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1:08 PM on 06.10.2011

E3 Opinion: The Microsoft Balancing Act

After much excitement and rumour in the build up to E3, gamers around the world were treated to, in my opinion, the most underwhelming E3 in a long time, with Microsoft leading the yawn fest. To me, the excitement for E3 is all about the revealing of games and hardware to the public that have never been seen before, despite Nintendo's efforts in the hardware section, I don't think I have been so underwhelmed and surprised by the lack of megatons at a E3 showcase before.

This feeling started the moment Microsoft's press conference finished, which in my view, failed to inject any real surprises of note, although I had a feeling all along that this was going to be the case due to the lack of stern investment in exclusives to the console. There is no doubt in my mind Gears of War 3 and Forza 4 will be of a high standard while Halo 4 will no doubt give many Xbox 360 players something to really look forward but for me it is not enough.

When I first heard that Gears of War 3 was going to be demonstrated on stage at Microsoft's press conference, I asked myself why would they do this? Sure it is a highly popular franchise and after a good few weeks on the much highlighted beta, the third person action shooter by Epic will be most enjoyable but E3 is about surprises and announcements so why spend the time on stage to play a game that will be released in September this year, has had a lot of coverage beforehand along with a beta? Surely Epic and Microsoft could of released a HD video via Xbox Live Marketplace and various gaming websites with brief footage of the single player campaign like they did with Gears of War 2?

Another element I found strange during Microsoft's press conference was what seemed to be a flow of games that are also available on other platforms. Sure, games like Modern Warfare 3, Tomb Raider and Mass Effect 3 are sure to be excellent titles in their own right but this is E3, gamers that have invested in a individual system want to see what is coming in the future, what new games will be announced, not showing games that are playable on the competition's machine and treating them like a exclusive.

Then we have Kinect, a product that is causing heated debates more so than ever after Microsoft's showing. Some gamers like it while others feel a strong dislike for it. Microsoft have spent a lot of money on Kinect and it is to be expected that they have to invest a lot of software and marketing for it. What seems to be missing is the ability to provide a balance of motion control Kinect games and traditional controller games exclusive to the platform. At E3 Kinect was the dominant force for Microsoft, which seems off putting for some and I can understand it.

Having owned a Wii, which was sold after three years and a current owner of Xbox 360 Kinect, experiencing what motion control has to offer on two different platforms I have come to the conclusion that, as it stands currently, not one game via motion control has offered me personally a fond and memorable experience. That is not to say motion control should be scrapped, if people enjoy motion control then respect to them, there is a market for it and it's clear that it has proved to be a successful alternative to the traditional control pad experience.

My problem, which is mentioned briefly above, is the balancing act Microsoft at the moment seems to be struggling with to offer motion control and traditional exclusive games to each type of gamer. While I am not calling for a exact number each way, it's becoming clear that those who plan Microsoft's strategy are pushing a lot more for the motion control experience on a console that was considered by many to be a core console suited to a traditional controller.

With employees such as Aaron Greenberg hyping Microsoft's strategy for the core gamer in the month's building up to E3 claiming deals were in place similar to those such as Codename Kingdoms from Crytek ( now with the title Ryse and seems to be offering motion control as the marketing campaign) it is somewhat disappointing that all they could provide was Halo 4 and a remake of the original Halo: Combat Evolved remastered in high definition for the traditional controller.

I question the goals and strategy of people such as Phil Spencer, who is current head of Microsoft games studios and I question his thinking in terms of the long haul and in terms of being able to provide a balancing act that will keep those consumers happy who have invested time and money in the console for all those years and those they hope to bring in via the Kinect experience. At the moment Spencer seems intent of telling gamers what they should want rather than actually giving what gamers want. They have seen what sort of profit the Nintendo Wii has made and want a piece of the money pot, understandable as this is business but what they should not do is alienate the millions who had a choice to invest in the motion control experience back in 2006 and decided not to and if you look at the Nintendo Wii today with it's stern price cut and lack of software in the pipeline, could Microsoft suffer the same fate eventually?

Microsoft needs leaders that will give all gamers what they want without the excuse of multiplatform games and without the need to dominate one template of gameplay for another in terms of exclusive library. People who can manage to work out how to give gamers of all tastes what they want instead of telling them what they want, the likes of Peter Moore and Robbie Bach are sorely missed at the moment, people who I feel would of done a much better job of balancing the line ups and maybe cooling down the frustration many traditional controller players are feeling at the moment.

Will their answer to the balancing act next year be a new console? We shall see...   read

4:49 PM on 05.31.2011

E3 Approaches: Tension & Dreams

As the biggest gaming event of the year approaches, the gaming community is awash with hopes, dreams, nerves and bullshit fakes. It's an exciting time and one which defines for the next year what gaming system or systems of your choice will be offering you in the hope of meeting your expectations. I myself get excited and nervous with the pre E3 build up, the fact that I love the world of gaming itself and seeing new stuff that has been kept under wraps for a while is the exciting part, the tension builds however with the thought of feeling underwhelmed . When a personal favourite developer brings something special or new to the table or a game series gets announced at this special place it's a great feeling, when they smile and expect you to love whatever underwhelming shit they have announced I get angry. When something I love goes to shit I get angry, not at other gamers or even fanboys you understand but at myself for getting too excited in the first place, that is what draws me into E3, the hype and build up with the fear mixed in for good measure.

The excitement and tension is fuelled up even more with the way gaming journalists are allowed to express themselves these days. Back in the days of the Super Nintendo all I had was a monthly magazine, the back of a game box and a obnoxious overweight guy with a future Little Britain star to partner him in delivering what was meant to be news, previews, reviews and cheats. Now the media has progressed to the template of the internet it has allowed us to get all sorts of media and information very quickly which is a good thing but can also be a bad thing. The good involves trusted sources reporting genuine information, the personal favourite podcast format where people can listen to fellow gamers with a foot in the industry to express their hopes, dreams and stern opinions hoping they are similar to yours, particularly when it comes to E3. The bad can be a real pain in the ass with situations arising such as so called gamers posting false information on purpose in order to feel better about themselves, so called Photoshop experts doing their hardest to make their dreams and giggles genuine and fanboys getting more insecure than usual if the amount of exclusives announced does not match or beat those of the...enemy.

This is all part of the E3 freight train of course and I doubt many would have it any other way, take the rough with smooth as it were. My problem is, especially over the past few years, there has not been a E3 that has matched these situations since 2005. True that year was over flowing with hardware announcements but it also had the game announcements to match, recent years has seen a more steady walk of announcements that more often than not, met a lot of trusted and respected journalists predictions beforehand. I want to see this years E3 go beyond that, I want Microsoft to announce a shit boat full of AAA first party games, I want Nintendo to release a console that starts a ambitious plan to give birth to a new generation instead of playing safe, I want Sony to have a PSN upgrade that competes more with Xbox Live.

Situations gamers are dreaming of but not expecting but the dream remains right until the goodbye wave to the crowd of each individual conference. That's the spirit of E3, keeping the dream alive because we all love gaming like a new rock band loves having groupies waiting for them after a storming gig. I want this E3 to have balls, be unpredictable, layers that excite and surprise on top of the predictable because they are the moments gamers keep coming back for. Gabe Newell's Portal 2 Sony appearance, Final Fantasy on Xbox, the Wii Remote, announcements that people replay on YouTube over and over because they were not expected, bringing genuine excitement and awe.

I hope E3 2011 has this in droves and I bet many of you do too.   read

5:45 PM on 05.20.2011

Project Cafe: Judgement Day

On June 7th 2011 Nintendo will present to the world their next home based console with one thing to keep in mind, you can never please everybody. One thing you can do is attempt to please a majority and in attempting this could be one of the biggest judgement calls Nintendo has ever had to make in it's entire history. To take the next step or remain in the current, that is the question I suspect is on many "core" gamers during this period of whispers, rumours, trolls and youtube fakers that makes the wait for the answer even more frustrating.

Having thought about Nintendo's next machine I cannot help but feel that if they "play safe" and barely match the specifications of the Xbox 360 or Playstation 3, the intended plan to bring back the "core" will fail, a screen enabled controller thrown just wont cut it in my humble opinion. In fact I would say they would be taking a bigger risk in playing safe rather than stepping up and offering a machine that is more technically advanced than what is on the market today. Ask yourself, if you own either a 360 or PS3 or maybe even both, would you shell out $300 for a new system in 2012 that only achieves similar results based on tech from 2005? Die hard Nintendo fans maybe, Xbox or Playstation gamers looking towards a new generation? I can't see many.

From reading the opinions of various gamers across a wide range of forums, youtube videos, twitter accounts and facebook it is becoming clear many crave a new generation. While they are happy with the investments they have made to their consoles of choice they are starting to wonder when the big three will step us and present us with a firm idea of what the future holds for consoles.

I have no desire to see Nintendo fail here, in fact one console they have produced, the Super Nintendo, remains my favourite console of all time along with the first Playstation and Xbox 360. I want Nintendo to shock gamers with goodness and not a underwhelming product that is overpriced just because of a controller with a 6 inch screen. In fact if this does end up being the case, I would find it an insult to gamers as I thought of the Wii when the launch price was confirmed, Mario Galaxy and Zelda regardless.

Nintendo have give gamers a lot of joy over the years including myself and nothing would please me more than seeing my opinion proved wrong when E3 comes around but if my fears are realised then it could possibly end up being a misguided strategy that could cost them in a similar fashion that Sega ended up. People forget, when the Wii was fully shown to the public, full motion control out of the box wasnt an option, motion control is now available across three platforms so releasing a product offering a similar experience with basically the same tech with a strong possibility of not offering a superior online service like Xbox Live or even PSN, why are gamers in the millions going to go for that when they are already have something very similar?

Of course, this is all based on rumours at the moment so I could be basing my current thoughts on complete pig swill when June 7th arrives, I hope I am.

Thanks for reading   read

7:37 PM on 05.18.2011

David Cage: Respect Is A Good Thing

While this week we are basking in the awesomeness of a certain game called L.A Noire, something struck me during the build up to release of the Rockstar/Team Bondi collaboration. Something I probably did not expect and that was reading, what to my mind anyway, sour grapes from a fellow developer. I'm probably very narrow minded with this issue but I usually expect the whole playground style "mine's better than your's" argument for console corporation statements or for people who spend most of the day feeling incredibly insecure about a console purchase nobody actually gives a shit about in the real world.

On March 31st this year, Heavy Rain creator David Cage was quoted "What to say about L.A Noire? I think it's an interesting solution to a problem for now. But it's also an interesting dead end. That's exactly what I feel. Their technique is incredibly expensive and they will never be able to shoot body and face at the same time." He continued "With the technology we use, we can improve; there is a lot of room for improvement and we hope to show very soon where we are now. We've made significant progress since Heavy Rain and will continue to make progress until we reach the stage of Avatar. That is probably three, four five years from now." Ok so three, four, give years from now, cool David, really looking forward it.

I personally believe David Cage could of been a more respectful to Team Bondi's work, a lot more in fact. Now I maybe in the wrong here but from what I can remember when L.A Noire was first shown in gameplay form there was a massive positive reaction to the facial technology implemented into the game, myself included. I was thinking of the possibilities of this technology, games like Mass Effect for example, while having decent facial tech and lip sync, would most probably benefit from a similar technology. Someone had stepped up and offered something new in this regard, something people could of thought would be brought to the next generation of consoles not the current set.

Cage needs to look at himself, I admire him, his developing team and Sony for offering something different in concept with Heavy Rain which was a refreshing change to the usual Call of Duty copy and paste jobs we seem to be getting on a regular basis these days. Having said that, I do think he leaves a lot to be desired and if anything, something tells me a concept like Heavy Rain would of been a much better game if it was handled by the same team that has given us L.A Noire and I'm not just talking about facial technology either.

Cage's writing abilities for instance need a lot of work and if the current quality continues would likely hit a dead end before Team Bondi's facial technology does. With dialogue such as "It's a painkiller, it'll help reduce the pain" you have to question the man's logic thinking in terms of making a realistic story and dialogue heavy concept be credible especially in a industry where it is far more common to shoot a military solider in the head than it is to give a man painkillers after crawling through what seemed endless vents of glass. Did anyone at a high level or working with David directly ever question lines like the one quoted above and give feedback, "Hmm I don't think that sounds right or natural David". I'm sorry but from what I've experienced in Heavy Rain and Indigo Prophecy, they have promising ideas but they are smothered by poor structure to story and dialogue, something which needs to be strong in quality for games like these to succeed.

If what Mr.Cage says is true and we do get much better technology in three or four years then fine but here we are in 2011 and I think to write off something which has been embraced by the gaming public for something we won't likely see until the next generation machines start to mature reeks of sour grapes and a lack of respect for a publisher and developer which seems to have more overall talent in it's sphincter than Cage and Quantic Dream have in it's whole set up.

Be more respectful David, I know what you are trying to achieve with your games and I admire that but until you give us a product that has facial technology, gameplay and writing competency equal or better than most triple A products out there, shut your fucking mouth and realise if you are willing to accept feedback you might be getting the praise a certain game with dead end technology is getting.   read

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