Friday, December 27, 2013

So I Went To E3 2013, Saw The New Consoles In The Flesh, and STILL Picked The Wii U.

A year ago it was pretty clear to me that the Xbox 720 (now the 'Xbox One') was going to be my choice going into the next generation. The Xbox just has the better first party series with Halo, Gears, Forza and various other MS only franchises, and it has all the third parties behind it, so I know I wouldn't really be missing out. I've been pretty loyal to Xbox for a long time and while there was a period where I gamed primarily on PS3, the reason for that was I couldn't afford Xbox Live anymore with the changes in my life (with having a kid and having even more bills to pay). I was generally OK with paying for Xbox Live for a long time but there are occassions when I wonder why I am paying a yearly subscription when I am playing multiplayer just for a few periods in a year, or only when a game has working multiplayer for a guy like me living out here in the Philippines where the Internet is just not very well structured locally.

Then, a lot of stuff just happened between that time, and here I am making the choice I never thought I would make. Man, 'the story of my life' is pretty much "I planned to do this --- I ended up with this". And this is the story of why I ended up with the Wii U by the end of 2013.

A very generous person gave me the opportunity to go to E3 2013 this year. It's probably one of the craziest things that has every happened to me (put that up there with "getting all my stuff flooded out because of a typhoon" along with a lot of other life events I can't bring up in this blog; maybe next time). That 'thing' i used to read about in gaming mags and wished our local game conventions would be like....I actually got to experience BEING there. It's crazy. It only dawned on me when I was cleaning up our room and remembered I had all my E3 stuff stashed in this paper bag near my cabinet. As insignificant as this 'stuff' was (it was the free swag they give out at the event), I should really get around to putting all this stuff in a time capsule somewhere, just to prove to myself after 50 years or so that, yeah, I got to do something incredible that probably a lot of other gamers will never get to do. I'm very thankful to the guy that got me to go there. I wish I could talk more about him but maybe it's better to leave it as mysterious for now. It was really an incredible, amazing, fantastic experience to get to go to E3, and if ever you get the chance to somehow go, GO and DO IT! It's totally worth it just for the experience of the thing.

Now I bring up E3 because going there really changed my perspective on this big console launch that happened this year. Couple that with all the information that came out this year about the Xbone which really ruined my perception of Microsoft and the way they're handling this new generation of systems. They almost made their console require DRM. They were going to force us to not buy used games, which is crazy, because not everyone is that rich and not every game is worth buying new. Then there was that short period of time when unsupported countries couldn't even USE the Xbone, which is even crazier. The mere fact that you need to connect it and patch it DAY ONE is not the friendliest way to treat your customers. By default, Microsoft sees their customers as THIEVES, and I really don't like the decisions they've made. Maybe in a few months or so, Microsoft will iron out all the issues they have with the Xbone. Already I've been reading about 6GB patches, and requiring daily updates that are upwards of 1GB each. It's really not appealing to buy an Xbone right now with these kinds of issues.

So while it looks easy enough to get into a store locally and pick one up, I just couldn't do it. I don't want to spend my holiday season installing patches and staring and a 'downloading' screen. I want to play games now and I want the system to work if I'm going to put so much money into buying one.

It doesn't help that this new console doesn't have Backwards Compatibility either. I have a library of 360 games and they'll all end up requiring me to leave the 360 plugged in just to make sure I can still play them.

Now, onto the Playstation 4....specs wise and in terms of public relations, Sony wins hands down. They have what is being touted by developers as the 'best console to code for' with friendly developer tools. In terms of 'power' a lot has been said about the 8GB DDR5 RAM that is installed in each PS4. That's a lot of headroom for future development. They also seem to be fixing all their problems with their Playstation network.

Locally, I really like the fact that I can get a 2 year warranty now if I buy from an official Sony store. That's a huge bonus to avoid any hardware problems the system may have if purchased at launch.

I do have three major concerns about the Playstation 4 which is why I haven't bought one yet.

- No backwards compatibility. This is a big deal to me since there are still some previous gen games I want to play, like the upcoming Castlevania LOS2.

- No major first party releases on launch. I was never a big fan of Killzone and when I saw it at E3 it was the most boring first person shooter I ever watched. It's really, really pretty but once you get past the visuals it seems extremely generic and no different from what the PS3/360 have had.

- Paying for online. I switched to the PS3 at some point in this gen, not just because of the hardware issues of the 360 but also because playing online was free on PS3. I know the PS4 now requires payment to play online. The slightly good news for PS4 though is that the fee doesn't seem as expensive as MS's Xbox Live fee.

So the last choice left is the Wii U. I wasn't a major fan of the controller when I first saw it at E3 2012. But seeing it on Youtube and actually getting to USE it at E3 2013 really changed my mind about it.

The screen on the controller itself is pretty good. A lot will bring up the fact that it's a resistive touch screen, lacks multi-touch capabilities and is playing in lower resolution than most tablets/phones. But honestly, when you see some games running on it, it does look pretty good and does a fair enough job when you want to play off screen.

I saw this console at E3 2013 for the first time in person, running Super Mario 3D World. At the time it was the most different looking, unique game I've seen on all these new platforms. Here I was at E3 2013 spending more time in the Nintendo area than in the Sony or Microsoft areas, because of this very game. It also helped that Nintendo's console had bright looking games that were pleasant to look at, and different greatly from their competition. Gameplay didn't just consist of shooting or stabbing guys everywhere. I've got nothing against that gameplay mechanic, but with today's games it's really common and it's growing stale with me. Practically every game this gen involves you playing as a soldier, saving the world with your AK47, shotgun and rocket launcher. I guess I felt that Nintendo's offering just felt like a breath of fresh air. Maybe I'm just getting old and getting more concerned about what games I can play with my son watching. I can't help it. I do like violent games but sometimes I need a break from them. So Wii U really provides this sense of variety and diversity that I think you can't get anywhere else. And Nintendo's games have great personality and art style, too, so they're very nice to look at and play. They focus less on texture sharpness and putting as much dirt and grime as possible, and focus more on whimsical, entertaining visuals, a literal escape from the drudgery of real life. So realism isn't what they aim for in games---they focus more on gameplay mechanics; less 'Press X NOW!' gameplay (referring to QTEs in most action titles) and more 'hmm, what should I do next' type-of-scenarios in their level design. I saw this with the recent Legend of Zelda Wind Waker HD, where the dungeon design reminds me of Skyrim but is a lot more involved with the puzzles. Less dialogue with NPCs (though they are there as well) and more focus on exploration of big levels teeming with secrets.

I feel like I've missed out on games like this during the past generation. Nintendo seems to still make games in the same style as they are on the SNES or even the NES. Very gameplay-driven and not off to make a game that will rival a film's storyline. You play Nintendo games to 'play' them, not watch them. This is very evident after a round of Mario 3D World or Wind Waker HD. These types of games look harder to design because you have to think a lot more of different scenarios for players to actually 'play' in. Writing a good story is its own challenge and we've seen how most developers really can't do this right, because the story will have a degree of dissonance with the gameplay (example: Tomb Raider 2013 where your character starts out unwilling to kill, then a few minutes later are gunning down every armed thug just to get through each level). There's a certain spirit of 'fun' in Nintendo games that's very difficult to quantify. You know its there and you can't really put your finger on why it's 'fun'.

Other reasons I really like the Wii U right now:

- Backwards compatibility. There are a lot of gems in the Wii library that I haven't played yet, and this gives me the chance to experience them. It should help with those periods where there are no games coming out on any platform i currently have.

- Free online play. Let's hope Nintendo keeps their stance on not requiring players to pay fees for online play.

- Incredibly strong first party games.

***

Reading on NEOGAF there's still a lot of negativity going for Wii U and I can't blame them. Third parties seem to have abandoned the platform so the worry now is the only games you'll get to play on Wii U are Nintendo games.

At the same time, you look at PS4 and Xbone and the truth is, there are no games worth playing on those two platforms yet. Perhaps Forza 5 but from what I've read it lacks features that Forza 4 had and it focuses more on In-App Purchases --- essentially making you pay more after you already paid $60 to play it. I'm not a big fan of this future that Microsoft wants to introduce to console gaming so I really hope they listen to people's feedback and be more thoughtful with what they sell on their online marketplace. I do doubt they will pay attention to people's opinions on the matter, though....they will probably just see people buying the DLC anyway, and think, 'people are fine with DLC!'

So basically , my position on Xbone / PS4 right now is, I will buy them when they have more games to play. Right now it's just 'cool' to buy them, but that isn't a good reason to invest so much money in a console. Nobody cares what console you have at home. The only person that should care, is you. Are there any games, RIGHT NOW, that you want to play on one platform over another? Promises of future games are not good enough for me. Knowing how long next-gen games take to make (usually upwards of one or two years!)...it's really not worth it to buy Xbone/ PS4 now. Also, all the videos/pictures of Xbone / PS4 multiplatform games look no better than their counterparts on 360/PS3. It's just easier to buy the lower spec game for a platform i already have, than to pay more to buy that ONE game on next gen that just has sharper textures.

So yes, I am going to buy a PS4 or Xbone some day. Just not this year.

Wii U is a great investment right now. It wasn't a great investment when it launched. But now, with all the games it has, I think it deserves a push. Hopefully more people bought one this holiday so the third party situation gets better. Already in Japan the Wii U is doing pretty good this holiday season. So at the very least we can probably expect better support from Japanese companies like Capcom, Konami and Square Enix.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Philippines now has XBOX LIVE (based on Major Nelson posting)

I was informed recently that the Philippines is now an Xbox Live supported region. The odd thing is, it's based on a posting by Major Nelson all the way back in October 2013:

http://majornelson.com/2013/10/01/xbox-live-free-gold-weekend-this-weekend/

Starting this Friday (4, October)  through Sunday (6, October) we’ll be unlocking Xbox Live Gold for the below regions. If you are not a Gold Member yet, it’s a great opportunity to try Multiplayer on your favorite games.
Regions include: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Portugal, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Slovakia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Vietnam
Your region not listed above? We’ve got your covered with the following dates:
Oct. 11 – 14: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico
Nov. 7 – 10: Japan
Have fun and I’ll see you on Xbox Live.

Eventually I checked on the net (don't have an Xbox Live enabled 360) and it says that you can pick the Philippines as your country now. I don't know the extent of the support yet (is there a marketplace? Does this affect matchmaking in some way? Can you buy DLCs in pesos?) but apparently this is real, because of Windows Phones and Windows 8 support for Xbox Live. So we kinda got it thanks to some technicality.

This is still good news, so letting everyone know. Give it a try. Maybe it will help with matchmaking with online games.

*****

On that note, there is NO PSN SUPPORT yet for the Philippines.

Sony? Please throw us a bone!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Adam Sessler's Very Strange Comment For Forza Motorsport 5

...is the part where he seems really fascinated by the 'winning credits every time you race' game mechanic.

Seriously, Adam?

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Next Gen Has Begun. And I Picked The Wii U.

When the launch stream for Xbone finally got started, I couldn't even make myself sit through it.

Every single month before launch, it's been bad news after bad news after bad news for my last favorite system.

- Forza 5 cars require ridiculous grind to get. Either that, or PAY for them with real money.
- Reports of consoles eating discs. Yes, eating them.
- Reports of downgrades in the graphics of Forza 5.
- Really bad scores for Dead Rising. And it's no longer a funny game.
- Same goes for Ryse Son of Rome.
- 720p for most Xbone games

The list of bad news goes on forever.

On the other corner, we have the PS4. Seemingly the belle of the ball (of NEOGAF, anyway---which is regarded by most as really pro-Sony), this one had no flaws, practically, and in terms of raw power, PS4 wins, hands down.

Where it does NOT win, at least right now, is with games. The only game I want to play on PS4 is Infamous: Second Son. I saw that game at E3 and it was easily the most spectacular game aside from Forza 5. But that one won't be out for months. Couple that with the reported defects on PS4s....the Sony console isn't really a good investment yet other than for bragging rights. Maybe in March. But then again, I would probably only have one game and would probably just sit through Killzone for the hell of it.

One game I do remember fondly from my E3 trip, was Super Mario 3D World.

***

I still remember walking up to the gigantic Nintendo booth at E3. An enormous 'Nintendo' logo greeted me, and their booth was the most colorful of the bunch. It was very spacious inside their gaming area. And I even got to have my pic taken with some Bayonetta model, haha!

[Maybe I'll post pics. Too lazy right now....will update this post soon]

I remember walking up to the Super Mario 3D World exhibit. One thing that struck me about the game was how CG-like the graphics were. Round objects were really, really round. Mario's head was perfect, no jaggies....literally 'Toy Story' graphics come to life, at a fast 60 FPS in 1080p. And the animation and art style really reflected the character of the world of Mario and friends. It's the type of game you'd think would be in the usual cinematics of games, but this was an actual game. I guess it helps that Mario's art style is very simplistic, with very few heavy duty textures to speak of.

But do we play games to stare at textures all day? Maybe the truth is, no game will really be real enough. It's either it's really dirty, or choppy, or everything approaches an 'uncanny valley' look. I think one reality I've come to accept now that I'm older is that game graphics will never be good enough. There will always be an imperfection here, an invisible wall there....there will always be limits, because human effort still has limits. You could have the biggest team work on the most fantastic game, and their game would probably come out in five years when nobody cares already.

So what holds up a good game? It has to be fun.

A game is essentially a time waster, a good way to spend your days with your friends or family. Or just a good way to relax yourself if you're playing all alone. Do we really spend our time playing games by counting frames? Or looking at textures?

Maybe Nintendo has the right idea after all.

***

I have to admit, there is a single caveat in my biases. I have a son. The other day I was playing GTAV and every time one of the characters curses, I would cringe a bit and be embarrassed. My two year old is right there, and God knows what damage this game is doing to his brain.

I actually don't think video game violence can really destroy a child's mind....but it does make you wonder how it affects their perception of the world.

So every time I'm playing something violent like GTA or Batman (hell even Batman is no longer wholesome lol), my wife can't help but bring my kid out of the room.

My wife is pregnant again with our third child, and I was thinking, am I seriously going to be able to decapitate more enemies in this environment? Maybe I have to consider playing less violent stuff so I can enjoy this hobby without getting worried about my kids.

***

So there we were at the store, staring at the Wii U Zelda bundle. We came, we saw....we purchased! That Wii U Zelda bundle plus Super Mario 3D World.

I'm sorry I couldn't be objective or listen to Michael Pachter or the rest of the internet proclaiming the doom of Nintendo in this next generation.

I just remember playing Super Mario 3D World at E3, and it was definitely one of the best, best, best games I ever played there. Thank God [and another person I can't mention....long story for another day] I had the opportunity to go to E3 2013. I think that one completely changed my view of the Wii U.

***

Did you know that the Nintendo Wii U just came out last year? LAST YEAR.

Come to think of it, maybe everyone's been really unfair to Nintendo. They had a full YEAR to make something great for their system.

Call of Duty games, at least the good ones, take 3 years to make. You only see them yearly because they have two teams making the games, alternating every cycle.

Nintendo had ONE year to make a good series of games to justify their system. ONE.

Ok, maybe they've been coding even before their console came out, but still...in the HD generation, making games is no longer a three month job. It's just to complex, heck just the artwork itself must require armies of artists and designers to draft, approve and collect. Imagine the programming.

Maybe the game press has just been too harsh on Nintendo. Partially because of that idea that, since their competition didn't have anything at the time, the assumption we all have is 'the other guys will probably make something better than Nintendo because they are coming out later'.

Take a look at Killzone Shadow Fall, then take a look at something old, like Gears of War 1 or Call Of Duty Modern Warfare.

Fundamentally, do those games look any different from each other? Is there anything in Killzone Shadow Fall that really, REALLY screams 'NEXT GEN!' at you? It's a shooter. Is there anything it does that you can't get for a 360/PS3 now?

It will look better, but not really that much better. I think i posted before that the Killzone E3 demo bored me when I watched it. I still stand by that assertion. There was just nothing very special about the game, other than it being very pretty. Once you get over the graphics, it's like any other shooter you already played.

***

So there, I've jumped into next-gen. Just not the jump I expected. But you can't just decide to buy one thing or another based on numbers or things like technical specs. I guess being a family man really changed me. Well, just a bit.

I still want to play Infamous Second Son. Maybe next year.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Grand Theft Auto V - The Best Game of this Generation and We Can't Play It Out In The Open

GTA V. I don't think I need to add more superlatives to how awesome this game is. This game takes open-world action to the next level, as well as characterization and storytelling. It's the best game of this gen, right up there with the mighty Skyrim in terms of scale, gameplay quality and innovation. GTAV probably nudges Skyrim a bit because it does characters better, with a lot of dialogue and cutscenes which really flesh out everyone in the cast. 

So yeah, this is the best game ever. Why the hell can't we play it in front of everyone and tell them how awesome it is?

While it is a true technical marvel, an achievement for this game generation, the sad truth is, it's just too obscene and explicit at times to be a good centerpiece of gaming for all audiences. There is just way too much swearing and obscenity in the dialogue that it does get uncomfortable to play. Not because I'm a prudish guy, mind you.....just try to play this with a straight face if you're a family man and you've got your kid just watching on the side. It's tough. 

Why is it that a game this magnificent just have to be so crass? 

So yeah, this is a 10/10. Just don't play it when your kids are around; otherwise they might think it's normal to just throw out F-bombs in every casual conversation.

Friday, July 05, 2013

Focusing on Multiplayer : Why It's Bad For Future Games

At E3 2013 there was a lot of focus on online modes and multiplayer for most of the new games coming out on the Playstation 4 and Xbox One. The biggest games of the show, Titanfall and Destiny, are largely multiplayer driven, with their core gameplay clearly linked to the ability of your console to go online and connect with other players. Major developers like Vince Zampella of Respawn Entertainment have gone on record to say that it isn't worth spending several years to make a single player experience that players can break down in mere hours. Online functionalities in games are expanding with these new consoles; developers are focusing on multiplayer because it keeps their games relevant, and it keeps from players selling their games back to stores like Gamestop, which is bad for developers (in terms of keeping their games continuously profitable).

I think that this focus on multiplayer is actually a bad thing. This approach isn't something that hasn't been done before. Previous games like Shadowrun for the 360 only had multiplayer and had no single player campaign at all. Of course there are the massively multiplayer role-playing games, which are essentially time-sinks for players and don't really have any real semblance of storyline or anything that remotely resembles a real game campaign.

I don't really agree with just focusing on multiplayer so much. Not everyone has a great internet connection. It seems to me when these developers make games, they make them in a "perfect bubble"; they assume that all the players will have as great a connection as they do back in their office buildings. But that just isn't true. Not everyone has a great connection, and as we've seen with the Xbox One reversal of their DRM policies, there are enough gamers out there who prefer to 'play offline' with their games. It's not something they don't want....everyone wants to try some online multiplayer from time to time but I don't think most people have this in mind when they spend their 60 dollars.

Games are essentially a power fantasy. I believe it was Adam Sessler who said this in one of his videos on Rev3Games at Youtube. When you play a game, it's like you become the focus of every virtual character....you become essentially the center of the universe, the most important person in the virtual world. Think back to every good single player game experience. All of those basically 'work' because it lets you live a fantasy, that you are this really important guy, "the hero" that will save the day. No matter how bleak or how grim the situation is in that virtual world you're entering, you're the guy that's going to fix it and save everyone. It's a power fantasy. It's slightly different from movies but in that sense movies are kind of the same, except you're not in control of the action when it comes to film.

Multiplayer completely kills that fantasy. You become just one soldier, among millions. The guy with the fiber-optic connection with the amazing upload/download speeds is the true 'hero'. The rest of you are just fodder.

No matter how good you are at single player mode, online, you are limited by the technology you have available. And not everyone is going to have that amazing fiber-optic connection that will let their bullets land on target, on time, every time. Time and again I've played multiplayer games and latency is still a huge issue; no matter how many developers claim to have finally solved the latency problem, it just is never perfect. And the experience ends up more bland and more generic because of this. You lose that 'power fantasy', you lose that sense of 'escape', and then gaming just relegates to something so stressful, something no different from going to work from 9 to 5; unfortunately playing a video game doesn't give you back any paychecks, unless you are a pro gamer (which is clearly an exception). The point is, not everyone is going to 'go pro' with gaming. Some people just want to relax, unwind, just escape their real-life problems for a bit and feel important. Even if it's just NPCs or virtual characters that are making you feel that way. If you think about it, that's really the reason that people play games; they do it to feel good about themselves, to escape reality for a bit, just like watching movies, to give themselves an easy goal that they know can be accomplished with a little effort. It's all fake, yes. But that's the point. Sometimes you want fake. Sometimes you want to just get that feeling of success, maybe because in real life it isn't that easy and you just want to get that feeling so you can escape the real life frustration of not getting it in real life (does that make sense?) It's really a fantasy, and that's what these multiplayer focused devs are completely forgetting. They forget why people play video games.

Of course there will be those who prefer to be competitive and to feel that they're better gamers than other players, and there should be a place for them and games for them. But I hope game developers don't forget that not everyone plays for that reason.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

GRID 2 (PC Review) : The true mega-sequel to Daytona, Sega Rally, and Ridge Racer - all in one massive arcade masterpiece.

I really enjoyed the first GRID game on the console. What I liked about that old game is how expressive it was about automobile racing. Instead of going for complete realism, it went for exciting moments. It had AI that weaved and bobbed about like real players. It had active environments that made every race truly exciting.

That philosophy continues with GRID 2. On a decent PC this game is the most beautiful game you've ever seen. It does a lot of stuff that makes each racing sortie all the more interesting and fun, and it does it in very minute details that only make sense when you put them together in a complete package.

The handling model is simpler than sims like Forza or Gran Turismo, but it never goes to the extreme control style of the latest Need for Speed game (Need for Speed Most Wanted). Somehow they found the perfect balance here, allowing you to drift and glide through corners but still requiring you to follow good racing lines to win. You'll be doing a lot of drifting initially, but when you get to later racing seasons you'll be forced to be more careful with your driving because the more powerful cars can become unpredictable when drifting at full speed. Part of the reason why I liked Forza in the past was the controls, and in the same way, it's the controls that make Grid such a blast to play.

Another amazing thing about Grid 2 is that it never seems to get boring. It pulls that off by giving you beautiful tracks to ogle at, amazing AI to race against, and overall a feeling that the racing world you're playing in is a living, breathing place. That's the one problem that Forza and Gran Turismo have sometimes; their racing worlds can be very sanitized that they lose that visceral thrill that racing games should have. You're going over 180KPH; it has to be exciting. The problem with racing games is that you can never get that sense of movement no matter how fast the graphics scroll on your screen. So games like this have to do a lot more to get you completely immersed in the game.

GRID 2 pulls this off perfectly and beautifully in the way it renders its locations. When you race at night, fireworks continuously go off; crowds are watching you drive and they all have cameras, so strobe lights are everywhere. When you drive in a forest setting you'll see the occasional flock of birds flying by, or an airplane or helicopter swooping in. Mega-screens light up each major corner of the track with the initials 'WSR' flashing repeatedly, just giving you this sense that you are participating in a major race being watched around the world. GRID 2 gives you a feeling that you're racing, yes; but more importantly, it makes you feel like you're in a party, a really fun, crazy party, every time you drive.

It's so subtle but it really does work. It kills the 'boredom' of 'left, right, left' that racing games can usually have. There's just something to look at at every wild corner.

And it really, REALLY helps that all your opponent cars have liveries. In Forza/Gran Turismo you'd usually be the driver with the decked out car, with the nice alloy wheels, the decals, the paint job. All the other poor AI drivers look exactly like that....AI drones. Their cars just have the standard paint job and that's about it. You always get the impression that you're racing against faceless drones in those other games. In GRID 2, your opponents are part of major racing teams, with their own logos and colors. They feel interesting to race against and they feel fun to drive past. Your screen will never be devoid of color when you drive a race in GRID 2. If you're sick of brown in first person shooters, GRID 2 should fix that; especially on PC, with all the ridiculous lighting effects everywhere.

I can't help but think that this game is the true, the real successor to every arcade racing game that has died horribly in the past few decades. Daytona USA. Ridge Racer. Sega Rally. If you are familiar with those games, and you miss the experience of playing them, this is really as close as it gets. While the physics here is a lot more sophisticated than those, when you start drifting by at over 100KPH, you'll get that nice nostalgic feeling of arcade racers gone by. This game just gets the simplicity that's needed, without completely dumbing everything down like what EA did with Need for Speed Most Wanted.

This is the type of game that makes me ponder on buying a racing wheel. Maybe even a cabinet. I just enjoyed playing it way, way too much.

Bought a Gaming Laptop from Los Angeles....Best. Purchase. Ever.

After the festivities of E3 I bought my wife a laptop. Originally we were debating if she should get a Macbook Pro or a super powerful gaming laptop; in the end....

The gaming laptop won.



More info: Asus G46VW

I've been spending a bit of time playing Grid 2 on this machine and I am unbelievably, madly in love with it. I want to take it away from my wife already. The PS3/Xbox 360 haven't been seeing any action thanks to this guy.

In the United States this laptop is seen as a mid-range gaming laptop. When you bring it over here to the good old third world, this thing is a monster. It plays Grid 2 on High settings at over 60 FPS (or more, if you turn off V-sync). The image quality is insane especially if you turn up the anti-aliasing. I'm just floored by what gaming PCs are capable of now...even more floored that more PCs like this aren't available here locally. In the US this thing is about 38k; it's really hard to find here in Manila and if you do find anything like a gaming laptop here it will cost nearly 100k.

It's crazy, really. When I was in LA I noticed most PC peripherals like hard drives, etc. seem similiar in price to their counterparts here. It's only when you look at their PC section that you'll be amazed at the selection. One thing that I wish local shops would have is a better range of PCs to choose from. In the Philippines most PCs for gaming are at the extremes---extremely low end computers for general office work, and extremely high end gaming rigs that only Jaime Zobel De Ayala's grandkids can afford. In the US they actually have laptops (like the one I bought) which I think any decent middle-class person can buy.

And 'gaming' is really its own category in the USA. Here in the Philippines everything is just 'computers' and this is probably why there's no real set of options to choose from if you want to go with PC gaming. Your only option is to bet the farm, sell your arm and leg...which really sucks, but I guess that's just the way it is.

So next time you go to the United States and have a bit of money to spend....buy a gaming laptop. You'll never find an affordable one here in Manila that's powerful enough to play major PC releases.

Will post my Grid 2 review shortly.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Playstation 4 Multiplayer is REGION LOCKED? What??

Just saw this on Facebook...

http://www.gamesreviews.com/news/06/ps4-online-blocked-for-countries-without-a-store/

If true, this is pretty disappointing. The press isn't making that much noise about this news and frankly I only heard about this today. Why would Sony want to do this?

XBOX ONE IS BACK IN THE GAME! Microsoft REVERSES all the policies that CUSTOMERS hated!

http://news.xbox.com/2013/06/update

In summary:

- "Always online" requirement removed
- Region locking DISABLED (all games will work on all consoles regardless of regions)
- Game sharing/trading will work again

Gamers made a lot of noise and it made a difference! That's unprecedented and has never happened before, and I never thought it would especially with Microsoft.

Posted this on NEOGAF and will repost it here again, in appreciation of Microsoft's gesture:

=============

http://neogaf.com/forum/showpost.php?p=64887501&postcount=728


I know Microsoft reads on GAF so I might as well put this here.

Thank you Microsoft for listening to all the feedback. As a gamer in the Philippines and part of an Xbox community here, we were all 100% upset with all those policies, particularly the country locking "feature". I just woke up today and all of this sounds like a miracle. I am very pleased with this news and look forward to playing on the Xbox One. All the best exclusives seem to be on your system so it was really heartbreaking originally to hear that there were so many restrictions.

So yeah, I'm really happy about this. It's probably the first time I witnessed in the gaming universe the ENTIRE gaming world (journalists, consumers, maybe even some devs? I dunno) literally pushed Microsoft into DOING THE RIGHT THING.

Once again, Microsoft I really appreciate this. Will buy your system now when it releases.

-----

Oh, and NO MORE REGION LOCKING! That's a BIG win for us outside the USA/unsupported regions!

Friday, June 14, 2013

E3 2013. DAY THREE.

Writing this on the bus, on the way back to the hotel. Expect bad writing and stream of consciousness-style, disorganized text. hey i'm not a journalist! So i dont have to care haha.

I planned on spending this day entirely in lines. You see, E3 has several types of demos:
- The playable demo. Basically it's a kiosk where you can just walk up and play.
- Guided demo. This is where the developer plays the game for you while you are seated with a bunch of other people. Since they can only fit a few people in the room where they do this, very long lines are quite common.
- Stage demo. This is where the developer takes the stage of a very big booth and just talks about their game.
- Press Conference demo. This is where all those wonderful GIFs on the internet were made from.

I have seen one to three, live. The fourth one, well, only on the internet. The press conferences are only for press. And for this attendance to E3 I was doing it as part of a business trip. Long story which I can't get into here.

Anyway, so for the first two days I have been more or less avoiding demo type number 2. The one where you have to line up. That's because I wanted to see the entire convention; I wanted to visit every little cranny of the place. On my first day I made the mistake of running into the Battlefield 4 thing where, while it was playable you still had to line up for a long while. I was avoiding anything that involved lining up.

Today, I just lined up for practically everything. Man, I lost a lot of time. It wastes so much time to line up....
There is one benefit though. You can score some rare swag after a presentation. I guess my goal today was 'get as many collectibles as possible'.

At the start, the first thing I went to was the Forza guided demo. Not that I haven't had enough of Forza by this point. Especially after Microsoft's wonderful pledge of support for Asia. Lol.

I was hoping to get a tshirt or something. I got nothing of the sort.

I found myself falling asleep while the guy talking kept on blathering on and on about car paint and how realistic their paint was. He's turning into Kazunori Yamauchi. Argh. Just race already....

Eventually he does play and I watch him dispatch of the AI like it was nothing. Earlier on he was talking about how the AI was trained by cloud servers. But I just watched him blow past them in two seconds. The only humanistic thing the AI did was try to bump him. Ooookay. Do we really need to pay for online connectivity to teach the computer to do that? The last game I recall with aggressive AI was Grid and I think one of the last Need for Speed games (not Most Wanted). I wasn't really impressed by their playthrough. I did enjoy playing the game myself, but Forza seems to be the type of game that bores me if I am watching someone else play it.

Next, I go again to the Playstation booth. Nope, still didn't want to play Knack. They were doing a Gran Turismo Academy challenge on stage where the winner would get to drive a real race car on Silverstone. They made GT look more exciting than it usually is. I guess it's always better to watch that type of game if there are people cheering and clapping, and if there is running commentary from a well versed announcer.

They should really put that in a racing game.

No one in line for Watch Dogs in the Playstation 4 booth.

I line up and watch their demo.

Five minutes in, I was falling asleep. I guess I've seen so much of Watch Dogs already on the Internet that they were running out of stuff to show off.

After seeng Watch Dogs, I step out and I notice the line is a bit short for Infamous Second Son.

The other day, I lined up for Killzone Shadow Fall and I was bored out of my mind.

So I didn't relish going through another potentially boring Sony property. But then again I was wondering if they were offering a free tshirt? I don't buy shirts often so it might be good to add to my collection haha.

I line up and wait for a bit. Eventually I get in.

Five minutes of talking from the developer....

Falling asleep.

Man, my feet are killing me.

Game starts.

Oh, nice cutscene.

Nice cutscene. Ok,....

Shifts to gameplay.

GAMEPLAY LOOKS LIKE CUTSCENE.

Holy crap. I wake up.

THis is the first PS4 game that did that to me. The game looked so impressive that it rivalled how impressed

I was with the Forza 5 demo the previous day. The lighting was so good. The graphics had no jaggies. The animations were okay. You could still see some Playstation 3 jankiness but if I had to numerically quantify it, it's a 9/10 on the quality scale.

I wish they made this game playable on the floor. It would blow people's minds!

On my way out I congratulated the developer and told them that was the first PS4 game that impressed me. He thanked me, then I asked if it is a launch game.

He raises his hands and says, "Launch window, man"

Oh no!

Well, that's game development for you.

Went out to lunch at Stella's which is a restaurant beside Hooters at the convention center. The food was very good, so I went back to LACC feeling that this was going to be a good day, even if I'm gonna spend it in line most of the time, hunting for swag.

Ace Attorney. No line.

No swag.

Dead Rising 3. Epic line.

Okay, I decided to line up. It was quite a wait. Eventually I got in and they started their demo.

Within five minutes, getting sleepy again.

The demo of DR3 was extremely choppy and unpolished. You'd think it was a 360 game. It just didn't feel like it was ready for showing to people. I would have been more impressed if it had some smoothness but i guess it just isnt done.

Also there wasn't anything that really blew me away about it. It was basically DR1 and 2 with a bigger environment. Also the areas were all drab, like the whole thing was set in Africa like REsident evil 5.
THey were highlighting how you can make weapons. Wasn't that in DR2?

You can drive a car. That's okay I guess.

Zombies. There are a million of them. Call in an airstrike....okay.

The sense of humor is slightly lost in this game. The only joke I noticed was the Shark mascot suit. Didn't make me laugh though.

Basically the whole game was brown.

At the end, they gave me a cap. HURRAY! I love Dead Rising 3! (Now I'm a game journalist!)

Next up, Batman Arkham Origins.

I waited over an hour in line for this. Eventually our line was CUT BY THE DAMNED MEDIA. That pissed me off a bit. So I walked out after an hour of waiting.

I regret that a little. But it was Batman. And besides, I probably already know how it plays....

Also, rumor has it that they ran out of swag to give away. So maybe it wasn't worth it to line up anymore.

(Oh geez, you know, Konami was playing that MGS5 track over and over again. Now, I can hear that screaming woman in the theme song in my head! LSS....)

I walk around looking for what else to line up for.

Ubisoft? Lines too long! argh. it's 3:30 already.

Sega? No lines and I've already played Sonic.

Square Enix? I see a line for Thief.

I ended up waiting quite a bit there. Once again the stupid press gets in first, but this time I was together with them in entering. Oh wow, they get to sit down and I have to stand up?

Demo starts. I am bored out of my mind again after five minutes.

By that point i was running out of time since E3 was ending at 5pm. So I had to go back to the bus. And here I am now, writing this blog post.

Microsoft: We don't sell Xbox Ones in Poland. Witcher Developer: What? How Am I Going To Play My Game Back Home?

Hilarious. Apparently Microsoft's ultra draconian DRM just hit one of their best developers. This is the goofiest mistake I've ever heard of.

CD Projekt, Welcome to THIRDWORLDGAMER. Apparently you're one of US! Haha!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Microsoft DOES NOT KNOW what to do with unsupported countries

After the previous news, I decided to message Microsoft myself.  First, to see if I will get the same reply.  Second, to let them know that they actually have customers in the Philippines!  Here's what I got...

So what does this mean?  XBOX Support DOES NOT KNOW if the XBOX One will run on a country that isn't supported by XBOX Live or is in their launch list.  The question is a valid question considering there are a lot of Filipinos who bring back consoles bought in the US.

So does it change anything?  Not really.  It's still a wait and see but things heavily stacked against the XBOne

E3 2013. DAY TWO.

I woke up today with a splitting headache. Took some paracetamol. I think yesterdays fanfare burned me out a bit. I can't stop talking about how far distances are here in LA. You look up a place on Google Maps, it looks so near....then when you're actually in the place where you want to go, holy crap---you have to walk what feels like a football field just to get to a restaurant.

And that's the other thing that bothered me about E3. You know how in Manila it seems like every McDonalds is within reach, and you'll always have access to inexpensive food? Not the case with E3. All the food in the convention center is expensive, and all the food outside of the area is the same deal. If you have to plan to go to E3, be ready to spend some money.

That's the thing. You're spending for the equivalent of walking all that way for a cheap deal and tiring yourself out. Do you really want to get tired when you have to walk the entirety of the LA Convention Center for a whole day? It's no joke. Or maybe I'm just 34 and this is just getting harder for me to do on a daily basis.

Wish I was 22 again haha.

Now I went to the Nintendo booth first.

Mario 3D Land (again)

- I played this game this time and I didn't just watch someone else.
- This Mario seemed more challenging than the last one I completed which is New SMB2 on 3DS. I died a couple of times on some surprising areas which looked easy.
- Mario looks like a CG render now. Maybe Nintendo never needed all that power after all.
- Case in point - no jaggies, no antialiasing, nice shadows for the art style (they didn't need complex shadowing in the first place). Maybe one more level of shadow effects would have made everything even more CG like.
- It's a very bright and colorful game and a welcome change from all the blood and gore of everything else. Yeah, I'm getting sick of seeing gore in games. It's just a tired thing now. Imagine if every show on TV had guts spilling out for no reason. It's really tiring. I'm not against blood just because of any moral reasons; it's really that devs seem to rely on it a lot to say that their game is 'real' and reaches out for the young market (which loves that blood!)
- The art is really pleasant to look at.
- No special gimmick on the pad, which is unfortunate. I don't know if they will put something later on or if pad gimmicks for this game will only be for specific levels. We'll have to wait and see.

Sonic Lost World
- It's a dizzying game, which is good
- More emphasis on 3D movement over just running through the whole level
- Level designs were very creative, so Sonic isn't stuck with just loops and corkscrews.
- THis game had a pad gimmick; you can toss Sonic like an angry bird through certain unpassable obstacles using the Wii U Gamepad.

Bayonetta 2
- Well I wasnt able to play this again, the lines were too long! But I did get a picture with their Bayonetta cosplay model.

Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate
- Picked this up and played as Jacky.
- Then some fellow walks up and proceeds to beat me up horribly in two games :( I guess there are no casual fighting game players at E3!
- I said "Good Game!" and my opponent didn't talk to me. Was he salty?

Killzone - Shadow Fall
- Boring, boring boring boring! I sat through a playthrough of the game. They didnt have a playable demo that I could try. It was more of a 'sit there and ogle at our beautiful game'. Maybe this is the case because they're still fixing a lot of bugs
- I was just so bored with this game. I stared at the game's gorgeous rocks; i guess they looked real. But that had no bearing at all on the play.
- It had all the requisite military stuff you get in the yearly COD games. Maybe it's fun for some. I just feel like I deserve a hundred medals of valor already from the US government for saving their ass in hundreds of sorties over hundreds of video games. *sigh*
- I guess the graphics were OK. No jaggies, lens flare up the wazoo. A good showcase for PS4 if you aren't tired of military games yet.

 Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn
- A prettier version of the previous game.
- Looks like an epic grindfest. Prepare to click and click and click....

Castlevania Lords of Shadow 2
- Watched some other guys play this. Line was long
- Graphics look prettier than the first game.
- I had 60$ ready to go in my pocket. Alas, they would not take my money.

Metal Gear Solid 5
- No demo for attendees under my classification. Maybe it is only available for the children of oil magnates at this time.
- They had a trailer which tons of people sit through every time it plays. Konami had a gigantic screen like Square enix but theirs was positioned higher in their booth, which made it look smaller than Square's.
- Keifer Sutherland! Well, his voice anyway.
- Their trailer is well cut, makes it look like a blockbuster movie.

Dead Rising 3
- Very very long line.
- After Killzone Shadow Fall I kinda didnt' feel like sitting through another controlled demo.

Now at this point I realized that most of the sit-through demos end up giving freebies/E3 swag. Ok, maybe I SHOULD have went in there. But the trouble with E3 is you end up indecisive, there's just TOO MANY GAMES at the event.

Don't worry, I did score some swag. I jsut doubt I can get absolutely everything.

I'm trying to remember, but yesterday there was a game I played that had some swag but you could only get it if you do something in the game. Hmm, can't remember. I guess the game was forgettable?

Middle of the day - my wife tells me that Microsoft is not going to support the entirety of Asia until 2014.

Huge bummer.

Huge HUGE bummer.

That ruined my day. Seriously. I mean, I really liked the games I tried at their booth yesterday. And now they don't want to sell it to me. Argh.

That's it Microsoft, I officially hate you guys. What you're pulling with the Xbox is completely wrong.
I guess no more Forza for me, as beautiful and awesome as it is. :( No more Killer Instinct either. Man, this E3 is spiralling downwards....

Later in the day I had to fulfill a certain business related objective....so I ended up walking again some seventy billion miles in LA....if it isn't the taxis that wil kill you in this place, it's the very Earth itself that will swallow you whole.

Now, there was about an hour or so left before the time I decided I should get back to the hotel. I wanted to go back. I was bloody tired.

But hell, I said. I want to do one more thing. Get one more piece of 'swag'.

Went to Nintendo booth. The 3DS booth was giving away Nintendo rarities.

Girl at booth says, Line is very long, come back tomorrow.

Argh.

Ok Im going home now.

No, I am not going back until i get something.

Oh, look, the Gran Turismo 6 booth.

Yeah, I hate Gran Turismo with a passion. But apparently by default they're my new racing overlords, since Microsoft would rather take their business elsewhere.

The line isn't very long either. Hmm.

I line up at the Gran Turismo booth.

Hmm, they're giving away hats! I ask the guy about it at the booth. He tells me, 'to get a hat, you have to beat a certain track, with a certain car, under 1'08"00 '. That'd be the Silverstone short circuit, with a Nissan Z.

Oh no, not this business again, I thought. Yesterday I had entered a game booth thinking I'd get an item and not getting anything anyway, because of the stipulation that you had to 'do' something in the game to go home with an item.

But I was already in the middle of the line by this point. So I thought, might as well.

When I finally got my turn to play GT6, I mess up and end up restarting the GT6 menu. All the other racers in my block had already started to go for the lap time. So basically, I was losing time to get a good lap time since my PS3 has to start over from the first GT6 menu screen.

Because of this, I wasn't able to pick Manual transmission anymore. Going through the menu would take too much time. Dammit I wanted that hat.

Eventually after about a minute I was starting my run. My car skids out on turn 1....another unfortunate incident! This is not a very good day for me.

Eventually I post my first lap time.

1'07"333

Thanks for the hat, Sony.

MICROSOFT XBOX ONE ABANDONS UNSUPPORTED COUNTRIES

Following the news of XBOX One 2014 release in Asia, some people have more or less confirmed that XBOX One WILL NOT WORK in unsupported regions.

Even if before you live in an unsupported country like the Philippines but buy original games and make an XBOX Live account for the US and SG --- THIS WILL NO LONGER WORK!

I REPEAT!!! Methods for playing the XBOX 360 will not work on the XBOX One.  Considering that XBONE has to be online at least once every 24 hours, the console is good as dead in gray markets.

NICE KNOWING YOU MICROSOFT.  I had fun with the XBOX 360 but time and time again, you remind us why you don't want our business.  Perhaps unsupported countries are not rich enough or refined enough for your tastes but the fact exist that there is a market out there that you are completely throwing under the bus.

Yes, our money is better spent elsewhere.  PS4 & WiiU  See you on the holiday 2013.





Blog Article Hints Xbox One Itself May Be Region Locked (May Not Work if you live in an unsupported country)

Just helping Google spread the word on this problem (hopefully search engines / spiders catch this)

This article I posted earlier possibly implies that the Xbox One won't work if it is located in an unsupported country. 

The new device will only be available in select Asian markets – Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and India – pegged as high-growth markets for the region’s booming gaming industry.  This year, the Xbox became the top-selling console in Asia, according to Mr. Bowman, with revenues growing 20% year-on-year.

You know, they should probably go back to Geography class. Those four countries don't all represent Asia. Why don't they just label them as 'Outside United States' countries? Why say 'Asia' when they don't even include all the countries here as well?

The Xbox One Is Now Dead in Asia

Great job Microsoft. You've just effectively said you only care about the US market.

Well, if that's the case, I'll take my business elsewhere. I'm very very disappointed.

http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2013/06/11/microsoft-plots-2014-launch-for-xbox-one-in-asia/?mg=blogs-wsj&url=http%253A%252F%252Fblogs.wsj.com%252Fdigits%252F2013%252F06%252F11%252Fmicrosoft-plots-2014-launch-for-xbox-one-in-asia


Is it time for Microsoft to hire better PR people for the XBOne?


Here the President of MS Interactive Entertainment says that if you don't have an internet connection, just stick with the XBOX 360.  Um...you're supposed to be launching the XBOX One and drumming up support for that.  Yes we know that the Internet changes everything.  Yes we know that internet adoption rates will continue to rise.  But my goodness...couldn't you have said it any better?


And that's not enough...



Wednesday, June 12, 2013

E3 2013. DAY ONE.

[Note: my internet here in the hotel is really slow since it's just free. That said, I won't be able to upload too many videos/pictures yet. Will update this very soon with those pics/vids]

I'm on the free shuttle bus leaving from E3 2013 right now. E3 is every bit as unbelievable as they say it is in myth and legend. This E3 is possibly the craziest, with two big console launches happening at the same time. Here's some of my quick impressions.

BATTLEFIELD 4

- They have this really cool mode called 'Conquest'. Well, in the demo they let me try, it involved two teams. One was China and the other one was the USA. China had occupied one building and the USA had to take over the building

- Graphics wise there's a lot more carnage going on while you're playing. This is the most apparent upgrade from the previous versions.
- Gameplay wise well, you know what to expect and it's exactly the same as most FPS games. This will probably gear towards the competitive gamers who are into multiplayer FPS.

- I didn't get a very strong impression from this game. Though I did listen in on some players who seemed to be BF vets and they liked how you could drop in tanks at will.

KILLER INSTINCT

- After my lunch break at Hooters, I passed by this little restaurant which surprised me because they had some sort of arcade cabinet. At first I thought it was Street Fighter IV. Turned out, the Killer Instinct developers had set up a unit for demo play
- There were a few people at this particular play area, maybe because most of the people were fixated on trying the game at E3 itself. I gave it a spin and talked with the other players there
- The first thing that struck me about the game is the ART STYLE. The art is very, VERY good. It's obviously inspired by Street Fighter but they took it to a whole other level. Despite having a lot of details, the art looks really clean and sharp.
- The animation is excellent in this game. THis was the biggest surprise for me after having played other western fighters like Injustice and MK9. The animation felt Japanese styled but it had its own unique flavor. It doesn't have the awkwardness of Ed Boon's fighters.
- The combo system is really nice. There's a way to stagger your opponent so you can score more than the usual number of hits. I didn't figure out how to do this but it was nice to watch other players pull it off.
- The game has combo breakers which adds a whole new level to the fighting game genre. Here the combo breakers can be done a lot of times unlike in Injustice, so long as you guess correctly
- They had KI running with Xbox 360 Mad Catz sticks. I asked them if MS will allow older sticks and their official answer is that it's not up to them (it's up to MS). I really, REALLY hope they make old sticks back-compatible.
- The game feels very good and responsive. If you know Ryu's simple HK, MK, Hadoken combo, it works and feels exactly the same way here when you use the Ryu clone character, Jago.
- This is the first game that made me seriously rethink all my negative feedback for the Xbox One. The game just felt really, really good, and it really looked next gen. The framerate was locked 60 and it was going at 1080p, it just looked very arcade quality, like the type you'd see in a high end arcade even with a regular HDTV.
- The art, the art, the ART! It just killed me.

Mario 3D World

- I didn't have the opportunity to play this but I did watch. It has a nice 4 player mode where all the characters are onscreen at once.
- The top-down perspective was really sharp, and it actually made the game look very competitive to its 'current gen' opponents (Xbox One and PS4)
- The lady at the booth said that the multiplayer levels were different from the single player? I'm not sure about her answer. Maybe it's best to check on the big sites for the answer to that question.
- I'll try this out tomorrow. Just too many people there at the Nintendo booth today.
Bayonetta 2
- Graphically competitive with PS4 and Xbox One games.
- I'll try this out tomorrow.
Knack
- For some reason, this game didn't look very impressive. It reminded me of Kameo. Not that Kameo is a bad game. I did enjoy that game when it came out. But for this one, it just felt old. Something about the graphic style didnt strike me as well.
- I need to give this game a second chance. Will try it tomorrow.

DriveClub

- I was in line for this game. I looked at other people playing and you know, honestly, at that point I thought it wasn't very impressive.
- Something about DriveClub feels a bit barren/old. I think it's the track design. It felt very bare and empty and they didn't use enough colors or interesting stuff to look at while you're driving.
- I gave the game a chance though. I thought some of their iconography looked good.
- Upon driving, the very, very FIRST thing I noticed----was the horrific JAGGIES. This game, a PS4 exclusive launch game, was riddled with jaggies!
- The jaggies were on the road textures, they were on the car....and they used this nasty texture for trees and grass which just felt last gen.
- I could get over that quite easily but there is one thing that really offended me when I played the game. The gameplay.
- The gameplay/driving model seemed to me as if there are very specific points on the track where you hit the brakes. If you hit it in the right spot, the car will "auto-turn" or steer correctly. If you hit it in the wrong spot, the car will just careen off into a wall. They didn't nail the driving model in this alpha build.
- I had two laps so I had two chances to get a feel for the game. On my first try I had a lot of crashes because of the weird driving model. ON the second lap I finally figured out 'how' it drives. But it feels weird and wrong. I did crash once on the second lap, though.
- Overall I was really disappointed by DRIVECLUB. I wanted this to be my first PS4 game but I guess I'm lucky to be at E3 to actually try it. It isn't very good. Just play an existing current gen driving game, you'll get the exact same experience.

FORZA 5.

FORZA. 5.

- THIS is my game of show so far!
- The graphics on this game are incredible. I can't stress it enough. The graphics are insane.
- The car has practically no jaggies, and even if they are, they're much more negligible compared to Driveclub. And the car graphics blow away Forza 4.
- The color on Forza 5 is extremely sharp and the lighting they are employing makes the cars look more impressive than previous racing games on any system.
- The driving model/gameplay feels like the previous Forza games, but I really like how the rumble is on the trigger. It's something you have to experience for yourself to truly appreciate.
- The city render that they used on the demo track is unbelievable. They put in some lighting there that I've never seen on any other game, period.
- I don't have any other thing to say about Forza other than it's the kind of game that will make you rethink 'graphics don't matter'. In this one, they do. And it feels like the kind of game that will justify your investment by tenfold.

For me, the Xbox had a very strong showing here. And so did Nintendo. For some weird reason Sony's showing was not as powerful as I'd expect. I'll give their booth another day (maybe I was too tired). I want to support Sony, I really do. I love their no-DRM stance. But their games lineup does not feel good enough. They need a game that will just jump at you when you see it.

Nintendo's Mario 3D world and Microsoft's Forza 5 just really stand out. That's my point of view as a hardcore player. It remains to be seen what the casual players will think. But for Day 1 I'd give a big bump to Microsoft, their development strengths have really increased when it comes to consoles.

One last thing:

It's too bad that Gran Turismo 6 is on PS3. I took a short look at it. They put it on the outside of the convention center, which was a little strange. I'd think they should highlight it on the show floor. BUt I guess they want to show it to everyone, not just attendees.

The thing about GT6 is when you watch it it completely feels like GT5. They did NOT pick a good demo track for this (Silverstone?!) I wish they picked a more scenery-laden track to show off better graphics for it.

First impression day 1 scores

Microsoft
8/10 - they lose two points for DRM but all 8 points are gained for everything else

Sony
7/10 - they got a lot of points for no-DRM stance, but lose practically everything because of the lack of a key game

Nintendo
8/10 - Their first party offerings showed that they can survive even without other companies. And they have the most family friendly games which is good for the industry.

Overall I can't picture an E3 as insane as this. I need a second day to see everything. I will try more of Sony's PS4 games. I feel maybe I'm judging them too early. But I walked around their area for a good hour and found nothing that really jumped out at me. Even their Driveclub booth was put in this horrible area on the side of the convention center which made their game look like a B tier title. I don't know what Sony was thinking by doing that.

Other stuff:
- The Microsoft controller is as good as it looks in pictures. And it feels amazing.
- The PS4 controller is solid. I'm glad they got rid of those old triggers.

=================

The E3 experience - impressions
- I wish the entrance fee wasn't 799$. It seems it's not as fun by yourself as it would have been if I brought some friends with me.
- The food is ridiculous. I wanted to buy a few bottles of water and they were 2.50$! By contrast water in the supermarket is .25.
- Thank God the E3 organizers provided shuttles. Taxis will kill your wallet here.

Stuff to do tomorrow
- Give Sony Booth a second chance.
- Spend more time with smaller game booths (indies)

E3 2013 (Day 0): Can XBOne survive DRM?

The thunderous applause that greeted Sony when they announced that they will support used games marked just how disastrously wrong Microsoft’s consumer research and public relations have been.

Yes, Sony STUNNED the crowed.  This is this console generations MEGATON and GAME CHANGER.

Perhaps it may be safe to say that Microsoft has lost the next generation console war even before its system actually gets out of the door.  I’m not saying that no one will buy the XBOne (A crude but it’s a rather catchier name compared to XBOX One) anymore.  What ‘will’ happen is that Microsoft will no longer be the market leader nor will it reach the same installed base as the Sony PlayStation 4.

For potential consumers (who may be interested despite the DRM debacle) are this means:
  1. Wait for a massive price drop (which is bound to happen the moment sales projections in the first quarter of sales do not meet the expectations of Microsoft)
  2. Only buy the games that are worth something --- (I guess we won’t be seeing my little pony in the XBOne but its more worrying that ‘niche’ games like Japanese RPGs will not come unless its going to be one or two produced by Microsoft themselves à speaking of which where is my Lost Odyssey 2 Microsoft?)
  3. Just buy - for those who are rich enough to get all systems.  (I certainly don't fall in this option.)
But I suppose Microsoft should be used to that…  A part of me does not want to believe that Microsoft is ‘caught off guard’ by the reaction.  I’m sure there are smart people in their team who have seen the disaster that was Sim City and Diablo III.  But Microsoft’s attempt at Digital Rights Management(DRM) won’t be the first and it won’t be the last.

DRM is the HOLY GRAIL of any company that produces software, video or audio.  MAKE NO MISTAKE, DRM is also lingering in the minds of Sony --- they are masters at marketing and have won the hearts and minds of the console gaming market but they will never forget the ‘PROJECTED’ sales that they know they will lose from used game sales, game re-use and piracy.   Those losses are just estimated losses but the prospect of gaining those sales is tempting enough to keep the thoughts of DRM always around.

Microsoft as of late have been wrought with ‘wrong’ moves --- from Windows 8 now to the XBOne.   But what can be perceived as wrong moves by the consumer market can also be seen as a long term strategy for Microsoft.  It’s a costly mistake / decision but if viewed in the long term context might be worth it.  The question now for MS is if they are committed to actually seeing the XBOX brand in a long term light.  
Microsoft may seem fickle, axing things left and right, but who knows maybe there is more to this than meets the eye. (I know I sound like an MS apologist but who cares?)

The problem Microsoft had with the XBOne DRM is how they handled it.  

Every time DRM is introduced there will always be resistance amongst consumers.  Take a look at the early days of STEAM where the PC gamers were up in arms with the thought of losing their game discs.  Take a look at Adobe and their implementation of the cloud subscription of the Adobe Creative Studio. 

NO ONE WANT’S DRM FROM THE GET GO.

It will only work depending on how well you market it.  And that is the real failure of the XBOne.  It’s not the games, not the console but it was all in the marketing.

Microsoft introduced DRM WITHOUT GIVING CLEAR ADVANTAGES TO THE CONSUMER.   
Throughout the past few weeks, I keep on asking what’s in it for me?  A question that Microsoft continues to dodge which again is a point against their marketing and PR team.

The ONLY advantage I seem with a potential DRM is lowering the game prices (WHICH THEY HAVE NOT ANNOUNCED).  The percentage is unknown but since DRM is in place the projected losses from game trades and game sharing should have been lessened right?  If the SRP (of $60 USD) for physical disks includes projected losses…logic dictates that prices should go down should a fraction of the projected losses be addressed with DRM.  Microsoft’s lack of response on this issue just makes you wonder if they plan to continue selling the games at USD60.  In that case, they lose again because if Sony offers the same price point and the possibility of selling the game at USD40 or less then in avertedly the cost of the PS4 game to a consumer falls around USD20 --- unless you’re the gamer who wants to KEEP all his games.  (Unlike me who ends up getting annoyed at the clutter.  YES I do sell my games after we've played them for extra cash to buy new ones or simply because I'm running out of space.)

Another marketing blunder MS has is their failure to present or highlight an alternative to disk games.  If they are absolutely certain that they will not back down from DRM, they should have highlighted their online store for online downloads.  But an online store is once again a problem since the lack of physical media and third party liaison should lower the price of a digital download.  Instead, MS (and Sony AND Nintendo) intend to keep the price of digital download the same as physical game sales for the sake of not angering their retailers.  Again…MS is stuck between a rock and a hard place but nothing that an expert marketer should be able to remedy.

Nintendo actively markets their online store eSHOP.  Recently, I was sorely disappointed with the news that Ace Attorney 5 will be a digital download only.  Capcom sited several reasons which is at the heart of every publisher.  AA5 is a niche game.  The previous AA titles did not meet the enormous expectations or ROI that Capcom has set on it --- so they want to cut their losses by no longer creating a physical game (create cartridge, print materials) and the logistics of this distribution to retailers.   So there --- AA5 is now just a mere download but hey --- at least its coming I guess… 

Nintendo sure knows how to make their customers happy...

Nintendo includes the Club Nintendo points for every sale of a 3DS physical game, mostly the ones published by Nintendo.  (Forget the fact that this is just locked to North America at the moment.)  These points encourage gamers to buy the physical copy for the sake of getting free game downloads and actual physical collectibles from Nintendo.   GENIUS IDEA!!!  GENIUS!!! Unfortunately the Big N hasn’t capitalized on this that much yet.

Now can Microsoft do the same thing?  Can they actually TELL consumers what’s in it for them if DRM is here to stay.  Because if they can’t figure that out then can either pull the plug on the XBOX group (which is making money but NOT THAT MUCH money for MS anyway) or pull the plug on their DRM plans because clearly they were not ready to implement such a thing.

DRM is not to be taken lightly.  It is a big shift and in general people hate change.  Several companies have failed in their DRM initiatives (EA, Blizzard, etc etc) but the ones to actually get it right  will reap great rewards (Apple, Steam).   

Your move MS...  You may have lost the war but I'm waiting...

The question now is how resolute is Microsoft in seeing this through. 

Sunday, June 02, 2013

E3 Preparations. Part I.

Cleaning out my digital cameras. I think I'm going to need all the space I can get.

Got my luggage all set and ready....still thinking if I should bring this laptop or just get a new one there....

Staring at Google Maps the other day, figuring out how I'm going to commute (!) in Los Angeles. It terrifies me a little.

Taking a cab will set me back 20$ a day or more, so the bus seems like the best option to get around.

Unlike here in Manila, where there's a mall every few kilometers or so, it seems places in the United States are so gigantic. I'm not sure how much walking can get me anywhere!

I also haven't figured out how I'll get online....there's free wifi i suppose. The hotel wifi is so expensive...


1 week to E3

In about a week I get to fly all the way to Los Angeles to witness the most epic battle of the video game corporations, the Electronic Entertainment Expo. I've made a lot of preparations so far. Going to another country is a lot of 'work' but I am glad that I'm just going there as practically a tourist. It's a bit exciting.

I don't recall an E3 where two big console makers actually will release something in a few months at nearly the same time. Yes, MS and Sony did do that somewhat back in '05 - '06 but the atmosphere with this E3 is really different. They're both under pressure to start the next-gen NOW. And as we've seen with the last generation, whoever releases first has a huge advantage. Sony delayed their PS3 release and that hurt them somewhat. They used exotic hardware specifications and that did not win them any favors with game developers. On the Microsoft side, they released too early and that gave their console a LOT of hardware problems. I was a victim of the RROD as most 360 owners are, and I'm not going to forget that easily. Honestly I have a hard time trusting Microsoft at this point, after the whole RROD incident. From what I've read before, it was more important for them to be first, so important that they disregarded the quality of their product because they thought they could just replace it for users anyway. While that was true for all the lucky gamers in the United States with their unbelievable return policies with stores, that wasn't exactly true elsewhere. Here in the Philippines it is an incredible hassle to return a defective item. Stores aren't just going to give you another piece of hardware; they will ATTEMPT to fix it, even if they don't know what they're doing, just to save money. Without any degree of official support, you can't really blame them for that policy.

And I think that is another thing that has to be addressed by the industry now. We're not living in the 90s anymore. Games are EVERYWHERE. I can't believe how many requests for Candy Crush Saga I get on my Facebook---and these are from people I'd normally think wouldn't play games initially. Gaming is practically ubiquitous now, thanks to phones and tablets. So console makers can't really just see their market as just the hardcore players anymore. Everyone in today's generation plays games. The technology has changed. The game has truly changed...

So when I go all the way to E3 I hope that that shift in consumer behavior will be a positive one for hardcore players like myself. The hope is that Sony and Microsoft will understand these new trends and see the opportunity in them. They have to compromise somewhere if they want their market to become wider in reach. 

Friday, May 24, 2013

2 Weeks to E3

In a few weeks time I'll be boarding a plane to Los Angeles to attend that mythical event known as the Electronic Entertainment Expo.

Here I am sitting at my office desk like that massive event isn't even going to happen. I'm trying to keep that thought at the back of my mind...the sheer massive epic event that I'm about to undertake...wow, I never thought in my wildest dreams that I'd even go to something as spectacular as E3 itself.

E3 is mythical to every gamer. We read about it in magazines (before, when we still bought them!), we watch videos from E3 after the fact...but has it ever crossed your mind to actually go? I didn't cross my mind. At all. I do watch it on the websites and all the news sites and I really enjoy that time of year when the game companies start talking about their newest stuff. But the idea of actually going there....sounds crazy!

But here I am, two weeks away....man, I don't know what to think. Part of me is a bit freaked out about it...it's a foreign country after all. I've been to the United States before but that was a long time ago, and I had my parents worry about the details of that. Now, it's just me....so yeah, I'm a bit nervous, scared, anxious, the whole nine yards.

But when I got offered the chance to do this, would you have done the same...even if you aren't really the traveling type (I'm not). I actually prefer the safety of a familiar place. Despite all my complaints about Manila I 'like' it here insofar as I have a grasp of what to expect every day.

That's probably one big reason why I've never looked for a job abroad...I'm too afraid to step out of my comfort zone.

In a few hours this week will end, and then the last two weeks before E3 officially STARTS. I'm trying not to think about it too much. In the end, I picked the option to go because when else do you have two of the titan console makers release their systems at the same time?? If you had a chance to go, knowing what THIS E3 is going to be all about, you probably would go, too. I wouldn't want to look back and remember saying no to a chance like this. It's history in the making, and I want to see it.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Xbox One: Microsoft Makes "No Official Support" For Us, Their Official Stance

I didn't wait up for the Xbox One conference like I did for Sony's. MS picked the most god-awful time for a 'worldwide' broadcast, going at 10AM Los Angeles time which made it impossible for me to wait for it in the middle of the night (I got a real life job and a baby to take care of, and that takes much more precedence than sitting up all night waiting for a game show....)

When I did wake up the following day, I checked on NEOGAF and this was the number one topic:

"XBOX ONE does not allow used games"

So even before I got a glimpse of the new console, I got the bad news FIRST. And it wasn't too thrilling.

While maybe it's too early to tell what will really happen, what I understand is, you can never trade in your games, and if you do, whoever gets your game has to pay FULL PRICE to even play it.

Also, your game needs some kind of 24-hour online authentication to ensure it works. This is for single player games too.

I do wonder, did Microsoft's bottom line get hit so much by piracy that they're doing this? My wife says its probably publishers that are pressuring them to do it.

Truth be told, it's very hard to sell a game that is just AVERAGE now. A 7/10 game is pretty hard to justify. But the reason for this is quite simple, too. These 7/10 games cost $60, and they're priced the same as good games.

With the economy in the toilet for the United States and everyone else, justifying that people spend $60 on console games, when there are FREE or 99c games available on their tablets or phones, is absurd. I think that's the real issue here. I'm surprised that more people don't bring that up.

The other day I saw Cliff Blezinski trotting around a picture of his Lamborghini which he probably paid for with his Gears of War money. Then I wonder to myself, maybe we are paying them too much for games? Films probably take as much money, if not more, to develop. But watching a movie has a lower price of admission than games do. Games are no longer that niche hobby that only one guy in the household actually cares about. Grandparents play games now. Every teenager has probably seen or tried a game. I think the original idea behind setting the price so high for video games was that it was so niche in the past. Try looking at old games, and try to imagine what your parents must have thought when you fired them up on your TV. Most of the time they were just blocky graphics and with throwaway gameplay concepts like 'shoot this red block here' or 'jump over this pit there'. Now, games are something else entirely. Some of them are better than cheap films or TV shows. So why do they have to be priced so high?

I always thought the high price in the past is because a few people buy them; a few people really understand how they work and would actually go through the trouble of playing them. So basically the price is high to compensate for the fact that not everybody would buy them.

But in our day and age, I think it's safe to say nearly everyone buys them. We're in a generation that knows who Mario is. It's not just some hobby for basement dwellers anymore.

So is there still such a huge risk to sell games at $60? Apple and Valve have proven otherwise with their inexpensive offerings. The console business has to do the same. It's the only way to justify draconian DRM security measures. Because at the end of the day, people just see these games as toys and nothing more. Their relative value to people's lives are just toys, just distractions. $60 is more than enough meals for a homeless guy; it's really a lot of money, and in today's technologically aware society, its relative value is really different than what it used to be in the 70s, 80s or 90s.

Everyone plays games now. Even guys like me in the Third World.

Last thing: you can't ask everyone to be always online with your console. Internet just can't be a requirement. What MS is asking is ridiculous. Networks still aren't perfect and I doubt they will be better in 10 years or more. That requires actually putting down lines, which takes time and involves a lot of politics. And not everyone can afford big fiber lines and what not.

I don't think MS can ask people to plunk down some ridiculous amount of money for a box they can't USE unless their Internet is also working properly. I'm even hearing talk about the Cloud and how it will influence in-game A.I.

Oh please.

Now you want to put LAG in our single player games?! Imagine your in-game enemies waiting to get instructions from the Cloud before they even start working properly.

That's insane.

MS should really put themselves in the shoes of their actual customers. When they test their hardware they shouldn't think of their yacht-owning bosses who have unlimited fiber access. They have to look at the common household, and I'm not even talking about us poor saps in the Third World. I do understand that even in major cities in the US not everyone has perfect internet. Not everyone can afford the best plans available. Sometimes all the money goes to that console already, or that tablet, or that phone....and to require people to pay MORE just to enjoy that expensive toy, is just crazy on Microsoft's part.

Microsoft, what the hell happened to you guys???

I just hope that Sony will be smarter than MS with their decisions for their console.

- Be considerate of who are buying your console. Not all of them are rich; whether they are Americans or Filipinos like me.
- Focus on what your console actually does. Even an expensive smartphone can't do everything perfectly. Same goes with game machines. They should do well with playing GAMES and everything else should just be a bonus.
-  Look at the current business environment. $60 games should be a thing of the past. We can't do anything about the fact that people want games to be either FREE or 99 cents. Not that console games should be free or super cheap....but at least make them within reach of people's budgets. Only then can you justify draconian anti-piracy measures.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

I'm Going To E3!

I started this blog just for fun, because blogging was cool when it was first introduced.

Never thought that a few years later I'd get the opportunity to go to E3! And it has to happen THIS YEAR, which is probably the craziest ever in gaming, with two major consoles launching at the same time! This year, which might be the last hurrah of game systems, what with the challenges from tablets and smartphones looming on the horizon.

This is the year that E3 will actually mean something. It could be the downfall of giants, or it could usher in the future of games.

It's insane.

I can't believe it, I'm going to E3!

Friday, April 05, 2013

Bioshock Infinite - Review

I really liked the first Bioshock game.
http://thirdworldgamer.blogspot.com/2007/10/bioshock-review.html

So when I heard they were making another one, I really looked forward to it. All the previews and screenshots revealed what could possibly be the next great adventure game.

What we got, instead, was a strange mix of Call of Duty, Gears of War, God of War, Lost and Fringe.

The game starts with a misty aura of wonder. It begins much like the first Bioshock, and if you played that game, the introduction to Bioshock Infinite will definitely give you some goosebumps. I guess it's the anticipation of some great adventure that's about to happen. The thing is, I waited 20 whole hours for an adventure, and only got it in the LAST 10 MINUTES.

When the first big fight in the game breaks out, it's a pretty jarring experience. You get introduced to this really interesting place, which is pretty much Rapture from Bioshock 1, but with civilians, and it's high above the clouds, too. You start to wonder if the entire city will be as dynamic as it is at the start of the game, but it doesn't stay that way for long. When the shooting starts, the entire city becomes as bare as every other first-person shooter game, and the only interaction you'll ever do with Columbia's citizens is by the barrel of a gun.

I often wondered, why is the violence bothering me so much in this game?

Call of Duty, Gears, God of War...yeah I've played those games, and I think some of them are pretty good. Well, except God of War, the story wasn't so great in that game....but I digress. Violence in games is nothing new to me.

But violence in Bioshock Infinite is something else entirely. You have enemies literally screaming at you every ten seconds, blood spurting out of every orifice, it's kind of insane. It just contrasts too much with the elegant beauty that you start with, and when you get to the ending, it just feels weird.

The ending is 'classy'. I wish more endings for games would be done like it. But does it justify 60$ (or in our case, Pinoy gamers, 2,200+ pesos?) The rest of the game just doesn't do it.

The shooting model in the game feels a bit poor. Something about the way you lock on to targets; I found it difficult to hit enemies here, or find cover. It just didn't click as well as other military shooters.

And in later sections the framerate issues get ridiculous on the Xbox 360 version.

The game also seems to rely on a lot of flashing white lights and screen shake to mess up your aim. It's pretty irritating. I don't know if they just crammed so many enemies in there, or they just wanted to make the game artificially hard.

Normally I start out game reviews with a gist of the story. Well, truth be told, when you finally finish the game, Bioshock Infinite doesn't really have much of a story throughout 3/4ths of it. The story only really happens when you get to the end. It doesn't have the immediacy of the first game in terms of feeling interesting or compelling.

I wonder if it was my expectations that made me so disappointed with this game. It's probably a big factor. But if a game of this quality was released without some sort of franchise history, everyone would be talking about all these glaring flaws in the game:

- Elizabeth just gives you potions and items and money. I wish she would pick up a gun and start shooting at something.

- The game has a horrible time telling you where to go. Maybe they wanted it to be less linear but, seriously, this game is pure linearity. There isn't much to exploration, it doesn't add to the game other than let you find a few more audio recordings. But with the audio recordings I found, they don't add too much to the story anyway. It doesn't help that the waypoint marker gets lost on the way to the objective too. I've had that happen once in an area that had a skyrail, the marker kept pointing at the skyrail even if I was NOT supposed to get on it!

- The game has a lot of glitchy scripted areas. There was one where you couldn't leave at all until you kill a certain enemy. It so happened in my game that that enemy was on the skyrail moving around over and over again. I took a good 30 minutes finding the guy before eventually killing him and moving on. This type of problem did not just happen once.

- The game has this horrible, HORRIBLE boss battle in the middle where you fight a creature several times, and there is absolutely nothing new introduced with every encounter.

- Later in the game, it takes forever to kill enemies. Yes I  know you can upgrade your weapons, and I did do that....but I still found it quite hard to kill them even after several upgrades.

And I found it pretty bizarre that your character can use all of these spells, but the citizens of Columbia generally couldn't.use them the same way you did. It was strange because at the start of the game you have all these ads advertising them as daily 'products' they can easily buy from anywhere. So why was it that most of the citizenry just fought me with guns? Couldn't they easily just get an of the 'vigors' and use it against me? It's just a strange inconsistency with both gameplay and the storyline.

When I got to the end of the game, I will say I perked up quite a bit because there was FINALLY more story than usual. Most of the game is literally hordes of enemies shooting you from all directions, and screaming at you too. By the end, there's just this peaceful approach to it all, which felt really fresh. And I ended up thinking, why isn't the ENTIRE game like this?

And there lies the problem with this game. You've got the backdrop for an amazing adventure game, with interesting characters and potentially a good storyline....then you give everyone a bazooka. It's just this really strange mix of design and genre. Granted the first game was a shooter, too, but I don't remember it being this chaotic

I really, really wanted to like Bioshock Infinite. Hey, a 90+% metacritic...it must be ME who is the crazy one, right? If you don't believe me, borrow it from a friend first. Maybe you'll like it more than I did. I just thought this game never captured the spirit of the original.

Final point, and this is spoiler ridden, so stop reading if you don't want to be spoiled:

 START SPOILER  START SPOILER  START SPOILER  START SPOILER




























The best part of the game is when Elizabeth teleports you to Rapture. At that moment, I was pretty much blown away. Then they decided to scrap that and make it basically fan service.






























END SPOILER END SPOILER END SPOILER

Overall, Bioshock Infinite had so much going for it. The world, the art design, the characters....these elements in the game were interesting on their own. But when they mixed them together into the context of  a game, they forgot to make the game itself fun. They forgot that motivating the player to keep going with a good storyline throughout the game (and not just the end) can prevent it from feeling monotonous. Perhaps the developers, maybe even Ken Levine himself, didn't truly understand why the first game was so good.