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1:50 AM on 06.29.2015

Last Gen is New Again

Tonare 3500

Images are taken from The Regular Show Wiki.

This year's E3 was supercharged with so many things that made people feel very excited for the future of video games. Funny as it may sound, one of biggest headliners that many people are now eagerly looking forward to is the addition of backwards compatibility for Xbox 360 games on the Xbox One. Phil Spencer said at their press conference that there have been an overwhelming amount of requests to have this feature on their current gen console. They originally thought it was impossible to incorporate given the differences in hardware architectures, but it is now well under development, and is scheduled to be available for everyone before this year ends. Many people cheered in celebration.

The shift from Power architectures to the more popular x86 architecture has forced majority of the platform holders to drop backwards compatibility from their home consoles. As the the current gen raised its curtains, the community saw new video game systems lacking the ability to play previous gen games. This opened an opportunity to creators and publishers to cater to people who want to catch up on older titles using new hardware by working on ports and remakes. Overall, the market seem to have been accepting of cross-generational games, as indicated by the general sales numbers, or perhaps just the fact that there aren't any publisher complaining about not making enough money with their ports. On the contrary, many of them like Square-Enix have have actually come out not too long ago to say that such ventures are working well for their businesses. Capcom have even stated that HD remakes will be a key business activity for them due to recent hits like their Resident Evil HD Remake.

It is understandable that at the beginning of a new console generation, the shelves (both virtual and real life) will be filled with cross-generational titles, whether they're new, or port of ones that have been released before, because it takes a while for the entire community to fully warm up to new consoles. While there will always be the people who will jump onboard the moment doors open, there will also be the conservative ones who will wait and see before they join the bandwagon, especially when their backlogs are still filled with old games they've been meaning to play. Even if the adoption rate is faster than even Sony have expected, the industry will still dilly-dally between past and present as we witness the gradation in timelines. Console generations may be dictated by manufactured devices, but video games remain a business of real people who take some time to adapt. As more and more games from previous generation get ported to the current one, however, many people also get more and more agited, growing impatient of the new consoles that are not even 2 years old as if there's absolutely nothing new to play on them. There are several reasons this trend bothers a number of people–many of them seem personal–but they all seem to stem from a common underlying concern: the question of whether the effort (and the energy) poured into bringing the past into the present is worth it, and whether such efforts would have been better spent on moving forward instead.

Golden Badge

There's no denying that current gen ports are quite a lucrative venture for publishers and creators. Being able to capitalize on an existent code base and concepts, then marketing them again for profit is truly a great business opportunity. However there have also been such projects that have gone beyond just cosmetic updates, like The Last of Us: Remastered. Naughty Dog used the chance to remaster their hit PS3 game to enhance their engine so that it runs well on the PS4. So while they were working on a product that was utltimately meant to be sold to consumers, they were also making changes to their development framework so that the games they develop in the future (or simultaneously) run well on current generation hardware. Having a code base that they already knew was working to begin with most likely made the process of updating their engine easier compared to if they did it with a new game starting from scratch, which would have introduced a lot more uncertainties. It was hitting two birds with one stone opportunity for them, and it didn't hurt that there still many people who want to play the game on the PS4. It sounds like effort well spent. This is not to say that every publisher who re-releases their games into the current gen have the same things in their agenda. However, as with the case of Naughty Dog with TLoU Remastered, in many different ways, it is for these companies an investment for the future.

While the question of allocating resources seems to be cause of unease surrounding HD remakes and remasters, it's also an interesting question about backwards compatibilty. Microsoft's approach to backwards compatibility requires their direct involvement; they themselves will be doing all the work to make Xbox 360 games work on the Xbox One, which sounds as if they're handling ports. It's up to the users to tell them through a polling a site they set up which of the previous gen games they would like to be playable on the current gen console. However, aside from that, the process also "involves talking with the publisher and making sure that this is consistent with their goals for the game as well". It's clear that what MS cannot accomplish natively through hardware, they're implementing through machine virtualization, complemented by allocation of man power. Xbox One's backwards compatibility hinges on many different variables, some from consumer side, and some from publisher side; it's not exactly a straightforward solution. If people have to vote which games they'd like to see compatible with Xbox One, then it might be an indication that there is, in general, a significant effort involved in making it happen. It might be an indication that there's a limited resource that needs to be allocated based on priorities set based on the poll.

At the time when people are being vocal about their concerns on the efforts put forth into HD remakes and current gen ports, we see Microsoft pouring resources on making backwards compatibility happen more than a year after their console launched. Whether it's actually worth all the trouble on their end, we have yet to see. Some people, however, don't seem to think so, and would rather Microsoft allocate those resources on more valuable system features "pushing gaming forward"–a parallel criticism to publishers doing HD remakes and remasters–or enhancements like improved installation times. Clearly, when it comes to bringing the past to present, this just seem to be a very common concern, that we are spending too much energy on it. History tells us how it might not pay off as well as many of us would like to think.

Video Games

Before Microsoft's announcement at E3 this year, the Wii U had been the only home console to support the feature. It has been capable of playing Wii games from the very beginning, which is something that Nintendo put a high priority on during the system's development. It was so important for the platform holder that it's one of the biggest factor in the system's hardware design, one that was meant to "absorb" the Wii (see Q5 in the link), but one that ended up being quite an oddball in the current generation. Considering how the Wii sold like hotcakes in the past, and how it built such huge install base for itself, if it is to be believed that there's high business value in keeping backwards compatibility, then the Wii U shouldn't have gone through a painful crawl in terms of sales. So, was the effort in designing their console around backwards compatibility worth it for Nintendo? For many consumers, including me, I believe so: backwards compatibility made it very easy for me to stop being on the fence about it, and to finally cave in and get a Wii U. I felt more confidence in my purchase considering I still have quite a few Wii gems I'd like to play. However, it is also easy to see how such design decision may have been holding the system back to some degree, which could even explain the lack of stellar third party support for it. Even the name "Wii U" itself (which "absorbs the Wii" quite well) has been speculated to have caused confusion in the market resulting in the system's not so impressive performance in terms of sales.

Similar to the Wii U, the 3DS has also been backwards compatible (with NDS games) from the very start, but that didn't stop it from almost failing to launch. The market seemed to have felt like, even with backwards compatibility, $250 for the handheld was not worth it, a story that's quite similar to the PS3's. Many years ago, as many would remember, Sony sold PS3 at launch for $600–a price that was driven up by the PS2 hardware inside the console to support backwards compatibility–and then told people to work harder for it. They eventually had to drop the feature (along with the integrated hardware) to set better prices for their Cell powered machine. The PS3 soon caught up in sales some time after that.

Let's not forget about the PlayStation Vita. Among all PlayStation systems in existence, so far, the current gen handheld by Sony seems to have the widest cross-generation platform support. It's technically fully backwards compatible with all PSP games. It can play most of the PS One classics on the PSN. It can also play a few PS2-era games like Final Fantasy X/X-2, Metal Gear Solid 2/3, Persona 3 (Portable)/4 (Golden), etc. It's a solid classics machine. Furthermore, it has cross-platform support with some PS3 games like Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, etc. as with some other PS4 games like Resogun. By some degree of technicality, it can be argued that the handheld is also compatible with all PS4 games since Sony have required every PS4 game to support Remote Play. Unlike in the Wii U's case, supporting backwards compatibility did not seem to hinder the capabilities of Vita for what it is. Not too long from its launch, the Vita has for itself a sizeable back catalog of games from PS One, to PSP, in addition to few new titles like Uncharted: Golden Abyss. What happened to it? It ended up being the butt of the jokes especially for people who can't appreciate it, calling it "PortStation Vita" or even things like "Persona machine" or "indie machine" in some derogatory sense. When people talk about the importance of backwards compatibility, they would usually state how they care about the investments they've put into building their personal library of games, and that they don't want to rebuy them again. When people talk about cross-buy support among cross-generation devices, some of them dismiss it as a marketing gimmick, instead of looking at it as consumer friendly practice. With all the great things the Vita can deliver on, many people seem to love to hate it for that one "necessary evil": memory cards, a part of Sony's DRM solution to control piracy that was rampant on the PSP.

Ball in a Cup Game

Backwards compatibility, in general, is a desirable feature, not only for consumers, but also for platform holders. It's hard to think that console manufacturers would deliberately design their systems to not include the feature just to sell their current gen ports, or their expensive video game streaming service–or whatever evil conspiracy anyone on the Internet can come up with–simply because all of those aren't mutually exclusive; they could co-exist just fine. One could argue that backwards compatibility would compete with others for consumer attention, but in the big picture it probably doesn't matter that much to these companies. The main goal is to sell consoles, and backwards compatibility is one feature that makes it easy to convince people to jump into the current generation. Ideally, it instantly expands any system's library with no additional expense to anyone–none to platform holders, none to publishers, and especially none to consumers. If companies could offer all those options within acceptable amount of investments, they probably would. Again, the goal is to convince people to jump in and buy new hardware, and anything that helps in achieving that would be very welcome to platform holders. Thinking about it, what we're probably seeing now actually, is Microsoft struggling to make that happen. Even after announcing backwards compatibility, MS announced Gears of War: Ultimate Edition. If this works for them, and it negatively affects their closest contender's bottomline, we'll most likely see Sony scramble to move mountains. However, if this ends up being just another of the community's short term caprices, then it's going to be business as usual moving forward.

Concerns about the industry dwelling too much in the past is not completely unfounded; they're fairly reasonable (as long as they aren't blown out of proportion, of course). As has been pointed out, there are actually legitimate questions about the amount of attention we pay into bringing the past into the present, and how it could be holding us back. In any case, it is also apparent that a sizeable section of the gaming community actually like playing old games, which is really nothing new. Most of these people don't care how they get to play them, whether through backwards compatibility, or current generation ports; it only matters to them that options exist. Ultimately, it's all about having choice. In addition, with the PS4 remaining non-backwards compatible, there are now more points of divergence between it and the Xbox One, which some people love clumping together as the same underpowered PCs. It has to be noted though that through PSN, the PS4 offers cross-buy support for some cross-generational (cross-platform) titles. PS4 ports of games like Flower, and flOw are free to download for anyone who have bought them before for the PS3, which is another approach to achieving backwards compatibility. There are many ways to skin the cat, as they say. Consumers have choice, and companies are competing for our attention. Choice, and competition only move the video game industry forward.


12:03 PM on 04.10.2015

Psycho Punch's REMOVED Comment of the Week

Over the past weeks, or maybe even months, I've decided to lay low on "contributing" anything on Destructoid's comment sections for some reasons. I don't know, maybe arguing with people started burning me out, especially when I tend to take positions that seem to be becoming less and less popular in this community, or I tend to argue against points that seem to be becoming more and more favored. I feel like Destructoid's community, in general, have been skewing in certain ways that make me feel like my views are becoming less and less welcome around here. Interestingly, many of the people whose write-ups, and/or comments, inspired me to come out from lurking in the comments sections have left already.

Today, I discovered one of my comments in a recent Destructoid article was removed for reasons unclear to me. This isn't the first time any of my comments (across all the sites I comment on) got moderated, but this is the first time the reasons I can't easily guess.

Removed Comment

I'm not sure if this is inflammatory, derogatory, rude, or hostile in ways not up to the "standard of behavior" in Destructoid. I've been going to this site for quite a while, enough to be able to guage what's acceptable, and what's not for the community--at least that's what I feel--but I can't come up with any unwritten rules that the comment above transgressed. Is "Nintendo fans" considered a derogatory term around these parts? Does it offend a certain social minority in ways I'm apparently oblivious of? Or is it the "most people" part?

The comment is meant to be snarky, because it's part of a thread of such nature.

Snarky Thread

It's obvious I replied to a relatively popular comment, effectively taking a position against it but saying it in a way that's quite sarcastic. Is that the offense? Even when I substitute "most people" with "Nintendo fans" on the comment I replied to, I still can't see anything offensive about it.

You also know it's a Nintendo game when [Nintendo fans] will still think it's worth the price 2 years after launch.

It's puzzling why such comment on Destructoid would be deleted, but there it is, the removed comment of the week.


1:33 PM on 08.21.2014

News Bit: Did Someone Just Spoil Upcoming PSN Deals?

Update: They're all gone from the PSN Store.

I was just browsing the Web app for the PSN Store, when I noticed that they had some interesting deal categories under the Weekly Deals section namely Flash Sale, PAX 2014 Sale, and PixelJunk Sale (hey, I said interesting). The problem however is that the deals don't seem active at the time of writing. For example, I saw Child of Light in the PAX 2014 Sale category but it's still priced at $14.99, which based on my search through the Wii U eShop, is its regular price. Additionally, the recent PSN Store Update post on the US PlayStation Blog doesn't mention anything about these deals. I wonder if someone from Sony spoiled what should have been a weekend surprise for next week.

Here are lists of titles from the Flash Sale, and PAX 2014 Sale:

Flash Sale!

Looking at the link image closely, I can read that the titles in this category are priced at $9.99 each.

    - Metro: Last Light
    - DmC Devil May Cry
    - BioShock Infinite
    - XCOM: Enemy Unknown
    - BioShock 2: Ultimate Edition
    - God of War Collection (PS3, PS Vita)
    - PAYDAY 2
    - Starhawk Ultimate Edition
    - Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two PS Vita
    - Wonderbook: Walking with Dinosaurs
    - The Sly Collection (PS3, PS Vita)
    - Prototype 2
    - MX vs ATV: Alive Ultimate Edition
    - Dynasty Warriors 7 Empires
    - Persona 4 Arena Ultimate Edition
    - Tales of Graces f
    - Street Fighter X Tekken PS Vita
    - Lost Planet 3
    - Resident Evil Revelations

PAX 2014 Sale

    - Transistor
    - Don't Starve: Console Edition
    - Trials Fusion
    - Bound by Flame (PS3, PS4)
    - Child of Light (PS3, PS4)
    - Tiny Brains (PS3, PS4)
    - Strike Suit Zero: Director's Cut
    - BitTrip Presents... Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien (PS3, Vita)
    - Closure
    - Guacamelee! Bundle Fantastico
    - Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus
    - Alien Spidy
    - BEYOND: Two Souls
    - The Wolf Among Us - Season Pass   read

10:31 AM on 08.16.2014

Microsoft's Struggle with Standards

In the previous console generation, the first system I owned was the Wii. It didn't take very long for me to realize that I didn't make a very wise decision with that. After finishing Okami (which I pretty much ignored on the PS2) I wasn't having as much fun as I first thought I would with Nintendo's little waggle box. I got me a PS3 some time later, which I knew I eventually would anyway, and felt I was completely set for the rest of the generation. The PS3 has since become my primary system. This was back when I was (relatively) a fresh grad out of the university, and employed in my very first job. I was earning a decent sum of money for the first time in my life, and was in a state were I was capable of supporting a hobby like video games. It's understandable that also for the first time, I'm owning two out of three consoles within the same generation.

As someone who finds Microsoft products poorly designed in general, I was pretty sure I didn't need an Xbox 360... until an officemate brought his console at the office, and let me try it out. It did not change my mind instantly, but it moved the 360 from "I don't really need it", to "hey, it might be fun to have". Like I said, I was young (I still pretty much am at the time of writing), I had disposable income, so I can be irrational about spending my money, right? Well... I asked my dad for a 360 as a birthday gift; since I already had a job, he just agreed to shoulder part (most) of the cost. Good enough. I bit. I put aside most of my doubts about the system, and made an exception for the Xbox 360.

This is pretty close to how my first job looked like.

Unboxing Some Disappointments

As is the case for many people, unboxing is one of the most exciting part of buying a new gadget for me. Considering I got my Xbox 360 for my birthday, when usually nothing special really happens, I was quite happy that I had something to be excited for. That was until I actually had to set up the console from most of what's inside the box.

Based on my experience with the PS3, I was right to expect that it didn't come with a HDMI cable, only with the standard AV one. Back then, I only had a 22" LCD monitor, which only has a DVI port, to which I attached an adapter for HDMI inputs. This means the audio signal has to come from somewhere else, and to be routed directly to external speakers. With my PS3, I can set it to output audio through the RCA connector, which is easy to link to just about any set of speakers. Perhaps this made so much sense to Microsoft.

With the Xbox 360, users have no way to specify which port to output audio (and video) to; the signals are simultaneously streamed to both HDMI, and standard AV ports. That's not the bad part though. To be able to use both ports at the same time, I have to crack open the RCA connector that came with the console, because Microsoft thought it was a great idea to block access to HDMI port when their RCA connector is in use. Hey, if they can force me to buy their expensive "solution" instead, it would be so much better, right? Typical Microsoft.

Now, more than four years later, I discovered another not-so-great thing about MS's previous gen system. After having a blast with Wind Waker HD, and Mario Kart 8 on the Wii U, and completing Binary Domain on the PS3, I decided to go back playing The Lost Odyssey, which, needless to say, is an Xbox 360 exclusive. I took the 360's controller from the cabinet I placed it safely in, put in the batteries, and press the home button to power the console on. It didn't work like it did the very last time I used it. The lights around the Xbox logo remained dead. I changed the batteries, it's still dead. I swapped polarity (hey, experiment), of course it didn't do anything. I shaked it, pressed random buttons: nope, nothing. I prepared myself for the worst: to spend money I could otherwise spend on a new game to a new controller I probably wouldn't use that much at this point. I thought perhaps an internal power source got drained, or something, so I held on the home button for a long time, and suddenly, I saw a quick flash from the LEDs. Yes! Whew. But it didn't stay on for a long time. The controller isn't dead it just went bonkers. Uh, why? When I kept it nice, and safe in storage, I don't really expect it to just act crazy when I use it again. I hit the Web for answers, and this is what I found:

Wireless controller fix

It seems like a small thing (well, considering it's about that tiny piece of plastic, it's literally a small thing), but it's still pretty annoying. Why is the battery container designed in such a way that it could stop working much earlier than expected due to some small mechanical component? Cracking open the case for the console's RCA connector was a messy work around already, now I have to put in a folded piece of paper to get the controller working properly. These don't seem right.

Less Sense, More Profits

All these remind me of what I kind of have known for a long time: Microsoft make a lot of poorly designed products, sometimes deliberately so. I don't think I really have to say a lot more about Xbox 360's infamous Red Ring of Death, which is itself a play on that signature Windows "feature", the Blue Screen of Death. Based on my personal encounters with them, I get the impression that Microsoft's shoddy products are a mix of plain and simple bad design, oversight, and/or aggressive profiteering.

"Infamous Red Ring of Death"

In the advent of this console generation, Microsoft introduced us their new gaming system, the Xbox One, and with it, aspired to change the way people consume video games as paid contents. Xbox One was originally designed to allow disc-based games to be used only once, tying each of them to the console it was first used on. The implementation of such policy (and all other related protocols) necessitated the console to have daily system checks to verify licenses, which required the console to be almost constantly online. While this change could have potentially bridged the gap between retail/physical, and online digital distribution, it has huge negative implications to consumers in terms of product ownership, which has to be constrained in many ways. In addition, it also has directly threatened the used games market, which many people, both retailers, and consumers alike, rely on. This is why, during E3 2013, Sony seized the chance to trample on Microsoft's largely anti-consumer proposition, and created for themselves a considerable amount of good will.

Aside from the restrictive rules on using physically distributed video games, there are other aspects of Xbox One that a huge portion of the industry took negatively. One such was the mandatory inclusion of Kinect that not only drove the console's price to be higher than the direct competitor's, but also made people uncomfortable amidst the concerns on privacy, and government surveillance. In addition, motion controls didn't really get community wide acceptance and adoption, and have gone quite passe after people moved on from the Wii fad. Microsoft insisted that Kinect was an essential part of the entire system, that the console would not work without it, but it has recently been made an optional peripheral.

Speaking of peripherals, there is one other thing about the Xbox One that is very consistent with how Microsoft design their products: the adapter for its controller's proprietary headset port. Microsoft seem to have found it more sensible to use their own system-exclusive connector instead of the widely supported phone connector (more commonly known as audio jack) utilized by many across different multimedia-related industries. I am personally not knowledgeable of the inner workings of the new Xbox One and its controller, but some people believe that the console streams high quality (surround) audio to the controller, which necessitated the customized audio port. It is thought by some that the adapter, if I understand correctly, does some signal/data processing to preserve the quality of the audio being streamed to the controller. That's fine, and it actually sounds neat, but, well not really.

As a counterexample, the PlayStation Portable's proprietary headset connector, which is sort of a hybrid: it's partly standard, and partly proprietary. There are many peripherals that make use of the proprietary plug to do what they're designed to do, usually play or stream audio, and/or video from the system, with some additional features in between. At the same time, most standard earphones are still usable with it without any need for an adapter because part of its design is a 3.5mm phone connector slot. Users don't have to spend more just so they can use their earphones with the PSP. This makes me wonder why Microsoft didn't do something similar. It's quite baffling as a huge corporation like Microsoft is expected to have some the brightest minds in the industry under its payroll. Why didn't any of them think of imitating what Sony did for PSP? Oh wait, I think I have an idea.

Many people have already expressed disappointment to what they think is a silly attempt to nickel and dime consumers. As a result, similar to what has been done with that ridiculous measure to limit access to HDMI when using standard RCA connector on Xbox 360, a workaround for this pointless adapter has already been posted on the Web. If people at Microsoft insist that the proprietary interface is necessary to achieve what they wanted to do with audio streamed to the controller, then it means that the controllers are being shipped with a significant part deliberately omitted. Each audio peripheral (e.g. headset, earphone, etc.) that utilizes the proprietary port would then have to be shipped with that "missing controller part" in them, and much of the cost of that is passed on to the consumers for every purchase. In fact, the first two officially licensed Turtle Beach headsets for Xbox One are sold bundled with the headset adapter. A console generation later, people still have to put up with all the nonsense Microsoft is making. What if instead of packing the console with the low quality headset, they cut it apart, then slap a 3.5mm audio jack in between the connector, and the earphone (similar to the hack)? This way, users can replace the actual headset part with their own if they want to. Well, that probably makes so much sense.

Microsoft Problems

War on Standards

Microsoft have always seem to be a company who have a strong aversion for widely accepted standards that they do not have control over. They have been involved in a list of many different cases where they went aggressively against competition (and competing standards) to secure their business. Years ago, around the time when they were about to release Office 2007, they created Office Open XML (OOXML), also known as OpenXML, that was meant to rival the pre-existing, and widely supported Open Document Format (ODF), in a bid to secure their dominance in the office software market. According to an archived Wired article, while licenses for OOXML are free and perpetual, the specification, at a massive 6,000 pages, which they themselves have been accused of not fully complying to, eschews industry-standard tools in favor of proprietary Microsoft options. Despite all their efforts, there has been a steadily growing support for ODF from governments around the world, and as result Microsoft feel some considerable threat to their hold on the market. Earlier this year, they tried convincing the UK government to reconsider choosing ODF as the official standard for government documents.

With their Direct3D (part of the DirectX libraries), Microsoft have also been competing against the Open Graphics Library (OpenGL). OpenGL is an open standard, cross-platform Application Programming Interface (API) for rendering graphics that has implementations on many different operating systems like GNU/Linux, Mac OS X, even MS's very own Windows. It's also being supported by many graphics card manufacturers. NVIDIA, AMD, and Intel even teamed up at this year's Game Developer Conference (GDC 2014) to explain how OpenGL can unlock 15 times performance gains. However, unlike the situation with ODF, MS have generally been successful in utilizing the network effect to push DirectX as the more widely supported tools in making games for PCs. As a result, majority of the releases of video games for personal computers still require Windows to run. This means users who prefer using different operating systems on their machines are still pretty much out of luck when it comes to video games, especially with the mainstream, AAA titles.

The battle against OpenGL started earlier than the resistance against ODF, but they share very similar motives: to eliminate competition by creating a space only Microsoft can develop for, or has total control over. It has already been mentioned that while OpenXML is technically an open standard, a significant part of its specification has been designed to favor Microsoft's proprietary offerings. Instead of promoting a common space where they can compete with other parties on a level playing field, Microsoft always seem to choose one where there's no other option but for them to win, and for their consumers to be locked in. Instead of them fully supporting ODF, or OpenGL (in which they were directly involved in the past) by enabling complete interoperation with their products, they insist on having their own way the only way.

Microsoft seem to want everyone playing by their rules. I've already mentioned how they originally wanted to control the use of video games, and to limit the ownership with the Xbox One, resulting in them threatening the used games market, but that's not the first for the company. In the PC front, Valve's Gabe Newell, along with some other game developers, had not too long ago expressed concerns about the direction MS is taking Windows 8 especially regarding how it negatively impacts video games. Windows 8 comes with its very own store front where users are encouraged to install all software from. In the case of Windows RT, a flavor of Windows 8 for mobile devices, there's no other option for installing software but through the Windows Store. Many game developers find this a bit too restrictive as every application that is made available in the store has to go through Microsoft's certification process. This is not entirely a bad thing as this publishing model has been working well for consoles, and even smartphones for a long time now. Still, for everyone who has become used to what flexibility the platform has offered for a long time, this is quite a huge shift that restrains them in significant ways. Also, in the case of Valve, it's obvious that the Windows Store is in direct competition with their Steam store front, and since the former is owned by the platform holder, it's quite hard to think that things can go in favor of the latter.

Once is Enough?

Having been involved in many different software development projects myself, I have very deep appreciation for open standards for how they make building, maintaining, integrating, and utilizing systems easier for everyone involved. Heck, the Web would not have been without them allowing for high degree of interoperability. Almost every resource exchanged on the Web comply to a well understood set of specifications so servers, and clients know what to do with them. At the same time, I also don't believe that proprietary products are intrisically evil. I'd go for an open source (with free license) solution if there's one available, but paying a private company for a solid product is also a valid option (especially if I can justify its cost). Good thing is that closed source solutions, and open standards are not mutually exclusive. For example, Apple's implementation of OpenGL may be proprietary, yet it still complies to the open standard.

Proprietary solutions aren't bad, but when they're taken too far, it can be very detrimental to the industry, most especially to the consumers. Microsoft seem to be one of those companies that tend to do so. When they can just allow the use of both HDMI, and RCA cables at the same time on the Xbox 360, they chose to design it in such a way that forces consumers to pay extra for it. Instead incorporating a 3.5mm audio jack into the Xbox One's controller, they went ahead and created their own plug so they can ask headset manufacturers for licensing fees, and sell consumers another of their silly adapters. It's not very surprising as it has been what they've been doing for a long time to secure their business. There's nothing wrong with ensuring that the company remains afloat, but competing with widely accepted open standards by presenting a closed one seems to be a little too much. Microsoft's struggle with standards is a battle against choice.

There is also the question of poor build quality, and sloppy design. Early last generation, the video games industry was plagued with Xbox 360's that went RROD, and it took a while for that to get addressed. The infamous overheating problem was one of the reasons I was cautious to get a 360 at first. Now after a few years of owning one, I need to fold a small piece of paper to get my controller working as it should. It's a minor thing that probably doesn't happen to everyone, but considering someone posted a solution that worked for me on YouTube, there probably is a considerable number who has experienced the same thing. I have been trying to avoid MS products for years for these reasons (and more) but I made an exception for the Xbox 360, and to be honest, I don't really regret I did. I would have been open to do the same for the Xbox One if it didn't launch to remind me about why it's difficult to do that for Microsoft.   read

1:06 PM on 07.16.2014

One Month with the Wii U

This is my first post on my Dtoid blog so "please understand" if it's still some boring block of text. Let me know what you think in the comments section!

Today marks the first month since I brought home my Wii U. How is it? Good. Great. The Wii U is overall a solid HD console. I only have three games for it right now, but two of them (Mario Kart 8, and Wind Waker HD) I enjoy so much that I feel like I already got my money's worth. I got the NSMBU bundle a few days after E3 ended. It wasn't exactly Nintendo's presentation at this year's E3 that convinced me to bite because I've been quite sold on it since last year. If there was anything that really pushed me, it was the depression I felt after my second major failure this year, which happened the next month after the first major one. My life is in the process of stagnation, which isn't exactly a bad thing (hey, don't fix it if it ain't broken), but just when I took risks to break from the routine, life shouts, "denied!" right into my face. The Wii U was supposedly a reward for myself if I succeeded in that second attempt, but, heck, I needed something to make me feel better. So, retail therapy!

Like I said, the Wii U in general is a great games console, and it delivers very well in the games department. Mario Kart 8 is one of the most beautiful games I have ever seen in my life; it's such an eye candy. Wind Waker HD, despite being a remake of an old game from Game Cube generation, also looks very pleasing. These games aren't just beauty with no substance, though; they're a total blast to play. With Mario Kart 8's HD visuals that gives perfect justice to its art style comes the beloved karting mechanics that, if I understand correctly, defined the genre. The game controls tightly, and driving around the race courses is (as soon as I got the hang of it) all around satisfying, not just visually. The game works wonderfully online as well. I guess I don't have to say more about Wind Waker HD as it seems to have always been a well received game from the start. I've never played the original version so I can't tell how different the remake is in comparison, but regardless, the HD version is a fantastic game on its own. Aside from these games, I also downloaded the demo of The Wonderful 101 a few days after I got the Wii U. I've read a few negative comments online about the demo, but my personal experience was mostly positive. When the demo ended, I was already completely sold on the game. The Wii U may currently have a generally bad reputation with its third party support, but with what few exclusives it has, I found out myself, the Wii U packs some heavy punch.

Miiverse is also a pleasant surprise; I enjoy it more than I thought I would. This game-centric social network provides a nice break for me during long hours of gameplay, especially when I find something I think is interesting to share with others. On people-centric social networks like Facebook, Instagram, etc. it's quite frustrating when I keep seeing faces of people, and the mind numbing mundanity of their lives. In Miiverse, I and other people could share our own experiences from the games that we're playing, instead of the boring lives we live. It's like when one of your friends posts a shot of their feet while lying on the sand at the beach, except it's not the beach, it's a video game, and it's not your friend's feet but something so much more within your interests. Does that even make sense? In any case, Miiverse provides a nice hub for people to connect with other people who play the same games, and to share interesting bits about how differently they take in the same experiences. I also like how Miiverse is integrated very well in the games I've been playing such that it doesn't make it self too noticeable, but I know it's there when I feel like posting something. In addition, the option to hand write posts provides a great creative outlet for its users. Considering how limited the medium is, I've seen some great art in there.

I would have loved it more if there were a Destructoid community in there because I find myself wanting to post stuff Dtoid goers would understand (and appreciate) so much better. Nintendo would be wise to allow creation of such forums eventually even if they're marked unofficial. Of course there should be some form of regulation for that, to keep the entire network in check. Alternatively, it would be a great opportunity for Nintendo to make an Application Programming Interface (API) publicly available for the Miiverse, just like people-centric social networks such as Facebook, and Twitter do. If they couldn't add unofficial communities themselves, then let third parties (which includes independent hobbyists) do something about it. It's a social network API, so it shouldn't pose high security risks especially if done right. I feel like they're onto something with the Miiverse, and having other people create their own applications based on the data in there would help them discover more of its potential.

The Wii U may end up third in this generation's console race but if the first month I spent with it indicates how things will shape up for the console, where it ends up doesn't mean much to me. I like what I've seen so far, and I only hope there's more where it came from.

I'd like to talk more about this but I'd like to keep this post short. I'll write more when I get the time.   read

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