Games Industry

Yippie, soon it’s E3! Here are my Top 10 predictions…

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So E3 will take place in LA from June 13th to June 15th this year, but Microsoft will be kicking off the party actually on Sunday June 12th because as more and more companies are starting to have their press conferences and live events, shedules get pretty crowded. There is a German gamer community called Consolewars that I am pretty active on and they are doing some Bingo game every year where every user can pick 16 things that they believe will happen or won’t happen. Inspired by that, here are my Top 10 predictions for this year’s E3:

 

10. Microsoft’s Scorpio will be revealed
I know, that’s kind of a cheap one. Microsoft announced Project Scorpio at last year’s E3 and Digital Foundry already reported on the specs and what Scorpio will be able to do. But when I say revealed, I mean the actual machine, on stage, possibly running some games. We will see the design, get to know the real name and Microsoft will announce the release date and the price for its new console powerhouse. And because – as I mentioned – this one is kind of a cheap prediction, I am giving you a little bonus here: I think the price of the Scorpio will be either $499 or – if Microsoft is willing to take a loss to bump up sales – $449.

 

9. Microsoft’s new games
My next prediction revolves around the games that Microsoft will show off. Here are my predictions on 4 games that I think Microsoft will announce at least 2 of for the first time (so in dev stuff like Sea of Thieves doesn’t count): Forza 7, an exclusive Ninja Gaiden, time exclusive Borderlands 3, Fable Online, Knight of Aegis. Also I hope for another Ryse Son of Rome game (which I kind of liked, similarly to The Order 1886). And Microsoft needs to show Crackdown 3. It’s either completely different than what was announced years ago or it’s dead and burried. If it’s the later, bring on the sequel to Kameo Elements of Power and Panzer Dragoon! Returning already announced games will include Sea of Thieves and State of Decay 2.

 

8. Games at the SONY press conference
This prediction is about which games will be prominently shown at SONY’s press conference, and I am talking 3rd party here. I can already see 2 big ones with Resident Evil 2 Remake and Shenmue 3. Destiny 2 will probably also be there with some SONY (time-)exclusive DLC announcements as well as Call of Duty WWII. The one I am not so sure about yet because it would make more sense to show off at Tokyo Game Show is the Final Fantasy VII Remake, but you’ll never know. Oh, and don’t forget that Death Stranding gameplay demo that Kojima will be presenting comfortably between the live demos of The Last of Us Chapter 2 and the new God of War game; because it’s time now. Seriously. Also – I know chances are slim, but: can I please get The Order 1887? I want to know how the story will proceed, how the characters will be developed.

 

7. Ubisoft
With the recent success of Ghost Recon Wildlands and For Honor, Ubisoft is in a strong position and I think Assassins Creed [CONFIRMED] and The Crew [CONFIRMED] will only be two of the existing franchises that will have a sequel announced this E3. Other than that though, I could imagine Ubisoft to either announce a new Watchdogs or a new Division Addon as well. Plus, I expect some Nintendo Switch games, but more on that within the Nintendo predictions. Oh, and FarCry 5 [CONFIRMED] in a kind of Wild West theme [modern Midwest? setting confirmed]. It’s a thing, believe!

 

6. EA
EA has – just like last year – its own event which happens to cross E3 again. The big title this year will probably be Battlefront 2, except for the inevitable new FIFA, Madden, NBA, etc. games. I think we will also see a new Need For Speed announced. But I don’t expect any major surprises from EA. Mass Effect Andromeda went kind of the wrong way, Titanfall 2 didn’t do well despite being critically acclaimed. A new Dragon Age could be announced though. And Medal of Honor is a franchise that’s sleeping for too long now, especially with a WWII Call of Duty coming this year.

 

5. Bethesda
Right before E3, the Morrowind addon for TESO will be released so I don’t expect any announcement there. New Skyrim versions for PS4, XO and Switch are coming this year so I wouldn’t hold my breath for a next Elder Scrolls announcement either. What we know will be coming is a new Multiplayer Quake, but I actually hope that a new Wolfenstein will be announced. I also expect The Evil Within 2 being announced as well as a DOOM singeplayer addon. I mean come on Bethesda, last year’s DOOM sold like hot cake and all we got with DLCs is multiplayer stuff that no one asked for. Got to milk that masterpiece!

 

4. Nintendo
So, after the Switch having a very successful launch and being still sold out in most places (expect to wait 3-4 weeks until you get one if you order now!), Nintendo needs to find a good balance between announcing games that are not too far off and keeping the 3DS platform alive for too long. There is a lot of stuff that Nintendo could announce this E3, and my predictions will be they are most likely some of these: Super Mario Maker for Switch, Super Smash Bros. for Switch, Bayonetta + Bayonetta 2 for Switch, a new Metroid game, the new game by Retro Studios (95 developers that haven’t announced or released a game since February 2014? They will show off something new) and the long time rumored Pokemon Stars. There will also be updates for Super Mario Odysee and Xenoblade 2 but more importantly, I expect at least one exclusive game from Ubisoft (probably the rumored Mario Rabbids crossover [kind of CONFIRMED] and not Zombi 2) as well a Monster Hunter Switch announcement from Capcom [already happened: Monster Hunter XX]. I could also imagine Capcom to be porting either Resident Evil 7 or the Resident Evil 2 Remake to Switch, since they told everyone they were porting the RE Engine to Switch pretty early on. Nintendo will also need to finally disclose some of their plans regarding online service and virtual console.

 

3. What we won’t see
This one makes me sad, but here is what I don’t think we will see: Bloodborne 2, a new F-Zero game, a new Halo game, a Scalebound reboot, a new Syphon Filter, Kevin Butler returning on the SONY E3 stage, a From Software game announcement for Nintendo Switch, a new Diddy Kong racing, a really exciting game announcement from Konami and Mafia 4 (it’s too early, even though Mafia 3 sold extremely well). And Resident Evil 8. I think that announcement’s another year off. Also that return of SEGA as a console manufacturer is not coming. I wish this wasn’t true, but (again) no Dreamcast 2.

 

2. Unpleasant returns
I think there will be two returning franchises that will get an announcement in such a way that most gamers rather would have no announcement at all: Metal Gear Solid and Just Dance.

 

1. Winner of E3 2017
I don’t think there will be a clear winner company wise. I expect SONY to have the best show in terms of show setup and pacing, I expect Nintendo to have a great return to the playing field as a real contender against SONY and Microsoft and Microsoft has the advantage of having new gaming hardware to show and accompany it with new stuff which is always exciting. The true winners of E3 will be us, the gamers. Be excited!

Quake 2 Legacy

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A lot of awesome memories from that game. My Voodoo Rush, playing at 16-21fps, discovering my first game secret in a 3d world that made physical sense (before that i used to wish i would discover one, but they were somewhat weird, with invisible walls and such). In particular the soundtrack I think still shines today.

Ready to make the Switch?

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Ever since the WiiU’s fate was sealed, gaming enthusiasts wondered what the next Nintendo console would be like. Would there even be a next home console from Nintendo? A bunch of patents suggested a hybrid between home- and portable console while others showed new gimmicks. When Nintendo then showed of their new console Switch – formerly known as NX – the main feature was immediately understood by everyone. This was very different from the revelation of the WiiU which even more seasoned gamers didn’t understand at first.

The console was released March 3rd this year for $299/€330 and has been a huge success since. It’s still not in stock at Amazon and other big retailers but you might ask yourself if this new thing from Nintendo is for you. I’ve been using the Switch since launch (a bit over 6 weeks at the time of writing) and will now try to tell you if you’re ready to make the switch.

SWITCH_01

If you don’t know what the Switch is, Nintendo explains the Switch like this: the Switch is Nintendo’s new home console, that attempts to make the “home” part optional by giving you the opportunity of taking it with you, wheter you want to play it in your garden, in your bed or on the train. Many people will probably describe the Switch as a handheld console with a docking station to play your games on the TV. The truth is: it is neither one, nor the other.

The difference between the Switch and something like the 3DS or even the PlayStation Vita is the hardware power of the console and the way its makers are going to support it. While 3DS and Vita most of the time got the low-fi games of the best selling franchises the Switch will be Nintendo’s flagship device. As such Nintendo put more power in it than it would have in a regular handheld and it also renounced features like Streetpass that were prominently put in their 3DS devices for the past 6 years.

But the Switch is also not your typical next gen console. To even have a chance of being portable, Nintendo’s engineers had to find a partner to supply them with relatively powerful but small CPU and GPU hardware that would also be easy to program for and be as battery friendly as possible. It found that partner with NVidia which provides a custom Tegra SoC. It’s a powerful chipset – at least 2 times as powerful than what the WiiU is with room for further improvement if early adopter developers are to be trusted – but compared to the PS4 and XO ports will probably need to be noticeably downgraded in asset quality to run well. Some are calling Nintendo out for daylight robbery because of its hardware power and price, but there is one important point that often gets forgotten: form factor. Being a console that you can take on the go the Switch is hardly 1/6 of the WiiU’s size and circa 1/25 the size of a PS4 Pro.

SWITCH_02

The picture above shows the PS4 Pro, WiiU and Switch and shows the huge difference in size. This is of course because the Switch can be taken anywhere (a proper case is recommended) and this works beautifully. The Switch has accompanied me almost every time I left the house in the past 6 weeks (except for some jogging workout and visits at the barber because I know I never have to wait long) and I have played games like Breath of the Wild (find my review of it on artsygamer as well), Shovel Knight, Binding of Isaac and others; let me tell you this: I don’t want to take a train ride without the Switch ever again.

The JoyCon controllers work fine for me most of the time, especially using them detached from the Switch is an amazing feeling for me; something that other people might have to get used to admittedly. They can’t compete with the Pro controller though which might very well be the best gamepad I have used so far (disclaimer: I didn’t get the chance to play with the XBox One Pro Controller so far), save for the shoulder triggers which sadly are digital triggers; it would have been difficult to put analogue triggers on the JoyCons – I get it; it would have been a nice feature for racing games nevertheless.

Battery runtime is another important topic as well for portability and I am happy to report that mixing games I get 5 hours out of the Switch most of the time. While this may seem little compared to the 3DS, it actually is close to my experience with the PlayStation Vita’s battery life and somewhat remarkable compared to the battery runtime of smartphones when doing some non-stop gaming. Luckily Nintendo uses a USB type C on the Switch which allows for some cheap battery pack setups that will prolong the Switch’s life on the go easily to something around 8 to 12 hours. I have an emergency battery pack in my bag all the time (mainly because smartphones and friends who may need a quick recharge on the go) but so far never had to use it on my Switch.

SWITCH_03

I don’t want to conceal some caveats I have with the system however. The first thing is the system’s management of space and how it doesn’t allow the user to control it. The system’s internal space is 32GB and of course not all of it is useable. The Switch can handle Micro SD cards however which means you can expand the memory by 128GB for as low as €35 (even lower if you access speed is no concern for you). But the way the Switch handles storage is annoying. If there is not Micro SD card present, the system defaults to its internal storage of course. If a Micro SD card is present, the system defaults to the Micro SD card as long as there is space. And the user has no option to transfer data from one to the other. Most of the time this is just fine but if – for example – you want to take advantage of the faster internal storage for a game like Zelda, you need to take out your Micros SD card to force Zelda to download on the system’s memory and then insert the SD card back into the system. I haven’t tried out yet how the save files are created. Of course you’ll want them on a Micro SD card because you can just backup the encrypted data on your PC, but as with the games themselfes the save data can also not be transferred between SD card and device. This means if your Switch breaks your savegames might all be lost. And since there is no cloud saving yet (more on that later) the same goes for a lost or stolen Switch.

There are also no Video On Demand service apps like Amazon or Netflix on the device yet. Reggie Fils Aime told the press that they wanted to focus on getting out a great gaming device first and that apps for the large services will come later so it doesn’t bother me too much. But in the first 4 weeks after the Switch’s release when I was roaming the wild lands of Hyrule, the only reason I turned on other consoles at all was to watch some Netflix or Amazon on them because I couldn’t on the Switch. I also think apps that allow you to download some content and then watch it on the go would be a huge boon for the Switch.

And the last point on my list is all about Nintendo’s upcoming online services. With the Switch, Nintendo will be the last console manufacturer to join the “pay for our online service”-service providers. Currently all online functionality is still free while Nintendo is seemingly still figuring out what the paid service will offer exactly and how much they will charge for it. From my experience, online gaming works pretty good so far with low latency and reasonably fast matchmaking but other than Fast RMX and the Splatoon Testfire Beta there was not much to test so far anyway. April 28th will see the release of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe which will be the first huge multiplayer title to really stress the Nintendo Network for Switch. It should hold up though since Nintendo is using Amazon’s cloud infrastructure which offers high performance and scalability. A bigger questionmark has to be put behind the free retro game offerings and additional features like cloud gamesaves. Nintendo’s plans for voice chat by smartphone app have already been dissed by a lot of players and we will need to wait what and how Nintendo will show and offer.

SWITCH_04

Conclusions: the Nintendo Switch is a device that I don’t want to miss anymore. It is not only the logical step to take for a company that needs to break away from the WiiU’s failure but also a major step forward in respect of product design and feature balance. But it’s also a device that will clearly see a lot of improvement in software short- and mid-term and probably new revisions and price cuts mid- and long-term. If you want a rating, here’s my formula for you to find out:

1. How much do you want to have a unique and new gaming hardware on a scale from -1 to 1?
2. How important is it to you being able to seamlessly switch between mobile and living room gaming on a scale from -2 to 2? -2 would be someone who is only interested in playing high profile games on their 4k TV on the sofa, 2 would be someone who is on the train every day and would love to spend more time with gaming that way.
3. How important are Nintendo games to you on a -2 to 2 scale? 2 would be someone who played Nintendo games for a long time and can’t imagine a gamer existence without them, -2 would be someone who avoids Nintendo games on every occasion.

Add the scores up and you have your personal conclusion (kind of) :) I hope you liked my impressions of the Switch, I will of course try to answer any questions in the comments. I would also love to know the score you’re coming up for the Switch.

Full Throttle Remastered

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I received this game as an epic b-day present from Raul Bugner (shoutout thaaaanks!) on my 17th. It was aamazing! I remember how I had some close friends over and we played some Worms Armageddon but then everybody left in the evening and I was left alone with this gem. The next thing I remember is semi-trembling from cold/lack of sleep happily watching the credits roll (with exploding bunnies?) around 6-7am, noticing that the sun had risen on the window to my left and that it had become light outside. What a night!

PS: sooo cool when he says they were inspired by Another World / Out of this World! So much respect for that tiny but huge game old game.

Evolution of The Legend of Zelda

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A nice walkthrough through the history of Zelda for people like myself who did not experience them in those times. I can imagine if I had experienced open-world-ness for the first time in a Zelda game in the 80s/90s I’d also be a lot more into the series.

History of the Elder Scrolls

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Interesting stuff. Didn’t know 1 & 2 had so much procedural stuff and such a big size. A Morrowind or Oblivion remake would’ve been great though instead of the Skyrim remaster to celebrate the old ones.

Prince of Persia (1989) – Post Mortem

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wow! I can’t believe so much happened back then! yet I remember seeing this in school already on 286s I believe.

History & Game Design [GDC]

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Very interesting talk. As a lover of history it was particularly interesting to me the tweaks, bends and compromises that have to be made on history to make it more entertaining/commercial. I particularly found interesting the story at 21:30 as I happened to have known a bit about the subject from a T. Sowell historical book where he argued against the mainstream view of exploitative colonialism saying it just wasn’t profitable to trade with undeveloped nations. The story about religious schisms was also very interesting, as well as the tough decision to cut out some aspects of the simulation.

These games some I’ve played, the others I I always feel guilty I haven’t played yet as I know i’d love them, I just get so much more tempted by others. I guess I’m also waiting for “the one” that will draw me fully back into the genre. I’m hoping for a new trade simulation, with more historical scope, maybe Patrician 5++. At times I thought it might be something like a new Anno game, but then I’m put off by exactly such compromises on historical or reality as he talks about when he brings in silly propagandist marxism, as when I got the impression the game was geared towards the most advanced energy source being the oh so very politically correct solar power or such things. I hope more and more this genre will do what Game of Thrones did for the movie industry which is go into the territory of tough choices with some plausibility even if they’re not so “pretty”… but that of course would harm profitability so I kinda doubt it. From what I’ve been seeing with civilization 6 too I get the impression they went into the kiddy/simplify/mainstream direction. Hope I’m wrong, but It turned that way with 5 too, and they abandoned a lot of the more complex mechanics they pioneered in the 4 addons. Still watching the genre hopefully…

Oblivion – did you know?

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Interesting…

Patches that change the product you bought…

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I think the issue brought up here is very interesting philosophically and personally. Weather it is a game changing for the worse, adware that gets patched in, or gameplay that gets altered this is becoming an issue. I’m still fighting hard to get to continue using my Windows 7 despite Microsoft’s horrible efforts to mess it up for me and force me to go win10, and similarly i feel very happy with my Photoshop CS6 (would’ve even with a cs4) and am fighting not having to buy a subscription service. Interesting fight between producers and consumers, where the producers have the advantage of all digital distributions becoming the norm giving them absolute power to unilaterally change the chair you bought into a sofa, and then through a later patch into a table+blender combo, even if you had preferred just a chair or were expecting just a chair with a bit more polish and less squeaking.

The Memorable Great Bridge

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This bridge is one of the places that sticks in my memory among the strongest in the wonderful world of Dying Light. It’s a testimony to Techland’s amazing masterpiece that it isn’t even part of the main questline but encountered in a few (awesome) secondary stories, should you find them, and should you feel like doing them, or simply like going there because it looked interesting. I love the feeling of discovery to find something so big and interesting inviting but not forcing you to explore (and in multiple stages of “secret”)… how amazing!

I can only hope that the new Assassin’s Creed will learn from this and make the leap into first person on this level of quality, and whenever I think of the Mirror’s Edge games, which i should’ve so loved (first person, exploring worlds!!!) I think what a shame they haven’t managed to create worlds nearly as beautiful or intricate or alive or open or inviting to explore as this. And since I’m already making “enemies” of fans of other games, I should also mention that the much praised new Doom game which is so praised for secrets and exploration has not just a much worse environment navigation system with many surfaces that seem climbable being invisible walls and the world not being nearly as interesting (although it should, being an original world as opposed to boring old contemporary reality!) but also having to lamely point out “you found a secret” and give counters and numbers to motivate, while Dying Light invites exploration with aristocratic elegance, with visual cues, with stories, with curiosity, and having whole huge amazing areas as “secrets” yet not feeling the need to brag about it.

So much respect for Techland!

Doom Post-Mortem

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very interesting stuff

Skywind – Official Development Video #4

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Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaan this project is so amazing!!!! I really hope these guys manage to bring it to completion!!! It would be sooooo cool to walk the lands of Morrowind again with this much love given!

Atari vs Nintendo (business history)

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The business and law side is quite interesting.

FZD Design Considerations

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Interesting discussion with many implications for not just game creation but generally entertainment design and business.

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