HOW A LINK BETWEEN WORLDS MADE ME EXCITED FOR ZELDA AGAIN

No comments

Friday, January 31, 2014


By Jamaal Ryan

While Nintendo struggles with product sales and the Playstation Vita stands as my favorite handheld system, the Nintendo 3DS is an undeniable haven for incredible software.

As an owner of both handheld systems, though 80% of my handheld time is spent playing free Vita titles, the remaining 20 pulls me away from all gaming completely, as I contract myself to that one 3DS title that I MUST play.

The incessant praise that A Link Between Worlds has received made me throw my hands up and say, “Alright! I get it; I’ll play the fucking game already.” I figured I owed it to myself, thinking that I didn’t play A Link to the Past, that I should play the spiritual successor to one of the greatest games of all time.

I didn’t know that I had actually played A Link to the Past until I booted up A Link Between Worlds.

The assembling Triforce and that iconic intro song took me right back to 1995 when I had originally played the game. Thankfully, I didn’t remember the map, the wink and nod references, and the enemy encounter design, so the game as a whole was a completely fresh experience for me. 

Zelda has always had an “open world” aspect to it – Windwaker, in my Zelda history, being chief among them. But A Link Between Worlds subverted the formula in ways that’s completely unexpected to the franchise.

The dungeon self-determined order and the complete gamut of items available in your own house changes the fundamental way in which you play Zelda. You want the bomb now? Rent it. You want the hook shot for its handy use? You can pick that one up immediately after you drop 80 Rupies to rent the bomb you were looking at before. This same sense of agency of course exists in the dungeon order as well when after the first three dungeons you complete, the order in which you complete the remainder is entirely up to you.

As the game goes completely out of its way to facilitate player choice, there is a crucial element of responsibility as well. 2013 seemed to be the year of refined monetary systems after games like Grand Theft Auto V and Assassins Creed IV have made currency meaningful; the same goes for A Link Between Worlds as well. The rental system is smart, allowing players to access all the items in the game; but the small price of just under 100 Rupies comes at an even greater one: if you perish in battle, all of your items will be relinquished by the “Repo Bird” and returned back to the shop for repurchasing. Buying and owning items permanently doesn’t become available until later in the game at a significantly higher price, which gives the game a level of progression.

And progression is a concept that A Link Between Worlds could have fucked up so easily given its new system, however it walks this line carefully, albeit with a few stumbles. For a large portion of the game, you’re caught constantly running into chests that contain Rupies and ingredients needed for special potions. Yes, popping open a chest in the middle of a dungeon to only find a boomerang has come to be expected, but at least they still instilled a sense of finding something special. On the same token, there are a few rare items that can be found to make Link stronger, and those were as good as a surprise as any. And while the fact that tackling any dungeon at any time means that the game’s difficulty is largely lateral for a large portion of the experience, each offer specific challenges that give a different enough experience to keep things moving.

So yes, the dungeons are splendid in A Link Between Worlds. I am not good at Zelda game, or even puzzle games rather. My Zelda history has been accompanied by guides and video walkthroughs. Approaching my seventh dungeon chasing after the seven sages, not once did I have to turn to a guide to assist me in solving any of them. This could be attributed to the fact that I’m getting older and becoming more experienced in games, but I’m confident that these dungeons were designed that way as well.

Just as Portal 2 was more complex, though not more difficult than the first, A Link Between World’s dungeons are more readable, but no less clever Zelda’s before. It mixes the theme of each dungeon with the wall paint mechanic (Link can now infuse himself to walls which allow him to walk two dimensionally to areas inaccessible in 3D) while keeping puzzles within the constraints of a handheld meant to be played on the go. No one wants to be stumped on a puzzle when their train stop has arrived.

Not too long ago, I heard about a discussion comparing Windwaker’s combat to A Link Between Worlds’, and both have a fair argument. Windwaker allows you to mix in items in combat better than any 3D Zelda game, and it’s counter and parrying mechanics akin it more to old school action games. A Link Between Worlds’ is more practical with just 4 simple approaches to combat (which includes any two combinations if your inventory) that can be mixed and matched in various ways depending on the enemy type or the quantity. I can use the hook-shot to stun projectile enemies from afar before closing in, or I can use the Tornado Rod send surrounding enemies into a dizzy. Ammo has also been taken out of the picture completely to be replaced with an energy bar (which shares with the painting ability as well). Though some may scoff at the simplification is ammo management, I assure you, this hassle free approach will make you not want to go back.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is a fantastic game, one that should be mandated for 3DS owners. Nintendo has taken unheard of risks with the franchise with this successor, and given Nintendo’s repositioning, hopefully an equally ambitious Zelda game would come out of it.

Wishful thinking maybe. 

NINTENDO RAMBLINGS: POSTMORTEM

No comments

Thursday, January 30, 2014


By Jamaal Ryan

This has been an important time for Nintendo.

Nintendo’s tremendous nose dive in sales forecasts – particularly for the Wii U – didn’t come at a surprise, though it was no less catastrophic. Radical changes had to be in order for Nintendo; and though the multi-billion dollar company as many says, “could weather the complete failure for the Wii U”, such ludicrous statements manage to be nothing more than standard Nintendo apologist affair. Saying “Its ok, Nintendo will be fine” solves nothing, and Nintendo doesn’t seem to think so either.

The Wii U isn’t in a good position. Relying on the success of a small handful of franchises isn’t enough to revive their drowning system. Smash Bros. and Mario Kart 8, arguably Nintendo’s two most popular franchises among the hardcore and wider audiences, can only do so much on their own. One could argue that third part support is stamped with a countdown as well. Nintendo sort of has the PS3 and Xbox 360 to thank for the third party offerings (stripped down as many of them may be). Publishers might not take it as a major inconvenience spreading titles like Call of Duty and Assassins Creed across last gen’s and Nintendo’s hardware, but two-three years from now once the focus is nearly entirely on the PS4 and Xbox One, what reason do publishers have to extend their resources in developing Wii U versions? It didn’t work well for the Wii, and doesn’t seem to be doing so hot on the Wii U either.

The words “Nintendo isn’t relevant as a hardware manufacturer”, courtesy of Naughty Dog co-founder Jason Rubin, stings because of the fear of truth. I discussed the potential Nintendo has as a console manufacturer as being the only native second screen experience, however – and I have to be honest with myself – the few examples in validating the Gamepad are inexcusable for a system’s that’s been out for more than a year.

"We have managed to offer several of such software titles for occasions when many people gather in one place to play, but we have not been able to offer a decisive software title that enriches the user's gameplay experience when playing alone with the Gamepad," Iwata says.

This admittance precedes Iwata’s announced plans to legitimize the Gamepad as gateway to unique experiences to Nintendo’s platform and help consumers understand that this is indeed a NEW system. The validation of the Gamepad’s existence, in theory, would communicate its message better to consumers with hopeful sales following. But not only would the sales attract the attention of the third party, it would also pave the way and set an example of how the hardware can be utilized, something that didn’t transpire all the time with the Wii.

To help this is the revival of the Virtual Console, a splendid concept that has waned across Nintendo’s two home consoles. Nintendo looks to help do this with the inclusion of DS software. How this obvious direction hasn’t been explored yet is beyond me, given that the Wii U is a consolized vision of the Nintendo DS. But unlike the image the Wii U has made for itself thus far, the DS used its second screen in some glorious ways. While we might not be able to experience games by holding them like a book, a game like The World Ends With You makes perfect sense on the platform.

In efforts to wield the strength of their dense number of franchises, Nintendo is also looking to license their game characters to new partners. While this doesn’t specify that this will entirely be related to games, ideas like Lego (enter Nintendo franchise here) would be a fascinating way to see how Nintendo characters can be captured in a different light. Sure, Metroid Other M sucked, but Hyrule Warriors and Fire Emblem x Shin Megami Tensei could bring us the spirit of Nintendo from different minds.

And then there’s the mobile narrative.

I have to give it to those folks, they won that bet, but not quite in the “Super Mario on iOS” kind of way. Nintendo’s looking into the mobile space to, in essence, bring consumers to their proprietary hardware. Sony and Microsoft have found ways to connect gamers to their home platforms through smart phones, and Nintendo simply cannot afford to resist this culture.

I would like to think that this encompasses their “quality of life” initiative, hypothetically taking concepts such as Brain Age and Wii Fit with the consumer, however their idea of “non-wearable hardware” is a bit cloudy and nebulous (technically phones aren’t wearable I guess?)

While this has been one of the biggest culture shifts in the company’s history, Nintendo has managed to pull off these moves in decidedly idiosyncratic Nintendo ways. Legitimizing the Gamepad is exciting. DS Virtual Console games are exciting. Outsourced Nintendo licensing is exciting. A quality of life initiative is exciting. Nintendo building itself into a company beyond two platforms and building within those two platforms themselves represents the type of evolution the company needs.

Let’s just hope that they don’t fuck it up. 

KILLZONE SHADOW FALL REVIEW: NEVER GO ALONE

No comments

Tuesday, January 28, 2014


Reviewed by: Jamaal Ryan

Never before have I had such a polarizing change in attitude toward a game than with Killlzone Shadow Fall. More so than the failings we've seen in the two big name shooters released in the holiday quarter, Killzone Shadow Fall's campaign doesn’t quite dip down to the atrocities that Aliens Colonial Marines and The Walking Dead: The Video Game commit, however nearly every idea Shadow Fall attempts rots with poor execution that fair far worse than the shooters it takes inspiration from. However sticking around and moving from single player to multiplayer can cause a pleasantly shocking mental whiplash and a positive justification for your investment.
Guerilla’s world building of the never-ending conflict between the Helghast and the ISA has always gone only as far as to present an interesting concept. But the micro-narrative and the way in which these stories are told do little to serve the lore justice. Killzone Shadow Fall’s new saga ultimately fails to change this unintended tradition.
30 years after Killzone 3’s near genocidal ending, the Helghast have been forced to live on the same planet as the ISA on planet Vekta, separated by a mere wall that will prove futile in keeping the peace. As a Shadow Marshall special unit, you’ll slowly slip into the grey area separating the Helghan’s and Vektan’s black and white opposition and attempt to prevent a full scale war. But the clich├ęd plot device as peacekeeper is far from Shadow Fall’s more pertinent narrative problems. Characters that command the screen with unnecessary grandiosity carry little substance, deflecting any chance of inviting me to invest anything more than passive attention. The story closes with a surprisingly satisfying ending leading to an inevitable sequel; but given that Shadow Fall’s narration is so weak, I have little interest of seeing what happens next.
Guerilla seems to look towards Battlefield, Crysis, and Far Cry to lay the ground work for Shadow Fall’s campaign design. Stealth, highlighted enemy location, and a wider level design are all pillars of Shadow Fall’s formula, however none of it works nearly as well as it should, creating a frustrating and occasionally mind numbing experience.
Shadow Fall’s biggest offender is how polluted its encounter design is. Killzone widens the real estate to offer more a complex and dynamic approach to combat, but misses almost all opportunities to lead players in a proper “canyon” approach. Typically shooters with bulkier level design allow players to survey the area to draw a mental graph illustrating their methods of approach. Shadow Fall drops the ball on this several times, either narrowing the players options to an awkward linear path, or constantly placing you in a dis-advantageous position in relation to your enemies.

Window dressing for terrible level design
You’d think that the Shadow Marshall’s ability to highlight foes within a radius will empower you to effectively devise an attack plan, however this ability is pulled off by tediously holding down right on the D-Pad to carefully expand the radar ping only up to a limited radius, which then forces you to plan your attack within a certain proximity. And you’ll have to do this several times in combat as the already hard to see golden highlights of enemy soldiers (bear in mind, gold, and variations of yellow and orange, is Killzone’s favorite environmental color as well), will disappear from your HUD after a short time.
Taking your enemies head on is best aided by the OWL, an airborne companion droid that has six different functionalities, the fifth being more contextualized to hack computer interfaces, and the sixth which can be used to revive yourself in battle provided that you have enough Adrenaline Packs. The OWL can be an effective diversion by either stunning or firing upon your enemies for a less direct approach. The OWL can also tether a zip-line at a distance, however the level design barely allows much opportunity to truly take advantage of it. What’s most useful is the deployable shield that you’ll have to use much too often given the AI’s overly offensive behavior. 
The moniker “Shadow Marshall” implies a trained covert operative, however it's difficult to understand why Shadow Fall's stealth mechanics are so sloppy when the game proves it can actually fair better. You’ll feel less like a skilled assassin and more like Santa Claus noisily making his way in and out of your house with Killzone’s (now improved, but still present) weighty controls and a puzzling lack of silenced weaponry. Only two chapters in Killzone's campaign use stealth more intelligently, one in which empowers you, and the other requires you, to progress without engaging in direct confrontation. It’s a shame that sequences that involve the least shooting are the best parts on this first person shooter. Too bad that these pace changers don't punctuate Shadow Fall's campaign nearly as much as its awful Zero-G sequences.

There’s tedium in simply moving the story forward as well. Objective markers often stubbornly appear on nebulous locations in your HUD, and rarely inform you on how to get there. Far too often I found myself running around in circles with little idea as to how I will make it to my next objective.


This guy's probably lost

And your mission is often definitively linear, regardless what Guerilla has stated before. The developer may claim to offer large areas with multiple objectives that can be completed at the player's discretion. That really only applies in Shadow Fall's first chapter however. The rest of the campaign funnels down to a more one dimensional design – though not nearly at the extent as Killzone 3 – with middling optional objectives that are no more pedestrian than your average shooter.

The fact that the weapons feel quite satisfying to shoot -- especially the signature Shadow Marshall rifle's charge shot -- and that Shadow Fall is the first PS4 title to show off the system's impressive visual prowess, doesn't even come close to remedying Killzone's crippling problems.

Thank goodness the multiplayer doesn't suck.

Killzones 2&3 have represented the franchise’s attempts in establishing its multiplayer formula from Killzone 2’s surprisingly well executed first offering early in the Playstation 3’s era to Killzone 3’s expansion on the ideas of its predecessor. Killzone Shadow Fall stands as a bold refinement of the franchise’s multiplayer systems, trimming much of the fat while emphasizing what works to the fullest degree, and giving players a rare form of community generated content tools.
Gone are the daunting number of classes from Killzone 3; Shadow Fall smartly consolidates the available roles to a distinct three. The Scout (formerly known as the Marksman) remains largely the same as in previous installments, armed with mostly long distance fire power whose abilities favors near invisibility and, instead of scrambling the enemy’s radar, enables enemy locating reconnaissance much like the Shadow Marshall’s radar. The Assault benefits from increased mobility, however it’s most important contribution is the Nano Shield taken from what’s seen in the campaign. Lastly, the Support class pulls from the Tactician, Engineer, and Field Medic from Killzone 3 and stands as the most important class in Shadow Fall. They can plant team spawn beacons, bring in turrets and air support drones, and theoretically revive allies an infinite number of times from absurd distances so long as they aren’t completely dead. These class distinctions enables Shadow Fall’s multiplayer to communicate explicit collaborative roles on the battlefield thus making team based play easy to read and fun to engage.
Shadow Fall’s multiplayer feels less mobile than your average shooter as it plays to its team based strengths. You’ll see teams engage in a more distinct “attack and defend combat” even in team deathmatch than what’s seen in most shooters. With intelligent use of tools such as explosives and unmanned weaponry along with the Assault class's stationary shield, the Scout's maximum effectiveness from staying perfectly still, and the Support class's impactful team oriented contributions, Killzone Shadow Fall can easily slip into a game of standing your own ground than anything else.

Teamwork in action

Shadow Fall’s progression system is also refreshing. It manages this by “solving the Call of Duty problem” by gifting players with a complete arsenal of weapons and abilities. Though this concept might worry longtime fans of incentivized level progression, Shadow Fall quells those concerns with Challenges. Challenges give skilled players multiplayer objectives to strive for in order to unlock additional parts for their weapons. Grenade launchers, shotguns, and anti-drone&shield missiles are significant additions to your combat repertoire, so those looking for a form of progression in multiplayer won’t feel cheated out.

Shadow Fall’s team deathmatch and tried and true classic dynamic Warzone variants are more than enough to keep players embroiled in combat, but custom Warzones invite the realm of countless possibilities. Rule tweakings aren’t anything new in shooters, however the intricate level of customization options can change Killzone’s style of play drastically. Dictated classes, weapons, modes, and even bots can spur unusual results. In one custom Warzone, not a single gun was allowed. Scouts armed with knives and only the ability to cloak made up the strict rules of the game. It was silly, entertaining fun running objectives while chasing one another with blades. Another was an unforgiving survival mode pitting me and my teammates against bots with one life alternating teams armed with pistols or knives only. Killzone doesn’t have the spontaneous physics based advantage that Halo does, however there’s enough that can be messed with in Shadow Fall that result in some interesting if not brilliant ways to play.

Killzone Shadow Fall’s multiplayer is a success, but one with imperfect design. The feeling of carrying 100 lbs of gear is exacerbated once strafing around and escaping from human players, and Shadow Fall’s shooting is less sticky than what we see in other shooters that factor in aim assists. The level design delivers with mixed success, with The Penthouse and the return of Bilgarsk Boulevard now named The Remains offering good multiplayer stages, and others such as The Wall which I avoid as much as possible.

Issues persist with the map’s assigned faction spawning areas which allow opposing teams who’ve studied the levels enough to know where to spawn camp. Guerilla does its best to pave alternate routes for players to avoid getting jumped, and Warzones keeps the flow of battle moving more so than TDM, but it’s difficult to rebound from getting check mated inside your own base. However much of this fades into acclimation behind multiplayer’s excellent team based gameplay and robust custom Warzone system.

The Bottom Line 

Killzone Shadow Fall is a bad single player experience. Poor enemy encounters and janky level design get the better part of the experience that Guerilla obviously tried so hard to craft. However its refined multiplayer is a pleasant surprise to say the least. The simplified class system brings teammates together without the prerequisite of explicit voice chat collaboration, which allows working together far easier than most shooters. And outside of Killzone’s Warzone staple, the level of customization in UGC produce truly interesting and well worthy alternate ways to play Killzone. In spite the single player’s failings, Killzone Shadow Fall’s multiplayer alone makes this next gen shooter a must buy.
+ Digestible class system
+ Incentivized teamwork
+ Custom Warzones
+ Stunning display of visuals
- Unequivocally bad campaign from top to bottom
SCORE: B -

CAN WE GET MORE EXCITED FOR XBOX ONE’S HALO TV SERIES?

No comments

Monday, January 27, 2014

By Jamaal Ryan

E3 2013’s announcement of Steven Spielberg’s production involvement with the Halo TV series felt both exciting and somewhat unfulfilling at the same time. Not only was it because the announcement itself was loose on details, but even given Spielberg’s involvement with the video game industry (look at Boom Blox), one couldn’t help but yearn for a fresher face attached to the project.

According to Latino Review’s “trusted sources”, there’s an individual that fits that very profile. Neil Blomkamp, director of my personal favorite sci-fi movie of all time, District 9, has reportedly been set to direct the pilot of the Halo TV series.

This is exciting and unexpected news given that after Blomkamp’s incredibly well received Halo live actions shirt films which preceded talks about him directing the much talked about Halo film, the project was canceled along with his public “probable”divorce from the film.

Forward Unto Dawn was a fine mini series for the Halo franchise, but one that I would equivocate to the likes of Sci-fi channel television shows; not exactly the quality that I would want for Microsoft’s biggest video game franchise’s debut into television. Blomkamp’s Halo shorts set the bar from what we can expect from Halo on the big, er… television screen. But it’s important to remember that Blomkamp’s rumored to direct the pilot, not the show entirely. However if the case were true, it would be promising for the entire series in and of itself.

Blomkamp’s directing style is very similar in some respects to what we saw in Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan. It’s a hopeful stretch, but both names on the project could have a likeminded approach to how the series will be directed, even without Blomkamp directing every episode.

This could be all for naught, but here’s a look back at Neil Blomkamp’s Halo short in case you’ve missed it:


Source: Latino Review
VIA: Polygon, CVG 

YOUTUBE SCNDAL & JOSH MATTINGLY’S SEXUAL HARASSMENT UPDATES

No comments

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

By Jamaal Ryan

Predictable clarifications have come from EA today setting the record for their endorsement deals with YouTube personalities in what is known as their Ronku Program. Much like Machinima and Microsoft’s follow ups, EA issued a statement highlighting that they too required YouTubers’ disclosure of their participation of the program in spite of the NeoGAF post earlier this week:

“Through EA’s Ronku program, some fans are compensated for the YouTube videos they create and share about our games.  The program requires that participants comply with FTC guidelines and identify when content is sponsored.  User-generated videos are a valuable and unique aspect of how gamers share their experiences playing the games they love, and one that EA supports.

We explicitly state in the Terms & Conditions of the program that each video must comply with the FTC’s Guidelines concerning Use of Testimonials and Endorsements in Advertising.”

While I still think that publishers getting in bed with content creators whose opinions we seek is still gross and borderline unethical, after checking out an episode of Polygon’s Friend’s List, Brian Crecente’s “Shark Week” analogy gave me an idea, though not quite in relation to his reference. Skating in line with the FTC guidelines, YouTubers could be overtly upfront about promotion deals blitzing videos with “Coming up next week, let’s celebrate EA/Microsoft, brought to you and paid for by EA/Microsoft!” It still stinks of that stereotypical 80’s early 90’s greasy film director feel, but it gets the job done.  What separates this form of promotion from traditional advertising is that gaming coverage is so opinion driven that that anything that may disrupt that integrity can elicit an adverse reaction.

In other news, Josh Mattingly, the founder and CEO of Indie Statik who’s incident of sexual harassment on a female game developer went public, has stepped down. In a letter issued by the Indie Statik staff, the site wrote:

“Josh will be stepping down from his responsibilities at Indie Statik for the immediate future to focus on his mental health and recovery and work on truly understanding the gravity of his mistake.”

For the sake of the site and the sake of Josh’s recovery, this was an inevitable decision after his deeply offensive comments have gone public. We can only wish for the best in his treatment along with his full understanding of his actions.


YOUTUBE PAY-OFFS MORE COMMON THAN WE THOUGHT

No comments

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Can I trust their opinions?

By Jamaal Ryan

As this topic rapidly develops, a NeoGAF post outlines that EA allegedly has too taken part in YouTube campaigning partnerships.

Statements released today by both Microsoft and Machinima ostensibly clarified the guidelines and stipulations of the promotion. Machinina claims that participating YouTube channels were bound by confidentiality of the details of the promotion, not taking part in the promotion itself. This implies that YouTuber X could run a video with a disclaimer stating, “I am taking part in a promotional deal with Microsoft under Machinima”, though I can imagine how much of a bad taste that’ll leave hearing that. Furthermore, as this campaign has come to light, both companies are now encouraging YouTubers to announce their involvement in the promotion; any actions otherwise would likely be in direct violation of the FTC guidelines highlighted in the earlier post.

With EA, we see parallels in their contract to what was seen in Machinima’s Microsoft promotion. YouTubers were to be awarded with $10 per 1,000 views (remember Microsoft participants were awarded $3), and the games to be covered included Need for Speed Rivals, Battlefield 4, FIFA 14, and Madden 25. In EA’s case however, the publisher has been said to disallow any mentioning of the promotional partnership:

You agree to keep confidential at all times all matters relating to this Agreement and any Assignment including, without limitation, the Details and Compensation listed above.
You understand that You may not post a copy of this Agreement or any Assignment or any terms thereof online or share them with any third party without EA's prior written consent. You agree that You have read the Nondisclosure Agreement (attached hereto and marked as Exhibit A) and You understand and agree to all of terms of the Nondisclosure Agreement, which are incorporated as part of this Agreement.

This is disruptive news compiling on the recent unveilings of Microsoft and Machinima’s deal. Though the alleged statements could, as we’ve assumed before, be in violation of FTC guidelines, this ultimately contributes to the rapidly developing mistrust of YouTube and potentially the games press at large.

Some may compare these dealings with television and radio who pump advertising partnerships into our faces, however that comparison dissolves here. Gaming YouTubers, whether they identify themselves as such or not, are critics. Unless they strictly provide content for walkthroughs, they are critics that you and I watch to get a consumer-ish based opinion and point of view on games before we decide to purchase them.

I will think twice before ever looking at a YouTube video on a game outside to guides from here on forth.

Sources: IGN, Kotaku, NeoGAF 
By Jamaal Ryan

Following rumors that have circled around Microsoft’s payment of YouTubers, confirmations have crystalized, detailing the relationship between Microsoft and YouTube channel manager Machinima.

For a promotion that was intended to run from Jan 14th - Feb 9th, but only expired two days after, Machinima was running a campaign where their channels would be awarded $3 per every thousand views (or 3CPM) so long as they show footage of games running on Xbox One, mention that they’re being played on Xbox One, and avoid saying anything bad about Machinima (Machinima has increasingly developed a bad reputation) or Microsoft along with remaining silent about the deal. The campaign ended on the 16th likely because they reached their 1.25 million view benchmark, which would have only cost Microsoft $3,750. You can view the details here.

With a miniscule budget hitting below $4,000, Microsoft made an intelligent and proactive business partnership in light of the Content ID debacle utilizing YouTube as a means of cheap and/or free advertising for videos that will be archived and viewed for years to come. However a wiser Microsoft would have kept the agreement at just simply plugging Xbox One, not issuing stipulations that YouTubers will have to refrain from saying anything negative about the games played on Xbox One nor requiring that they say nothing about the campaign deal.

Because of this, this has turned into an incredibly stupid endeavor that will slander the image of YouTube, specifically Machinima, and Microsoft alike.

It would be understandable if this campaign ran in November of last year shortly after the system’s launch. Microsoft has barely managed its footing communicating and promoting their new system since the days of the DRM hubbub and Sony’s damn near perfect knockout punch at E3. Releasing after the Playstation 4 at $100 more expensive, Xbox One had an uphill battle last holiday. But it was an uphill battle that they ‘won’; not against Sony, but against expectations for the console’s sales with 3 million+ units worldwide at the end of 2013 with many of it bunching up within the first 24 hours of the system’s launch.

And that’s just the point; this is the beginning of 2014, just a couple of months after Xbox One’s successful launch. This unethical promotion wasn’t needed, especially given that Titanfall is less than 2 months away. Microsoft and Machinima have effectively and, quite frankly, deservingly put themselves in hot water as their deal may very well violate the guidelines of the Federal Trade Commission that specifically states that there should have been disclosure, “when there is a connection between the endorser and the seller of the advertised product that might materially affect the weight or credibility of the endorsement."

The FTC’s guidelines even go as far as to illustrating an example in relation to video games:

“A college student who has earned a reputation as a video game expert
maintains a personal weblog or “blog” where he posts entries about his gaming
experiences. Readers of his blog frequently seek his opinions about video game hardware
and software. As it has done in the past, the manufacturer of a newly released video game
system sends the student a free copy of the system and asks him to write about it on his
blog. He tests the new gaming system and writes a favorable review. Because his review is
disseminated via a form of consumer-generated media in which his relationship to the
advertiser is not inherently obvious, readers are unlikely to know that he has received the
video game system free of charge in exchange for his review of the product, and given the
value of the video game system, this fact likely would materially affect the credibility they
attach to his endorsement. Accordingly, the blogger should clearly and conspicuously
disclose that he received the gaming system free of charge. The manufacturer should
advise him at the time it provides the gaming system that this connection should be
disclosed, and it should have procedures in place to try to monitor his postings for
compliance.”

But this isn’t just damaging to Microsoft or Machinima, this is potentially damaging to the industry as a whole. Tin-foil-hat conspiracists have accused many sites and community informative middlemen of the games industry that they’re paid off by large publishers. However now, this is hard evidence of the exact scenario cynics have painted for years, and gives way for a developed mistrust towards the journalists, reviewers, bloggers, vloggers, and video producers we read, watch, and listen to.

At the time after this writing, Machinima issued a statement to IGN claiming that the confidentiality agreement between YouTubers and Machinima, “relates to the agreements themselves, not the existence of the promotion." which could exempt them from FTC violations.

…and the path to recovery of one games journalist.

By Jamaal Ryan

Games journalist Josh Mattingly, founder and CEO of IndieStatik had issued an apology on his blog after a conversation he had with a female game developer, which quickly turned from semiprofessional to full blown sexual harassment, went public.

While investigating a game in an allegedly drunken state, Mattingly’s “recon” outreach to the developer quickly sprang to a form of sexual harassment with his third post ending with, “I’ll kiss you in the vagina if you do.”

The crude invite was communicated on more than one occasion, along with multiple posts offering sexual intercourse.

What’s amazing is how professionally dismissive the developer was, only acknowledging his sexual advances once before making constant attempts in redirecting the conversation to business only.

In Mattingly’s apology, he discusses suffering from the suicide of his younger brother which may have triggered or elevated depression along with struggling with alcoholism; he adds that he’ll be seeking to go to AA and attend therapy sessions for his bereavement.

Addiction and emotionally centered mental health only exacerbates underlying issues, it doesn’t create them. Depressed alcoholics don’t begin committing acts of sexual harassment; this is but a manifestation of the “root of poor choices” as Mattingly puts it.

He claims to be an advocate of respectful treatment of women in the industry. Perhaps his advocating was in part a defense mechanism as a way to mask his true motivations towards women. Last year’s reveal of former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner is an extreme example of this kind of behavior.

Giving Mattingly the benefit of the doubt, in relation to his recovery, he’s already graced steps 1 and 8 in AA’s 12 Step recovery, “We admitted we were powerless over our addiction - that our lives had become unmanageable” and “Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all”

Addiction and depression, especially in the bereavement process, are two immense challenges to face. Depression can cause one to develop symptoms of isolation, substance abuse, self-injurious behavior, and suicide (though none of which can be seen in the conversation Mattingly had). Alcohol abuse, as many of us know already, can allow us to drift away from anchoring ourselves with socially acceptable behavior where we do stupid shit like drunk message other folks over the internet before devolving into a series of increasingly catastrophic poor decision making. Alcoholism and any other type of addiction is even harder to break when one uses it as a coping tool after dealing with the death of a loved one.

It’s easy to jump on Josh Mattingly’s back for sexually harassing this poor game developer. But what’s done is done. Let’s hope that he pursues his recovery just as he said he would. 

Be sure to read the full conversation and the apology in the source below.

Source: Kotaku 

I DON’T HAVE A DAUGHTER, BUT THIS STILL ANGERS ME

1 comment

Thursday, January 16, 2014

By Jamaal Ryan

Picture this: You’re a parent of a 9 year old girl who downloads a game on their Apple or Android device where she performs plastic surgery on a plus sized woman using liposuction and facial incisions to make her more “beautiful”.

What kind of message do you think this little girl is conceptualizing about this game?

Such a game exists, or at least used to until it was taken down from the App Store and Android Market. Plastic Surgery Barbie held its description as, “This unfortunate girl has so much extra weight that no diet can help her. In our clinic she can go through a surgery called liposuction that will make her slim and beautiful." And this game was targeted towards 9 year olds.

How objectifying, derogatory, and borderline sexist.

The concept of plastic surgery being aimed at girls who may or may not have even hit their menstrual cycle yet is dizzyingly baffling. This takes the Honey Boo Boo pageantry mentality of self and peer cosmetic degradation, and shoots it into the stratosphere. This is a hop, skip, and a jump from one of the most frightening words I can ever imagine a parent hearing, “Mom! Dad! I want plastic surgery!”

But this isn’t just about little girls growing up so fast that they’re contemplating controversial procedures, this is about the game’s appalling messaging about self image. How do you think a plus sized pre-teenager would internalize this whimsically portrayed specified solution to a subjectified problem?

Dieting is difficult for all ages. Adults struggle with not seeing instant results all the time. However children are far less patient, and the worlds “…that no diet can help her” can easily validate her doubts in healthy eating, let alone look at plastic surgery as an option. What’s equally damaging is the description’s ignorant meaning of the world “beautiful”. This resurfaces and even exacerbates the challenge millions of girls and women have faced for decades: if you’re obese, “chubby”, or can even grab a small handful of belly fat, you’re unattractive.

It’s important to note that after Plastic Surgery Barbie was struck down by the digital stores, a new game Plastic Surgery Barbara was erected likely dodging unauthorized and/or inappropriate use of the Barbie brand after Barbie manufacturer Mattel publically distanced itself from the game. The reskinned, renamed “Barbara” was struck down too. With the same assumption that these two games were from the same developer, it just goes to show how sad, desperate, irresponsible and unethically driven this studio is.


The standardized integrity of the industry is to wish every game to succeed. However in the case of Plastic Surgery Barbie and the ghost “Barbara” follow up, I can candidly say I’m glad this game has been terminated from the mobile digital space.

Sources: BBC News
VIA: Polygon

STEAM BOX STEAM ROLLOUT CONTINUES, BUT…

No comments

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

By Jamaal Ryan

Two Steam Machine announcements came out today.

One, the popular Alienware Steam Machine – the glossy 8x8x3ish unit said to be priced competitively with the newly released consoles – is expected to release this September. The second piece of news indicates that that the Steam controller has undergone a slight redesign to a new prototype, dropping the touch screen and looking more like a traditional controller whilst keeping the touch bowls. Think of it as keeping the shape of the Steam Controller, but swapping the placements of the face buttons and the joy sticks on a Dualshock controller. Images of 3D rendering of the controller have been Tweeted online, and is said to have undergone some other changes as well.

Last week, I wrote a piece admittedly high on the idea of Steam Machines. However as the dust has long since settled, much of what Valve expects from their new hardware is still confusing.

Where PC and console gamers such as myself share a valid concern is that the Linux based Steam OS only supports 250 games at this time. While this is will likely be more than what the new consoles will have even until the end of the year (with plenty of “last generation” cross overs like Metro: Last Light and Assassins Creed IV), this is unacceptable for the now established 75 million Steam users who have access to the nearly immeasurable amount of games listed on what I’ll call “Steam Proper” through Windows.

There are ways to access Steam’s full library on a Steam Machine. Users will “simply” have to install Windows on their Box, provided that they have the correct hardware. From what’s been talked about at CES, it seems that the lower grade-lower priced Steam Machines: iBuyPower and Alienware, either cannot install Windows or aren’t built to make it simple for the casual consumer. To get access to that, one would have to invest in the higher end Steam Machines which break the $1,000 threshold. Looking at accessing Steam via Windows on a Steam Machine effectively turns the system into just another PC, which completely defeats the purpose of investing in a Steam Machine in the first place.

250 might be a decent number for a catalog; but in knowing that it’s but a small fraction of the full Steam software support and not knowing what the incentive is for developers to support Linux at this time makes the Steam Machines a little less appealing (though I’ll probably still get one anyway).

Outside of the Linux vs. Windows debacle, Valve’s messaging on who the Steam Machine is for is unequivocally disjointed. By simply looking at the hardware concept, Steam Machines are the answer to making PC gaming simple and accessible, which in turn will bring in new users such as myself. However, Valve has stated that they’re not looking to step into the market that Microsoft and Sony is catering to; instead, they’re looking to offer an alternative option for current Steam users, the very same Steam users that have a very comfortable PC gaming experience already, including making Big Picture Mode work on their own.

This makes no sense to me.

The act of bringing new products to the consumer market is meant to widen the audience. But this approach of looking at current Steam users is the very mentality that brought up the question, “Who are Steam Machines for?” I understand the hesitancy in talking to a market that has likely been imbedded in the console space for their entire gaming lives, but there’s nothing wrong with stating, “We are looking to give our Steam users another option along with offering newcomers a streamlined PC experience.”

Despite the confusion, split messaging and lack of conviction on who this new line of hardware is for, the fact that we’ve seen the idea of Steam Box move to hardened details of the Steam Machine line up is undeniably exciting, albeit not fully knowing what to be excited for yet. Some suspect Valve’s peripheral stance on not manufacturing their own hardware might be a sign that Valve isn’t fully confident that Steam Machines will be a success. However Valve is onto something here. PC gaming deserves to be more consumer friendly just as it is important for the gaming community at large to have easier access to PC software. This is an idea that will catch on, one way or another – even if we don’t see it yet.


HOW MUCH SHOULD WE TRUST GAME REVIEWS?

No comments

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

By Jamaal Ryan


I say this not as one who writes game reviews recreationally, but as one who plays games as a hobby. Getting some insight into the review process of games – particularly the review schedule assigned before the embargo lifts – I have a new found concern (perhaps fleeting concern) on the validity of the game reviews we read on gaming publication outlets.

I’ll use Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag for example, the surprise hit that in the eyes of most critics, has saved the franchise from its unnecessarily constricted mission design around mundane tasks before the actual assassinations that plagued AC III. Though the press, reviewers and members of editorial teams alike enjoyed Black Flag immensely, one reviewer had harsh things to say about its design.

On my way back home from work, this reviewer mentioned in a podcast that he completed this game in three days for review. Over the holiday break, he jumped back into AC IV to clean up much of the sea based objectives. It was here, he admitted, that he began enjoying the game again and questioned his score. That is, until he delved back into the single player, in which his cringing feelings towards the game quickly resurfaced.

Listening to this, I saw a number of inconsistencies around the review process for Black Flag and his attitude towards the game. First, I think it’s incredibly unfortunate to have to burn through a massive game like AC IV in just three days. In this short period of time, I’d imagine that much of his experience was spent trudging through the game’s main story, which I agree wasn’t very good. However, game reviews are supposed to be critiques that paint a vivid picture of what we can expect our experience to be like playing the game.

I feel confident in stating that the vast majority of folks who played Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag didn’t feel pressured to burn through the game in three short days. Most spent weeks sailing the Caribbean seas sinking and/or plundering ships, destroying forts, hunting sea creatures, and chasing Animus Fragments and chests; everything but the story. His review was based on a three day experience, something that will unlikely be representative to the rest of our experiences with the game. What’s interesting is that after his review and while revisiting the game over the break, his attitude towards the game lightened up a bit as he played the game in a way that’s more representative of how the general population would play.

This then turns into the question: How much stake can we put in press reviews? A whole lot I’ll still say. I’m not here to vanquish the credibility of game critics; there’s a reason why they’re hired to do what they do. But sometimes, it helps to build a better understanding of the review process. In many cases, reviewers won’t have the time to build up to the kind of experience the rest of us would have.


We are the ultimate decision makers in what games we choose to play, and particularly for a vast open ended game like Assassins Creed IV, perhaps the best recommendation is hearing those you trust around you talk about the game, or simply just your gut feeling.

XBOX ONE’S SECRET KILLER APP SHOOTER

No comments

Monday, January 13, 2014


By Jamaal Ryan

When we think of shooters in the Xbox One, we instantly bring our minds to Titanfall, the highest praised new gen title from Respawn. However along with Titanfall, another (allegedly timed) console exclusive was debuted at E3 last year, Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare.

Many shooters, including Titanfall, are drawing inspiration from a very familiar shooter formula that generated from last generation. Not Garden Warfare however. The PvZ spin-off is a third person “free running” shooter, a style of the genre that had quickly become unpopular since Gears of War ignited the third person cover shooter sub genre on the Xbox 360.

Looking at the class of recent and soon to be released shooters on the market, Garden Warfare is vastly different than most of what players have and will be exposed to in the near future. PvZ: Garden Warfare has elements of Battlefield and Team Fortress to help design the franchise’s strategic theme, but developer PopCap is working to make Garden Warfare character driven, each bringing their incredibly diversified characteristic offerings to the battlefield.

We’ve seen the All-Star, the Engineer, the Scientist, the Foot Soldier, the Pea Shooter, the Cactus, the Chomper, and the Sunflower, some of which have their own cosmetic as well as functional variants. Some of these classes, such as the Cactus and the Engineer, can deploy drones that can be controlled for aerial offensive attacks. The All-Star and the Scientist can close the gap quickly – the All-Star’s being more offensive and the Scientist’s being more evasive. And the Pea Shooter as well as the Sun Flower can trade immobility for maximum fire power.

One of my favorite is the Sunflower’s groupie assets, making them a vital team player. Like one of the Scientist varients, the Sunflower can drop healing geysers for their teammates, but they can also attach direct healing tethers to other players. Other favorites will sure to be the Cactus’ Walnut Barriers and the Engineer’s use of his jackhammer to increase his mobility. All of the classes in Garden Warfare play distinct roles ranging from offense, to defense, to team support in combat.

What excites me the most about Garden Warfare is the versatility in its game modes, offering experiences to different types of co-op and competitive players. Team Vanquish lets players engage one another in their crazy version of a team death match affair, Gardens and Graveyards is similar to Battlefield’s Rush and Conquest modes, and along with wave based co-op play in Garden Ops (my always favorite style of cooperative match types), the Xbox One gets Boss Mode as an exclusive.

Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare launches at the near perfect date of Feb 18th, three weeks before Titanfall’s release. Let’s hope that PopCap’s new shooter won’t just be a delicious filler before Respawn’s highly anticipated debut, but will also have the staying power to hold a strong community for months to come (Note: PopCap has said to offer bi-monthly DLC post launch of PvZ: GW). 

And after checking out all the crazy unique footage on the game, it sure as hell has a chance.

THE NEAR OVERWHELMING DEFINING TITLE OF 2013

No comments

Friday, January 10, 2014


By Jamaal Ryan


The Last of Us has won sweeping Game of the Year awards from multiple outlets including Giant Bomb, Joystiq, Kotaku, and today, IGN.

The Last of Us firmly established itself on the top of my list with even the excellent Super Mario 3D World coming at a very distant second. It’s memorable. It’s bold. It’s different. It’s pioneering. As IGN’s Greg Miller and Colin Moriarty’s review states, it’s a masterpiece.

The Last of Us opens with one of the most powerful gut punches anyone has ever seen in this medium, something that stuck out in Giant Bomb’s discussion. A panicked younger Joel and his brother flee their homes as the player watches the world around them engulfed in the flames of fire, disease, cannibalism, and relentless military men. The quivering painful yelps of Sarah after she’s shot and slowly dies is haunting; and even those of us who aren’t parents yet cannot pull ourselves away from the pain.

The Last of Us’ gameplay was divisive, but deliberate. Its level and encounter design broadcasted well enough for players like me to understand and snake our way through with little blemishes. Others read it differently, or might not have caught it at all within the first few hours as the game’s intened or unintended placement of the player in high stakes situations with little advantage didn’t sit well with many. I disagree with them, strongly at that, but that’s the interesting thing about this mechanical and somewhat scientific medium.

What the design cannot be discredited of is its infusion with the thematic curtain, an accomplishment that was achieved by bending the mechanics a bit. Though The Last of Us’ much of better side was casted upon me, the shooting controls were impossible to ignore, and at a time, was my biggest beef with it. But the rush of exchanging bullets, and often MISSING, with enemy AI was exhilarating; it felt desperate, and stands as a prime example of fudging mechanics done right.

What Naughty Dog calls “Item Starving” was heavily effective, even though it was simply an illusion to some. But one way this was highly effective, as mentioned by both Kotaku and Joystiq, was designing a game where every item had its purpose. All of them. At the intro to my review, I illustrated my encounter with a pack of Runners as I used multiple items to fend them off. There were even occasions where I’ve had to use smoke bombs. I don’t know about you, but I NEVER use fucking smoke bombs. Ever. And The Last of Us managed to be the first game I’ve played that allowed it to find its purpose for me. The Last of Us might not stand as one of the best stealth games of this generation, however very few games in the genre manage to offer meaningful dynamic tool purpose.

The item starvation and stiff shooting controls all served to enhance The Last of Us’ experience tremendously. The exceptional grimy production value, the very much justified violence (some state that it was unnecessarily violent. I say to them, ‘Clearly you must physically experience the apocalypse to understand’), both had an equally impactful effect on the message that this game is trying to sell. But the hopelessness that’s scripted by the narrative is what the story will be remembered by.

From the collective story about Ish, to the tragic end of two brothers, to Ellie’s come to form chapter beginning with my favorite quote “The fucking walk!”, and finally, to Joel’s selfish paternal lies before the game cuts to a brutal black, The Last of Us’ writing is exceptional. Its bold and brutal story telling lifts it up from being another “zombie” apocalypse tale. No action exists in left field, not even Joel’s tragic fall as a character, or David’s skin crawling advances on Ellie. It is the video game reminder of what will become of humanity given such circumstances, the pain it could cause, and the monsters it could turn us to.

The Last of Us did what it did best, and that’s why I, and so many others, awarded it Game of The Year in 2013.


Sources: IGN, Joystiq, Giant Bomb

STOP BITCHING ABOUT TITANFALL’S 6 V 6

No comments

Thursday, January 9, 2014


By Jamaal Ryan

The scale of Titanfall is impressive.

Vertically nimble pilots wall run, jump and jetpack boost their way round large maps, all in which can be accompanied by their impressively agile Titans. Let’s not forget the marketed cloud support – at least for Xbox One – will power AI combatants around the battlefield fighting alongside and against you as the player.

With everything going on, pilots vs. pilots, pilots vs. Titans, Titans vs. Titans, and a variation between human and AI players, knowing that the human ratio is 6 v 6 can be a jarring number.

Let’s ax this comparison first; juxtaposing Titanfall with Battlefield is silly and dumb. Comparing Battlefield with Call of Duty makes little sense in and of itself, let alone a vastly different experience like Titanfall. While the core shooter controls of today’s shooters are similar – ADS, melee and sprint mapped to left and right analog sticks – the design around these franchises are vastly different. A game like Call of Duty thrives on fast paced gameplay with tight map design and simple objectives, Battlefield’s known for massive and destructively dynamic levels populated with vehicles as the game moves along progressive objective structures. Just as the comparisons don’t work with Call of Duty, they sure as hell don’t work with Titanfall either.

Though this may be easy to forget, Titanfall is being designed by much of the core team that developed the most influential shooter of the last console generation, regardless of how you feel about the Call of Duty franchise. As accomplished veterans in the genre, Respawn tweaked, and adjusted, and scaled Titanfall to the tiniest degree – reportedly up to nearly 50 players total – to ensure that the formula works.
Essentially there are five directions you can get killed from and the higher that player count, the more likely you are to get killed from behind and the more difficult it is to kind of manage your surroundings."

Respawn’s lead designer Justin Hendry illustrates just what the dynamism of Titanfall’s design can mean to the player in combat. Where traditional present day shooters’ attention bandwidth operates largely on two dimensions, the level of mobility and verticality in Titanfall is a sensory overload in and of itself. The overload would be exacerbated if every combatant approaching you from these five directions were intelligent, learning human players.

"The higher the player count, the more uncomfortable the game gets."

In Call of Duty Black Ops 2, and less successfully in Ghosts, less experienced players had the opportunity to engage in bot matches that were mixed with human players. Here, players were able to manage the not so advantageous AI controlled soldiers while still feeling accomplished as those who felt more comfortable with multiplayer were being served some challenge from human players. This approach isn’t just an additional mode in Titanfall, but it’s a fundamental part of the game’s design from both a narrative and a competitive multiplayer perspective. Being that Titanfall is systematically manic all the time, sprinkling in some cannon fodder will dial back the difficulty just a bit while keeping the action constant.

Titanfall’s player’s player count is determined to a science, a science of challenge, competitiveness, and accommodation. Before you know it, the rest of us will be seeing giant robots raining from the sky on March 11th.


But until then, try not to worry about Titanfall’s 6 v 6. You’ll create less stress for yourself.   

Source: Polygon
I recently went to show off my Playstation 4 to very close friends this New Year. As hardcore gamers with children I knew I would get some opinions that would be unique. The adults weighed in with their comparisons of past console launches insert [grumble grumble]. The new younger aged gamers instantly said “the games look way clearer”. I found myself almost to the point of defending the Console against my peers. The word that I used the most was ‘Networking’. For myself that is what this next jump over the crest of Next-Gen waves is all about “the Network”.



Thinking about the network of the next huge installments of Triple-A titles; we are being promised some heavy improvements. From witnessing Battlefield 4’s 64-man servers with 2 tablet players as commanders I personally was impressed. From the instantaneously swapping between an online game to a live stream is a breakthrough in my eyes. Now the deepening of the pool of online user experiences is just a few months away from our controller gripping hands. The big 3 I have in mind that will soon connect our living rooms are all nearly a baby’s birth away.

________________________________________
“Watch Dogs promises a seamless integration of multiplayer into your single player campaign.”[tagline//orange font] From the multiple presentations of the game from past E3’s, its campaigned marketing, and its final push back to quarter 1 of this year. The community has a lot to digest when it comes to this Chicago city based hunt for a Jason Bourne mixed with Edward Snowden lead.
http://scotttroyer.com/

The numerous multiplayer showcases were demo’d behind closed doors. However the take away from such reports is that multiplayer/co-op just layers over the existing campaign. So as you freely adventure through your story progress friends can willingly aid Aiden Pierce or I as I expect sabotage your efforts. The power of this feature is a great showcase of network blending. This level of player to player interaction hopefully is also facilitated through the use of tablets and smartphones. More and more I find the ease of a quick tablet round more enjoyable on busy days.

We expect the campaign to play over a fair sized Chicago metropolitan. Injecting another player into your cityscape playground with no restrictions should showcase some real power. My only hope is that this is not limited to just one extra player. I hope that Ubisoft pushes for a least a handful of frienemies to invade my quest to hack and back-slash the government to its knees.

Hopefully the time Watch Dogs spends back under the developers’ knife is more than just cosmetic polishing. A harmonized stable connection to peers would do great for Ubisoft. It will give Ubisoft the footing they need to stay at the front of the Next-Gen pack. The game boasted about tablet/smartphone integration so hopefully that went under fine tuning and a boost in users accessibility is seen.  
Ubisoft's Watch Dogs is rumored for release on Friday March 21 for Xbox One, Playstation 4 and PC (as well as Xbox 360/PS3)
________________________________________
Springing out of the EA box of wonders comes Titanfall. EA’s last and final chance to secure their place among hardcore gamers. I’ll leave the controversy of their practices and ethics for another time. I’ll give Respawn Entertainment their chance to show their former masters how misconduct motivated them to take them out of the thrown.
I can respect Respawn’s biggest decision in the development process; which was forgoing a single player campaign and going straight to where the heart is Multiplayer. When crafting a game for the Esports scene we all know its about the online competition. I hope there isn't an single player Esports category. Predestining a multiplayer-centric game is the direction I wish various franchises took. Fortunately Respawn forged a brand new I.P. to bring the numbers to show this vision can prove more than profitable. No sway from fans of an existing franchise will fluctuate the bottom line of sales. New company, new I.P., and new direction make Titanfall all around original.

The details of this twitch shooter reveal that the combat will be 6 vs 6. With monstrous Titans on the battlegrounds. No news on exactly how many players can control Titans at a certain time. My expectations would be a max of Four Titans on the field at any given time. Hopefully with the lowered player count of 12 total players; Respawn can deliver a limitless count of Titans. Also seeing that there are varied Titans we could hope for the mayhem of 12 Titans. Promo videos showcase The Atlas Titan, The Ogre and a lighter variant named the Stryder Titan.
Of course the complaints of this shooter are that its just COD with jetpacks. I’d say that if you are going to make a twitch shooter why not add the elements of increased vertical mobility. If this was just Call of Duty with jet packs to you. I'd ask did you not see the addition of the Titans? Did you not hear the announcement from the devs to eliminate mindless sniping for better gun mechanics? Did you not hear about the riddance of single player campaign for a more rounded multiplayer?

From the media I have seen of Titanfall this is where I can give the game play proper recognition. Some of the transitions of the player entering the Titan’s chassis were brilliant. They really got rid of the [press “A” to enter vehicle]. While most will not find that impressive; in one exhibit as the player was trying frantically to enter the Titan they were killed. This gives me a relief that entering the hulking mecha is not just shielded animation, but rather a networked interaction. Kudos to Respawn for that level of detail it is much needed for the future of gaming.
The only direction that I can say that fans of FPS’s and Respawn are not agreeing on are the server issues. The server debate is one that can go on the rest of my life so i’ll spare you the years of your time. My only advice is that Respawn needs to get smart and put up the money for the higher end dedicated servers. That simple luxury will either bring in the flocks they crave, and the lack of will drive away those same numbers. Respawn that ball is in your court and you already know the demand from the community. Choosing to go console/pc on this title opened you up to this issue. PC users are usually requested to have high-end graphics cards so they expect high-end servers from you and your publisher Respawn team. Do us all a solid and go for the higher-end dedicated servers.
Electronic Arts/Respawn's Titanfall is scheduled for release on Friday March 14th for Xbox One and PC (as well as Xbox 360)
________________________________________
Destiny
A well paced development cycle for Destiny could prove the true winner for the veterans of Bungie. As much as most of us were sadden by not having a concrete release date when new consoles launched. I think that this new expected September release will provide all the time for Bungie to align the stars for this space thriller.  

How Bungie plans to twist and weave the adventures of your squadron missions; along with open world multiplayer events. This brave braid is their magical formulas mixed altogether. Great co-op story lines blended with set pieced firefights. I do not think Bungie fans will be let down by this adventure at least from a game play perspective. 

I praise Bungie for going with the smaller fire teams of three players. From a PvP perspective I can see this choice benefiting the multiplayer scene. That is if they keep the main PvP mode fashioned after 3v3. I like this idea because when it comes to balancing classes the smaller the teams the easier it becomes to fine tune weapons and abilities. Throwing in any higher number of players and the variables become much larger. No doubt Bungie will have some type of free for all mode. However I would put my money on the main dish of player vs player entertainment being a intimate 3 man vs 3 man.

Activision/Bungie's Destiny is scheduled for release on Tuesday September 9th for Xbox One and PS4 (as well as Xbox 360/PS3)