A WEEK IN GAMING 5.20.13-5.24.13

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

By: Jamaal Ryan

Well, the next gen console race has officially kicked off. Let’s take a look at a week in gaming from Monday 5.20.13

Finding More Meaning than Violence (5/20)

Rally Games head Jeremy Pope has long since departured from the development of violent videogames since his production job at Rockstar Games where he worked on GTA 3, Vice City and Max Payne. He admits to the influence of his family values helping steer his decision to pull away from violent videogame development, but he also brings up points that have been echoed before from within-industry critics.

Pope encourages developers (and most importantly, publishers) to take risks in finding a more abstract meaning of conflict rather than its most basic depiction, the infliction of violence. He sheds light on platforms such as Steam and the App Store that avoid focus testing and publishing constraints which allow artists to create content that’s conceptually abstract rather than iterating on more graphic and visceral images of violence.

The Rally Games head admits that, “I think it’s often easier to do violence that it is to generate meaningful, interesting conflict through nonviolent ways.” 

I argue this: while the criteria that equates to an ESRB rating of M is certainly content not meant for young, impressionable minds, they’re largely sophomoric fantasies nonetheless.

Here’s to a more fulfilling meaning of mature content with more complex dilemmas, life choices and emotional themes.  

The Big Day: Xbox One (5/21)
Microsoft held their long awaited new Xbox reveal at their Redmond campus in Washington. Here are some of the major points of the conference:

Operational Features
      Xbox One is capable of instant saves, allowing users to resume their content from their previous session even after the system was off, much like the Playstation 4.
            The system’s three operating systems allow it to seamlessly jump from running application to running application. It was demonstrated switching from TV to movies, to games, to the web browser.
      The system is also capable of what’s called Xbox Snap, where you can operate two applications simultaneously.
      Kinect functionalities are deeply integrated into the system in both navigation and software input. At 1080p with photon measuring speed, Xbox One’s Kinect tracts movement with higher accuracy recognizing your face, voice, and even allegedly, your pulse.
      Users can pinch applications to the home screen via Kinect, or expand them to full screen.
      Skype is used through Kinect.
      Xbox One will be connected to their cloud service powered by 300,000 servers (larger than the world’s networking power in 1999, as they say) where they can offload computation in games and likely other cloud expected features not mentioned in the event.
      Games can be edited and shared thanks to the system’s DVR like functionalities.
      Xbox One works with SmartGlass.
      The new controller is redesigned with an improved D-pad, round edged triggers with impulse feedback, an unknown “Guide surface” at the top, and recently revealed buttons now known to be View and Menu.
      Achievements now track how they’re achieved.

      TV, movies, music and the web browser can all be accessed via Kinect.
       Live TV allows users to switch to live broadcasted television via HDMI input.
      Xbox Guide allows the browsing through trending and your favorite media as well as free navigation through channels by saying “Xbox, HBO, CBS, MTV, etc.”
      ESPN allows you to access your fantasy teams via Kinect.
      Xbox teams up with NFL.
      Steven Spielberg partners with 343 to create the Xbox exclusive Halo television series.

      New EA Sports games -- FIFA, Madden, NBA Live, and UFC -- will all run on the new Ignite Engine.
      Forza 5 announced.
      Max Payne and Alan Wake developer Remedy announces new IP Quantum Break which appears to join the television series with the game. Theme centers on time manipulation.
      Call of Duty: Ghosts shown
·         Written by Oscar Award winner and writer of Traffic and Syriana, Stephen Gaghan.
·         Canine companion integral to the story and gameplay.
·         Newly improved engine that, though not quite as technically impressive as other next gen titles, will still prioritize 60 fps and low latency controls.
·         New manuverabilites will be featured such as fast mantling which allows you to vault over obstacles similar to Brink’s S.M.A.R.T. system, sliding which allows you to slide from the line of fire, and you can now fire from behind cover akin to what was used in Rainbow Six.
·          New dynamic maps will be featured that can spur earthquakes, floods, and allow players to interact and manipulate them
·         Players can now customize cosmetic features such as the head, body and gear of their multiplayer avatars.
-          15 exclusive titles are being developed, 8 of them are new IP’s.

What Microsoft Didn’t Address
      How will players keep games and other media with only 500 GB of hard drive space?
      What are the full system specs?
·         Blu-ray
·         Game DVR
·         8GB DDR3
·         8 Core Microsoft custom GPU
·         500 GB hard drive
·         USB 3.0 support
·         External Storage support
·         Cloud Storage
·         Mandatory installs
·         Required internet
·         No Backwards Compatibility
·         HDMI input and output with 4K support
·         Gigabit Ethernet, WiFi
-          What are the specifics behind recording and sharing tools?
       Is Illumiroom compatible with the system?
       Is it always online
·         Only every 24 hours

The conference set out to be exactly what Microsoft stated that it would, to be heavily entertainment focused. The ability to seamlessly jump between different forms of entertainment, TV, games, web browser, etc., is super baked into the Xbox One’s entertainment push. People question X Box One’s departure to the entertainment space -- particularly with television -- as more and more people are moving away from cable. However many forget that the 360 was one of the leaders in non-cable entertainment with Nextflix, Hulu, Amazon Video, and HBO GO. Microsoft is covering all of its bases with entertainment in a hyper aggressive and all-encompassing way.
What was missing from the conference we can only guess will be at this year’s E3. The system specs (listed above) as well as more and more games should be revealed to make up for the deliberate lack that we witnessed at the conference. Microsoft still didn’t put some concerns completely to rest. Can gamers access games if they have four concrete walls with an outlet and a television? (No). What freedom do gamers have when taking games away from their “assigned” console? (Addressed later).
The X Box One’s reveal was half as long as the PS4’s, but didn’t necessarily trim all of the fat into a satisfying show, leaving us with almost as many questions as we received answers. We’re three weeks away from E3, let’s hope that this year’s press conference ditches the entertainment pitch and discusses everything we gamers care about.
Xbox One: The Make Up for the Fuck Up. (5/22)

Microsoft responded to the questions asked by many gamers. Is the system always online? How will the system handle used games?

Microsoft finally answered the long awaited question of the rumored always online feature. While the system won’t require a consistent internet connection, it has to be able to connect every 24 hours. This is fine and dandy for a large part of the United States, but what about other parts of the globe that aren’t as fortunate as us with easy internet access? Playstation 4. That’s what’ll happen.
Turning to the topic of used games, they painted an interesting yet confusing scenario, illustrating one taking a game to a friend’s house. The copy you play on a friend’s system can only be accessed in two ways, if you’re playing on your own account or if they purchase the rights to it. This left services like Gamefly and retailers like GameStop in question, which was clarified later in the week.

An Impressive yet Old Engine (5/23)

The Call of Duty franchise doesn’t get enough credit. In a two year development cycle and releasing annually, Call of Duty has managed to deliver a great shooter every year since the very beginning of this generation at the Xbox 360’s lunch.

Kicking off next gen with Call of Duty: Ghosts, Infinity Ward’s animation lead Zach Volker reports that the engine used in this next generation of Call of Duty is still based off of the Quake III engine that they’ve been using for years since Call of Duty 4. 

…but that’s still pretty damn impressive.

He explained that it would be impossible to build a new engine from the ground up in just 2 years.

Xbox One’s Used Games Sales Explained (5/24)

After days of speculation, we finally have a firmer understanding of how Xbox One will handle used game sales. Microsoft allegedly will certify certain retailers to participate in their used game sales program. When a customer trades in a game into that retailer, that game is logged into Microsoft’s Azure cloud system and then their system’s rights to that game is terminated. For every copy of that game sold, the publisher and Microsoft will get a cut of that sale, leaving retailers with what is reported now as roughly 10%.

Even more questions generate from this unveiled system.

What will become of retailers like Gamestop who previously earned 100% of the profit of used games?

Will publishers favor Xbox One since they’ll now be receiving a cut from almost every game sold?

Will Sony respond to that shift by launching a used games program of their own after being the only console publisher who participated in online passes?

And how much healthier will game publishers be health now that they’ll be receiving more money from consumers?

Only time will tell.

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