Posts tagged #E3

Josh's Inner Dorkdom Journal - Episode 8 (E3 2013 Impressions)

Time for another episode of the journal. So what have I been digging on lately? To be honest, not much. Since I’m on a break from school, I’ve been working full-time and that’s kind of taken up the majority of my days. There are a few things, however, and I can use this format (as well as an episode of The Inner Dorkdom podcast that we’ll be recording soon) as a way to relay my thoughts on some of the recent E3 news.

I didn’t watch the E3 conference this year, but I read most of the articles ‘round the internet about it. From what I’m reading, Sony clearly “won” this time.
Just how did they win? By completely standing up for the consumer, as opposed to Microsoft which seems to be very “anti” that mentality.

(Note: After writing this article, I went back and watched the archived conferences. Unfortunately, my following opinions and concerns have not changed.)

Let’s give a little backstory:

Back in May, Microsoft revealed the Xbox One, their newest console. This comes as a little delayed from Sony’s earlier reveal of the Playstation 4. As I said in an earlier article, I wasn’t particularly impressed with Sony’s initial conference that showed the world their new console, but I thought it was just “ok.” That being said, myself and many other videogame fans were completely floored (and not in a good way) by the ridiculous restrictions which were being proposed by Microsoft.

Honestly, I don’t know what they were thinking. A console that has to be connected to the internet to function?

Get out of here.

To be fair, Microsoft later stated that the Xbox One would not have to be constantly connected to the internet, but WOULD have to be connected at least once every 24 hours. This, in my opinion, is still quite unacceptable. I live in a quasi-rural area, so my internet connection is neither fast, nor the most stable. Because of that, an Xbox One would be extremely problematic for me. For example: Nearly every time it rains, I lose my internet connection. So if the weather happens to be bad for a couple of days, I just wouldn’t be able to play… At all. Not even single-player games that shouldn’t have to connect to the internet in the first place would be playable for me if the weather was bad.
“Metal Gear Solid V? If it’s raining for a few days, forget about it.” That’s basically what Microsoft is telling me.
That’s just terrible design. There’s no reason that a game console should ever have to be connected to the internet, at any time, to function.

Back to this year’s E3:

None of gamers’ concerns were alleviated at Microsoft’s second showing. All the restrictions and requirements were still in place: Required internet connection, no used games (unless the developer permits it by offering codes for a flat-rate), a really big push (though subliminal) for Windows 8, and an “always on” version of their Kinect technology. All these things were still around and I (and every other gamer) was being told that they were all “good things” and that I just “didn’t know I wanted them yet.”

Not to get too political here, but that sounds a lot like our government and the ridiculous policies they’ve tried to push in recent years.

The Playstation 4, however, has absolutely none of these unwanted features. Even in their E3 presentation, they made it a point to directly fire shots at Microsoft by pointing this out to gamers. Every shot was met with thundering applause, or so I read.
If I were there, I would have been in the crowd applauding right along with everyone else.

It would seem that this “console war” might be won by the following 2 things: Features and exclusives. Unlike previous console generations, hardware capability has been taken completely out of the equation. This time around, both the Xbox One and Playstation 4 have nearly identical specs under their respective hoods, so most games will be the same aesthetically.  Since that’s the case, one has to look at the two console’s features first.

In both systems, the features are, just like the hardware, nearly identical. You have uploadable content like the new video sharing and social media integration. You also have real-time video streaming on both, with Sony using Ustream and Microsoft using Twitch. Then there are the normal features like Netflix, Hulu, HBO-Go, Amazon, web browsing, etc.  With all these features in mind, exclusives have to be more of a factor.

I’ll readily admit, the Xbox One has more, interesting looking, exclusive titles so far than the Playstation 4. D4, Dead Rising 3, Forza 5, Halo 5, Killer Instinct, Quantum Break, and Sunset Drive are all exclusive to Microsoft.

Killer Instinct is kind of an interesting one.

A sequel to a series that’s been dead since the late 90’s, KI has been something that fighting game enthusiasts have waited for a long time. When the new game was announced as an Xbox One exclusive, the fighting game community went absolutely nuts. I saw several forum and Twitter posts saying that they were now sold on the new Microsoft console. Clearly this is an overreaction, since they seemed to forget about the crazy restrictions they had been complaining about only a few hours before the game’s announcement. Finally, the realizations of complicated tournament play (needing to have the console bought and downloaded for every console at every station at the tournament venue and a constant internet connection) began to rear their ugly heads and doubt began to set in. This doubt became even more substantiated when it was announced that Killer Instinct would be a “day-one download” title which would be “free-to-play.” Only one character (Jago) would be available until the player bought the rest of the characters. When gamers went into an uproar, Microsoft and the game’s developers quickly changed their rather poor wording, saying that KI would basically be a “demo” on day-one and the player would buy the full version of the game if they wanted to at a later time.

Why not just call it a “demo” in the first place? Come on, Microsoft. Get yourselves together.

The Playstation 4 doesn’t boast the larger number of exclusives that the Xbox One does. Drive Club, The Order: 1886, Gran Turismo 6, Infamous: Second Son, and Killzone 4, were the only ones that I could find. So does this mean that Sony’s in trouble? I say no. As I told a friend of mine, there’s only ONE company that can sustain a console on its exclusives, and that’s Nintendo, but that’s because their exclusives are mostly first-party titles that have been around since 1984. On the Xbox One, the only two exclusives that are “blockbuster” titles are Forza and Halo. Dead Rising 3 will be a good seller, as will the 2 new IP’s, Quantum Break and Sunset Drive, but these exclusives won’t be the “system sellers” that a game like Final Fantasy VII was for the original Playstation back in 1997.
Is Halo a system seller? In a sense, yes, but the people who are fans of that game were fans back on the original Xbox with Halo and Halo 2. These fans carried over into the 360 era, but very few jumped on board with Halo 3 or 4. I’m not trying to discount the power of the Halo franchise, I’m just trying to point out that like many exclusives, save for Nintendo’s, Halo is a niche title. The same can be said about Uncharted or God of War for the Playstation. It would be much different if something with the general power of a franchise like Final Fantasy, a third-party franchise, were going exclusive to either Playstation 4 or Xbox One, since that series carries much more clout than games that have ALWAYS been exclusive to one platform or the other.

So maybe exclusives WON’T win the war. Then what will?

If it weren’t for Microsoft’s crazy new policies, I would say that the race would be pretty neck-and-neck. Before hearing about the Xbox’s new, weird way of doing things, that’s exactly how I figured it would be. The simple fact is, gamers and everyday people generally don’t like to be told what to do when attempting to enjoy themselves while playing a videogame. This much is abundantly clear given the recent backlash to the Xbox One.

Perhaps the largest critical backlash from both the gaming press and gamers themselves came shortly after the Xbox presentation at E3. Don Mattrick, President of the Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft, was interviewed by and asked about some of the backlash towards the new console, particularly the constant internet connectivity issue. He was quoted as saying, “Fortunately, we have a product for people who aren’t able to get some form of connectivity; it’s called Xbox 360.”
This quote and arrogant, yet not surprising, attitude from a big-wig at Microsoft sent gamers into a frenzy. People that had recently supported the Xbox One 100% decided to drop their preorders and go the way of the Playstation. They were basically being told that if you couldn’t connect to the internet, you would be stuck with an outdated console which would probably lose support within the next 3 years and that Microsoft wasn’t going to back down from their outrageous requirements for the Xbox One. I, like all those angered gamers, thought that this was terrible marketing and customer relations. Again, it’s not surprising coming from Microsoft, as they’ve had this kind of mentality since they entered the world in 1975. World domination has always been their top priority, but it’s finally catching up to them.

With all that being said, I don’t mean to skip over Nintendo, but the simple fact is that they didn’t really have that much to show. What they did show was awesome, but nothing uber-exciting, or anything we didn’t already know was coming. I honestly think that it’s become the case that Nintendo is just… well…A NINTENDO company. I really don’t think they’re that interested in grabbing gamers of all types, and more focused on making consoles that play Nintendo-franchise games. Really, I’m fine with this. It’s not the greatest marketing attitude to have, but let’s be serious here: Nintendo franchises are powerful. The people who want those games are going to buy whatever console Nintendo builds in order to play them. If that’s what Nintendo is content in doing, then more power to them.  Personally, I would rather see Nintendo embrace all of gaming and build a console which would compete with the likes of Sony and Microsoft, but (to use a cliché that I hardly ever use) it is what it is. I own a Wii U and I’m excited for Super Mario 3D World and the new Legend of Zelda game that’s in the works. Plus, the 3DS is the greatest handheld every created (and currently has some of the best games on any device), so I can’t really complain. I’ve got my Wii U to play Nintendo stuff and I’ll have a PS4 and PC to play everything else.

*Post-E3 and Aftermath Edit*

As mentioned in the note above, I’ve since watched both Sony and Microsoft’s respective E3 presentations. Pretty much everything I read was accurate and was portrayed just as well in a written form as it was while watching the events unfold visually. In other words, my opinions remain the same. Microsoft chose to stay away from such topics as being connected online and outrageous DRM policies. Instead, they decided to infer to gamers that their system was “so good” that these things wouldn’t / shouldn’t matter. However, according to gamers, these things DO matter. 

Since the presentations ended, fans and the independent gaming press have shown their absolute disdain for Microsoft’s poor choices. I point specifically to internet gaming personality, Angry Joe and his recent interview with “Major Nelson” (Larry Hyrb), Microsoft’s Director of Programming for Xbox Live, as a prime example.
In the interview, Joe asks Hyrb some very difficult questions from his fans which put the Microsoft rep into a clearly uncomfortable and quite defensive position. The questions are simple and to-the-point and deal with gamers’ various concerns, such as the required online and DRM.

Joe tries extremely hard (until he’s discouraged by the Microsoft PR lady standing off-camera to move along) to not let Hyrb slide with his dodgy answers, but ultimately has to cut the interview short. This is due in part to the fact that Hyrb is about to partake in a “live event” on the showroom floor and, from what the rest of Joe’s video suggests, the angry PR lady who dislikes his questions.

Joe never comes off as antagonistic or that he’s looking for a debate, but instead as a concerned gamer. The fact that “Major Nelson” didn’t really want to answer his questions and the PR lady didn’t want them asked in the first place, seems like a confirmation of the attitude Microsoft seems to have at this point: “This is the future. Either get with it, or keep playing your Xbox 360 which will probably lose support roughly 3 years into the new generation of consoles. Even though all you gamers out there say you don’t want this stuff, we know what’s best for you.”

My response:
Sorry, Microsoft, I’LL decide what’s best for me. I don’t need you to tell me what I want. Also, stop dodging questions. You know everyone is angry with you over the decisions you’ve made, make moves to correct it instead of trying to shove it down people’s throats.

While playing Injustice online recently (on Xbox 360, mind you), I was talking with a friend of mine, an avid Xbox supporter, about these concerns. As we were talking, I noticed that every time I talk about these things, I may come off as though I’m a “Microsoft hater.” Nothing could be further from the truth. I happen to not like a lot of their business decisions (something which I’ve felt for almost 20 years), but I don’t like to see anyone “fail.” Truthfully, all of my concerns about the Xbox One boil down to one HUGE concern that I think is shared by 90% of gamers, but they don’t know how to voice it without sounding like raging “fanboys:” We don’t want these things to become console standards.

If Microsoft continues to be the same dominant force in the console market as they were with the Xbox 360, then it’s a given that the generation of consoles post-Xbox One and PS4 will be forced to adopt the same policies. The reason there is a severe outcry right now is because we’re all trying to voice the same thing: We don’t want this. From anyone. Ever.

That about wraps it up for this episode of Josh’s Inner Dorkdom Journal. Sorry that it was such a long read, but hopefully you’ll get something useful out of it and take these things into consideration before you purchase your next gaming console later this year. Hopefully, I’ll be back soon with a review of the game I’m currently playing: Naughty Dog’s, The Last of Us!

Trying to be an optimist in an overcrowded and slowly dying videogame world, I am,


!!! Game Developers Are Going To Make Us Squeal Like Little Pigs !!!

Hey, video games, you sure do have a pretty mouth!?!

So E3 is over and we are left wholly underwhelmed. Not to say that there wasn't anything good at the great convention in the sky (or Los Angeles), but we saw less mind blowing new stuff and more things that (while good) we already knew about. The few outstanding titles shown were expected to be outstanding, so no surprise at all really. I am excited about "The Last of Us" and "Beyond: Two-Souls", "Alien: Colonial Marines", "Halo 4", and to some extent the "Wii U". For the most part, I am more excited about the prospect of the future than I am the reality of the present. Current Generation hardware is reaching it's limit and the time is coming closer for us to move forward to bigger and better things.

Let's Talk Graphics!!!

There are PC gamers out there (you know we love you), but I am not one of them. I much prefer playing on a console, because I like the simplicity and the lack of headaches that it provides. There is, however, a trade-off between playing on a PC versus playing on a console. The upgradability of PCs almost always assure that they will be better (in the graphics department) than consoles. That also means, PCs will always be more expensive to the consumer than their more limited cousins, the consoles (especially if you want the best and fastest machine to play the newest and biggest games to their fullest extent). I have always wondered if there would come a day when the two would be evenly matched. I don't foresee this happening and, if it did, it would only be for a very short span of time (think months not years). The shelf life of a console is about 4 to 5 years. The life of a PC (in the world of gaming) is maxing out at around 2 to 3 years, and that is if you can handle being behind the curve when it comes to the newest games on the market at the end of that cycle. Almost every year, the specs for PC versions of games jump higher and higher. Console game designers have a set ceiling of specs that they must conform their games to every time they produce content for the home market (these designers can improve the quality of their games as the life of a console progresses, but they still can't exceed the limitations of the hardware). Even though these statistics lean heavily in favor of PCs over consoles, I have neither the time nor the money to be apart of that particular demographic. So consoles it is (for me anyway). "But Todd, consoles are expensive too?" Yes, weird little third person voice inside my head, but in the long run the cost is less, especially if you can only devote so much time to video games as a whole. With consoles, I don't have to constantly tweak my settings so that I can run at optimal levels or spend large amounts of time installing the game to a specific location on a specific hard drive with the right settings so that my graphics card can handle the load between it's internal memory and the computer's ram, not to mention the need to constantly buy new and better hardware to stay ahead of the current game specs. Wow, see my point?... No?... Well kiss my backside, fanboys... wait, does that mean I have to kiss my own rear (you know, cause I'm a fanboy)? I just find consoles work better in the context of my life right now, so that's what I want news about.

I have already discussed my love of story over multiplayer (yes, we are all well aware of your lengthy written discussions on many topics), but that is not the only quality I look for in a game (really, pray tell what might another one be, because you ARE going to bore us with the answer, Yipee). I am also a sucker for great graphics. If a game looks great, I'll be the first to try it out. Oddly enough a game with great graphics and mediocre gameplay is better to me than grap graphics and great gameplay. So, I am ready for the next generation (not Star Trek) of video game systems. The interesting thing about E3 is that some of the most graphically impressive games shown were done so on PCs and not consoles, even though they have been presented as coming to consoles too. Some of these game companies have not specified which consoles their respective products will appear on (no mention of Xbox360, PS3, Wii regular or U, or Sega Saturn [just kidding], just that they will be on the "generic word": Consoles). Also, none of the games in question were presented at any of the keynote presentations, and Sony famously makes the developers show their games on Sony hardware during their keynotes. Kotaku, on their website (here), have speculated that we may be seeing some games, which are listed as being released in 2013 (the predicted year of the new consoles), that may be intended to debut on the new systems first, before all others (current gen.). The new Star Wars game, "1313" (have you seen this thing) and Ubisoft's "Watch Dogs" (way out of left field) were running on PC hardware, not consoles, at their respective booths and the representatives of Lucasarts and Ubisoft were non-committal when questioned about which consoles the two games would be seen on. Is this an indication of the impending new console releases, maybe, maybe not, the game developers aren't saying. But these very same people are winking and giving very sly smiles when the topic arises. They, however, are not going to out the products of their biggest partners (the big "N"eh, Spidey's pimp, and Officesoft), so we'll have to wait to be amazed. It is certainly fun to think about though.

While I'm on the subject of graphics, take a look at the new graphic engine demos that premiered at E3 this year. They all were impressive (some more than others), but it appears to be a bright future ahead. With Square Enix's Luminous engine, the Unreal Engine 4 by Epic, and the CryEngine 3 by Crytec, I can safely say that I am impressed (not a difficult thing to do I assure you). This means that our new games will be more like the "Mean Girls" Lindsey Lohan and not like the "I'm going to run over you with my car" meth head Lindsey Lohan, and that's always a plus. Stay tuned for my review of Ridley Scott's "Prometheus" that's in theaters today (can't wait). Until then, no sleep til' Brooklyn.

Todd "The Master of Unlocking" B.

Updated For Reference (1:15 AM Sat. 6/9/2012)!!!

"This" is Epic showing off the Unreal Engine 3 (and it still got a little juice left in the tank) at last years GDC 2011 with a demo called "Samaritan". They said at the time that this demo represented how the next generation games should look. Another (read not) subtle kick in the crotch that it's time to move on up to the top "where the Jeffersons live" (to that Deeeluxe apartment in the sky hi hi, with anti-aliasing and dynamic lighting effects). "Hey, Sony and Microsoft, quit living on the couch in PC's basement. And just because he's slow to the party, doesn't mean you two should always make little Nintendo go out and get you more smokes, he wants to play Halo too, sometimes."

[Kotaku,, and IGN]

Resident Nintendo Fanboy Checking In

The short, short version: I want to purchase a Wii U on launch day (midnight that morning).

The short version: Before E3 I'd already decided I want to purchase a Wii U on launch day. Nintendo's press conference and other E3 goings didn't create that want in me, but they didn't lessen it either.

The normal length version (it's actually quite long):

It was Tuesday. Liz, Nigel and I had already eaten the traditional day-of-Nintendo's-E3-press-conference breakfast of muffins and milk (a tradition started last year, though last year Nigel didn't partake). It was almost 11 am CDT. Liz and Nigel were about to leave for the afternoon (him to be babysat, Liz to work), and I was about to be blown away by Nintendo's press conference. Or, so I'd hoped.

Don't get me wrong, and don't believe the anti-Nintendo hyperbole out there. The presser was not a smouldering epic pile of fail with a helping of weaksauce on the side. But it wasn't spectacular either. Having contemplated the reasons why for a day or so, here's my conclusion: What was missing was something new but also familiar enough to understand without yet playing. But I'll get to that in a more opinion-oriented piece later. But for now, a rundown of the event with my commentary.

The show began by highlighting Pikmin 3, an action-strategy-management title originally for Wii but not clearly coming out for the Wii U. I say "clearly" on purpose. The HD resolution of the Wii U was immediately noticeable. Gone were the jaggies of the past. This was crisp, clear, smooth, and well lit (i.e., some nice shader work going on). Now I've never played a Pikmin game in my life, so the reveal of #3 didn't blow me away. What it did do, however, is make me want to play it (and the previous two games in the series). I'd say that's pretty good for the first shot out the box with a game that seems spiritually connected with Lemmings (Let's Go!!). Also of note, the primary control scheme for Pikmin 3 doesn't use the Gamepad (that's what they're calling the new tablet controller). Instead, it's the good old Wiimote/nunchuck combo. As a guy who was initially skeptical of the Wiimote, then upon seeing it in action with the nunchuck was academically excited about it but bummed because he didn't think he'd be able to use it, and then upon getting a Wii (on launch night, with Zelda) found out that for him it might be the best control scheme ever, finding this out was good news.

Next up was a confirmation that the Wii U will have Netflix, HULU Plus, YouTube, and other media content that will apparently blow our minds. But this presser was all about the games, so that would have to wait for a later day. (Oh, you can use the Gamepad as a TV remote. I think that's cool.)

Then came a discussion of Miiverse. This is Nintendo's on-line social component to Wii U. With it you'll be able to see what games are popular amongst everyone who has an account on that particular machine (did you catch that? "Account"), as well as on-line friends, and everyone in your region. But it's more than that. You'll also be able to read comments left by these people regarding the games. They might be praising it, or perhaps asking for advice on how to clear a level or beat an enemy, or perhaps giving advice on how to do said things. It looks pretty interesting, and Nintendo says there's more to it than what they've revealed. So we'll have to wait and see.

Then the reveal of New Super Mario Bros. U. Like the other NSMB games, this is a 2D sidescrolling Mario game, but done with 3D graphics. And it looks great. Again, the HD visuals stand out immediately, as does the complexity of the backgrounds (there appears in some places to be 8-10 parallax scrolling layers). Gameplay-wise, it's a new 2D Mario game. Running, jumping, and stomping are the name of the game. Four-player simultaneous multiplayer returns (which is big fun, folks). And new powerups are definitely in store (one of them, which  gives Mario a flying squirrel suit, has already been revealed). Gamepad innovation comes in the form of "Boost Mode," which has the player with the Gamepad placing blocks on the main screen in an attempt to help (or hinder if you're evil) the other players. On the whole it looks very good, though like sports games and FPS sequels, one could complain it's simply more of the same.

Next up some folks from Warner Bros. Games joined Reggie on-stage. (Third-party developers on-stage at a Nintendo presser...this is progress from years ago). They showed two games.

The first was Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition, an enhanced port of the very popular 3rd person action game on the PS3 and XBox360. And here I must pause and point something out. Here's a "core" game, one with a dark asthetic at that, showing up on a Nintendo console and not being of lesser quality than the other versions in anyway (graphics, audio, gameplay). This is new. This hasn't happened in many years. How long will it continue? Who knows. But for now, Nintendo has a console that is not doomed to get the short end of the stick because of hardware. Ok, back to the game itself. It looks good, with some nice use of the Gamepad (inventory selection, batarang steering, etc.), and some new gameplay ideas. But, as I said, it's a port of a game that's already out. Time will tell if folks who already have it will be inclined to purchase a Wii U and an enhanced version of a game they already have. I think Nintendo is hoping that there will be enough compelling games and experiences for Wii U that these folks will want to get a Wii U anyway, and once they have the system maybe they'll not mind plopping down some money for the Batman in armor. As for me, a guy who doesn't already have the game, I'll be contemplating a purchase when the time comes.

The second was Scribblenauts Unlimited. If you know anything about the Scribblenauts franchise, you know it ain't Batman. These are not 'core' games, but rather puzzle games. But, having played two others in the series I can attest, they are good. The whole idea since the first one on the DS is that you can summon any real world non-copyrighted object in order to help your character (Maxwell) solve the puzzles he faces. With Unlimited, one (maybe both) of those limits has been curtailed. This is due to the addition of an object editor that allows you to mix and match elements of pre-programmed items to make your own, which you can the share over the internet. So if you want to make a ride-able toaster with skulls for wheels that shoots trout, you can do that. This is one I'm definitely excited about. Oh, and this might make Todd happy, Unlimited has a story. In a first for the series, Unlimited explores Maxwell's history, why he solves these puzzles, and how he got his item conjuring notebook.

Next up was a 'sizzle reel' of upcoming games. Each game only got up to 15 seconds or so worth of screen time. This is unfortunate because some of the games in this montage, like Tekken (with super mushrooms from the Mario games?!?) and Mass Effect 3, could have generated more excitement among certain demographics had they been highlighted more. But, they will have to wait for another time.

Then Wii Fit U was announced. This is an extension of the two previous games. There are new activities, Gamepad usage (both for some of the activities, and as a replacement for the TV in others), and a pedometer, but so far it looks to be more Wii Fit. That isn't a bad thing at all. Wii Fit is a fun way to be more aware of one's own health and work to improve it. But 1) being more of an enjoyable utility than a game in the classic sense the excitement it can generate is at best different from that generated by traditional games, 2) it's a sequel to an enjoyable utility as opposed to a story or mascot driven traditional game.

Another 'expanded audience' game was shown, this time a music game called SiNG (working title). It's, as the name suggests, a singing game, but one that seems to emphasize multiplayer. Lyrics are displayed on the Gamepad (so everyone doesn't have to stare at the TV but can look at each other), some sections ask that everyone sing together, and the game encourages those not currently singing to dance along. Looks like fun, and hopefully it will sell well. But again, not the sort of thing that's going to pump people up at a press event.

Then the 3DS got a few minutes of love. The next day Nintendo did an hour presser just on the 3DS (which in my opinion was a bit less awkward than the Wii U one was at times), and I'm planning on writing about that later. So, moving on...

Next up was a game I'd been interested in since I heard about it last year at E3. It's one of those games that seems to blend genres and styles. Imagine Grand Theft Auto. Gritty, violent, full of prostitutes and gang bangers. Now image LEGO. Shiny colorful plastic bricks and minifigures, creative play, innocent fun. Now put them together. That's what Travelers Tales is doing with LEGO City Undercover. I'm not kidding, it's LEGO GTA. A large open world (LEGO City), mission-based and open gameplay, vehicles of all types. The only difference is, you play as a straight up good guy (a cop, Chase McCain) as opposed to a gangster. I'm definitely looking forward to this one. Oh, and at the end of the trailer something intriguing happens. Chase finds a pile of bouncing green LEGO bricks (which in the world of LEGO games means they can be assembled). As he puts them together it becomes apparent he's building a green warp pipe. Upon completion he hops on top of it, and is sucked in, accompanied by the authentic Mario warp pipe sound. Hmm....two non-Nintendo developed games with Mario elements in the trailer....

Then folks from Ubisoft come up on stage, like their WB counterparts earlier, to show off two games.

First up was Just Dance 4. You know where this is going. Dance games can be a lot of fun. The Just Dance series is well respected. And this one includes a mode where a player with the Gamepad can arbitrarily choose what dance moves the other players must perform.'s a dance game. It sounds good from a business standpoint, and a one day when I play that it'll probably be fun standpoint, but it doesn't generate that certain type of excitement.

The second game is called ZombiU, and it looks like the one to watch. Exclusive to Wii U (at least initially) ZombiU is, as the name suggests, a first-person survival horror game featuring zombies. Been there done that, it might be said. But it has some surprises. First is the whole concept of the game. You don't play as just one character. You start off the game like normal. You fight off zombies, collect items to help you in your quest, and perhaps even level-up your character. But the first time said character gets bit, that's it for him/her. The character becomes a zombie from there on out, and the player switches to playing as a new character. Your first task? Find the zombie you were just playing as, kill it, and get your stuff back (he/she was the one who had it, afterall). This continues presumably until you beat the game. I for one think this is a neat idea. Yes it limits character-driven storytelling a little, but makes up for it in the atmosphere it creates. The second area of surprises comes from the use of the Gamepad. It is used as a map, a scanner, a way to interact with certain objects in the game, an inventory, and so on. And about that inventory. Unlike some games, the action doesn't pause when going to the inventory screen. This means in tense situations you'll be looking down at the Gamepad (as though shuffling through your backpack), but also glancing up at the TV to make sure zombies aren't about to eat your brains (and they might be, I mean, they are coming to get you Barbra). I've read some reports from the show floor saying ZombiU is the sleeper game people should be looking forward to. Now, all of this info wasn't revealed in the press conference, and the zombification easter-egg using the Gamepad's forward facing camera they were demoing on stage glitched up. So even here the conference felt mixed to some people.

All totaled Ubisoft has 8 games coming out for Wii U during the launch window, varying from 'expanded audience' games like Just Dance and Rabbids Land, to classic platforming with Rayman Legends, to core offerings like ZombiU and Assassin's Creed 3 (which was not highlighted on stage but is playable on the show floor, and is confirmed to be in no way a watered down port of the PS360 versions; it's the same game made by the same team, with a few Wii U-specific enhancements thrown in).

I just read that although not mentioned among the 8, Ghost Recon Online is still coming to Wii U. And that confirms what I've been suspecting. Nintendo isn't giving everything away just yet. They've done this in the past, staggering the outflow of information to continue to build momentum. So, as Anakin said, "I know there are things about the Wii U that they're not telling me."

Ok, so, so far so good, right? Yes, there was some expanded audience stuff that people aren't going to go nuts over. But there was also some stuff of a more 'core' persuasion. Indeed, there was something for everyone. Well, at this point there's maybe 10 minutes left in the conference. I, and others also, were thinking how is Nintendo going to end this? What are they going to do to blow us away? Well, what they came up with is, in my opinion, a big reason why folks are so down on Nintendo's presser (even though many of them later have said the game in question is quite a bit of fun). What they came up with was...


Ok, so Reggie says the name, and asks what would happen if the game worlds of Nintendo's franchises collided, and I'm starting to get excited. Some sort of huge crossover game (a la the rumored Star Fox / Metroid crossover that people were talking about a few days ago)! But no, this is instead more of a minigame compilation. The eponymous Nintendoland is a virtual theme park, with 12 minigame attractions from different Nintendo franchises. Ok, I'm not a minigame complilation hater, so I keep listening with an open mind. One of Nintendo's game designers (who worked on titles like A Link to the Past) comes up on stage to explain a game based on Luigi's Mansion. It's a pac-man style chase game where four players are mii's with flashlights trying to find another player who's a ghost. The ghost-player has the Gamepad, the other players have Wiimotes. The four players can't see the ghost on the TV, but the ghost player can see everyone on the Gamepad. There's some strategy involved that I won't go into now. But he did, and that's the problem. This individual, speaking in Japanese and having someone translate for him, stood on stage with the game paused for about 4 minutes explaining how the game would work. Four minutes of explanation. Oy, this killed momentum. As I said, folks at the show report the game is actually a lot of fun, but the way it was presented obscured that.

Now I think on some level some folks at Nintendo knew that would happen. Reggie said a few times that with Wii U, you have to play to understand. (He said this is how it was with Wii. And while I kind of agree with him, WiiSports Tennis didn't need a big explanation. You saw someone playing it, and you got it.) This does seem to be Nintendo's PR puzzle. It's similar to the one they had with the 3DS (explaining glasses-free stereoscopic 3D doesn't really get across what it's like), but perhaps even more pronounced. However, Nintendo handled that just fine. The 3DS has actually sold more units than the DS had at this point in its lifespan. So I'm fairly confident Nintendo can find a way here as well.

For me the big question is 3rd parties. Nintendo can't reach sales dominance without the Wii U being perceived as the place to get the best of both Nintendo and non-Nintendo titles. For that perception to be out there, it needs to be true that the Wii U is the place for quality 3rd party games. Thus, 3rd parties need to support it seriously. I'd say there's already some big time support here, no doubt. But right now it remains to be seen whether it is enough to get jaded cooler-than-thou gamers who think PS360 is all that's needed and Nintendo is totally only for kids man (you know, the kind who spend a decent amount of money on their gaming hobby) to give the Wii U a try (since, it seems to me anyway, they're not likely to do so just based on the possibilities of a new control scheme). And if they don't give the Wii U a try in sufficient numbers, 3rd parties won't be inclined to continue to make their big games for Wii U (especially when the new PS and XBox systems come out, and porting a game to the Wii U will mean downgrading the graphics at least). And then you'll have a snowball effect / self-fulfilling prophecy. But more on that later.

Anyway, that was it. They ended the show with footage from the common hub area of Nintendoland, which virtual fireworks (in HD, granted) going off over the little Mii's heads. Not a great ending.

So that's it. Some very good stuff, but surprisingly little that wasn't already known about in some way. And no big Nintendo franchise revelations. (I saw some comments by folks super upset at Nintendo that a new Zelda wasn't announced. This is, pardon me, a bit silly, given that Skyward Sword just came out not even a year ago.) This, I think, is what made people feel like the presentation was lacking, and why some have taken that feeling and run to extremes with it, gloom-and-doom predicting the downfall of Nintendo as they always do.

But as I said, I still want to purchase a Wii U on launch. What say you?

Oh, and check out IGN, GoNintendo, NintendoLife, and GameTrailers if you want more info.

Pray for a true peace in space!

 - Nic

Posted on June 7, 2012 .

I, Sad

So I had a 3 page article written about what I hoped to see at E3... so far I haven't seen any of it. Absolutely none. This E3 has been crap, in my opinion. Maybe I'll post the article at some point. More later.
Posted on June 5, 2012 .

!?! E=E3 Squared Times Pi, Plus The Square Root Of Metroid... Ah, Forget It!?!

Has anyone ever heard of E3?? What a great idea. Why have they not done this before??

Ok, I was being sarcastic there. Most of you, if you have been paying attention of course, know that E3 is the "Electronic Entertainment Expo (or E3 for short)". It is held currently at the Los Angeles Convention Center in California and it is the place to go if you want to find out what the next cool thing is in the video game world. You have all the heavy hitters in the video game community including the Big Three (Nintendo, Sony, and the all powerful Microsoft). If you didn't know, now, you know (and knowing is half the battle).

Anywho, I am not the video game guy. No sir, I am not. Don't get me wrong, I love video games. I just no longer have time to devote to endless hours of sitting on a couch, drinking Mtn. Dew, and screaming at the top of my lungs at an inanimate piece of hardware. Games, that are rated mature, and small children do not go well together. So, my playing of video games has dwindled to very little. If you want the real scoop on the state of video games, you would be better served by talking to Josh (All things Microsoft and Playstation) and Nic (all things Nintendo). But, like any self respecting Internet commentator, I still have an opinion on the trends in the industry (I like da way dat Plummer steps on them there tortoises, Uh-Huh). So I will attempt to put my cent and a half (I'm a little short on cash) into the pot and see if I can provide my prospective on the video game landscape and give you a little news along the way.

First up is a topic that is near and dear to me personally. Video Games that have a storyline. I could care less if I get to play with some loud mouthed stranger (under the age of 15) on some online server somewhere. I got very little use for online death match play. Playing with people I know is great and I If I had my way we would all be in the same room when that happens. That is probably not realistic, but I like to know and see the people I kill with my BFG. So, from my perspective, I am more interested in the experience and story than I am multiplayer. I have always thought that one day video games could become something akin to an interactive movie experience. They could immerse you fully into the fantasy of the silver screen and add a whole new dimension to our entertainment business (no matter what Roger Ebert says, hack). So it is with no small amount of interest that I saw two video game debut Footage at E3 that blew me away.

The first comes from the studio that gave us the Resistance and Uncharted franchises, Naughty Dog. Their new property called "The Last of Us" may bring an entirely new aspect to the gaming landscape. Naughty Dog has always valued story above all else and they look to be pushing the envelope to it's limit. This report at IGN contains the first gameplay footage that we have seen from the title. To say I'm floored, is an understatement. This looks like a movie and the fight/shoot out moment is jaw dropping in not only its brutality but also it's execution. The ability to be this fluid in a video game is amazing. Yes, you could just run and gun your way through, but it appears that would be an unwise decision. From what I gathered from the footage is that you have a limited amount of supplies, including weapons and ammunition to use. This makes finding different ways to dispatch your enemies that much more important (plus it looks really cool when you see it on screen). This is pushing the visual and narrative boundaries to the breaking point. This thing looks great and I can't wait to play it (really late at night when my children are in bed).

Second, is a new title from the makers of Heavy Rain, a story based game from the studio Quantic Dream. They call it "Beyond - Two Souls". Not only do you have a very cinematic looking game, it also stars a film actress (the very cute, Ellen Paige) as the title's main character. Again, my words fall short of the actual viewing of the trailer so head over here and check it out for yourself. Computer graphics are never going to completely replace human actors, but this makes a case for the continued use of them as a storytelling medium. Neither one of these games are new innovations, we have already seen this type of game before in titles such as Alan Wake, Heavy Rain, the Shenmue series, and Resident Evil, but they are a giant step forward in the way games tell stories.

While your at it check out the new trailer for Halo 4. It looks like the quality of the game has not tanked since Bungie handed over the series to Microsoft and 343 Industries. I am happily optimistic that we will have another great game on our hands.

Well, thats what I got for now. I'll try to be back with more updates from E3 and beyond as the need arises. If you want to check out all the E3 news and videos, head over to IGN at the link below (shameless plug for a great site) and then come back here for more of our meaningless ramblings (come on, you know you love us). Stay Frosty or Toasty for you Mortal Kombat freaks.

Todd "all your base are belong to us" B.