E3 2016 Predictions!

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Publishers may be spoiling all of the fun of E3 with early announcements and “leaks,” but I get the feeling there is a bunch of stuff we don’t yet know about. Recent trends that are taking the games industry by storm aren’t going to go untouched.

There is a lot of speculation surrounding companies like Nintendo and Capcom, but I’m here to lay those worries to rest (hopefully). There is my list of predictions for stuff we’ll see at E3 2016!

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NX isn’t a console…it is Zelda!

While Nintendo initially stated their only title at E3 would be the new Zelda, they soon clarified that other games would be present during their Treehouse presentation. Most people are looking for new details on the upcoming NX console, but I have a theory.

What if the NX is just Zelda. I’m serious, too. What if the NX isn’t a separate console, but an entire machine dedicated to one game. The Wii U isn’t powerful to allow the creative vision Nintendo wants for the next Zelda game, but they also don’t want to divide their user base with another console that will (most likely) fail.

So the NX is unleashed as being another box, but it only has one game. That game will be Zelda: The Something of Whatever! It will have Demon’s Souls like multiplayer features, a never ending supply of quests like an MMO and will feature constantly expanding and growing characters in a world that changes based on your actions.

Then again, maybe the NX is just a codename for Nintendo XTreme!

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What’s Old is New Again…Again

Hot on the heels of Battlefield 1’s announcement to take place in the past, EA will begin to restructure their focus on “retro” themed games. This will lead to things like Plants Vs Zombies: Mendelian Conflict, Medal of Honor: Gettysburg and SSX 95.

Activision will take notice and announce a spin-off Call of Duty set during the rise of the Greek Empire, Call of Duty: Thermopylae. Seeing as how their only other franchise is Guitar Hero, they will announce a classic rock compilation of 50’s tunes dubbed Guitar Hero Live: All Shook Up.

A deluge of not modern military shooters will follow in the coming years. We’ll all have the EA presentation of 2016 to thank for our inevitable hatred of the “past” and our desire to head back to the “future”.

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VR Man

Since VR is becoming a hot trend, I predict that all of the major console manufacturers are going to show off their own version of VR. I know this one is mostly confirmed (and Sony has already been demoing their VR headset), but there are still a lot of details that haven’t been made public.

Microsoft will announce that they’ve teamed with Oculus for a simple VR solution on the Xbox Two! That’s right; the revision model of the Xbox One will be labeled Xbox Two, completely sidestepping the fact that the second console in the Xbox family was titled the 360.

Along with Oculus Rift support, Microsoft HoloLens will be required to utilize any VR technology of the new console. With a headset and controller in tow, you’ll be able to literally interact with everything in the game, as long as you have a 24x15x8 room available for setup.

Nintendo will reveal that the NX (which I said will be a Zelda only machine) allows VR to let players get truly “immersed” in the world of Hyrule. Players will be able to punch pots and crates with their own fists and can then put rupees into their pockets as if they were truly there.

Sony will finally come out and proclaim that the Playstation VR will only ever support one game and will then be discontinued by the company. They’ll mention it next to their deceased handheld, the PSV or whatever, and begin a whole new line of “legacy” Sony hardware.

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Xbox Live as an ISP

Now, I want to preface this entry with my own opinion; I think this would be an incredibly smart move. People have seemed to drift away from Microsoft’s service over to Sony’s this generation. Both offer virtually the same stuff, at present, but Microsoft’s console hasn’t won any favors since its original announcement.

Years ago, I proposed the idea that Microsoft should just turn Xbox Live into an ISP. Along with monthly fees that are competitive with cable companies, anyone who signs up would be given access to Xbox Live Gold and all the features that entails.

Microsoft will finally realize that their system isn’t going to topple Sony. After having ceased development of Windows Phone and focusing on Xbox as a brand, Microsoft will announce that Xbox Live will now be offered as an internet service.

Gamers who sign up will be given access to Xbox Live Gold and some subscriber benefits that non-ISP users won’t have access to. While the service will be platform agnostic, there will be some speed benefits for Xbox users to give Microsoft a leg up over cable providers.

Sony and Nintendo will be stunned, but unable to fund their own comparable networks. Both will announce a greater emphasis on digital sales and subscriber benefits, though neither will be able to cut out the middleman required for internet service.

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Other than these predictions, I don’t see much else happening at E3. The past few years have been pretty lousy in terms of announcements and reveals. The widespread adoption of the internet has allowed many users to track down hints of games well before publishers are even ready to talk about them.

There has also been some pretty harsh backlash against companies using fake trailers to promote their games. Gearbox and Ubisoft have come under fire for the way they lied about Aliens: Colonial Marines and Watch_Dogs, respectively. I get the feeling that most companies are going to shy away from pre-rendered trailers in favor of showing live gameplay on stage.

Either way, I don’t have much interest in E3. I just wanted to write a sort of jokey blog about what I see in the industry. Maybe I’ll get lucky and have a few of these predictions come true. I’m not much of a prophet, however.

 

 

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A Matter of Perspective

Have you ever played a game that you just loathed? Why, exactly, did you dislike the game? Did you legitimately hate the experience, or did user feedback and reviews taint your opinion? I recently finished Kane And Lynch: Dead Men and I’m a bit confused about the whole thing.

Honestly speaking, nothing is broken in the game. I wouldn’t go out of my way to call it a good game, but I had a few decent hours of enjoyment with my friend Jim. We laughed at how stupid the dialog was and even how crappy the graphics were. We yelled at the inability to skip cutscenes, especially when they were linked to checkpoints.

More importantly, though, neither of us could figure out why there was so much hate for the game. This is really the game that got Jeff Gerstmann fired? Why did GameSpot even care? I understand a 6 out of 10 isn’t glowing, but nothing in the game is offensive in its design.

I really do believe that a lot of the hate comes from the controversy surrounding it. Not only that, but people have heard the game is bad so, suddenly, everything is bad about it. I’ve heard a sentiment like that echoed to me when seeing films with friends. If you go in expecting the movie to be garbage, you usually leave hating the film.

I’ve now been thinking about a lot of games I previously condemned. Maybe they weren’t all that bad? I have been an ardent speaker against the quality of Halo, but what if those games truly aren’t terrible? I even enjoyed Halo: Reach, so there obviously is something to the formula that I like.

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Maybe something like Duke Nukem Forever isn’t even that bad. I remember despising every second of that game, but what if I just tempered my resolve by soaking in the negative reviews? Everyone was giving the game a 3 out of 10, so it clearly had to be the worst thing ever. Do I really want to play it again to find out?

The one game I regret not finishing is Bioshock 2. While I know for a fact that I just do not enjoy anything about it, I really think I’m not giving it a fair judgment. I wasn’t even that big of a fan of the first Bioshock game, so why did I just end up hating its sequel? I mainly found revisiting Rapture to be a squandered opportunity.

I can cite the Dynasty Warriors games as things I really like. I don’t read any kind of reviews for them and typically spend close to 100 hours with each game. They are so simple in their design and tactile in their feedback that I find it impossible to put down. The reviews wouldn’t agree with me, though.

Lollipop Chainsaw was also another game that wasn’t so warmly received. A lot of people just hate that game, though I think that has more to do with Suda51’s reputation. I managed to finish that four times in the span of three days and had a good bit of fun with it.

The Yakuza series is also something that isn’t so welcomed in the West. I believe that to be one of the best series of the last decade and a true classic in every regard. There are definitely some awkward design choices as far as controls are concerned, but getting an old-school brawler adapted to a masterfully-written plot makes up for any faults in my eyes.

As the old saying goes, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” If you truly like something enough, express that love to others. If you are venomously against it, do not be afraid to speak your mind. Progress will never commence if you keep opinions to yourself. Obviously you don’t need to be harsh, but that does sometimes get the point across.

To sum this all up, I really don’t think Kane and Lynch is that bad. There are a few neat levels and the premise is really unique. I can’t speak too much about the sequel, but that’s mainly because I quit in a disgusted rage after the first hour.

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I had come to an epiphany about perspective on games and the sequel made me hate all over again. Oh, well.

“Girlfriend Mode” My Ass!

Editor’s Note: To Gearbox’s credit, President Randy Pitchford seems pretty pissed about the whole situation. He took to Twitter stating “Borderlands 2 does NOT have a girlfriend mode. Anyone that says otherwise is misinformed or trying to stir up something that isn’t there… The future DLC Mechromancer class has a skill tree that makes it easier for less skilled coop partners (any gender!) to play and be useful.” Pitchford didn’t deny Hemingway’s statement, citing it as a “personal anecdote” and following with “there is no universe where Hemmingway is a sexist – all the women at Gearbox would beat his and anyone else’s ass.” But that still doesn’t change the fact that sexism continues to be an important issue in the gaming industry and culture as a whole.

Developers and stupid comments seem to be going hand in hand these days. First we get Crystal Dynamics shooting themselves in the foot and now we have Gearbox making asshats out of themselves. It’s insane to think how grown adults can’t figure out how to properly speak to journalists about their games.

Still, the most recent instance with Gearbox’s John Hemingway just does not make sense to me. Are the developers intentionally trying to not sell their product to women? When I first read the quick blip for Eurogamer’s article, I immediately thought of a mode where the female character would bond to one character and heal them.

Instead, the gaming world is now treated to something unintentionally sexist. To say that female gamers require additional assistance in their games is ludicrous. If the main idea was to appeal to significant others who are bad at video games, why not just label the mechanic as noob mode?

Still, I’m a white male and I’m getting outraged at something that doesn’t really impact me. I’ll never know what it’s like to be a woman and have people constantly harassing me, so I took to Twitter for some quick comments.

I asked my co-worker’s girlfriend and another co-worker of mine (the now infamous Jozie). Both play games and while they may not be experts or as hardcore as I am, they certainly can hold their own in terms of ability.

As you can clearly see, both aren’t too happy about Hemingway’s comment. While he may not be a ravenous sexist, he certainly is unfounded and ignorant. Just like the controversy over Dead Island and their “Feminist Whore” skill, developers need to realize that in-jokes aren’t funny to the masses and knocks against female stereotypes are unfounded and ridiculous.

To further drive the point home, an old friend of mine was quite the gamer. She couldn’t best me in Call of Duty or Gears of War, but she certainly wasn’t a slouch either. Gaming with her on “Hard Mode” wasn’t some futile attempt to make myself look better. She honestly was up for the challenge and liked not having the game be a cakewalk.

I’ve also known quite a few female workers from local GameStop’s that are interested in some pretty awesome stuff. My best friend Jim’s old boss loved “Dark Souls,” a game that makes most grown men cry. This very lovely girl, Jen, was a huge fan of Fable and Call of Duty and she used to ask me pointers on how to get better, instead of cowering in fear of harder difficulties.

I also recall of two twins who were gigantic Pokémon fans. While that may not be the most daunting of titles to topple, just having the sheer dexterity to finish any of those titles is a pretty monumental accomplishment. I’ve only ever beaten two Pokémon games and I sink hundreds of hours into each.

My point is I don’t understand why developers are still treating women like unskilled peons. According to ESRB polls, around 40% of gamers are women. If you total up all sales of the previous “Borderlands” (as presented by VGChartz.com), you get about 4.55 million copies. Imagine if 40% did not buy the sequel. You’d sell close to 2 million copies less.

That is something that Gearbox probably doesn’t want to face. Sadly, they may see a pretty big decline come September. Borderlands didn’t have the easiest start of any new IP, but it did well on the charm of its gameplay and word of mouth from gamers.

If the new word of mouth is that Gearbox is a bunch of sexist idiots, maybe Borderlands 2 won’t sell so well. While I can’t predict what will happen, I will say that developers need to start treating their potential customers a lot better.

Enough of the bullshit where women apparently suck or that being offended is solely your fault. Start thinking about what you say and maybe I’ll give a shit about your work. Until then, you’ve lost a prospective customer.

Cate Archer isn’t pleased.

Gaming Thoughts: Nostalgia

Nostalgia is a very powerful force. It can completely distort the past unlike any other thing in the world. Recently, “Duke Nukem Forever” saw the light at the end of the release tunnel and gamers were thrilled. The thing is, we all wanted it for the sake of nostalgia.

While I’m not going to detail my utter disdain for that dreadful title, I would like to go over how frustrated my past with Duke 3D got me over the new game. As awkward as this may sound, I actually played Duke 3D back when it launched in 1997.

At the time, I was 9 years old. My parents were very trusting of my understanding of video games and how they differentiated from real life, so they let me embark on any kind of violent/adult/debauched type of games. Being 9, I never noticed the blood or nudity or cursing, I just liked the game.

A few years back I got to replay Duke 3D on Xbox Live Arcade and I was surprised at how ahead of its time the game was. While there certainly were aspect that hasn’t aged well (I’m looking at you water level), the game really created a sense of atmosphere that most modern games can’t even compare to. Even the voice acting was still ridiculously hilarious, regardless of how much wit it lacked.

What else made the game so great were the graphics. While ID was busy trying to take first-person gaming into full 3D with “Quake,” 3D Realms stuck with what worked and made the best damn version of “Doom” that was ever made. Yeah, Duke essentially ripped off the grand-daddy of shooters, but it had a sense of cartoony style and flair that Call of Duty wishes it had.

When I installed Forever on my PC, I expected at least something from the original. The only thing I got was the fucking water level and that caused me to break my phone in rage. I don’t understand what the mentality was over the 14 year development cycle, but I think it’s pretty sad that we got a game that’s about 7 steps backwards from what Duke 3D did.


This is literally the only achievement Forever accomplishes.

My biggest beef, though, has to be the loss of character and art style. Like I described to my best friend/brother, Jim, “The monsters look extremely realistic. It’s like when you’re a kid and you always wondered what it would be like to actually be the character. Then when you finally see how flimsy and stupid it is, you just want the original.”

The worst offender for the character is his psychopathic sense of humor. I understand that during my life time, I’ve made some awful jokes. I’m not trying to debate here that I’m a high and mighty, morally upstanding person (hell, I get drunk on a fairly regular basis), but why would you write rape and abortion jokes into your script? Why does one line in the game consist of the word fuck, shit and bullshit 3 times each?

On the flip side, though, I’ve also been playing through the re-released Ocarina of Time on 3DS and my memories are still intact. In fact, the game is actually a bit better than I remember it some 13 years ago. Nintendo held their title to such a high standard that they even improved lacking aspects.

The wonderful, colorful, vibrant world is left alone, but polygon counts are boosted and the frame rate is smoothed out to create such a different experience that it’s almost worth owning both versions. My only complaint in more recent years was the damn iron boots in the Water Temple and Nintendo fixed it.

Playing through, all I could say to Jim were things like, “Oh shit, it’s time for Jabu-Jabu,” or, “God, these chickens look ridiculous in 3D,” and my personal favorite, “Oh snap! Din’s Fire! Shit just got real!” I got misty eyed when I heard the overworld theme again and I kept reliving memories of my youth when I got to specific moments in the game.

While I wouldn’t say that Ocarina is worth the purchase of a 3DS, if you do own the system, you owe it to yourself to relive this classic. It’s similar to how Duke 3D still outshines a lot of modern shooters; Ocarina is such a feature filled world that it puts a lot of open-world games to shame.


The horse even controls better than Red Dead Redemption! Fuck yeah, Epona!

It’s astounding how the force of nostalgia can create positive and negative emotions all within the same week. Duke fails my childhood while Link escalates it back into my conscious. This brings up a bigger idea, though; Did Gearbox sell us nostalgia for a simple dollar?

I used to hold Gearbox to a high standard. While they weren’t flawless and even their greatest game had a few issues, I always trusted their games to be fun, deep experiences. Duke does a huge disservice to the developers and really hurts their image in my eyes.

And yet Nintendo, who can consistently piss me off with their lack of online support and their asinine ideas for modern consoles, still manages to impress some 23 years into my life. When their titles get as much care and respect placed into their development as gamers hold in their hearts, then there really isn’t anything that they can’t accomplish.

While I wish I didn’t have these past experiences hindering my present being, nostalgia really isn’t all that bad. It just goes to show that developers really need to love what they are doing. If you simply finish something because gamers have been waiting more than half their lives, then you’re setting yourself up for a big failure.

As for the future, I believe nostalgia will still obscure my views. “Sonic Generations” is coming out and it’s poising to finally bring together both generations of Sonic fans. I’ve always preferred the classic style of Sonic, but if Sega can finally and lovingly create a 3D Sonic, maybe I’ll only have positive things to say.

It’s hard to tell with nostalgia, but I do know that it’s not going away anytime soon.