Games Industry

Soul Reaver – Storyline & Worldbuilding Excellence

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An amazingly rich lore, fantastic world building, interweaving of the story through time (and even time loops), fascinating protagonists with tension and individual motivations… I remember when I played this game, I think it was in college before an exam, it was the one and only time I finished the game in a night and went straight to the exam finishing the game at 6:30am but being so very fulfilled and happy with my choice whatever happened because I knew I had just experienced something once in a lifetime with such a storyline/world. So many original ideas and so many of the things that I like in a story: pre-thought world background where you feel you’re always getting just the skimmed top, of what is much deeper underneath and the brain is always working to figure out more of the hidden stuff beneath.

PS: i have to mention that the world feels much much richer than the video presents, not just due to the dept of seeing it and exploring it, but the great abundance of other story moments told via protagonist dialogue during gameplay or when seeing objects in the environment such as murals/statues.

PS2: Maybe one of the reasons the world ended up exactly how i want a rich world to feel is captured in this development commentary:

 

As indeed it seems that due to development particularities all the planets were aligned for creating the kind of world i like: the kind that has a lot more world in it than is actually shown, as well as one in which in the end a lot of stuff was discarded but remains in the minds of the creators making what is left feel much more real/dense/with history of all the things that could’ve been but were abandoned/closed/changed. It also helped I suspect that it started from a different heritage and then was mounted on another one leading to many wonderful mutations.

15 Game Companies That Went Bankrupt

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Interesting.

My E3 findings

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I originally planned to do some step-by-step recap of the E3 conferences, with ratings and stuff. But after Void’s wonderful postings for each show and FireFish’s great (if not exactly mine) opionions (which you can read HERE) I decided to go for a more loose and essay-like recap and what I took away after some days of digesting, dislodging from imminent hype and getting things straight for myself. Let’s go, shall we?

 

Microsoft is trying to catch up…

I think no one watching the Microsoft show got a feeling of confidence from this company that managed to lose the goodwill and following of many million players of the 360 era in merely 12 months. Microsoft has since been unsteady in its decisions regarding the XBox and this was more obvious than ever at this year’s E3 show. It knows the PS4 managed to pull ahead immediately because many player’s (like myself) just wouldn’t buy a less powerful console for $100 more. They thought Kinect and TV functionality would be great technical investments and were all wrong about it. Now they announced what will be the most powerful console on the market but are again $100 more than the PS4 Pro while the redesigned XBox One S and PS4 Slim are sitting comfortably on mass market pricing. They also lost a lot of exclusivity deals with 3rd party developers and because their 1st party output is not even close to what SONY and Nintendo can do (and are doing) they decided to show just a load of games (many of them Indie and AA games) with some sort of exclusivity while trying to emphasize on the message that multiplatform games will look best on XBox One X.

 

…but they are still failing.

The problem with all of that is this: the 3rd party games shown don’t compete with the high production value exclusive games of SONY nor do they look as exciting gameplay wise as the exclusive games of Nintendo. They exist and that’s just not enough. Microsoft is also running into a problem with the XBox One X’s performance. While it manages to have 50% more GPU performance, the CPU is built upon the same bad architecture that PS4, PS4 Pro and XBox One (S) are based on. What does this mean? It means that while 3rd party games may be able to pull of a true 4k instead of lower resolution or checkerboard rendering of the PS4 Pro the results simply won’t be noticeable most of the time. The CPU is just not powerful enough for a 100% framerate increase compared to the PS4 Pro which means you will indeed get similar results in the end. The only games that normally profit from such a supererogation are 1st party exclusives that are built specifically for the platform – of which the XBox One X just doesn’t have that much. Forza 7 in 4k at 60 fps sure does look and will play impressive but a racing game alone won’t sell the console. That’s why Microsoft was trying to explain that any XBox One title will benefit from the performance because XBox One X will render them automatically at a higher resolution. That’s great but honestly no reason even for 4k TV owners like myself to pay $500. What’s also great is the cooling and form factor but I am being honest here: my XBox One S is the slickest and quietest modern console I have ever owned. The XBox One X may be even slicker and quieter but even I as someone who gets bothered by cooling noise easily (why, SONY, does the PS4 Pro need to be so noisy sometimes?) doubt the XBox One X will be a significant improvement over the XBox One S. And so I just cancelled my preorder of the XBox One X. Just now as I am writing these lines. Yup, Cancelled. What Microsoft needs to do is to heavily market the XBox One S as well. That’s a console you can get for $200 to play games like Forza, Gears of War, Halo, State of Decay, Sea of Thieves, etc. if you’re interested in them and don’t want to bother yourself with Windows 10 PC gaming. What Microsoft also needs to do is get some AAA high quality exclusive games again. Not timed exclusives and not with some exclusive content. They are doing a lot right in terms of coss buy (with Windows 10) and cross play (with Switch and Smartphones even), backwards compatibility (how much I wish I could just pop in my PS3 copies of Ni No Kuni and the Metal Gear Solid collection in my PS4), development tool quality and their id@XBox program. But if they really want to be a worthy contender to SONY again, they need to up their game (pun intended) and start getting those heavy hits in.

 

SONY is trying to deliver…

SONY’s show was pretty much what I expected. Many gamers are a bit frustrated because of the great E3s of 2015 and 2016 but here’s the catch: both years SONY announced a lot of titles that are far far away. It’s like a mortage for hype and SONY knows which is why they were focusing on stuff that comes out this year and next year. And that stuff has been announced already. Last of Us 2 is still very early in production and preparing an E3 showing does cost a lot of time and money which Naughty Dog already invested in Uncharted: The Lost Legacy. But PS4 is still a great primary platform for gaming with full 3rd party support and a lot of high budget AAA productions. They also try to push VR further (which is completely uninteresting to me at the moment) but they need to keep that going. It felt a little bit like when 3D and the Vita sections started to shrink. I hope I am wrong because VR could get really interesting to me with the next generation of hardware and the experience developers will have earned with VR by then.

 

…but needs to be careful with that rising arrogance.

I feel like SONY should focus more on features that are not only for the majority of gamers. Being able to change the PSN nickname is a feature that people are demanding for years now, backwards compatibility is another. SONY also tries to explain why they wouldn’t allow cross play with other platforms than the PC with reasons of protecting kids which is insane considering both XBox Live and Nintendo are far more protective than Steam or PSN itself (on Xbox One you can set exactly what your kids can play, how they can interact online – on PS4 it’s just all or nothing). Everyone is aware that SONY just doesn’t want the competition to profit from their big PS4 playerbase. That’s nasty and not exactly for the players, but it’s reasonable from a business point of view. Just don’t pretend you have your own player’s well being in mind when that’s clearly not the case. At least be honest so it won’t be as comical when you should need to make some exceptions in the future (because your version of Minecraft will be worst because every other platform – including Nintendo Switch! – is connected and DLC will work across all of them as well).

 

Nintendo learned a thing or two from SONY…

“How to win an E3 in 25 minutes” has already become kind of a meme. Nintendo’s show – 3 months after the Switch’s release – was decent with Xenoblade 2 and Mario Odyseey releasing this year and Yoshi and Kirby coming 2018. But what really excited many fans was a logo and some spoken announcement. Metroid Prime 4 and a main Pokemon game are both coming for the Switch. No one knows when exactly, but they are coming. Nintendo took a page out of SONY’s playbook here because those kind of announcements are very unusual for Nintendo. The company likes to announce games that are already pretty far in development and can be shown off easily, yet neither Metroid nor Pokemon had even some alpha status kind of screenshot or gameplay trailer. Nintendo finally understood that sometimes fans just want to know that the thing they are asking for is coming. Acknowledgement. It’s important.

 

…but will still not compete directly with SONY and Microsoft.

Nintendo is doing a lot right lately, which even got them some praise from 3rd parties. Still, the Switch – with it’s unusual premise – will not be able to compete directly with PS4 and XO. We will certainly see more and more 3rd party games coming to Switch as sales of the system continue to grow (especially from Japan where the Switch is the best selling gaming platform each week since its release) but developers will be very careful which game they will spend their ressources on. Games for Switch need to benefit from the portability so the ports will be reasonable sidesteps instead of unwanted steps backwards. Skyrim is the type of game that definitively makes sense because of all the content that can be leisurely be experienced on the go or at home (like Breath of the Wild). Call of Duty that you really need to focus on and get everything from its blockbuster audiovisual presentation? Not so much. Anthem with its online community focus and high quality graphics? Neither. And the problem is this: as Phil Spencer from Microsoft already mentioned more than once more and more games are planned as a service to keep players engaged and connected and monetized. The Switch is pretty much the opposite of that; sure: games like Mario Kart and ARMS (that I am planning to write a review for artsygamer on) are much less interesting when not played online, but they work great with local multiplayer as well which was one of the Switch’s design goals apart from being able to take it with you and play on the go.

 

For me, nothing has changed.

This year I am coming out of E3 just as I went in. Sure, new and exciting games like Wolfenstein II have been announced. But my gaming setup will not change. The Switch will still be my daily companion and primary platform for all games that are great to play on the go, the PS4 is still getting sweet AAA games exclusive to the platform and Microsoft is still trying to transform XBox to something that goes beyond being a hardware platform while still trying to keep the hardware relevant and competitive somehow. The biggest surprise to me was honestly how much fun Mario + Rabbids seems to be and that Ubisoft is able to deliver a good E3 show in general. Everything else I pretty much knew before. That means not many pleasant surprises. But that also means almost no unpleasant suprises as well. To me, that’s enough to be a good E3. But for next year, I want more again.

Sony E3 2017 Conference

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-, + stage music was pretty cool, but i wanted games

+, – Uncharted Lost Legacy, looks good by itself, but a lot of “been there, done that”, with Drake and with Lara, feels very samey without the personality of Drake or the familiarity of Lara.

– sound problems in the presentation

-, + When i saw the Guerilla games logo for a moment i got excited there’s going to be a new Killzone… but then it was Horizon… which i guess is okay

– sound problems, kept switching streams, broke the immersion

+, – Days gone: looks good, and it’s nice to see gameplay, but it wasn’t as cool as the last one. I was hoping to get an open world vibe, but instead got a linear segments like Last of Us vibe

– presenter, with my lack of excitement for what was shown felt a bit pushing it with the “you should catch your breath” after stuff that didn’t feel that spectacular. Good, of course, but not breathtaking.

+ Monster hunter, some interesting setup, interesting dinosaur growth, so so world

+, – Shadow of the Colossus, for a moment i got super excited at a new game, and then same old places… still looks great, but disappointing, I wonder if they’ll get a backlash for just that/if others felt like i did.

– Marvel Vs Capcom looking silly and low fidelity to me, at least the way it was presented here.

+ Call of Duty WW2 nice that they’re making it, but looked a bit bland to me.

– VR games look so dated… and Skyrim again… loved that game, but i played it like 5 times already… how disappointing with so many presentations this oldie is still the highlight. With each one there is a little spark, but then I tend to be disappointed, and then i remind myself… oh, it’s VR quality … VR has come to mean substandard quality to me :P

– weak of Sony to not mention at all Vita or Ps3. Even a 30 second montage (say instead of that orchestra) would’ve helped their case for having a bigger platform including a mobile, but instead they let it rot.

-, +, -, –  God of war: the game could be okay in itself, but i feel they’re stepping and destroying a character they’ve crafted so well over so many great games (just finished an old one, still replaying others). In all games Kratos was portrayed as ruthless and manly casually killing innocents who simply were in his way, now he’s a father of a kid and they’re trying to project a whole new identity on him in contradiction to the old one. Add to that that all the God of War games were a cinematic experience, with brilliantly placed cameras on rails, with epic things in the background… this looks to be a diminutive whatever 3rd person hack & slash with some cheesy narrative. I feel they’ve missed what made the old games great, the fascinating and complicated Greek mythology, gone, the epic setpiece moments nad feeling of scale as you realize your whole world happens on the back of something huge, unique unlovable and yet interesting endearing protagonist, gone… instead they’ve added an old man and a kid and family drama. And instead of the fascinating greek tragic characters encountered along an epic journey, they put in a joke character. Sad for the series :( Does look interesting at times, so at least it’s going to be a high production values. Also the serpent thing was an interesting design.

+, – Detroit: interesting social tensions. The world looks very bland and generic. I’m afraid the choices will be skin deep and in fact still be a “you fail or succeed” instead of how to do things.

– Destiny 2: when it started out this game started with an original world, with old russia, with an interesting fiction. By now with all the MMO-ing it seems to have degenerated into dumb big obvious antagonist with a Warhammer vibe and loot grinding.

-, + Spiderman: there’s some nice dynamics, i think it’ll be fun to play, feels somewhat Batman Arkham City in posibilities of play, however with less coolness, more bland politically correct world. Nice environmental interactions, though who knows how few of them will be kept in the free roaming

Overall I found the Sony conference passable, nothing bad, just nothing impressive. I’d give it a 1 on a -5 to 5 scale. Decent, though far beyond what I was hoping. No price war surprise, no big surprise titles, no internal studios mega magic, no shocking 3rd party support (where’s Reddead, a new Gta or a new Elder scrolls?)… at least MS had a new console to announce… they had just games, high quality as we’ve come to expect, but nothing surprising. I’m unimpressed.

Microsoft Conference E3 2017

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– pricing on the Xbox One X : i think they’re doomed

+, – they showed a lot of games, which is something they learned from past Sony success with that, however it was vast majority indie games many of which just made me laugh when they kept putting their branding of ultra HD : you’re looking at huge pixels… NOTHING will make that smoother :P Similarly with other indie looking games, no amount of antialising will take them into the realm of realism or into that of quality pixar stuff :(

– Anthem: worst fears came through, it seems they’re going for yet another multiplayer grinder

+, –  Metro was great (a Stalker would’ve been better) but it’s not theirs

+, – I can’t wait to play the next Assassin’s Creed, but i didn’t see that huge revolution i was hoping for.. and still not MS exclusive. I was not impressed with the crowd simulation/characters in the world, though i did appreciate the environments.

– Forza they kept talking about how great it looks, looked to me just as good as the other N racing games in the last years. And not a step forward “dirty realistic world” kind of good but the same kind of super sterile “clean” graphics (eg. not approaching realism)

– Sea of Thieves… funny presentation, but so-so game & gameplay & world

– Mordor, can’t wait to play it, but not only not theirs but actually looked to me worse, more washed out and silly characters than the original. BAD signs, afraid they could sink it down the drain like they did with Watchdogs

– a lot of the titles were 2018

– the environment destruction one was not just stylized and unimpressive but they actually dared focus live acting which is always a bad sign

– they organized pretty bad, i think at some point they had like 3 games in a row which in my mind blended as they all felt like the same: the hunger games, bunch of people, who makes it last. One looked more interesting than the other but I’m not much into that and the whole push into the commentator sports i still find lame.

– hard to tell what all that extra power is used for, they didn’t have for me a single title that would make me think “wow, this physics is amazing, this water simulation is truly something i doubt any other console could do” or anything like that. And if I a graphics guy feel like that I wonder how many of the general public will care or see enough of “that amazing power” they keep talking about”. PC hardware specs people… maybe? For me I was more interested in the occasional indie game with a well done animation/art style, and i wouldn’t be surprised if many customers will notice that also more than “hey, check it out, if you reaaaaly zoom in on the edge of this car’s outline, you might if you strain your eyes see a huge difference to that care on ps4”. To me all the pixels in the world make no difference in comparison to say a more interesting public in the background with say more interesting animations/personalities.

+ Great to see them sticking to the Xbox backward compatibility, a point where Sony really screwed up massively  (multiple times already, and they’re still not admitting it). It’s at the time possibly my biggest respect point towards Microsoft.

Well, i gotta say I expected much more. I expected to give it a 2-3 at least yet in the end i thin kit’s just a 1 so with the disappointment it felt like a 0. Of course it’s not and they had good stuff, I just expected so much more. We were just itching for an excuse, any excuse really to get us to buy an Xbox One, been planning to for so long…yet we saw nothing worthy, the power was not used to any mindblowing effect, and the small differences they might or might not have is to us not counterbalanced by the asymmetric controller + sony ecosystem + all the optimizations and releases 3rd parties will make to the much bigger install base of the ps4 which unfortunately with the announced pricing and (lack of) features don’t think will be challenged. We’ll probably get one anyway… but we’ll feel bad about it :P Currently for me Quantum Break is the only thing that MS really has that I think i might care about or am at least genuinely curious.

PS: upon reconsidering the many games I am modifying the grade of my impression to 1.5 because indeed a lot of games were show. Can’t give more because I still can’t shake the impression that the presentation wasn’t that great. I found Phil Spencer rather lame and the whole aura he gave thing didn’t feel entertaining or well paced, and that despite the good games like AC shown.

How did you find it?

E3 2017: EA Press Conference

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Well, i gotta say i was a bit surprised. The biggest surprise for me was “Way out” which finally moved for me EA from “whatever, they’re just doing sports and sims” to “hmm, i might be interested”. I totally didn’t expect from those developers realistic AAA looking title that looks more serious than cute. Impressed. Plus I’m surprised and delighted at least by the surprise of  “the return of the split screen” which i totally thought was dead and buried after the many big developers who used to be big in that space which abandoned it in recent years.

The new Bioware title seemed promising also, though distant, Need 4 Speed not bad but not great either and as for the Star Wars Battlefield, I’m curious about the singleplayer campaign but I don’t really trust them that much to not put 90% of their effort into multiplayer.  All in all I found it a better than expected conference, I’d give it a 1.5 on a -5 to 5 scale (other than the expected 0 ). What did you think about it?

Why Did Hitman Fail?

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Though we as gamers got a great game and it still sold decent, I see this yet another case of business considerations destroying the game design choices and messing with the customer experience, like those devs so focused on pirating that they implement DRM that pisses off their paying customers (respect for GoG for pushing against that with business sense).

In Hitman I felt it too every time when after paying the full season pass game I was repeatedly forced against my will to connect to their servers and experience that extra wait/problems/the thus designed repetition gameplay, particularly the artificial structuring of the replays for episodic gameplay: it diminishes the value the customers get out of their gameplay. Plus in being greedy that way I think they lost a lot of potential customers which only got 1-3 episodes and never got the rest. This makes me think of games like GTA 4 & 5, granted huge games, which I hear stats say most people never finish, yet that’s no problem because 1) the people who do finish them feel they got great value 2) those who didn’t got a unique experience of a huge scale with a taste of much more. Now imagine they would’ve had monetization in the forefront (as i’d suspect they’re transitioning to), and had made chunks. Then group 1) would’ve gotten a butchered experienced, with locked areas and never become the huge advocates, and would’ve gave off worse reviews and group 2) would only buy 5-10h of gameplay because after that they already got the taste and lost interest. At least that’s what I imagine would happen. But with Hitman in particular it felt that while it was a great game by the devs, there were definitely management people there who had monetization rather than customer satisfaction as their highest priority and that could be felt in many game design influencing choices.

PS: since he mentions it in the video, yes, i’m one of those, i fully subscribe to being an admirer of the original Watch Dogs which I purchased multiple times and incredibly disappointed in how they destroyed their integrity and credibility with Watch Dogs 2 in order to make it more “mass market” (yes, you can feel that strong push, from the politically correct black hero, to the very safe subjects to dumbing it down for the masses). And I get why it’s so hard for the devs to tell, because I bought Watch Dogs 2 on preorder full price, based on the credibility of Watch Dogs 1, and yet now due to the big disappointment in 2 I will be much less likely to do that for 3 even though they might return to the origins. It’s hard for the devs to tell, similar story with Assassin’s Creed, but yet as a gamer I can tell when something is driven by a desire to make sales/get social hi-fives or a desire to create something wonderful. I’m always encouraged when I see this pattern, of the game which got the critical praise and media doesn’t sell so well as I feel there’s some justice in the universe after all and the customers are in fact smarter than the sales people take them for in recognizing a genuine thing from a quick cash push.

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 [Shenmue 3 will not be at E3, confirmed by the dev team]. 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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