. This year is no different, and I want to take this moment now to run down some of the major players and what they have to bring, at E3 2o16. First up, we look at Nintendo and see what massive variety they have planned for the show floor.

That's right folks, The Legend of Zelda is just the beginning.

That’s right folks, The Legend of Zelda is just the beginning (of the end).

It’s been no secret that Nintendo has vowed to finally showcase Zelda NX, in all of it’s beautiful glory at E3 2o16. What’s more, is that the big N plans on having multiple kiosks for Zelda on the show floor for attendees to play and enjoy, along with a Treehouse Live special going on during E3, which has developers hands on with the title, showing off the new Hyrule in all of it’s next gen bravado for the world to see.

If that wasn’t enough, Nintendo has also said Zelda will simultaneously release on both the NX and the Wii U, much to the delight of any Wii U owner, and one of very few delights they will know in the next year or so.

Pictured: Wii U owners reactions when they heard Zelda wasn't coming out until 2017

Pictured: Wii U owners reactions when they heard Zelda wasn’t coming out until 2017

Most of that sounds good, right? I hope it does, because Zelda at E3 is about the only thing Nintendo fans have to look forward to this year. For the third year running, Nintendo has opted out of doing a press conference, which makes some kind of sense, as it would be very hard to rationalize what would ultimately be a 90 minute commercial for Zelda, and not subsequently get pissed on by the collective gaming community. I know it worked for Nintendo with Super Mario Bros 3 and The Wizard once upon a time, but we live in a very different time now.

Very Different Times

“Very Different”

So yes, Nintendo isn’t doing a press conference, and they won’t have anything but Zelda on the floor. That is incredibly unprecedented by any E3 standard, and should help reinforce just how much trouble Nintendo has been in for awhile. Not a “Nintendo is doooomed” kind of implication, but all of these massive underwhelming announcements for the next year, in combination with the complete lack of content for the Wii U in 2016, and Nintendo is struggling to do anything outside of flashing their Zelda bling. Which admittedly, they do well.

As a fan of Zelda, I’m thrilled I’ll be surrounded by my favorite green clad hero. As a critic, I’m like “Dudes, are you serious? One freaking game?” I do my best to rationalize the situation in the sanest ways possible.

Zelda at E3

The upshot to this is that no one is really expecting anything from Nintendo at all this E3, so if Zelda is surprisingly good, they will  get great press about it. Which is perfect, cause they will likely get little press other than Zelda. They have back peddled recently to say they will mention in some capacity a few other titles, like the new Pokémon titles Sun and Moon, along with Monster Hunter and Dragon Quest VII for the 3Ds, but have safe expectations going into the show.

Let's hope Nintendo hasn't done to Zelda 's E3 showing what Link does to love letters.

Let’s hope Nintendo hasn’t done to Zelda ‘s E3 showing what Link has done to love letters.

Safe Expectation: Zelda. Seriously, that’s it.
Impossible Expectation: Nintendo has been lying about not showing the NX this year, and we get a physical look at the console, with an official name.

Next up, we have Microsoft, the tech giant that went from disastrous launch, to admirable sales for the Xbox One, with their system currently outpacing the success of the 360 in comparison of sales to time on the market. MS is still almost twice as far behind as Sony’s PS4 however, and will have to continue to pull out all the stops to catch up.

With one of the stops being continually not bringing up the failure that is the Kinect.

With one of the stops being continually not bringing up the failure that is the Kinect.

I know you wanted the Kinect to be embraced by your core base, Microsoft…but it’s just not going to happen

Microsoft is likely to continue their “games first” strategy that we saw them steam ahead with last year, tech add on’s and vague promises of future upgrades just (haven’t) and aren’t going to satiate the expectations of gamers. With more than 50% of all games announced at last years E3 (from all companies) still not out a year later, MS is going to have to wow the crowds with some concrete content with solid release dates.

Luckily, among the contenders for games likely to be announced at the show this year for the X1, we’ve got Crackdown 3, Cuphead, and Gears of War 4 all riding the hype train to E3. All three of these games have been in the works for some time, and round out an impressive variety that MS has been trying to compete with Sony on, a company that has had a quality stable of varied content in the past couple years.

Not that Sony hasn't had a varied amount of content that hasn't seen the light of day. Everyone is looking at you FF7.

Not that Sony hasn’t had a varied amount of content that hasn’t seen the light of day. Everyone is looking at you FF7.

To that point, we already know Gears 4 will be coming out October 11th, and it’s going to be one of the games to beat this year in terms of hype factor. I’d be surprised if Crackdown 3 didn’t finally have a release date announced, as well as Cuphead finally getting a launch window. I’m excited to finally see Rare showcase Sea of Thieves on top of it all, as they’ve had plenty of time to get the project off the ground, though a 2016 launch for it feels unlikely to me.

I think Recore and Scalebound are doomed to delay till 2017, considering what little we’ve seen of either in the past year. With Inafune heading up Recore, and having trouble getting even a small project like Mighty No.9 out, and Kamiya heading up Scalebound, who’s notorious for being patient in development to put out a quality experience, I will be very surprised if either see the light of day in 2016, but expect awesome previews at Microsoft’s conference non the less. It’s been rumored Halo Wars 2 will finally be announced, and I’m foolishly hopeful that it’s been in development long enough to be ready by years end.

But in he end, this is Halo we are talking about. We will likely be bummed about having to wait a little longer.

But in the end, this is Halo we are talking about. We will likely be bummed about having to wait a little longer.

Other honorable mentions go to Microsoft’s continual need to remind us it owns Mincecraft, some kind of Windows 10 pimping, and perhaps most excitedly, the rumored Xbox One slim, which is suppose to be almost half the size, and with possible 4k resolution support. There have also been rumors of an “Xbox Scorpio” flying about, which is supposedly far more powerful than the Xbox One, and possibly equipped with VR in mind, but with the Slim being the likely candidate (and MS still being mum on any possible VR focus), it would be pointless for Microsoft to announce the hypothetical Scorpio, as Sony and Nintendo have vowed not to bring new hardware to E3.

Which is believable, as Nintendo has barely vowed to bring any software to begin with *twiddles cigar*

Which is believable, as Nintendo has  vowed to barely bring any new software to E3 *twiddles cigar*

Safe Expectation: Microsoft announces a slew of release dates for big games, and the Slim is unveiled with a cool design and reasonable price point
Impossible Expectation: Microsoft shows working prototypes of a virtual reality machine, with a late 2017 launch window.

Last but not least, we discuss what Sony may do come this years E3, and what they have to avoid in order to not be the laughing stock of the gaming community.

Step 1: No crazy expensive announcements

Step 1: No crazy announcements

 

Step 2: No crazy promises

Step 2: No crazy long term promises

 

Step 3: Seriously...just don't be crazy, Sony.

Step 3: Seriously…just don’t be crazy, Sony. Sheesh.

While Sony has had their fair share of missteps in the past, they regularly have an incredibly strong showing at E3. Even when they announce something ludicrous, or ham fist some heavy handed promises, it’s at the least extremely entertaining on a memetic level. Though Sony has confirmed the existence of the  “PS4 Neo”, a new iteration of the PS4 line (much like the X1 Scorpio) which has been confirmed by Sony’s president to be more powerful and more expensive, it has also been confirmed it will not be making it’s E3 debut this year. Sony is still ramping up on showing off it’s not to distant future VR offerings with the PS4 VR add on, Project Morpheus, which will be the cheapest way to get your VR funk on.

No word yet currently on whether or not Sony will offer games which will have you getting funk off of your VR.

Though, unlike their competitors, no word yet on whether or not Sony will offer games which will have you getting funk off of your VR,

PS VR helps to solidify  the PS4 as the most attractive offering on the console side, and Sony has the sales numbers to back that up. There are quite a few games Sony has planned to discuss at their show this year, with some impressive names like Gran Turismo, Ace Combat, and Harmonix showing off titles for Project Morpheus for gamers to enjoy. Other titles which will be explored include Rigs: Mechanized Combat League, Dreams, a project from Little Big Planet Developers Media Molecule, and even a VR version of Rez, the highly acclaimed cult classic rhythm experience.

There are another dozen titles or so planned for PS VR, and it seems Sony is putting a great deal of focus on showing it off this year, which leads me to believe we may get a solid release date in late 2016, with the price point of $400. I know not everyone is sold on the idea of VR, but after having the joy of experiencing it myself at E3 2014, I can’t help but be excited for the future of virtual reality in gaming, which will only become more popular as the price goes down.

And like most major modern day tech innovations, I'm sure porn will most certainly convince everyone to jump in.

And like most major modern day tech innovations, I’m sure porn will most certainly convince everyone to jump in and help expedite cost reduction.

Putting aside the saucy nature of possible VR advancements, Sony has regular software lined up for their conference, including looks at Horizon: Zero Dawn, a futuristic open world third person action game that looks beautiful in motion, and a game I’m crossing my fingers comes out this year. The Last Guardian, which better have a release date this year, or is doomed to catch up with the number of times Duke Nukem Forever was delayed, the long awaited sequel to the gravitationally challenged Vita darling Gravity Rush 2, and possibly the rumored announcement of a Norse myth focused from one of Sony’s biggest, God of War 4.

Spoiler Alert: Kratos will most still be a massive asshole.

Spoiler Alert: Kratos will still be a massive asshole.

The last couple of years I’ve gone, while some companies have delivered the goods in terms of conferences (Microsoft 2014, Bethesda 2015), Sony always seems to be the ones to beat in terms of variety of content and showmanship. Let’s see if they can pull it off again this year.

Safe Expectation: Sony will announce a lot of cool shit
Impossible Expectation: Any of it will be cheap or come out any time soon.

And that concludes my overview of the big three in some of the preliminary analysis of E3 2016. What’s exciting is that the show is always anyone’s game, and even if one company rises above the rest, they all always have a chance to impress, and to collectively succeed to make an excellent show. What’s more is that this year has seen a surprisingly low number of leaks, so there are still a ton of surprises left, with dozens of unannounced projects just waiting to shock and awe. Stay tune as I cover the conferences and the show live from LA, as we all enjoy the awesomeness that is E3 2o16.

~Pashford

 

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Whore Swords

Hey Gamers,

Despite my best efforts, I have not yet tired of speaking about Zelda.

I Think I'd Have To Change My Name If I Did

I Think I’d Have To Change My Name If I Did, Honestly

I made mention of a possible part four to conclude my thoughts on Zelda, though I feel as if I’ve already done justice in giving A Link Between Worlds ample spotlight. This whole line of articles, for those who may remember, was the first effort in flexing my mental fibers after a long hiatus. ALBW gave me plenty to think about, and Zelda does easy work of making me a happy gamer. While my last post  may have come off rather irritated instead of happy, it was more of a “dude, really?” in regards to Nintendo’s sometimes backward approach in game design. The company may be responsible for building the house of Mario, but that doesn’t mean they’re master carpenters all of the time.

And the metaphorical outhouses they sometimes build

Too Soon?

*ShitFests

Nintendo did learn a valuable lesson from narrowly focus testing the 3DS XL in house: do not build accessories to scale with Reggie Fils-Aime size in mind.

Reggie, Seen Here, Standing In His Office At Nintendo HQ

Reggie, Overseeing Operations At A Nintendo HQ

I will save myself (and you) from the endless stream of jokes, resulting in the mention of the massive girth Reggie boasts.

Those are laughs for another time.

I speak in reference to Nintendo’s meaty American President (and more directly to the Circle Pad Pro), as a correlative reference to my last post, which dealt with Nintendo’s missteps with Skyward Swords motion controls. I’ve made peace with what I think in regards to SS, and the mention of the game’s usage of the Wii-mote helps to center a singular point Nintendo often seems to get wrong: simplicity. The debate I observed, had some claiming the motion controls indeed complicated an already simplistic control scheme, which has a truth about it. More leg (arm) work was involved in controlling Link in SS, thusly making the game a little more involved, and a little less simple. Skyward Sword failed in adhering to a simplicity found in previous games, and lacked “That Zelda Feel” for some, ensuring the game was not fully embrace across the board.

In contrast, ALBW works rather simply, and that’s very good for players of all sorts. The game’s simplicity may have been overlooked in pre-hype phases, from the way Nintendo tried to sell the game. Very simply, while the wall hugging is cool, the 3D elements offer some visual oomph, and the game boasts a “retro flair”, these are all just elements Nintendo ended up abusing for marketing purposes, because they all are easily identifiable ways to sell Zelda. What surprises me here, in fact, is that in some strange way, selling Zelda by Zelda standards seems beyond Nintendo at this point, as if they’ve forgotten that the basic formula is what makes or breaks a game.

You can have all of the cool abilities and weapons in a game, but if it doesn’t feel right, it’s no game at all.

Balthier, Reminding Vaan He's Got No Game At All

Balthier, Reminding Vaan He’s Got No Game At All

Moving from reality to fantasy, let’s take shooters for example.

Articulation can be difficult, especially in sub cultures. In gaming for example, a lot of people might like a game, but may not have the vocabulary to explain why. Some people just lack awareness, others just simply don’t put as much thought into how they enjoy their spare time as I do. Any popular game or title that is worth it’s weight in virtual gold, possesses this comfortable value of feel through effective design. Why a Halo player may not enjoy Counter Strike and vice versa, is only lost to those who haven’t really spent time with either. Halo and Counter Strike both have different feels, and even within their own machinations, different iterations of Counter Strikes and Halos can indeed differ.

All

All

Different

Different

Feels

Feels

Bro

Bro

Four Swords, all of the same caliber, all used by the Chief. Ignoring a lot of the fourth wall breaking stuff (like the god awful weapon continuity of the Halo universe due to alterations in game balancing), the man and the sword do not change, though the feel does. The overall feel, to the uninitiated, is one of empowerment. Power Weapon Mongering may be one way to describe it, noob swooping another, and sword whoring yet one more title this specific empowerment takes on. They all refer to the same thing, and yet from game to game, the feel changes ever so slightly, but tries to not get too far away from that classic “sword feel”. A hard concept to relate to, if you have an estrangement from the virtual realities of Halo, but one that helps frame why or how a game “feels right”. Even within a single fan base, this can be a violent, divisive sense of elitism and debate, which shows you just how complex and delicate game design really can be.

Though Delicacy and Complexity Are Not Always What's Produced

Though Delicacy and Complexity Are Not Always What’s Produced

I know my focus on first person shooters may seem like an odd interjection in terms of Zelda discussion, but it relates in a broader sense, how Nintendo seems to “miss the point” in marketing Zelda by Zelda standards, and overlooking “the feel” of a game entirely. I suppose in some ways, people may criticism Nintendo for playing it too safe with their own formulas, so an appeal to the familiar in marketing may have been dangerous territory. Considering how quick Nintendo was to try and sell the DS Zelda’s and Skyward Sword on “gimmicks” instead of “Zelda”, selling ALBW more honestly as a straight up Zelda game, without the 3D wall hugging bells and whistles attached, might have been a good thing.

Not that I’m implying Zelda needs to follow Halo’s lead in marketing or execution, but the two can benefit from similar approaches

Link Warthog

Seen Here: Link Only Briefly Questioning What Song He Just Played On His Ocarina

ALBW did just fine in both a retail and critical sense, so I believe what’s synonymous with Zelda is still well intact, even if Nintendo’s understanding of it is not. Again, I’m not saying Zelda needs to HTFU, gets some guns, blow shit up etc, I just think Nintendo forgets how Zelda simply is better in the first place, without all of the superfluous nonsense. “That Zelda Feel” is all important, and really why the series, even when the games seem too safe or too quirky, are still tons of fun. My concern with the quality of ALBW, is that it’s polish may have been in an incidental bi-product of being a sequel to a game with a fantastic feel, A Link to the Past, and how playing it completely safe here was completely acceptable. I know this goes back to what Zelda you like, and there’s plenty of you out there (which is good), but I think it’s about time Nintendo acknowledges some of the strengths of certain Zelda games, and brings them to the front in one title.

You Know, Reaching A Common Ground Between Fans?

You Know, Like Reaching A Common Ground Between Fans?

I’m ending this post (in one sense) prematurely, only because I’ve broken up the writing process of finishing this post into three parts, which has made the effort unfocused. I’ve also gone and had too many ideas concerning “That Zelda Feel”, and realize further discussion is required in all regards. ALBW, as I’ve observed, is appealing, provoking, and refined, largely due in part to staying faithful to familiar fun. The game has been inspiring enough, in these more personally dark times, and has helped me to ponder a great many things about design and Zelda as a result. I believe my next post will continue to Link  Zelda’s, in understanding how the series has done it best.

As I’ve investigated here today, a Link Between Worlds can really draw you in, and will remind you that inspiration can sometimes be found in odd places.

They say green is the color of genius.

They Say Green Is The Color Of Genuis

I’d Argue It Can At Least Be The Color Of Success

~Pash

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Quality Reassurance

Hey Gamers,

Here at ATE, we take our.selves very seriously about gaming.

Seen Here: Pashford hard at work developing new content for ATE.

Seen Here: Pashford hard at work developing new content for ATE.

While the tone of video games is as varied as the approach, there is no denying how large gaming culture has become. While I enjoy everything about gaming, from making a monkey out of recent gaming gaffes, to the ernest devotion of any given modding community, I appreciate the diversity of the medium the most. While I regularly link to and appreciate the entertainment gaming sites like D-Toid provide, I do also enjoy the more honest analysis going in gaming, from sites like gamasutra.

After all, it takes a genius to make a moron.

Not Pictured: Matt Groening's intellect.

Not Pictured: Matt Groening’s intellect.

I do my best to make the rounds when it comes to gaming news, and when I’m looking to whet my more curiously intense appetite of what’s what in game design, I always come full circle back round to gamasutra.com. The site provides a much needed straight man to all of the other funny guys of the gaming news scene, and helps to expose some honest intent with analysis, industry insight, and more. I read an article today, which can be found here, written by Bioware QA Director Tulay Tetiker McNally. In her piece, she underlines the importance of appropriate business atmosphere, the need of good quality assurance, and more.

1 out of 2 Hedgehogs Agree: Testing is Important!

1 out of 2 Hedgehogs Agree: Testing is Important!

Tulay goes over some basics that apply to any business, but are regularly under valued: knowledgable employees, valued experience, and a motivating work environment. Some people have misconceptions about working in the industry, that it’s all fun and games. Those two elements exist, yes, but usually at the ass end of extremely long hours, stressful conditions, depressing incentives, and inequal paychecks. We are discussing a facet of capitalism, so many of these are by-products of trying to push for the bottom line, with regard to little else. Tulay goes on to speak highly of the work Bioware has done in trying to break this mold, by providing better disciplines, worth while external motivations, and the basic need and feeling of value, QA testers deserve, but don’t always get.

Not exactly the most accurate portrayal of day to day game testing.

Not exactly the most accurate portrayal of day to day game testing.

I’m glad a company as big as Bioware is getting it right in the game testing department, and I’m sure gamers who have enjoyed their titles appreciate this aspect of their development as well, whether they realize it or not. QA follows the old adage “When you do things right, people won’t be sure you’ve done anything at all”, as with the right team, time, and experience levels, game’s can and will be largely glitch free, and provide a smooth, high quality, immersive experience everybody will enjoy.

....might enjoy.

….might enjoy.

Maybe QA started out as an after thought, and was largely under appreciated, but it’s become integral to the gaming experience. Hell, the act of QA is such a big deal, higher profile titles having Beta’s is a an event, and a great way to crowd source the work, and create hype for the game. Not to say internal metrics aren’t important, but the mass appeal and success of Beta’s, helps frame and reiterate how important play testing is, especially for online experiences, or multiplayer titles that just can’t possibly be tested to the fullest extent by the company itself. Many have realized this, and some like Steam, have even started an Early Access program, which makes Alpha’s, Beta’s, and any kind of early build of a game open to the public. Not only does this create community camaraderie  but helps to incentivize gamers, and help developers with feedback, so they can continue developing new ideas and refining already existing concepts to a well needed polish.

That all important spit shine many games just never get.

That all important spit shine many games just never get.

I know from personal experience, testing can be make or break, providing us with the hilariously not so bad…

Gamasutra Hilariously Not Bad

to the hilariously not so  good in any way…

Gamasutra BL Glitch

…kinds of glitches.

Now, I know despite conceptual faux pas, Mass Effect did have some downright awful offenders at launch, but my point of this was not to praise the perfections of that series, nor Bioware as a whole. A mere nod of gaming approval going to Miss McNally for voicing an opinion about positive change within the industry, and helping to be a catalyst to promote these motivating forces of good.

As I’ve been writing this piece, I’ve realized the breadth of content, and the lengths at which I could go on about the subject of glitches. I feel there is some application within my own concepts, and  personal workings as far as Theory vs Execution is concerned, but may represent a much larger piece, and another time and place all together.

After all, this modest Ode to QA’s has got me thinking…

Thank the three Goddesses they don’t always catch everything.

Happy Gaming
~Pashford

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