E3 2017 wrap-up

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At some point, as I realized that this E3 is less exciting than what I remembered from some of the past years, I decided to keep track of the highlights in each conference (very subjective, mind you, so I skipped games that I personally found irrelevant). Thing is, some of the conferences were packed with games, yet they lacked a good presentation, while others were the opposite. And I wanted to have a more clear view of the entire picture.

A quick overview:

  • Microsoft, Ubisoft and Sony are in the end the top scoring conferences.
  • Microsoft was for me the hardest to rate and even the reason why I made this list: it had so many games presented without hype, that by the end of the presentation I forgot 90% of them. But when looking back, they really did have quite few cool games like Metro and Shadow of Mordor, etc. At least when compared to the other conferences…..
  • Compared to Microsoft, Ubisoft presented fewer games, but man, was their conference just so much more fun! I decided to give them points for that because I think a good conference should get us enthusiastic even about games that we’re not that much into. Otherwise, I’d just follow those 5 games that I truly love and watch their youtube trailers.
  • Sony’s presentation style I found again somewhat mediocre. A bunch of games which we’ve known about before, like Detroit and God of War. I mention these two because seeing more game footage was a bit of a disappointment in both cases.
    • Detroit gave me the impression of more of a psychological game in the first trailer, while now it seemed like you’re playing with militants for a specific cause, meaning that you’ll be revolting in the street and doing big actions for a cause that you might or might not relate to (and yes, I know some of you will say that it’s a game where you take decisions – but I somehow doubt it won’t be like most games: lady character: “Here, want to burn out and destroy this plaza, violence is the only thing they understand?” me: “No, I believe in peaceful reasoning”, lady character “Ok, then I’ll smash everything either way, this needs to be done”, me: “….”).
    • As for God of War, there’s a reason why I like it: it has, like almost no other game, these incredible huge scale environments, totally unrealistic as such, but a wonderful representation of ancient Greek mythology. There is never anything plain in that game, it’s all over the top (and yet well made). And the character is ruthless. This trailer did have some cool monsters, but it lacked the scale and felt like they went for more realistic and for humanizing Kratos. Which is a shame imho…
  • EA and Bethesda: both decent, but not extraordinary. Ea actually had one game that I am interested in: A Way Out. I’m surprised to see a well made split screen game with a captivating story! As for Bethesda, Wolfenstein and Evil Within were the highlights. It’s more of the same, but I liked the two games so I’m happy to see the continuation. By why was the Bethesda conference so ..silly? Whyyyyy? I have very little patience with my precious time and if I was there I even imagined I would have walked out, just so that they feel my reaction. To be honest I’m tired of having all this silliness around grown-up platforms and games. It’s a bad idea to start with to call these “games”, but rubbing it in makes it just annoying.
  • And then there’s Nintendo. To be honest, the only reason why I was interested is because I now have a Switch and I was hoping to see some bigger games coming in the future. Well, I don’t think I got much of that, but I can’t tell for sure since I was hypnotized by whatever crazy colors for ADD kids they were showing on screen :D

 

Yakuza 6 Trailer

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I was hoping to see this advertised at Nintendo’s conference for the Switch…

Nintendo E3 2017 Conference

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Again I feel like I have to apologize, I don’t really get/like Nintendo, and I’m not their target audience I guess, and of course these are totally my own personal points of view and it’s totally okay that others feel otherwise, many many millions of people in fact :P With that out of the way, here’s my thoughts to the Nintendo conference with the same things in mind as the MS, Sony, Ubisoft and Ea ones:

– Reggie still looks silly to me, and age has hurt his image even more in my eyes from the original Wii times as I can’t stop looking at his strangely twitching upper lip. Plus the strange fake backgrounds…

– Not just him but others too felt like men in suits who don’t actually play games but are executives who are selling toys to kids or their parents.

-, -,  + Xenoblade Chronicles 2 looks silly to me, but feels like there might be a big world there

-, – ,  + Kirby: totally uninterested, but seems decently made and i hear there’s Kirby fans out there. Kirby’s Epic Yarn felt much more stylish to me though.

-, -, + Pokemon: not interesting but it’s nice that it’s there for those who like it and i hope it’s more indepth+story than the mobile city exploring even i tried out

+, -, – Metroid 4: great that it exists.. but JUST SOME TEXT!?!?! that was lame. This could’ve been the one game I might be excited to play on my Switch.

+, -, – Looks cute… but for 5 year olds

-, + Fire Emblem Warriors: looks silly to me, but I can imagine they’ll put lots of story and world there, even if in that style

+, + – Zelda DLC: great that they’re making it, afraid though that it might be just NG+ kind of stuff with re-threading and challenges instead of new world regions.

– Splatoon 2 : whatever (multiplayer)

+ Rabbids + Mario, they’re cute. But probably won’t make time to play it.

– Rocket Leage : whatever (multiplayer)

+, +, –  Mario Odyssey: I like the variety of the worlds, bit still don’t know if I’ll make time to play it

It says though something about my great disappointment with this year’s E3 that I actually started with hopes that Nintendo will save it, which was of course silly given my own tastes and interests for more grown up games. But overall i’d give the Nintendo conference a 2 on a -5 to 5 scale. I didn’t find anything to really excite me, nothing of the 3rd party publisher rain I was hoping for, but on the other hand I think for their own audience Nintendo probably did a decent job. I’m curious how some people who really love Nintendo felt about it.

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.

Ubisoft E3 2017 Press Conference

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+ I was impressed with the showmanship from beginning to end, pretty much all the presenters looked like interesting often impressive serious people. And the kick off the conference with a french guy and a japanese guy talking funny english, that in itself was brilliant, not to mention… wow Myamoto!!!

+, – Mario + Rabbids, quite funny stuff, made me think maybe Ubisoft will be for me that company which makes the games for Switch that I don’t trust Nintendo to do good enough, cool minions type of humor. On the downside the game itself might be a high budget Ios/Android game with branding… what it did get me thinking is how cool an Xcom game would be for the switch instead, as the gameplay seemed straight out of there

+, +, – AC origins, can’t wait to play it, nice trailer, but unlike MS conference no gameplay to speak of and more importantly I was again struck at how low-detail (animations/textures) the pedestrians in the crowds seem.

+ The Crew 2 trailer, man, so much kewl, it reminded me again why i think only Ubisoft and Blizzard have the knowhow to make such CG trailers, so professional, pacing, video, music, they make some really good trailers. Add to that the showcasing of planes and boats and and a pretty world witch I now trust them to make… lots of respect. i’m not a car guy, but to me this was sooo above all other car games at the show, to be precise the order of how much i was impressed with : The Crew >  Need for Speed > Forza in terms of what was shown at E3

+, – Skull & Bones again, maaan, they sure know how to make a cg animation. Almost movie quality. Unfortunately seems not only distant but also the kind of game i don’t care for, multiplayer-ish. Seems to me like they’ve taken the naval warfare from AC games and are applying multiplayer styles from For Honor. Great artwork but I’m not tempted to keep grinding online in clans

– Just Dance, not interested, but not as lame as last year’s push or when that was with the annoying black lady

– Starlink don’t really know what to make of it and it’s distant, but looks good

– Steep, sports stuff… whatver

-, +, + Farcry 5 I find nasty the politically correct propaganda attack on religious people and on independent minded groups but I’m sure i’ll have tons of fun in that game and looks fantastic. I don’t expect nearly as much as the awesome africa of 2 or places of 3, but still, it’ll probably be good.

+ Beyond Good and Evil 2 i gotta say i wasn’t that huge a fan of the original, unlike everybody in the world it seems, played it on the ps2, but never loved it, so I’m surprised just how much i liked this trailer. The production values, the subtleties, the character… this is truly cinema material, better maybe than the last high budget animation movies I’ve seen. They managed to drop the old characters I wasn’t super looking forward to but instead invent these new and fun ones, and all wrapped in so much “cool factor”. I’m surprised myself because I know they should qualify as “silly to me, yet i found it cool/entertaining.

Overall I’d give this conference a +3 on a -5 to 5 scale, not because I found so many great games I’m excited about, but simply because I thought they had great showmanship, pacing and all that kind of stuff. It was simply entertaining from beginning to end for me.

 

Bethesda E3 2017

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– found the beginning incredibly lame. From the kids and families to the whole badly drawn/silly Bethesdaland graphics, found it horrible. I laughed hard in approval when the very smart woman I love that I got to watch it with said whoever had this idea for the presentation should be if not fired at least moved to a whooole other department. The only way I can imagine this as justified is as a PR stunt to humanize the otherwise and disarm critics of otherwise violent games

+ Doom & Fallout 4 VR, yep, that’s a reason to consider VR! Finally full games … I’m curious if one can play them without puking.

– Elder scrolls online focusing on player reactions to a (n old) trailer, found it lame

– elder scrolls CCG, might be good, but underwhelming in this context

+, – Skyrim on switch, on one hand exciting to finally have a serious game on the console, on the other hand… presented in that silly style…

+, +, – new Dishonored content, Daud, promising story= yeaayy!!! Downside: seems like cg animation, no gameplay, no location, particularly surprising given the September launch timeframe. Not a good sign.

-, – Quake Champions (though I played the heck out of quake 3 as Anarky) damn, yet another online class based team shooter a la Overwatch, even worse instead of letting it rise or fall based on it’s merits as a game it’s presented with actors and the mandatory politically correct token woman shown winning. Game might be okay but I’m rating here the presentation so for me it was a negative.

+, +  The evil within 2: cool surprise, cool cg, lots of symbolism, multiple mood changes, at times it felt like a Alan Wake wannabe, at others like a Quantum Break attempt, and it even had some Death Stranding weird simbolism before returning to the game in which the actual gameplay/locations were a mixed bunch

+, +, + Wolfenstein 2 epic legendary from the surprise, the world, the cg, the media references, the humor, and then the great looking gameplay and environment design, all wrapped in great presentation. Simply stellar.

+ I was repeatedly surprised by all the games being for this year. Was expecting some kind of at least tease for an elder scrolls, but i understand why it’s smarter to keep the iron hot for titles which are imminent and this was of the conferences I’ve seen so far quite unique and impressive. Was there anything not launching this year?

Overall I’d give it a +3 on the impressions, great games, even if presented in what I found to be lame silly packaging.

gameSketch 360

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A rusty neo pirate lands on a lovecraftian foggy island

 
Usual rules: 3 tries per person. Winner gets to propose a gameSketch. x5 multiplier for first timers. Newcomers: you may ask for 3 freebies even if you didn’t yet guess anything. Outstanding credits: 47Crows x12, Ange, PettyX90 x7, 47Crows x7, Haikuhunter x10, Jaco x98, Firefish x31, Pori x2, Tarpo x5, player347 x9, Diana x6, Radu x45, VideoGamesAsArt x2 , thegazer x9, BiaHawks x7, rsocu x5, Teofil S. Awaiting scenes from you guys.

 

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?

Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed (WiiU game)

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Remember Sonic? A cult figure of the 90´s, surely the most famous hedgehog across virtual reality and the main star of the SEGA game factory. For some of us, there is no need for description: we know Sonic, we basically grew up with him, playing the fun speedy games on those vintage SEGA consoles. Back then, you just had one or two arcade games, the luckiest of us maybe even more, and you were either a Nintendo or a SEGA kid. For all those who don’t know about Sonic, you can take a leap back to the past here.

Since 1991 – the year when Sonic emerged – a lot has happened; the entire game industry evolved so fast, facing revolutionary progress as well as numerous trends, like gaming on mobile devices or using VR equipment. As for the content dimension, one popular trend is definitely the racing game. Racing games are fun, entertaining and challenging, and can be played as a single player or with more people at once. And there are many out there. After a comprehensive review of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe written by HaikuHunter, here is my review about the dynamic and colorful racing game feat. Sonic in “Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed”.

“Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed” was released by SEGA in 2012. The Wii U version came out in November 2012, followed by PC versions for Windows in 2013 and iOS in 2014, and ultimately Xbox in 2016. Critics evaluated the game positively. The Wii U version however got minus points due to some issues in the online gameplay, but there are plenty of offline challenges that compensate. In multi-player mode, further players can easily join the game, provided they have a controller and a display port.

 

What´s special about the game?

 

As the title anticipates, it´s all about racing transformed. The racing car of each character can transform into a flight plane, for air racing, or a boat, for cruising on water. In one race, chances are that you must activate up to all 3 transformations. One of the things good to learn quickly are stunts, for example spinning in the air when taking off a ramp, or drifting in curves. This gets you bonus points and extra speed.

In the “Career” section, the game offers four different modes: world tour, Grand Prix, timed race and single race. These are meant to train your racing skills on different levels, from bronze (easy) to gold (difficult). When you finished a set of races on the bronze level and made it to the podium (top 3), you unlock them in the silver mode, where the competition gets tougher. What I missed here was more variation between levels; after racing through the same scenery several times, you kind of wish more challenging stuff on the next level. In a way, there is a higher difficulty through the fact that in the silver and gold levels, the sceneries are mirror-inverted and the competitors are more fast and furious. If that does it, then you will probably not get too bored seeing the same scenery over and over again. But still, as a single player, you kind of expect more pepper.

If you play as a single user, you can configure whether you use the Pro Controller or the Wii U pad as a main instrument. To make the most out of the game, I definitely recommend the handier Pro Controller. In this case, the Wii U pad will simultaneously show the route map and your position on it during the race. The competitors and the overall ranking per race are also displayed. Personally, I don’t really look at these stats while playing, in order not to get distracted from the race.

Current position and ranking displayed on the Wii U pad

Characters

 

Besides Sonic, you can choose between an entire range of characters from the SEGA universe. Some of them are well known from the Sonic game series, like Sonic´s friends Tails and Amy Rose, Knuckles the Echidna, or his enemy Metal Sonic. There are also further SEGA figures like AiAi – the Monkey (Super Monkey Ball), BD Joe – the funky taxi driver or Ulala – the sassy reporter from Space Channel 5. Each character has his own strengths and weaknesses. While Sonic is the fastest and wackiest protagonist, Amy can fly more precisely, and with Knuckles you have a smooth ride on boat. Sometimes it´s wise to choose a certain character depending on the race ahead you. A curvy race can be mastered better with Amy than with Tails, while BD Joe can get very speedy on straight road. Personally, my favorite character is Amy Rose. She can face most races in a balanced way, especially on boat or plane, which are quite a challenge as a beginner. After some practice, I won many levels with Amy, it´s so much fun to hear her cheering “hurray!” and “wow!” on the way.

During the game, you can unlock some further, hidden characters. Among the figures that can be unlocked there are some more characters from the Sonic family (will not spoil the surprise here ;-)

Amy flying through a tunnel

Tails driving through a village

Sonic driving on a futuristic highway in the Lights City

Graphics

 

The game presents a very colorful visual universe, a vivid and intense journey for the eye. The diversity in the scenery leads the player through green landscapes, casino highways, winter nights, cities with sky scrapers, Japanese landmarks, rivers, seaside roads, industrial depots, flight platforms, mexican lava rivers, spooky ghost houses and many many more.

Each scenery sparkles in strong colors and is enriched by animated details, which boost your journey with extra joy.

 

Amy flying though a dream portal

Knuckles flying through old historic walls

 

Tails racing through a medieval city

 

Gameplay

 

Basically, you have quite straightforward controls to accelerate, drift, spin, use weapons. However, there are more tricks available for doing stunts, and the combinations of controls are not transparent, you have to discover them. This can be a challenge, I dare to say.

For moving forward, you use the same control, no matter if you race on road, on water or in the air. A race consists in 3 laps. Usually, the first two laps are quite the same, while the third one gets a bit more difficult requiring transformed racing. Before starting a race, you can choose an available gear for your character. For example, for a curvy route, you might go better with the “Balanced” gear than with the “Turbo” gear. The effects of each gear work differently for each character. As you advance in playing, more gears get unlocked for your character.

During the race, there are collectibles on the way: coins, surprise items you have to hit, in order to get a weapon that can be used against your opponents. The currently available weapon can be seen in the top right corner of the screen.

Here is my list with some of the coolest weapons:

Hotroad – a kind of enormous speed boost like fire gear; you must end it actively with a blast, to sweep the opponents in range away (but if you don’t activate it on time, it will blast you up, to your disadvantage, and slow you down; this happens after a few seconds, so you have to activate the blast quite quickly!)

All Star – a kind of absolute power state that lasts for a short time; you float with super speed accompanied by the character-specific song – Amy´s All Star has a fancy song and unleashes pink hearts while she’s drifting with super speed ;-) With All Star you can easily overrun some opponents at a time, quite a cool thing.

Blowfish – a big round fish to be released on the way, so the cars behind you bump into it – when this happens, they get slowed down. The fish itself has a funny face too!

Ice (Snow balls) – with snow balls you can shoot on the opponent in front of you (precision is required!)

 

On the road, there are glowing pink arrows that add turbo power, if you drive on top of them. On water and in air, these are pink glowing gateways – if you fly or swim through them, you get a turbo boost. It takes some practice to learn to drift successfully in a dramatic curve right after getting a turbo boost… But that makes the entire game so active and fun.

Obstacles like bees swarm, blowfishes, lightning bolts, spiders etc. are placed on the way to challenge your tenacity. The game is very entertaining and dynamic, each race and scenery is unique. Watch below Amy Rose mastering the Mexican “Samba de Amigo”…

…and Sonic ruling the race in the “Carrier Zone”:

By the way, with collected coins you can play casino (5 coins per chance) – if you’re lucky, you can win a pre-package for the next race, for example start your next race with a Blowfish or a turbo boost. :D

Play coins in the bonus Casino to get benefits and pre-packages for the next race

 

Summing up

 

+ Good gameplay, for Wii U very cool to play with the Pro Controller

+ Fun racing with collectibles and boosts

+ Diversity in available characters, more characters can be unlocked

+ Nice graphics, lively scenery, brilliant colors

+ Entertaining music and game voicing

 

– Loading: quite long loading sequences between races or game modes, can sometimes take up to minutes

– Not much diversity between easy and difficult game levels, mostly same sceneries (yet quite many, though)

– I would have loved a story, a story that twines everything together and establishes connections – for instance, a story around Sonic and his friends would have been nice.

– There is no central user manual or game rules directory. I had difficulties to find out how to shoot different weapons (some can be shot even to the rear, others just to the front). You just get some random hints while the game is loading, which is not quite enough. But perhaps it was intended like this, to challenge players.

 

All in all, I enjoyed playing this game. Driving Sonic is quite a speedy thing in this colorful game, just as usual. My great hope is that the next Sonic racing game will evolve around a story and maybe even combine racing with jump&run adventure – thinking further, I would love something like that – Sonic would be the perfect character for such a mixed fun hullabaloo.

 

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.

Design Implications of Free 2 Play

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This is to me just one of many examples of the perverse and subtly horrible consequence that free to play and MMOs have on the game design & user experience. I put them together because both have certain fundamental genetically unavoidable properties which developers repeatedly pretend don’t exist or promise that their specific games won’t suffer from them, yet due to these innate characteristics both introduce mutations into gameplay which tend to corrupt the goal of making games fun and enjoyable for the player and into something else, a building resentment monster growing under the surface, as the games logically choose not to cater to the player’s needs and joys but rather to the constraints of their genetics.

In the case of free to play of hiding monetization and thus subtly perverting the gameplay design choices, and in the case of MMOs because even if they don’t run on a subscription model they must cater to the satisfaction of not one player but many players, and thus can’t bring the fantasies and joys of one, because they must always balance for the others not to find it unfair, which cripples them. Take for example The Elder Scrolls online, a game which i think in terms of production, content, audience and pedigree has many great things, yet even when it goes back to Morrowind, with so much potential and such a big fan-base, not just the presence of the other players trivializes the experience and contradicts the narrative told but logically also subtle design decisions made for this purpose thus make the game less fun than it could’ve been.

In the cases of multiplayer we have seen over the years some better than others solutions (Dead Island/Dying Light allowed me to play singleplayer until i accidentally shattered my own immersion by lifting the curtain and seeing others in my world destroying quests, exploration and immersion), yet in the free to play arena I see things even worse, which is why I still believe the best strategy for player enjoying their experience and developers still getting their money is simply stealing the modern “free to play” naming/PR  and instead mixing it with the old demo-model, eg parts/regions which are free, and parts which are payed. This way the free parts can be designed without compromises in the experience & player satisfaction, without all those subtle perverting tweaks meant to incentivize the free to play model. Of course even doing this I can imagine differences between a bad and an excellent game as to how subtly this is done, how it takes the lessons learned in recent years from “free to play” to integrate the content in an organic way. Otherwise we end up with what I’ve seen all to many times: two radically different games hiding under the same hood, contradicting each other in design and goals.

 

The problem is ultimate in my opinion: you can’t serve two masters, and you can see that on many such games, having in different states two different and contradictory design structures. One which is fun, one which is frustrating. And ironically I’ve seen many tragedies where even the player who decides to pay hoping to return the game to a fun state no longer can because the design incentives are already so deeply baked into the cake that they can’t be eliminated. It saddened me but I actually played free to play games which were pretty good in parts, and I wanted to thank/pay the developers for that… but paying them broke the game in another way, and there were actually games in which it was logical not to pay the developers because you ruined your own experience. This I find tragic and perverse on both accounts, for the players as they are no longer sure what/when they’re buying, if they’re getting fun or frustration, and of course for the developers, as they put so much work/money/effort/development time and then don’t get adequately rewarded for their effort, and often due to logical consequences of their own designs.

 

PS: i’m playing among others Zelda: Breath of the Wild currently, and it’s a fun (if creepy) mental experiment to think of all the ways in which that game would’ve been destroyed, and all my minor complaints would’ve mutated into horrible throw the game into a junk bin, if it had been designed with free to play in mind. There too I see my theory/model being self consistent: even keeping the same amount of content, rather than pervert the whole world and experience with a free to play, adjusting the crafting/currency system and/or the monsters for grinding and micro-transactions, is to my mind a much bigger horrible evil that they could’ve done than to have the initial plateau or regions free to play but keeping the same consistent design.

 

So, spurred by that video, this has been a little essay of mine trying to put down my thoughts over the past years on the free to play model. I  think it’s hard enough to make a game that pleases the critical players… but that task is made not just much harder but possibly impossible by in essence making what is two games, with two contradicting sets of values and design choices. I find it a huge betrayal when the final game you buy is radically different than what you tried out… and yet this is what keeps happening.

I’ve seen this many times and I’m afraid I’ll see it many times more, because to paraphrase the british tv series Hustle: people like to get something for nothing, so we’ll keep giving them nothing for something.

Witcher 3 first person mod

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Argh, this game and so many other great ones with fantastic AAA production values like say Assassin’s Creed games would’ve been to me so much more immersive (and thus valuable) in first person.

PS: SOOO Much beautifull!!! I wanna explore that world that way!!!!!!!

gameSketch 359

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A stroll through the Queen’s palace… under the watchful eye of the cameras.

 
Usual rules: 3 tries per person. Winner gets to propose a gameSketch. x5 multiplier for first timers. Newcomers: you may ask for 3 freebies even if you didn’t yet guess anything. Outstanding credits: 47Crows x12, Ange, PettyX90 x7, 47Crows x7, Haikuhunter x10, Jaco x98, Firefish x31, Pori x2, Tarpo x5, player347 x9, Diana x6, Radu x45, VideoGamesAsArt x2 , thegazer x9, BiaHawks x7, rsocu x5, Teofil S. Awaiting scenes from you guys.

PS: bonus hint added to unsolved last week’s

Nintendo Sceptic’s Journey through Zelda+Switch [part 1]

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As you may suspect from the title this may not be the usual song of praise to Nintendo & Zelda Breath of the Wild. Others have done far more and better than me in this respect, for example check out HaikuHunter’s fantastic Zelda review or his cool Switch review (with a great test!). If anything I come from a very different background and it seems with very different tastes/values than most reviewers of the game, if anything seeing all those fantastic youtube/IGN/GameSpot/IGN/metacritic reviews got me quite critical as I was comparing what I was seeing with other contemporary and past games. Many people respond by saying that the game should be taken into itself but I am a person who’s played games for >25 years and when looking at a new game I can’t just pretend a lot of the great advancements we’ve made in the field in the past 10+ years were not there and just act like this one game just invented all that or lives on it’s own. By that logic I’m convinced if i took a badly rated metacritic game and gave it to a person who’s never played a game they’d be blown away. So, I will be judging this Zelda in the context of all the other games in the recent years, in relation to those, and not at all in relation to other Zelda games (which I haven’t played), and as a person who just bought his first Nintendo console. The fact that I bought this console is a testament to the fact that it’s the first time I saw a possibly play-worthy Nintendo game after the Super Nintendo which I respect for the 90s which I only admired form a distance though and later via some emulation. But with Zelda Breath of the Wild, an open world, and a handheld which I think is more powerful than the aging Vita. This makes Zelda: Breath of the Wild the most expensive game I’ve ever bought, game + console reaching to about 400$. I’ll give my first impressions in bullet points.

Special note: I have to mention that again there’s going to be a lot of “relative context”, in that in some points I’ll not just be addressing the game but also all the praise of it in criticism to other games which I found totally unjustified and shaped my expectations and where I’m coming from (and why I payed so much pretty much for one game). I’ll mark these with * .

 

+, +  [Switch] feels like a nice solid construction

+, + [Switch] Quick and smooth start from unboxing to being right in the game

-, – [Switch] I was rather disappointed with the display quality, on a sunny day it was quite hard to play without going inside (which sort of beats the point). In particular that starting room I kept bumping into walls

– , – [Switch] very very very poor selection of games, never seen such a short list of games in a store, and for me it’s even worse so far Zelda is for me the only game … I can only hope that in the years to come some devs will take a risk and at least port some old titles for the platform.

+, +, + “switch”-ing from docked to portable mode feels awesome, still a miracle even after doing it dozens of times.

-, +, – [Switch] The controllers felt rather tiny, got used to them in the end but they still have signal problems when even slightly away from the TV and i reaaaly dislike the asymetric joystick combined with the (to me) strange button placements and uses which contradict my PC, ps3, ps4, xbox 360 and bit of Xone customs

And now moving onto Zelda tself:

+, +, +, + Looks fantastic on the tiny screen. Just amazing to be seeing such small things with such detail. On the small screen the cell shading did indeed have a charm of it’s own and helped with contrst videwing

-, –  in docked mode though things look pretty empty. The graphics feel ps3 level, sometimes even ps2 level. I definitely and strongly disagree with all those portraying it as a current-gen platform. It feels last-gen at best, sometimes worse, with bland washed out textures without character and very few objects in the world, mostly just rolling hills terrain.

+ but the smooth open world makes up for a lot

– the colors feel pretty washed out. Initially i thought maybe it’s the feeling of a sunny day, which i like, but then i remembered a lot of games which have sunny worlds and yet decent contrast which doesn’t feel like i’m playing things on an aged tv

+, +, + I enjoyed the feeling of exploring the world, the openness was I think a fantastic decision

* So many people have said this game is so different and revolutionary to other games that it allows you to go anywhere and just explore. I didn’t find this at all as different as other games of this type: the moment i strayed of the path to just go another direction I was hit 2x to go back 1) by cold weather i couldn’t resist 2) by the game reminding me that I’m supposed to do something and go somewhere, something which happens later in the game too. Also the game clearly expect you to get the basic powers before proceeding, with the initial area serving as training ground. This is a typical game trope, nothing wrong with that, but I do resent all the statements/reviews which made it seem like this is never done before revolutionary.

-, + The music i heard (unlike the selections above) felt mostly bland and generic, semi-generated, with some chords and sounds, with only the occasional memorable song. Again, nothing wrong with that, just not the aweeesome sountrack i was lead to expect.  Mostly the game gets away with ambiental sounds of the world. I have yet to find in it though super memorable songs that stick or blow away like I did in other games. To take one example I think the soundtrack isn’t as memorable/professional as the Witcher 3 one, and i didn’t particularly love the soundtrack there, just saying.

-, – the whole world feels very “for kids”, from world to story to everything. For some this might be a plus for me it’s a minus.

* people kept saying how different from other games and unique this game is, particularly how much better it is than the worn out formula of AC games… yet what’s one of the first things I did and patterns I learned in the game?!? You climb a tall tower to reveal/conquer a big map section. duuuuh

-, -, – really low budget feeling with NPC interactions, silly sounds instead of voiced over, a place where i feel the game feels decidedly 10 years+ ago

+ the animations however are pretty nice

– the stamina indicator is i think really badly designed, a circle straight on the character, at the very least it should have been on the edge of the screen if not subtle animations or some overall screen effect like most games do such feedback, they instead placed a 2d distracting animation exactly center screen

– the black & white loading screen felt really not fitting. Might’ve worked for a stylized game like Persona but here it just felt out of place. I would’ve much rather had scenes from the landscape or screenshots or something that was visually fitting (for example handle it like Oblivion did with those frames)

+, -, – while exploring the world was fun, like a mixture of Minecraft, Grow Up, Gothic & Oblivion, as soon as I went into the big village the game showed it’s shortcomings even more compared to other games in the past decade, with the silly sounds instead of dialogues it was barely better than Okami on the ps2, and no longer doing things but rather having interactions the game felt even more backward and underproduced. Couldn’t wait to get out of town.

+ the environment interactions are pretty nice, enemies dropping weapons and being surprised when you take them, flames making fields on fire, nice stuff. Nothing I hadn’t seen done much better in Farcry Primal, Farcry 3 & 4, but still it’s nice to have it there.

* the restriction of some areas via clothing keeps making me think of the much better experience i had with that in Farcry Primal

– didn’t really like the cooking mechanics. It could’ve been much simplified, just interacting with a fire should’ve put you in cooking mode, instead one has to go into inventory, click once, click again to select, and only then begins making a cooking selection. Unoptimized!

* I particularly resented how many reviewers started their Zelda review by criticizing Ubisoft games, and this for a game which I feel in most places does not live to the high standards raised by those games. For example they would often start by saying that those games feel like a colect-a-thlon, unlike Zelda, but this game also feels to me exactly like that. You go around picking up things, finding places, picking up more things. Nothing wrong with that, I just find incredibly untrue how they put it. Sure, there’s moments when you’re delighted in Zelda by finding something unique, but I’ve found even more unique and interesting corners in other games from Assasin’s Creed to Dying Light.

+ I liked the things the game took from Shadow of the Colossus, from the big open areas with sun to the stamina for climbing, great things!

* Again contrary to all the praises I’ve heard i feel the game does a lot of the rinse & repeat type activities, unlike all the praising reviews that said this game is so different than that. You find a shrine, you solve it, you do it again, you find a tower, you climb it… and so on… And here too i saw other games do this more originally and with more variety: take for example the Oblivion gates/dimensions: they felt totally ‘deja vu’ and repeat, just like the shrines, yet some of them had fully lovingly crafted worlds in there, with interesting unique back stories and *fully voiced* interesting characters. Or even in a smaller scale, the towers of Farcry: all the same, and yet with subtle variations and challenges in figuring them out, they were mini shrine puzzles in themselves that I’ve never heard anybody make a big deal of.

 

Well, that’s it for now. Been playing a lot of Zelda, will play more, these are some of my thoughts so far…

TO BE CONTINUED

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