E3 Day 1; The Console War!

Another E3 has once again arrived and the first day has blasted it’s way to the front page of a lot of tech news as we see the `Console War` progress and possibly climax with its next victor.
The first day of E3 was split into 4 major talks, Microsoft, EA, Ubisoft and Sony to round off the day. So lets dive into the first section.
Microsoft
Microsoft;

Microsoft started out their obnoxiously green talk with a little surprise from Konami & Kojima by showing the highly anticipated Metal Gear Solid 5, and open world Afghanistan based game with a plethora of transport options from horses to tanks. The open world mechanics present in the next MGS allows for far more play options for both stealth and aggressive maneuvers and is definitely something to look forward to.
Next up was a surprising announcement that the Xbox 360 would receive another redesign. So from the original 360 we then got; The Elite, The Slim and now this, designed to a similar standard as `The One`, as I call it. This new design is supposedly more sleek and quiet than its predecessor and has possibly been released due to part of the gaming community calling out for blood with the new Online check-ins and such that Microsoft is integrating – On a side note, something that I find very odd everyone is complaining about, these are people with smartphones and tablets yet they hate the idea of having to have their console have an internet connection?
Anyway here is the new 360 and god knows what its name is, 361?
New 360
Microsoft then went onto talk about Gold memberships and the changes to be made there, first off 2 free games are going to be given away each month to everyone new and old to Xbox Gold starting with Assassins Creed 2 and Halo 3, Gold will now having sharing capabilities within your household so that if your child/spouse/friends have a silver account but you have gold then they get access to many gold features. Also there will no longer be the old fashioned 100 friends cap, it has been removed entirely allowing you to make more friends with people you don’t know.
Before launching into games I’ll just round off other news brought to light; Xbox now has a partnership with Twitch.Tv so you can stream gameplay on The One, something I personally find interesting as during the holidays I do enjoy streaming with friends; Microsoft will no longer be supporting Microsoft Points but instead purchases will be made with your local currency. A new tool called Upload Studio has been implemented where you can personalise clips, give them thumbnails, edit them (although to what degree wasn’t shown in detail) and then upload them for all your friends to see, this works much like the Share button that the PS4 implemented.
360twitch
Now to list off all the games that Microsoft showed at their talk, remember this is not a full list of Microsoft games, many are exclusives and I will try to say which ones are and are not. So here we go;
SpliterCell blacklist which has been shown everywhere for a while – for more info there will be a later post on the Ubisoft talk in the future
Batman Arkham Origins – The MS talk didn’t show this game off that much but this was readdressed in the PS talk later on and it looks to be one hell of a gritty fun Batman game even though Rocksteady aren’t involved in the 3rd of this epic trilogy. it does however I feel fall prey to the issues of many prequel games which is; It has much better awesome gadgets (because the game series has progressed, users need something new) but it’s better and more advanced so why isn’t it in the `future` games.
Grand Theft Auto 5 which is coming out soon in September.
World of Tanks is coming from the PC now to Xbox so fans of this apparently big hitter may be glad to see a port over to consoles. EXCLUSIVE
Max: Curse of Brotherhood – you play as a child who banished his brother to another realm and must save him, with some quite nice cartoony graphics it looks to be something fun and light to play.
DarkSouls 2 – The epic trailer to this game merely made me even more sad at the fact i’ve still not played let alone finished Dark Souls 1.
Ryse – you play as a Roman Soldier, the gameplay showed off real time fighting but with quick time events thrown in to finish off enemies, I worry this may get a little repetitive and boring as the game progresses. Also I’m sad as originally this game was meant to be a kinect heavy game where as now its rumoured that it’ll only be kinect enhanced, whether that means voice commands I don’t know. EXCLUSIVE
Killer Instinct – This is the game that is being streamed above, a standard fighter with a similar art style to StreetFighter I feel, all the same looks incredibly fun. EXCLUSIVE
SunSet Overdrive – This is a heavily stylised FPS with Openworld that has a cool cartoon look to it with very vibrant colouring, it sounded like the game would be updated frequently with things like daily challenges and other treats to enhance gameplay and change the way you think constantly. EXCLUSIVE
Quantum Break – In this game time freezes and slows in confined areas, meaning you could walk in on an event that had frozen such as an explosion, this game supposedly blurs the line between TV and Games (which in my personal opinion isn’t good, games are their own medium and shouldn’t be trying to copy old technology). EXCLUSIVE
Spark – A game where you can create a world with kinect or smartglass, even villages and enemies. You can even give personalities to items such as giving a rock the personality of a pet, so that whenever you are in a certain range, it bounces and runs toward your character. It was presented in an odd manner but the gameplay stood out and looked amazing, definitely one to buy. EXCLUSIVE
Deadrising 3 – You play Nick Ramos in an open world with absolutely no load times (such a fun perk in games), the same on the fly weapon customisation is still in place and smart glass plays a roll too by allowing for help from other players online. Definitely an awesome game and hopefully there’s plenty more to be revealed.
Witcher 3 – A huge free roaming, 100+ hour game with kinect voice commands to help with quick swaps of equipment or even saying incantations for magic spells.
Battlefield 4 – This actually went wrong at the talk and the speaker nearly walked off stage until luckily the demo started playing – see more later when I talk about the EA talk
TitanFall – A new IP, an FPS game that involves huge Mechs you can get in and control, jetpacks that create a more fun 3d traversable environment and some awesome multiplayer from the looks of the demo, definitely one to purchase. EXCLUSIVE
And Finally HALO 5 – Only a small teaser was shown of the Master Chief walking through a dusty planet before a huge forerunner mech appears from out of the sand. Apparently the first game to run at 60FPS on Console, a definite buy for any old Xbox Fans.
Spark Titanfall Halo5SSO In order; Project Spark (world creation early stage), Titanfall (beginning of a mission), Halo 5 (teaser), Sunset Overdrive (trailer).

Playstation
SONY:
Sony started out their talk by talking about the PS Vita, it has 85 titles coming to it including Final Fantasy 10 and 10 part 2, God of War HD 1 & 2, Killzone Mercenary & Tearaway. As an old FFX fan I nearly ordered a vita there and then.
Sony talked alot more about games throughout and left most of the new tech stuff until the end, apart from the PS4 design (hold on, I’m getting there).
They went on to talk about some of the large games coming to the PS3 and Next Gen including Last Of Us which continues to get 10/10 ratings (EXCLUSIVE), Rain which looked an odd and almost depressing game that I wish they’d said more about (EXCLUSIVE), Beyond 2 Souls where they showed Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe (who is just the creepiest looking man even in game), the gameplay looked interesting, showing Ellen going through training before being assigned the mission to take down a Warlord (EXCLUSIVE), and a better and improved Batman: Arkham Origins trailer showing Bane, Deadshot, Deathstroke and Blackmask (EXCLUSIVE CONTENT e.g. Batman Skins).
Sony then went onto answer the major question burning in everyones mind; “What does the PS4 look like?”. Well, a little something like this:
PS4
with a slight slant in the design the PS4 reminds me of my old PS2 and doesn’t look that far off The One (which makes me laugh at everyone who said The One looked stupid) in terms of general design. Sony then went onto talk about how Sony Pictures were working on a new plan to bring entertainment to the PS Network including Music & Video unlimited, both of which are available day 1 of release for PS4. Also Redbox will be coming to the PS4 for all their US customers and Flixster will be coming later in Autumn.
The PS4 will be released 399 Dollars/Euros, and 349 Pounds possibly near November along side The One.
From there on out the talk remained focused on games both large and small with a little slip being made that PS will support Self-Publishing Content from Indies and the like and also that the PS4 will use Gaikai to stream PS3 games on the PS4 (providing they stream FFX HD and the Jak & Daxter HD Trilogy I’ll definitely be buying a PS4).
So lets run through the Sony games that were put on display;
The Order – A steampunk victorian england where you play as possibly 4 players against some unknown large gangly creatures (possibly werewolves, I couldn’t tell). EXCLUSIVE
Killzone Shadowfall – With awesome action & gus on display as well as some cool gadgets this game only continued to sell me on PS4. EXCLUSIVE
Infamous Second Son – A cool game where you have supernatural powers that seem to revolve mainly around fire – hopefully there’ll be some other powers later in game.
Knack – This wan’t spoken about much but a little teaser was shown.
Super Giant Games showed off their next hit Transistor – same isometric view as Bastion but with a few new art styles in certain places in the game, it looks to be a hopefully great hit from Super Giant.
Don’t Starve, Mercenary Kings, OctoDad, Secret Ponchos, Ray’s the Dead, Outlast, New n’ Tasty Oddworld (HD remake) and Galax-Z were a bunch of indie games that are also coming to PS4.
Diablo 3 – This wasn’t shown but there was talk about exclusive items from other playstation games which is an awesome little touch.
Kingdom of Hearts 3 – Not much was shown but it has the same cool cartoon-esque graphic style fans will be familiar with.
Assassins Creed 4 – The live demo gave a little look into the next AC and it looks a hell of alot better than its predecessor (which I’m struggling to complete as I hate it), this looks to have some fun Jungles and busy towns (unlike AC3 where there were near no buildings).
Watch Dogs – Another Live demo (something which Sony did very well), it showed driving around the world which was very beautiful, the game looked open with options allowing for some very smart play and also allowing help from Mobile players on their tablets to make your mission easier.
Mad Max – Only a teaser but all the same the game looked cool and had a similar wasteland art style that reminded me of Rage the ID software game.

Beyond2Souls KillzoneShadowfall NewnTasty WatchDogs In Order; Beyond 2 Souls, Killzone ShadowFall, New ‘n’ Tasty, Watch Dogs.

That pretty much wraps up the major talking points about the 2 warring Consoles and on a personal note I feel that although I’d love some of the Kinect functionality and the Twitch.TV partnership Playstation may have won me over. If I buy a console at all however is another question, as a PC owner Steam wins every time as it’s cheap as hell.
The major feeling across the gaming network however is the same as mine, Playstation seems to have won this Console War, so hats off to you Sony, well done you avoided the pitfalls you made with the PS3, unfortunately Microsoft didn’t.

Thanks for reading and keeping looking here for more on some of the games being shown off at E3. Soon to come Ubisoft & EA talks.
Thanks again.

Fred Garrett-Jones
https://twitter.com/magicalfunbus
http://willza99.wordpress.com/

Getting Real About the War on Drugs via Gaming

At GametheNews.net we turn news into games. In reflecting the world around us a singer might write a song, a filmmaker produces a documentary and a journalist writes an article, as games developers we express our interest via games. Just because our form of expression is through games doesn’t mean that we take the subject any less seriously. We’ve just released our latest newsgame called NarcoGuerra which looks at the War on Drugs. It’s an apt time to highlight the issue. Recently the Organization of American States launched a groundbreaking report exploring alternatives to the war on drugs.

If you are new to newsgames, they are a type of game that explores news and current affairs. The game looks at the ongoing conflict from the perspective of the Mexican authorities trying to stamp out the drug trade within that embattled country. In the game the player must attempt to retake Mexico’s regions from cartels while also dealing with corruption within the police force itself.

If you are new to the War on Drugs here’s a summary. In our research for the game we approached Transform Drug Policy Foundation and discovered that it’s not a war we can win because its not really a war at all. That was one of the things we wanted to explore with NarcoGuerra. What games can be good at is simulating systems such as the ebb and flow of the War on Drugs. What interested me as a games designer was the dynamic of the situation which meant that success created failure; if the police are effective in stopping the supply of drugs then the street price goes up because demand is a constant. But as the price goes up so more gangs enter the market because there is more money to be made.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9W8LiYAR3hA?rel=0]

All we have done is place that dynamic into a game-simulation environment and allow the player to interact with it. We’ve challenged them to see if they can end this seemingly unending war.
Loads of games frame their interaction with a war/military type mode of play – we wanted to, well, play with that expectation. So we’ve created what will be a familiar framing for fellow gamers; a strategy game. To allow the gameplay a bit of leeway we also included a mode that does not have this dynamic linked up, where it is possible to win the War on Drugs. We felt it would be interesting to include a bit of the make-believe that some politicians and many others have been pushing for decades; that this is a war and that it can be won. After all, as the designer of a number of games set in fictional universes, I’m well versed in building black-and-white worlds of goodies, baddies and happily ever after. What is a newer experience for me, is to explore real world dynamics and I’d like to invite those same politicians who still think we’re in that make-believe world to join the rest of us in reality and start to explore solutions that acknowledge it never was a war and so can’t be won as such.

You can find out more about the game here. You can also find out more about the sources we used to create the game here.

The Xbox One – more than just a games console?

xbox1

After an endless stream of rumours and hype, Microsoft has finally revealed the successor to its highly-popular video games console the Xbox 360 – the Xbox One.
Revealed to a packed audience at a specially-constructed Microsoft base in Redmond, Washington, gamers were given their first peek of one of the big players in the next major battle of the console war.

In case you missed it, you can see the full reveal, complete with intriguing partnerships and brand-new games packed with crisp graphics, through this link. However, those who did catch the unveiling are likely to be musing at how Microsoft is taking gaming away from solely a gamepad.
Here is a glimpse at how the Xbox One could soon be the main vocal point of your living room and beyond:
xbox2

Outside of the launch of the three main video game consoles of the last generation – the Xbox 360, Sony’s PlayStation 3 and the Nintendo Wii – arguably the most intriguing technology in the industry was Xbox Kinect.
Whereas motion-sensor concepts by Sony and Nintendo required you to always have a remote in your hand in order to interact with a virtual world, Microsoft gave you the option to actually become the controller.

However, the intrigue soon gave way for some disappointment when Kinect was released worldwide in 2010. Initially, the gadget was laggy and unreliable, while requiring you to have a considerable amount of space in your home to actually use it. Even when things picked up for the device, there was little support in the form of AAA games to once again peak interest.
With the new Kinect though, which will be bundled with the Xbox One at launch later this year, it appears that improvements are being made to the device across the board.
For starters, the enhanced Kinect sensor is now able to pick up the movements of 25 joints in the human body, right down to a subtle lean in the spine or a slight shrug of the shoulders – great for navigating the Xbox One’s homepage or playing a game controller-free then.
Furthermore, the gadget’s camera is able to create an image of a gamer that is detailed to the point where a shirt’s wrinkles and buttons can be passed over into a virtual reality seamlessly.

As Phil Harrison, a corporate vice president at Microsoft, mused to Eurogamer in an exclusive interview: “So with Xbox One, what we did with the Xbox One Kinect sensor is totally redesign it, so it’s wider field of view, it has new technology to detect motion in the room, it has a more sophisticated sound and voice recognition system, which dramatically improves the fidelity, precision and accuracy of Kinect compared to Kinect for 360.”

Xbox SmartGlass to learn a few new tricks

Microsoft certainly changed the landscape of video games last year, when it launched Xbox SmartGlass. An application that can link an Xbox 360 up with a device powered by Android, iOS or Windows, the strategy has worked to enable entertainment to become much more interactive.

At the Xbox One unveiling though, Microsoft showcased the next-generation of Xbox SmartGlass.
Just say you have a Samsung Galaxy S4 with the app downloaded then. By using your smartphone’s stylus pen, which can be purchased at affordable prices as part of Mobile Madhouse’s excellent Samsung Galaxy S4 accessories range, you will have the power to switch channels on live TV without ever needing to lift up a remote or controller.

Mind you, Xbox SmartGlass has always been hailed as offering users with “second screen content”, and this is not going to change any time soon. If you are watching NBA on your Xbox One, to take the example shown at the reveal event, you will now have the opportunity to see your fantasy sports league being updated on your smartphone every time the score changes.

Microsoft Studios’ corporate vice president, Phil Spencer, summed up to IGN: “Xbox One was designed from the beginning understanding that multiple devices in the family room exist. Some of those devices may leave the family room and still want to remain connected to the experience.

“People might have multiple devices and have multiple players in the room who actually want to interact with the experience on-screen with their own private screen or they might want to play and have their own data. It was definitely a design criteria from the beginning for us because we’ve seen the usage of SmartGlass as very strong on the 360.”

Much more will be revealed regarding the Xbox One at Microsoft’s E3 2013 press conference on June 10th.

Who Cares? : Hawken

‘Who Cares?’ is an ongoing feature where I, Stephen Weaver, look at the some of the hottest games not yet on the market, and give you the rundown.  Even if you don’t care, somebody has to.  This week, Hawken.

When someone describes a game as “MechWarrior for the weight and suspense, and Virtual On for the arcade style action,” you can’t help but cock your head in confusion and ask them to repeat themselves. That was what Jon Kruezer, one of the lead designers on Hawken, said as he shoved the hype machine of the internet into full throttle.  However, judging from all the previous trailers, he may not be too far off base.  In Hawken, you control a giant mech from a cockpit point-of-view, with the power to decimate enemies and destroy cities.  You can do this with Gatling guns, missiles, and all sorts of assorted goodies.  The difference between this and something like Mechwarrior though, is the speed.  Hawken is all about staying fleet on your feet, and making sure to keep at least two blocks between you and your opponents.  Because they will hunt you down, and there will be little mercy.

The view from here is just fantastic.

Hawken is being developed by Adhesive Games Inc., and had only been in production for nine months when the first teaser was released.  The production team had consisted of nine members at that time, three of those being interns.  Many of those nine came from Project Offset, a game Intel was producing.  The graphics engine witnessed in the teaser trailers had been lauded as particularly gorgeous.  The game was quietly cancelled in July of 2010, and as you can see below, it was a damn shame.

In March of 2011, Adhesive Games announced that they were developing Hawken, and attempting to bring back mech games.  And I have to agree, it’s about damn time someone other than From Software made a game about Giant Enemy Robots.  The trailer is incredibly impressive for such a small studio (only nine strong), and definitely wowed all publications major and minor.  The internet was thoroughly impressed with this offering, and Hawken got a ton of press coverage.  Some choice quotes:

“Developed by “a small independent game studio” [Hawken] looks absolutely amazing.” – Kotaku

“Hot damn.” – Rock Paper Shotgun

“Holy shit, this looks pretty dope.” – LovezHD via Youtube

Especially the latter, just slap that on the back of the digital box and Hawken will be good to go. Though no release date was announced at the time, excitement was growing to a fever pitch.  However, in reality Adhesive Games needed money, and in a move to fund the project, they decided to sell the movie rights to Hawken.  Yep, I know every face reading this just soured at the thought of another movie based on a video game.  Will they ever learn?

God damn it.  No.  Why?

The “plot”: “As for the story, it follows two young pilots from separate clans pitted against one another after a devastating virus has covered most of the heavily industrialized planet surface in toxic crystal, creative director Dan Jevons told TheWrap. “They witness an event that suggests there is more to the nano-virus than meets the eye,” Jevons said. “Now the race is on to discover the virus’ origins and true purpose before their respective clans wipe each other out in a final, climatic battle.””

He may save the world, but can he save the one he loves from a... nano-virus?

I’m just not even gonna deal with this.  None of this “story” has even been announced by Adhesive Games, and it’s goddamn multiplayer shooter.  What’s next, Tribes: Ascend picked up for a three picture deal? After this stupidity, two more trailers for the game came out which showcased some of the building weaving action.  You really just need to watch it.

In February it was announced that Hawken would be published as a free to play title under Meteor Entertainment.  The move was inspired by the runaway success of League of Legends, the DOTA-inspired game that made Riot hundreds of millions of dollars.  Not a bad model to copy.  Of course, this was quickly reaffirmed by the ten million dollars that was given to the Hawken team!  The money came from Benchmark and Firstmark Capital, who had also supplied money to Riot Games to get them started. Hawken also got a release date in the wake of becoming a million dollar production: 12.12.12.

With April came PAX East, one of the hottest venues for gaming news and previews.  Hawken was no exception, releasing a brand new cinematic trailer that showed a softer and more somber side, complete with orchestral score:

Press coverage still sizzled, as many gamers and outlets got their first hands on time with the game.  More back of the box quotes:

“You needed to play it. Everything just looks so right.” – Destructoid

Hawken could very well become the premier mech combat game for years to come.” – Bitmob

Hawken is going to be huge for these guys.

In May, Gaikai announced their support of the game.  Gaikai is a cloud based gaming service that allows users to play graphically intensive games via web browser.  Gaikai will be releasing Hawken over their service prior to the official release date, giving gamers a chance to try it out before December.  However, no official date has been confirmed.

And with that, you are now fully caught up with Hawken.  With E3 just around the corner, I expect we will be learning even more.  But now, when your friends ask “What’s Hawken?,” you can now triumphantly say “A game that kicks ass and looks to resurrect the mech-combat genre.”  Or something like that.

For Who Cares?, this is Stephen Weaver signing off.  Celebrate E3 responsibly.

EA’s Christmas iOS Sale

EA have kicked off their new Christmas Sale on iOS applications, offering amazing discounts on the most popular of games.

The games, which usually cost from £2.99 to £5.99, now cost 69p/$0.99 each.

Below is a list of the applications on sale.

iPad

Battlefield: Bad Company
Battleship
Boggle
Bop It!
Command & Conquer: Red Alert
Dead Space
FIFA 11
Madden NFL 12
Mirror’s Edge
Monopoly/Monopoly Here & Now
NBA Jam
Need for Speed Hot Pursuit
Pictureka!
RISK
SimCity Deluxe
Tetris
The Game of Life
Transformers: Dark of the Moon HD
Trivial Pursuit Master Edition
Ultimate Mortal Kombat
Yahtzee

iPhone/iPod Touch

Battlefield: Bad Company
Battleship
Boggle
Bop It!
Cluedo
Command & Conquer
Connect 4
Dead Space
Deal or No Deal
FIFA 10
Fight Night Champion
Madden NFL 12
MMA
Monopoly Here & Now
NBA Jam
Need for Speed Undercover
Pictureka!
RISK
SimCity Deluxe
The Simpsons Arcade
The Sims Ambitions
The Sims 3 World Adventures
Skate It
Spore Creatures
Tetris
The Game of Life
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Trenches II
Ultimate Mortal Kombat
Yahtzee Adventures

Xbox 360 And PS3 On Offer | UK Deal

Two users of HotUKDeals have just found some amazing deals to be found in store at HMV.

The entertainment retailer, which is currently in some financial difficulties, is offering a deal on both the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.

First, is the Xbox 360 4GB. This can be grabbed for £129, which includes either Fifa 12, Battlefield 3, Need For Speed: The Run, Forza Motorsport 4, The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, Batman: Arkham City or Saints Row: The Third. This deal means that you are getting the Xbox 360 4GB for less than £100.

Also on offer is a 160GB Playstation 3, with any of the games above, for only £169.99!

As far as we know, the deal ends on Christmas Eve. Why not treat yourself, or somebody else to this excellent deal for Christmas?