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2:21 PM on 06.12.2013

Xbox One: Back to the Future

Lately the Xbox One has been heavily criticized based upon the policies that Microsoft has decided to focus on going forward.  The DRM policy for games and the 24 hour check for online connectivity seem to be the two biggest focus points for gamers.  But what do these policies really mean for gamers? And are they a big problem for the future of gaming or are these policies the future that gaming needs?

It may be important to note that I am an Xbox fanboy, but that I currently have an Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii U, along with a 3DS and PS Vita.  However, the main reason I see to defend the Xbox One's policies is that I see the inherent benefit of them, which I agree have not been articulated well up to this point, and don't agree with all the criticism.  

Let's start with the DRM problem.  Truth be told we already have a DRM problem in today's gaming ecosystem: Online passes.  While EA has stated that they will no longer use Online Passes do not expect the rest of the industry to follow suit.  Even First Party Sony games use online passes. So are you really able to loan out full versions of games to friends? Not with an online pass.  In any case, I believe the future of games to be delivered digitally, and you can't trade those in or loan them away.  Steam and Apple have built amazingly successful digital delivery systems and I believe Microsoft sees this as the future and is building that into the Xbox One.

Besides DRM, the necessary online connection is the biggest issue.  However, I see the biggest benefit.  People are equating the necessary online connection as some arbitrary decision by Microsoft, and because of the continued ambiguity surrounding the issue this is what it sounds like to the consumer.  Microsoft is smarter than to just impose some arbitrary limitation like this, so they must have a reason.  

And this reason must benefit the gamer.  During their E3 press conference Microsoft talked a lot about the cloud and I believe that the always online connectivity will integrate the cloud somehow.  Microsoft is building games that require an internet connection because the internet has the possibility to make the games better.  The cloud can influence a games setting, make AI smarter and more reactive, and add more processing power to the already powerful system.  Bigger than that the cloud can push things to your games through the online connection that will enhance the experience: new achievements, friends ghosts or drivatars, social options, and even new content.  The game lives outside of your solo experience even if you are playing a campaign mode.  Think WoW or Diablo, which require an internet connection.  Just like those games, Xbox One games will require an internet connection and connecting at least once a day allows developers to push this new content to gamers. 

Microsoft is correct to say that if you don't have an internet connection than you should enjoy your Xbox 360.  But if you want a next generation experience things are going to have to change.  I mean if we wanted the same old experience why would we want a whole new system? These new changes will allow games to do new things, and because the PS4 doesn't have this requirement, the games won't be much different than the PS3.  

It confounds me that most of these complaints are coming from the internet.  How can you complain about internet connectivity in your system when you are using the internet to complain, clearly you have access to the internet so this shouldn't be an issue.  I would expect people to write letters about this problem.  

Nevertheless, at the end of the day the Xbox One has Halo, and thats enough for me.  


1:07 PM on 12.28.2012

Games I'll Remember 2012 For

We say it every year, but 2012 really was a great year for gaming. I can't remember a year in which so many great games came out. Lately everyone has been talking about The Walking Dead, with its many game of the year nominations and awards. And at least for today you can get the whole series for just $10 of XBLA.

However, I did not play The Walking Dead yet in 2012, so I will not remember the year for that game. However, I will be able to remember 2012 for four of the best games that I have played in a long time. The list of games that I will remember 2012 for, in no particular order is:

Halo 4

Hours Played: 50+

Halo has always been one of my favorite series on the Xbox, while the multiplayer is the reason to buy the game, the story is almost always worth the price of admission. After Halo: Reach I was a little distraught by the direction the series was going, especially in terms of multiplayer. I felt like the whole game was going the route of Call of Duty, when the main draw of Halo has always been that it is different than COD. And many of us hardcore shooter fans want something different (something better). In any case, I ended up beating Halo 4's great story three times, and ended up getting all of the retail achievements. I purchased a fair amount of Doritos just for the Bonus XP and I will likely remember 2013 for this game as well.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Hours Played: 20+

With only 20 hours played, I have barely scratched the surface of this expansive game. I know it came out in 2011, but the game has so much depth that it occupied my thoughts for much of 2012 too. And the DLC keeps coming out and keeps getting better and adding to this already expansive game. The shouts bring a new level of depth to the series and while I haven't tried the Kinect experience yet, I would like to see if it is implemented well. This is one game that I hope to put more time into in the future.

Wii U

Hours Played: 40+

While the Wii U only just came out a month ago, it has defined my 2012 in ways that are difficult to write. Count me among the believers that the Wii U will revolutionize the gaming industry that the Wii only hoped to imagine. Motion controls are great in theory, but as the PS3 proved, it is difficult to play great games with it. Nintendo realized this and designed the Wii U with games in mind. It shows with one of the best launch lineups in years. New Super Mario Bros U, ZombiU, Nintendo Land and many remakes designed to use the touch screen have allowed great games to be re imagined with the Wii U Gamepad in mind. If you ask me, Nintendo Land is the best launch game of the bunch. It really shows what the Wii U is capable of and sparks the creativity that I have for the system in the future. Miiverse brings the whole experience together, and as the service continues to grow, I see a bright future between Nintendo and the hardcore audience that will demand the best games come to the Wii U.

Mass Effect 3

Hours Played: 50+

Even if I did not play Mass Effect 3, my year would still be defined by it. The controversy surrounding the ending was one that could not be ignored. For better or for worse, BioWare showed the industry that the game designers are capable of listening to the audiences feedback and implementing new features quickly. And I was among those extremely excited for the original ending. To me the game completed a trilogy that I have long held close to my heart, the gameplay tweaks made the game even more fun to play. Although, above the gameplay the world was simply fun to explore and be a part of. The multiplayer was a great addition and I really enjoyed getting to control the different races and see some unique powers and abilities. But the meat of my time was spent in the story mode. Scanning planets, running from Reapers, and enjoying the content that continued to be released kept me in the Mass Effect universe all year. And with the Wii U edition, I plan to play the whole story again.

Well those are my top games of 2012, but what are yours? When you look back which games (or game systems) do you remember playing the most?   read

9:54 PM on 02.15.2011

From Xbox to PS3

Two Xbox 360's and close to six years later, I am beginning to doubt my loyalty to Microsoft. In a world where I can enjoy all three consoles of the current generation, for me, the console battle is between which gaming machine I choose to power on when it comes time to game. For over six years I have been a stagnant supporter of Microsoft, but has the company gone a little stale in the innovation department later or are there future offerings going to blow Sony out of the water?

When Sony's PS3 first came out I thought that I would never want to own the machine, after all I never owned a PS1 or PS2, so why would I want to own a PS3? Times and my thinking changed after Blu-Ray won the battle for the HD generation of movies and even though I bought the xbox's HDDVD add on I sprung for a PS3 in order to experience all future movies in gorgeous 1080p. Skip ahead two years and I still only have one game for the system, LittleBigPlanet, and I have no intention of buying any more. Things changed when Sony starts to get its act together.

Does this make you want to buy a PS3?

Early advertising issues aside, Sony really stepped its game up in 2010. When I walked into Gamestop, I found piles of used PS3 games that I had missed and that could be played during my gaming sessions for months. Now I have to play catch up before big sequels are released later this year, like Resistance 3. But you might say that the Xbox has the same amount of great exclusives, and I will grant this point. The two things that make the PS3 stand out are Blu-Ray discs and an open platform.

Blu-Ray discs aren't only great for watching HD movies, simply put game developers can cram more stuff onto a Blu-Ray disc than an Xbox 360 DVD. I believe that is the reason we are seeing collections of games appearing on the PS3 and not the Xbox 360. The God of War Collection got the train rolling, and now we are seeing Prince of Persia, Splinter Cell, and Sly Cooper all receive collections on one disc for a reduced price. It is the best deal on the market, because you get two or three great games for less than one new game.

The openness of the PS3 is a debatable topic. But the point that I want to make is the availability of MMO's on the console. DC Universe has become one of my go to games lately and it is an experience that I can't have on the Xbox. Why aren't more developers making MMO's for the 360? Any new MMO could easily topple Final Fantasy XI, but Microsoft puts too many restrictions on the availability of content on the Marketplace, no MMO's and no day 1 digital downloads. Mass Effect 2 came out digitally and in retail stores on the same day. And with Steam coming to the PS3 things might get even better.

I'm still rooting for Microsoft in the coming months, but right now Sony is winning my console batte.   read

9:44 PM on 01.24.2011

Counterpoint: Red Dead Redemption

Its that time of year again: Games of the Year.

Now that the results are in, 2010 seems to be just like every other year, almost every publication and video game outlet has decided upon Red Dead Redemption as the Game of the Year for 2010. The problem that I have with this is the sheer number of publications and websites that agree upon RDR. I mean why aren't publishers choosing any other game? Is Red Dead Redemption really the only game worthy of game of the year?

Let's start out by taking a critical look at the things that make up Red Dead Redemption.

The Multiplayer:
This is one example where a developer just slaps together a multiplayer component in order to attract more buyers. When people see multiplayer listed on a box, they think that they are going to get an immersive experience like Halo 2 or Call of Duty, but RDR's online component was just a clone of GTA IV, and wasn't very good at all. Of course the reason RDR's multiplayer wasn't good because it wasn't fun to play.

Gameplay Mechanics
The gameplay mechanics that make up RDR's multiplayer, also made up RDR's singleplayer. These mechanics were not fun to play in either mode. The gun play that made up the bulk of the action was repetitive and boring. There was no aiming. When shooting you have too choices, lock on and pull the trigger and continue this until all enemies are dead. Or slow down time and slowly move the crosshair over each enemy, until all enemies are dead.

Movement became as much of a choir as the gunplay. Movement was exactly the same as GTA IV, you literally moved your character in exactly the same motion.

But the movement was inaccurate. You would never stop when you wanted to. Maybe it was just me, but I would always run past my horse and then have to move back slowly in order to finally get on.

Finally the pacing. The pacing was the worst part of the game. I must have played RDR for about 5 hours and I was only about 5 missions in. This wouldn't normally be a problem but the missions themselves were only a few minutes long. Most the time was spent traveling between missions. The traveling was slow, and in order to fast travel I would have had to travel almost as far as the mission itself in order to get to a stagecoach.

The Good
Now lets talk about what made so many people agree on RDR for Game of the Year. The story. The immersion. The world Rockstar created. The soundtrack. All of these things have been talked about over and over again in all the reviews and GOTY articles. But the gameplay is usually mysteriously absent among all the high praise.

This is why I have such a hard time agreeing with Red Dead Redemption for Game of the Year. RDR is not a fun game. RDR is a great experience, but is simply not fun to play. I loved the story, the characters, and the music. Even the world that the game takes place seemed alive and engaging. I just couldn't commit to keep returning to this world when the controls and gameplay ruined the experience. Even if the action sequences were fun, they were too spread out to enjoy them. Most of the game was spent riding horseback across desert. The time I spend in games, should be spent playing and RDR felt too much like work.

In the end, the multiplayer is RDR without the story, immersion, or world, and that is why nobody bothers with multiplayer. GOTY Awards should go to games that are fun to play, a story shouldn't override gameplay, even a great story. The world has to be fun to play in and a game of the year should innovate the market in a way that remains fun. Red Dead Redemption is not a fun game, maybe it would be better suited as a movie.

-cloneman   read

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