Tag Archives: Forza

The last stretch?

The E3 is now 4 weeks away, we see more leaks and a few confirmations. Most confirmations are to counter the ridiculous statements we have seen in the near past. Statements like: ‘we could see a first announcement of the new PS5‘, utterly ridiculous from the first moment it was voiced. The PS4 and PS4Pro are doing just fine at present, there is no need for new hardware, especially with all those games that are coming. Places like the UK Daily Star, who gave us ‘THE SONY PS5 console is coming – eventually – but some BIG E3 2018 news revealed this week could give us our biggest hint yet for when Sony will release a PlayStation 5 games machine‘, with ‘eventually‘ they cover their setting of utter stupidity. It is basically on the same level as ‘If we have unprotected sex the coming year every night, you might end up being pregnant at some point‘, it is on that level we need to see this. As stated previously, the Nintendo Switch will release 28 games between now and August 2018, that is rather huge, some of these titles have been revered for the longest of times, so the current owners are already hyped and if that was not enough, it is also hyping those who want one, so that is working for Nintendo at least twice over. In that regard, another source gave us earlier this month “Microsoft Won’t Release Xbox One Sales But Claims There’s Been Growth … as a key indicator of our success and will no longer report total console sales“, the upcoming degradation to third position has shaken Microsoft to the core, even as we accept ‘There’s Been Growth‘, the issue remains that there will always be growth, there will be an interest in buying an Xbox One, it is not a bad system, merely a flawed one and in that regard, it still has games, good games too. What is remarkable is the entire setting change within Microsoft. You might remember on how it was not a gaming system but set as an ‘entertainment‘ system for the whole family, which bites even more when you realise that some top boxes offer well over 100% more storage, so the ladies can get all 6 seasons of Sex in the city, whilst the partner can hold onto his entire NHL annual season games. Yet beyond that, when we dig deeper, we see that Microsoft fumbled yet again. In this case I must stand up for Microsoft in its defence (just a little), the market was suddenly overwhelmed with all kinds of Fetch options and recording of TV shows. It took a bigger leap as some offer Netflix, Stan, National Geographic and ABC iView whilst it will not count towards the data usage, which for the Netflix addicted is the sales pitch of the century. The fact that some offer mobiles a special deal that now includes a set top box is just a bonus. Microsoft will not be offering the Xbox One X for a mere $80, will they? That is not their fault, it is my personal belief that those offering these deals know what the data value of a consumer is, and this started merely a year ago, years after the console was released.

So when we go back 3 years (for the comparison), take a look (at https://www.onmsft.com/news/xbox-one-more-all-one-home-entertainment-ever), where we see: “Where media entertainment and television integration were the first talking point announcing the Xbox One, they are now on the back burner. Gaming has taken its rightful place as the emphasis of Microsoft’s gaming console. At E3 Microsoft didn’t focus on anything related to cable television or media streaming, they focused on their library of games, and gaming features such as Xbox One backwards compatibility with the Xbox 360. And that’s smart of them to do, but that doesn’t mean the Xbox One isn’t a home entertainment system. In fact, it’s even more of one than when it was initially announced“, which is all true and fair, yet as I basically stated about 2 months BEFORE that date, when you rely on a 1TB drive, whilst for the consumer the difference between the 1TB drive and the 2TB drive was at that point no more than AU$27, meaning that the difference for Microsoft would be a lot smaller, so why be so stupid to settle on 50% storage? I believe that their sense of pushing people into the Azure cloud never faded, it merely bites them now as we see data collecting abuse (Cambridge Analytica is one among many). That set off the gamers in the same way that ‘always online‘ did, and there is not denying it, it hurt Microsoft bad. Now, do not think for one minute that Sony would have been any better, because it took a while for them to back paddle the offline achievements, but they did and Microsoft did not (well only partially). From my point of view to some extent, the Xbox One offered in some ways less than the Xbox360 did.

Even Nintendo Switch would at some point make an error or two, but in all this the Xbox was the worst, even as we see news left, right and centre, and we see gossip on those same three paths, I am trying to see the reality and report on that. Yet in the end, we are still unsure what big whoppers Microsoft will offer during the E3 and that really matters. Even as we now see that Sony and Nintendo are ready to hit it out of the ballpark during their presentation, we still do not know how ready Microsoft is, because that is at the heart of the mounting pressure; The Daily Star gave us last week “It’s a great time to be a gamer and to be a part of Team Xbox. We’re hard at work on exciting plans for E3, from what will be a great briefing filled with new games to the fan experience at the Microsoft Theater. This is our biggest E3 yet, and we look forward to a great week for gamers“, it sounds cool but there is no beef on the bone of rumours, so we will have to wait another 4 weeks.

In all this I am not alone, more and more professional gamer sites and magazines give responses like ‘Microsoft has a lot of pressure to compete with Sony’s fantastic line-up‘, that is the crux of it, Microsoft cannot hope for a homerun, it desperately needs one at present that is for certain. In this, places like Techradar give us: “Now that the Nintendo Switch is so beloved and Microsoft can boast the most powerful console on the market, we’re hoping to see Sony pull out all the stops for PlayStation this year“, Sony who started and still embraces ‘For the players‘, seems to be ready to do just that. That is the setting that Microsoft is up against. when I look at their victory there is no way around Minecraft 4K, that is not a joke, for those addicted to Minecraft, seeing the 4K version on Xbox One was jaw dropping, in equal measure Forza Motorsport 7 will boast and deliver. Honest to god, what I saw (the short part I did see), I could not tell the difference between watching an actual F1 race on Blu-ray and Forza 7 4K. So they have the goods, and there is no way that it will not drive sales for Microsoft. From what I did see, whether you are a racing fan or not, there is no way around Forza this time around, only the foolish and the dead are unlikely to purchase that game if they have an Xbox One X. Yet, will it be enough? We will know in 4 weeks, for now, there is the smallest chance that Microsoft can turn the downturn around, but it will not be cheap and they have no further room for error, because the moment we see an actual first announcements of the PS5 (I reckon in 2020) and Microsoft has not mended its way, it will no longer be seriously considered by anyone but the devoted Microsoft fans, which remains fair enough.

It is up to Microsoft to figure out whether they are in their final stretch, the only real advice I have for them is to boot their marketing department and actually start listening to the gamers, not the Azure department, the Microsoft cloud needs and whomever else could benefit, because it did not bring the Xbox department anything at all (speculative on my side). Putting Phil Spencer on top of all this was a good first step, in 4 weeks we will see what the Xbox Owner gets to play between June 2018 and December 2019, we should hope for the best for more than one reason, because from my pragmatic view, as I see it, when Microsoft properly ups the game, Sony will be forced to do the same and that is good for every gamer in the world. In that Nintendo remains the wild card, they do what they it is that gamers want and they really got it right this time around (referring to the WiiU vs Nintendo Switch),

No matter what system you are on, there will be huge announcements for every system, which is always good and those who have more than one system will have to decide on which system to buy their games more, or less. It is in the end, the gamer’s choice!

As For the E3, the spaces are set, Sony rocks the western hall, see the image below , it is right next to Nintendo, which has half the space Sony has, so that will be one hell of a bottleneck. I wonder if the media will be there asking if people have both systems. Nintendo has two more attached stands, just like Sony. An interesting setting is that Big Ben Interactive is there too, as is NVidia and at least a dozen others. In the South hall, also below it is different. Most large ones are pretty much the same size, except for Square Enix and Bethesda being slightly larger. Microsoft has a tiny presence there, but it has its own venue as stated by some ‘across the street’, There was no mention of any Microsoft at the West hall at all, implying that their small presence in the South hall is merely some stations for playing. The images are nice to see and to behold some of the names there, what is clear is that Sony and Nintendo are ready to take this to the next level, especially in light of how unrealistically expensive floor space on the E3 is. Yet the best source of released info is the site of the venue itself (at https://www.e3expo.com/).

 

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That sinking console feeling

I stated it in the past, I was even going to be cautious on the numbers, yet the banging buck that the Nintendo Switch is bringing, is now completely bringing down the house. Last November, numbers were given out by certain sources (not Microsoft) that the total Xbox One sales had surpassed the 31 million mark. It had taken well over 3 years to get to that number, yet Nintendo has now clearly surpassed the 14 million mark in less than a year and the sales numbers are still rising, rising a lot faster than even Nintendo expected, the forecast now is that in two months the 17 million mark will be reached, meaning that in a little over 1 year the 50% mark against Microsoft is reached. Even a Microsoft marketing is still hiding behind ‘the most powerful console‘, other publications, especially in the UK are now getting on the bandwagon I proclaimed six months before the very first Xbox One was released and the technical flaw is only getting worse, especially with the space that 4K games need. This is not a David versus Goliath, this is now becoming a fight between one that is trying to be the coolest (and apparently the most powerful one) against one that is about having the most fun. So when you consider the price your ego is trying to cost you, what would you do?

Now, there is no way they get close to the Sony numbers any day soon, but the long term view for the Switch is that this console could potentially equal the total sales over time. This is becoming more and more realistic as the list of PS4 players who want a Switch on the side, that group is actually growing rapidly, and it as massively surpassed the group of people who had a PS2 and any kind of Nintendo on the side. So even as there is no threat for the PS4/PS4pro, there is now a clear indication on where Sony would need to grow its software arsenal, mainly because from the past as it was, Nintendo is re-establishing itself as the family fun system that the GameCube and Wii used to be, in this Nintendo is getting more attention from parents at present, a dilemma that Sony would want to fix fast and with quality fun based games.

There is an additional jump, with some of the more power pounding games like the original Dark Souls, Skyrim and their unique label with a new Pokémon RPG, there will be less and less reasons not to get the Switch, or optionally a Nintendo Switch on the side. I saw the winner it would be when the Switch was presented in the world premiere, but even I am amazed at the rush to sales it became. I knew that Microsoft would take a rating loss, but that the Switch console is now optionally closing in on the current total sales of PS4 over time is something that I did not see coming, of course the fun part will also be on how Microsoft moves into third place on the console market around 2019, at that point I wonder what excuse they will use. Perhaps they will blame the Azure Cloud resources, let’s face it, the Xbox One is uploading Gigabytes of console data to it, whilst Microsoft support stated that this issue is with our internet provider. So as we can see that it will take Nintendo a while to get there, the vibe is that they will actually pull that off. If they add and re-master Metroid Prime 1, 2 and 3, this closing gap is almost a certainty, because over time none of the consoles ever got a game franchise like that produced. As Nintendo is now starting to embrace remastered games and is also looking into the PS2 range, whilst the makers are potentially upgrading those games, other developers will see options and larger fortunes by remastering some of those golden oldies (Dark Souls is already announced). I will go one step further, if Nintendo gets their fingers on some of the Dreamcast titles, for example Soulcalibur and Fur Fighters (which has always been a personal favourite, but not the PS2 edition, that one was mucho yuck), they could increase their market share and increase it faster. So there are over 600 games on the Dreamcast and over 1800 PS2 games. So, if only some of the 95%+ games are remastered, the Switch owners could end up with a decent amount of games from the ‘totally addictive‘ and ‘blowing my game mind on fun‘ category and that is before the older PC game makers consider what an opportunity the Switch is for them as well. Not to mention all the IOS and Android developers, who would be able to add a large chunk of players. They could also gain speed by offering the cross platform choice like Minecraft did. So Owners of one platform could buy the new platform version for a mere $4. I updated from PS3 to Xbox One and Xb360 to PS4, for $8 instead of $24, that is a real saving!

With the Switch, Nintendo did not just break the mould in gaming, it could potentially replace it with a titanic sized golden statue named ‘opportunity‘, because the events as given now don’t just show just how Microsoft missed the calling, it in equal measure could potentially show that Sony needs to up its game high to not fall victim to closing gap of gaming fun aimed populous, a fight that we have not seen before. The first PlayStation became well established before Nintendo could grow to a better placement, now that people are realising that it is about the quality of the game. Even as I found it hilarious that the Switch supports up to 2TB, whilst the ‘most’ powerful console with 4K gaming cannot get past 1TB. How you like your Xbox One X console now? We clearly see that Nintendo is laying down the gauntlet for both Sony and Microsoft, we can see that in numbers Microsoft is pretty much done for, but the fact that that little Mario will in the future get closer to what Sony has (closer not catch up) is something the markers could not have foreseen.

So where is the evidence?

Well, most of it has been reported by the Guardian, IGN and a few other gaming sites, some of the numbers are from Statistica and VZCharts. It is my personal view that gaming is about fun (challenging fun at times), it is not about 4K gaming, although we all agree that the identical game on 4K and Switch will look better on the 4K system, there is no denying it. Yet that is where Microsoft marketing is hiding, and whilst we can all agree that Assassins Creed Origin in 4K is an amazing feat, which it is without any reservations, the issue that the Xbox One will support in 1TB around a dozen games in total before it runs out of space, there are already articles out where gamers ran out after 14 games. Considering that Forza, Gears of War 4 and Halo 5 are around 100Gb, whilst several other AAA games are somewhere between 70 and 85 GB, I am surprised they got to 14. The utter stupidity of saving on a drive twice the size for a mere $15 is shown in the most gruesome way. If only Microsoft had done what Sony does and let the gamers upgrade the drive themselves, this issue would be close to non-existing, but now it is and it is happening whilst Nintendo is moving in, and it is moving in with the optional storage that is twice their size, it gives the gamer and the consumer confidence in that brand, something Microsoft should have realised a long time ago. I foresaw this and wrote about it (at https://lawlordtobe.com/2013/05/24/spin-dryers-by-microsoft/) almost 5 years ago, that was long before there was a 4K option, the issue was already clear at that point. That point alone gives clear evidence that Microsoft does not really care about its gamers, merely about their revenue and their Azure cloud, that alone should anger people and that is why Nintendo is catching up so much faster than anticipated (this is a personal assumption). You see, you might have the most powerful console in the world, but when its management team ignores its user base, that contraption will end up on the side of the road like an Ford Edsel, catching dust, rust and leaving the gamer without trust.

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Merely a year ago

I just looked at an article that made me a little uneasy. You see, I was contemplating a few days ago, as Facebook reminded me that ‘No Man’s Sky‘ was released a year ago. I had shared a photo, that’s how I got remembered. So much has happened in that year. I still love the game; I do not play it that often, mainly because the makers introduced a few ‘deadly irritating‘ glitches and screw ups in the game. For the most I have been highly protective of the game and the makers. The game remains awesome and I still believe that they are sitting on multimillion IP value here. Like all others, I saw the initial E3 trailer, I was seeking like most on what the game had to offer and that is when the legendary night with Stephen Colbert came. Most of us were hooked instantly. From that moment on, and from the moment that IGN had the No Man’s Sky month, I took a step back. You see, SEO’s started to ride the NMS-Express. More and more outlandish claims got on the internet and scores of gullible gamers just took it at face value. Even the Catholic Church sites used NMS to propel their websites. But months after that, the truth came out; we got to see the ACTUAL game. There were two that stood out on YouTube. I think it was Johnny and Ian who made them, I think that Johnny gave us the play through whilst showing he was pretty bad at playing this game from the moment he started playing it. Now, I am willing to accept that playing and live commenting is not the best way to get any hold of a new game, which is fair; the other amazing thing they did was starting the game 50 times, and turning that into a video showing us the massive difference worlds could have. This was the trailer NMS should have made, but OK. In the end, it does not matter.

Now we get to the issues. The amount of people who brought back the game was a little out there. I heard mountains of complaints. I had none. You see, these people walked on a hype, not knowing what they were buying and even Sony was ‘pro consumer‘ whilst most of the people did this to themselves. They all (read: most people) believed the hyping media whilst there were too many mentions from Sean Murray that were distorted. Now, the game has a few small bugs, so did Assassins Creed Unity, the difference? The patch from NMS was 65Mb; the one from Unity was 12GB. The difference between a glitch and a mismanaged game! NMS was not mismanaged. Now, the makers of NMS are not without some due scolding, and I will get to them in a moment.

Now, we get to the article. The first issue I have is the one with their comparison. My addiction to the other game goes back to 1984. With “not to mention dozens of minor tweaks that bring No Man’s Sky closer in line with a space simulator like Elite: Dangerous“, these are worlds apart. Making any comparison is like stating that Apples and Kiwis are the same because they are both fruit. I love both (Elite a lot more than NMS after 32 years), I would state that NMS is the artsy approach to the universe, where Elite: Dangerous is the scientific view. In Elite trading is serious business and even as you can live by simple rules, getting the big bucks requires cunning insights and a willingness to be dealing in banned substances and goods. All this whilst a few billion planets have an economy based on what they are and as such what is rare on their planet and what is in abundance, a game with a market with dozens of goods and commodities. In Elite you need to learn how to dock, in NMS you merely press rectangle. They allow both to exist in the gaming universe; I feel that you can appreciate both. With “Progress is still slow and inventory management is still a complete slog, lessened somewhat by a couple of tweaks that allow for quicker recharging of weapons and tools, but still cumbersome and annoying” Sam White does touch on a truth, yet as the game progresses and the multi tool evolves, you get loads more done. As your ship gets bigger you get to haul a lot more. More important, as you evolve your suit you get to do things for much longer able to find loads more.

Now it is time for me to scold Sean Murray a little. He added to the game, with bases as all, yet he also flawed in a few ways too. This is best seen in the ‘hard-core’ and ‘permadeath’ parts. Sean, you nice guy you, you need to realise that the ship you just fixed, ordering annoyingly to fly into space is getting them killed instantly. Did you realise that? An empty ship should not be interesting to pirates and in hard-core, your first fixed ship, getting that person killed because a wave of 4 pirates can never be beaten by any ship just repaired. Did you not consider that? Setting a freedom from pirates until after the second jump would have been better. Getting them to deal with one ship instead of 2 waves of 4 is no way to appreciate the game. I can go on a little longer, but you get the idea Sean!

Yet in the original game (normal mode), where I have the punching power of a titan, all looks good. Most improvements are indeed that improvement. Yet the one part still a little off is the fact that a planer will for the most 2 of the minerals we need (apart from the red, the yellow and the green minerals). The fact that most planets need a lot more minerals (optionally not all near one another) is one that I never encountered, even by the long terms exploring on foot I did. The issues I mention might be small but they matter on the immediate players, who are actually missing out because you made the improvements for the people who have been there for a long time. Get one of them to go into permadeath mode, starting again and hear them scream in agony. Now, we all had that the first time and it forced us to be clever about things and that is a really good thing. Yet after hours, finding your ship, fixing it and then getting blown up one minute after take-off is a little too insulting.

The one thing me and Sam White will not see eye to eye on is “No Man’s Sky will likely never outrun the inevitable monotony that comes with procedural generation“. I saw this game as seeing what amazement the environment could behold. I accept that watching life evolved pineapples was a stretch, but still places that were fun to watch. There is a partial part that this game has levels of repetition if you are chasing to the centre of the galaxy, yet with ‘the inevitable monotony I tend to not agree. I accept that there is a truth in it, but the makers could evolve and add to the initial versions, oh and the fact that you need to play a minimum of 8 hours for one achievement, whilst the entire Tombraider game can be done in under 12 hours gives options to ponder what is actually inevitable. The monotony part does apply when you are merely chasing to the centre of the galaxy and getting your achievements (which for the larger extent is not that hard), yet when you see it what it hides, the arts and the views that so many combinations bring, we need to accept that the game it is not about the ‘prescribed monotony’ but the ignored art of getting the place to look the way it does when it runs. As monotony goes, take a look at Minecraft, monotonous or not it remains close to the most addictive game ever made. Still, NMS has options to evolve towards more options, more gameplay and more challenges. So even as I cannot deny that there is a level of monotony, the way it is stapled to the game is one I do not agree with. This was never going to be some fast game arcade game, which is pretty awesome, because Elite is not like that in more than equal ways, yet now both moving towards options and growth is what they both deliver, whilst no other game has been able to provide for is ignored. With Elite giving us now options in engineers and planetary landings, an option that the game never before offered. In the end, I still believe that No Mans Sky is still an awesome achievement. At times I see it as some version of Minecraft with actual awesome graphics. With the base building I can settle in one place and explore, yet the reality is that to grow I need to mine and acquire minerals, the fact that some are at times spread over planets is a little too unrealistic, but that is what the game gives us.

Still, as I see it, by many media No Man’s Sky is one of the worst clear covered games I have seen in a long time. From my personal view the game was too often reviewed in weird incomprehensible ways. In this Metro is one source that should be looked at. With: “The simplest description for No Man’s Sky is a space trader, in the style of the original Elite, with elements of survival games such as Rust or Don’t Starve. You start the game after crash-landing your spaceship, with no clue as to who (or what) you are and how you got there” (at http://metro.co.uk/2016/08/12/no-mans-sky-review-where-no-one-has-gone-before-6063429/). Is it a trading game? I do not think so! It has trade options, it has exploration options. They are true with ‘You start the game after crash-landing your spaceship, with no clue as to who (or what) you are and how you got there’ which can be seen as a blessing or a curse. You do get clear jobs to do, like fix your ship, find certain minerals, but yes, that part is fair. Yet, the issue that many of the media had was seen with “You’re then immediately given the choice to either explore the universe at random or to follow a story path at the behest of a mysterious alien intelligence named Atlas“. The fact that the reviews do not give the amazing differences per world is a little mystifying, the fact that life forms can be so outrageously different and that some see YOU as food is equally an issue, especially when you are out in the open and you are dinner. The upgrades brought good things and a few lesser items, yet overall NMS is still an excellent game for those who appreciate. It is very different from Elite: Dangerous and that is awesome, because that has a serious trading side and the exploring part is largely different and very little artsy in Elite: Dangerous. If it comes to fighting NMS compares to Elite like Need for Speed does to Gran Turismo. If you are a serious race freak, Need for Speed is not the game, merely a warm up entertainment and that is fair, it is not what NMS proclaimed to be, merely an option that it had (one that needs tweaking mind you).

The gaming world needs both games because science without art is tedious; merely art is at times aimless. It is how you personally see it and that is great about both games. These two games are not what they tell you to be, they allow you to let the games grow to what you would like it to be, which is ultimately extremely rare in the world of Gaming. The fact that Hero Games still rolls out parts in this game is also awesome and shows commitment to a game that I refuse to see as a failure, merely a game that was largely misunderstood as I see it. Now, many gamers are not into these two games, just like they have no patience for games like Fallout or Elder Scrolls. That is fair enough! They hold life in their hands and they believe that a game like Forza or Fifa is the fulfilment of their gaming life and I believe that is fine too. Gaming is so personal, what you like, dislike or evade is all yours to decide and none of your reasons are invalid, it is merely what pleases you that matters and some will still decide on merely one title like Zelda, which is good too! Yet in the case of NMS, the largest blow was by the media to cover what they did not understand, that is the part I still find a bit offensive. In this The Guardian has not done this, Sam White has his own view and even as he do not agree with certain parts, he is not misinforming you, which must be pointed out as well. In this one element every player of the game should love is the part where we see “30 hours of new story content”, so a free addition, which amounts to 2.5 Tombraider games (valued ad $229), so as we see the push forward, getting No Man’s Sky is turning out to be one of the best buys for a long time.

If there is one mismanaged part on the media side, than it is the fact that the media at large basically did not understand the game, or is that comprehend the gameplay? To cut it short, the wrong people looked at the game and valued it wrongly, that is just what it is at times and there is no coming back from that. We could give the example that the media was saying that they ‘found inspiration in cooking their family and their dogs’, whilst it was about that they ‘found inspiration in cooking, their family, and their dogs’. It seems like a small difference but in one case (the wrong one) you’ll be eating alone for the larger part of your life.

It might be seen as a failing by Hello Games, which is not an unfair assessment to some degree, yet in that same light, something like NMS had never been made before, which is important because this game is unique, it will remain unique and I doubt if anyone can repeat something like this to the degree that had been achieved. This is merely my view and you need not agree with it, I am not trying to convert you, merely giving my view. So try the game, do not try the game, I merely hope that you remain true to gaming and embrace the games you actually love to play. The joy of gaming is pretty much that simple.

 

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