Destiny, I fucking love you!

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I can’t think of another game that has polarized opinion as much as Destiny. When I hear complaints about the game, I usually react by nodding my head in agreement, before returning to work on adding to the 350+ hours I’ve already sunk into it. I’ve even concluded that had I’d been reviewing the game, I probably would have given it a seven too. Despite all that, I love Destiny. Regardless of its many flaws, Destiny is quickly becoming my most played console game, ever. With that in mind, (and before I write about the things I don’t like) I thought I’d go through the things I love the most about Destiny.

Destiny_20141119212713 Hand Cannons. Oh my god, Hand Cannons! I love these bad boys so much, I very nearly made two of these things Hawkmoon and Thorn. Once in a while, I come across a weapon in a game that has the magical X factor, and I fall in love with it. In Halo 3 it was the Spartan Laser. In Gears of War it was the Longshot Rifle. But In Destiny it’s a whole damn class of them. Nothing else feels as good as headshotting enemies with a Hand Cannon – not even killing a Hunter in PvP just after they’ve popped their Bladedancer special. Hand Cannons are so much fun to use, if I had an actual physical version, I would do dirty, dirty things to it.

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Raids. When I first started playing Destiny, all the talk from those further along than I was about the Vault of Glass, and just how good it was. After a frustrating few weeks of no raiding, I eventually lucked in to a group of friends tackling the Vault, and found out for myself what the fuss was all about. Without a doubt, the Vault of Glass is some of the best designed, and most enjoyable video game content I’ve ever played. I could go into more detail, but I don’t want to spoil it for you. What I will say is that in my opinion, the Vault is the perfect example of how you create co-op gaming where every player has a meaningful role.

Destiny_20141124221420 The Iron Banner. Version One of the Iron Banner was not good. All that weaponry and armour we’d been carefully gathering and levelling was more or less meaningless in IB v1, and players were not happy. Bungie went away, reworked the mode, and sent Lord Saladin back to the tower. The first few minutes into my first game, I headshotted another player on the other side of the map with Bad Seed Down, and instantly I was converted. Power finally fucking mattered. Oh boy, did it matter. Since then I’ve taken part in every Iron Banner, and learnt the joy of headshots with a fully levelled Hawkmoon. After a shaky start with destiny’s PvP, I can honestly say that Iron Banner is one of my very favourite parts of Destiny.

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Warlocks. Apart from having an exceptionally cool sounding name, Warlocks are also blessed with having some of the best looking armour in the game. The Iron Banner set for example is simply beautiful. And if there’s anything better than swishing around in robes, firing off Nova Bombs – I’ve yet to find it. I do have a Hunter and Titan, and I’ve found them quite fun to play, but they don’t have the same sort of swagger the Warlock does. Flying electrical fists and golden guns are all well and good, but let’s be honest, they’re not the same as tooling around in a cool outfit, wielding Hawkmoon, and fucking shit up with purple balls.

 

Destiny: Crota’s Cheesy End

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Sorry about the title, I couldn’t help myself.

Cheese. Bungie does not like it apparently. Not if the content of their latest update is to be believed, anyway. If you’ve been following Destiny’s progress, you’ll probably know that the new Raid – Crota’s End, has been suffering from a particularly cheesy odour since it’s introduction as part of the Dark Below expansion. Tales of Guardians using various cheesy methods to run through the raid easily, hoovering up loot, were becoming commonplace, and it was only a matter of time before Bungie stepped in.

Not cheesing this time round.

Not cheesing this time round.

Now that they’ve at least begun that process, I thought I’d talk why I’m glad they’re trying to de-cheese the Raid. Firstly, I’d like to say that I’m not against cheesing per-se. As someone who’s crimes include hiding beneath the stairs in the Cerberus Vae Strike, I’d be a massive hypocrite for a start. But mainly it’s because the whole thing is a massive grey area. Where does cheesing end and exploiting a game bug begin, for example? If its possible (although highly unlikely) to be killed whilst hiding in a “cheese spot”, is that cheesing? There’s no right or wrong answer in my opinion.

So why don’t I like it in the Raid? I’ll explain. Destiny is a strange game when it comes to challenge. Unlike similar games within the genre, its possible to replay the entirety of Destiny’s story mode content whilst being hugely over-levelled. The gear and weapon levelling mechanics eventually render the game’s “normal” difficulty curve meaningless, and beyond the odd Heroic stipulation on various Bounties, the game never really insists you turn the difficulty up. The vast majority of Destiny’s PvE content therefore, relies upon the player choosing to be challenged to remain meaningful, and that’s why I have a problem with Raid cheese.

Definitely cheesed this one

Definitely cheesed this one

Players solo-cheesing their way through Crota’s End are rendering the most meaningful content in the game meaningless. They’re rendering the achievement of earning Raid gear meaningless. And in a game that relies upon the player to keep content relevant, I don’t understand why you’d do that. What is the end game anyway? You cheese your way to a full set of Raid gear, and then do the Raid as intended? That doesn’t make any sort of sense. Destiny is all about the gear you’re wearing, and the guns you’re wielding, and I personally don’t know how you can take any pride in that when you’ve cheesed your way there.

As I’ve said, cheesing is a ridiculously grey area, and something I myself have partaken in, so I don’t want you to go away thinking I’m making a judgement here, because that’s not my intention. This is an expression of bewilderment at the specific issue of soloing Crota’s End to short-cut your way to Raid gear and weapons. So by all means, feel free to ask me why I’m not also questioning whole Raid groups cheesing bits of the Vault of Glass, or to tell me I’m taking a bunch of pixels way too seriously. I won’t mind. Yes, its ridiculous the Raid can be solo-cheesed. Yes, Bungie should fix it PDQ. But also yes, I think the players have a responsibility to resist the cheese, no matter how fragrant.

 

The Obligatory Festive Blog Post

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Seasons greetings!

As we’re all in that weird period of stasis – between Christmas and the New Year, I thought I’d bore you with some words. Hopefully you had a great Christmas and enjoyed all the traditional seasonal things like turkey, too much chocolate, and PSN outages. Personally, having spent Christmas Eve night throwing up, I spent the holiday gingerly eating things in an effort to work out what made me sick in the first place.

Obviously from a gaming point of view, the big news of the holiday was the attack upon Xbox Live and PSN. Both services went down at one point, and rather predictably, Xbox Live recovered quickly whilst PSN stumbled around for days until users patience had run out. I know a lot of people got hot under the collar about the outages (probably justifiably so), but I simply can’t bring myself to be angry.

Maybe it was the Christmas cheer, or maybe it’s my time spent playing Eve Online (where the best way to beat the griefers is to just ignore them until they go away), but my response was to simply play Far Cry 4 offline and ignore it all. The ONLY time I got slightly fretful was when I realised Xur had the Hawkmoon upgrade for sale, and even then my panic was quickly alleviated by PSN coming on for long enough for me to buy it.

Apart from that, my Christmas was spent either sighing at the sight of all my children’s presents spread across the living room floor, or wistfully glancing at my unfinished modelling projects, and wishing this could all be over so I could get back to doing them. Pretty much the same as usual then! Hopefully you enjoyed your festive period as much as I did. Come the New Year normal service (whatever that may be) will resume, until then, have a good new year!

The Game Jar Files: Assassins Creed IV – The crisis of identity that works.

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Originally published on The Game Jar – January 6th 2014

So, did Ubisoft Montreal think they were working on two different games? I start with that question because it’s the one most pertinent to how the game plays. Never in my time as a gamer, have I come across a game with such a split personality. It simply never makes up its mind what sort of game it wants to be. Ordinarily, I’d think this lack of direction was due to a massive error on the developers behalf, but the more I play this game, the less I’m sure. Having played Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag almost exclusively since the middle of December, I beginning to think the game is the product of a deranged, but brilliant mind.

My first moments within the game were largely spent cursing myself. Once again, I’d relied on other people’s recommendations, and ended up buying a game I didn’t like. The problem is, AC IV begins by showing off the least interesting of its multiple personality’s first – the Assassins Creed one. I know it’s a massive franchise now, but to me, Assassins Creed is a series that’s never fulfilled its potential. In 2007 the concept of using technology to explore past lives was just about interesting enough to get you past the flaws and keep you progressing through the story. Today, five games on, they’re still relying on the same trick, only now it’s wearing exceedingly thin. In my opinion, Assassins Creed is a game with iffy controls, and a story that’s so convoluted, it’s nigh on impossible to understand. Small wonder then, that I was wondering what on earth my friends were talking about when they told me it was good game.

As the opening moments of the game came to a close, and it finished trying to reassure me it was still an Assassin Creed game, I took to twitter to have a little grumble. What were people talking about I cried, to which the reply came ‘wait until you get your ship’ And so I waited. Many words were eaten as this point, as the game decided to introduce me to the most interesting of its multiple personality’s – the pirate game one. This is the part of the game where you get to drink rum, pick fights, and sail the Caribbean, and it’s so good, you can’t help but wonder what the hell it’s doing hanging around with the Assassins Creed bit. Being a pirate is so much better than being an assassin, the first question I asked is ‘can I just not bother with that other part?’ As I said in the introduction, did the studio making this game think they were making two, separate games? How can one part of it be so much cooler than the other?

Having a split personality could have been a major disaster for Assassins Creed IV, one part is awesome, one part isn’t… The whole thing would end up in a complete mess. Luckily, the game has a third personality, and its the one that glues the whole thing together. Personality number three is the bit of the game that’s been lifted directly from Far Cry 3 – the open world exploration and crafting. Think of this guy as the friend that brings two people together who don’t like each other very much, so that they can all have an enjoyable night down the pub. Sounds crazy I know, but without Mr Far Cry, the Assassins Creed part would become a workaholic that never went out, and the Pirate part would end getting over excited, blowing its load early, and never lasting the course.

Somehow, don’t ask me why, these three parts come together to create one of the most enjoyable games I’ve ever played. It’s not seamless by any means, but this Assassins Far Cry Pirates Creed game they’ve created is a work of maniacal genius. The lunatic destruction of Far Cry has been tempered down by Assassins Creed’s discipline. The character of Edward Kenway is more of a free spirit than Altair or Ezio ever was, and thus does away with the feeling that you’ve spent the entire game being told what to do. Your ship – the Jack Daw – offers you a fully explorable game world to play in. It is, in many ways, the very essence of three disparate parts coming together to form a greater whole. As much as I try, and despite my aversion to Assassins Creed, I can’t help but love this game.

Don’t get me wrong, Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag has it’s faults. When the game takes your open-world toys away and bogs you down in just Assassins Creed, it feels like going back to the gaming dark ages, with the promise of being a pirate again being the only thing pushing you forward. The Animus sections are as jarring as ever, and the plot makes even less sense. And, at times, the game does make you wonder whether Ubisoft hasn’t just inadvertently signalled the end of the Assassins Creed franchise as we know it. But despite all that, it’s fantastic fun to play. Whether you’re roaming the high seas blowing English and Spanish ships to match wood and stealing their cargo, or destroying sea forts and swashbuckling your way to the fort commander, you are a pirate king, and you do rule the high seas. Being a pirate has never been so cool.

The Game Jar Files: My crimes against gaming revealed!

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Originally published on The Game Jar – December 17th 2013

With the Christmas spirit in full effect, I thought I’d take advantage of you all. Whilst you’re all feeling warm and fuzzy about the prospect of spending time with your loved ones during the festive period, I’m going come clean about my crimes against gaming in the hope you’ll go easy on me. In the spirit of truth and reconciliation, I’m going to unburden myself of all my biggest gaming sins in the hope that I can begin the new gaming year with a clean conscience. So settle down dear readers, as I take you on a journey through the seedier end of gaming.

I’ll begin slowly by confessing to a crime I don’t really have a problem with – I’ve never owned a Sega console of any kind. I’ve played on family and friends consoles plenty of times, but never actually owned one myself. When The Gameboy was first released, I coveted Game Gear for its colour screen and TV tuner, but there was absolutely no way I was going to convince my parents to buy me one. During the great war between the Megadrive and Super Nintendo, I was firmly on the side of good, righteousness, and more controller buttons. From there I spurned the Saturn for Sony’s fledgling machine, quite rightly in my opinion, and so my Sega boycott continued. The closest I ever got to owning a Sega machine was the Dreamcast, which looked ultra-cool with its chiselled lines and special memory cards, but I never quite got round to turning to the dark side. I don’t really regret never owning a Sega machine because I thoroughly enjoyed the consoles I did have, but I do feel a little responsible for Sega pulling out of the hardware market. Perhaps if I’d had been willing to settle for an inferior console, Sega would still be making them. So I’m sorry Sega fans, it was all my fault.

I’m not proud of this one, but I did say this article was all about truth and reconciliation, so I will come clean: I have played through, and finished Too Human on more than one occasion. For those of you who that don’t know what Too Human is, it’s an action RPG game based around a futuristic take on Norse mythology. Now before you start to think that doesn’t sound too bad, let me give you a potted history of its development. Originally slated to be a PlayStation release in 1999, development moved to the Gamecube in 2000. Five years later, the rights were sold to Microsoft and it became an Xbox 360 title. Finally releasing in 2008, Too Human had spent nearly a decade in development hell, but the saga wasn’t over. Approximately a year before the game’s release, Silicon Knights and Epic Games (creators of Unreal Engine 3 – the game engine Too Human was built upon) became entangled in legal action. Silicon Knights eventually lost, and were ordered to recall and destroy any unsold copies of the game. Given its difficult birth, there was no way Too Human was ever going to be a good game, and so it turned out to be. During a third playthrough of the game, my 360 chose death by Red Ring of Death rather than play any more of it. Yes, that’s right; so bad, even the console wouldn’t play it.

Lastly, this is the one I’m genuinely not proud of. The rest of this article is fairly lighthearted – I don’t really think Sega consoles were bad, for example – but I do feel slightly bad about this. I knowingly traded in a broken Crackdown disk, and bought the rather excellent Dead Rising with the proceeds. Knowingly traded because I was the one that broke it. I’d thrown it across the room in a fit of gamer-rage, Frisbee style, and the result was a tiny, barely visible crease in the leading edge of the disc which rendered the disc unreadable. Having turned my game disc in to little more than a shiny coaster, I hatched a sinister plan. I removed any signs of damage from the disc, placed it back in its case, and took it into a game shop that I shall not name here. For one tense moment, I feared I’d be rumbled as the assistant examined the disc, but no! He smiled, declared how much it was worth, and rung up my new copy of Dead Rising, which I got for free. A month or so later, after I’d finished playing Dead Rising, I picked up a second copy of Crackdown during an Amazon sale, and picked up where I left off. Occasionally I felt the odd twinge of guilt about my deception, but not for long, because… well, Dead Rising was a great game!

So there we go, my deepest darkest crimes against gaming laid bare for you entertainment. I hope I haven’t shocked you too much, and hopefully my confessions have given you the courage to step forward, and unburden your gaming soul too. During this season of goodwill to all gamers why not indulge in a little group therapy, and get it all off your chest, we can even hug it out if you want. Come on, confess your gaming sins. You know you want to.

The Game Jar Files: What does Microsoft’s vision of the future mean for the Xbox One?

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Originally published on The Game Jar – January 9th 2014

One of things I’ve found most interesting since the launch of the Xbox One, is reading about, and listening to, gamers reaction to some of the changes made to the console’s operating system. As you may know, Microsoft have made a few changes to the OS during the transition from one generation to the next, and not all of them have been welcome. We can all have our opinion on whether these changes are good or bad, but what’s more interesting to me is whether Microsoft are either interested in, or indeed capable of, altering their design plan for the Xbox One. I’ve felt for a long time now, that the company has a very definite idea of where they’re going to try to take gaming in the future, and I wonder what that means for the future of their latest console.

I never went to an Xbox One midnight launch, but I can take a pretty good guess as to the kind of people standing in those lines; they were gamers. Hardcore gamers. I know that’s not a fashionable term for Microsoft these days, but they are the people who buy your console on launch day, and evangelise about it through the lean launch window. On the other hand, the people most unlikely to be present in those lines would have been the kind of users the Xbox One seems to be mostly aimed at – parents familiar with technology, and looking for a way to get the Windows 8 experience on their televisions. In other words, not the kind of consumers willing to part with a large sum of money, whilst putting up with a slim selection of worthwhile games.

What this means is, that even if we accept that a ‘multimedia entertainment box’ of some kind is the future, and that there’s a significant number of families out there desperate to use Skype on their plasma TV’s, whilst being utterly fed up with pushing buttons on a grey plastic box to change channel, the Xbox One still needs the support of hardcore gamers during it’s infancy. The trouble is, every signal from Microsoft seems to suggest that they now consider gaming as ‘something the Xbox One also does’ as opposed to it being the reason for making a console in the first place, and that gaming needs to develop in a direction dictated by them.

When the Xbox One was first revealed, the level of negativity surrounding some of their more controversial design choices shocked Microsoft I think, but not to the point that it demanded a change in philosophy. Reading interviews with prominent Microsoft employees, it’s my opinion that internally Microsoft genuinely do not believe they were wrong. I’m convinced that were you to be on the inside, you’d hear talk about how it was the consumers fault that they didn’t get the One’s original design plan. Despite what they say publicly, I’d argue that the company has lost touch with what their core base wants. Instead of questioning their own ability to listen to, and communicate with their customers, they’re repeatedly telling themselves that we weren’t ready to hear what they had to say.

To my mind, the root of this problem is the fact that Microsoft aren’t used to being in second place. Last generation, they never really had a serious fight on their hands. Sony launched the PS3 much later than the Xbox 360, and at a higher price, which gave Microsoft a lead in the console arms race that they never lost. Having spent nigh on eight years leading their rivals, the temptation to assume that they could do no wrong with the One’s design must have been hard to resist, and perhaps they weren’t entirely successful. How else do you account for the fact that they’ve taken Xbox Live  – something which was pretty much perfect  last generation – and gone backwards with it?

Given that the Xbox One needs retain it’s base of  hardcore gamers then, the decision to remove or alter some of Xbox Live’s core functionality seems absolutely crazy to me. The Friends List system worked. The party chat system worked. Why touch those things at all if they didn’t need fixing? I’ve heard it said that it’s almost as if Microsoft have deliberately made the Xbox One’s UI awkward to navigate with a controller to enhance the appeal of Kinect. I don’t know if that’s true, but if users feel that way, it’s not a good sign. It tells me that Microsoft isn’t really invested in providing an efficient alternative to using Kinect, or that they want you to be free to use your console in the way that you want, and in the long-term, that’s a problem.

This generation, Microsoft are facing a totally different kind of Sony. The PS4 has launched at the same time as their console and for a lower price, it’s more powerful, and perhaps most crucially, it’s much easier to program for than it’s predecessor. For the first time in eleven years, when the original Xbox went up against the all-conquering PlayStation 2, Microsoft are up against a strong opponent, and I don’t think they know how to cope with that. At a time when their biggest rival has built a totally inoffensive machine, focussed on being the best games console it can be, Microsoft is busy trying to sell us features we never really asked for in the first place.

The Xbox One is not a bad console by any means, and many owners out there are happy with it the way it is, but not all of them are. Quite a few owners have been asking why familiar functionality has been changed or removed, and all they’ve had in response is vague assurances that things will get better. The Xbox One is at the beginning of its life-cycle, and as such, it will change over time, but will that change be for the good? With Microsoft still smarting over the initial reaction to the Xbox One, I don’t think they’re in the mood to compromise. In the long-term, if anything is going to hamper the Xbox One’s success, it won’t be things like a lack of pixels. It’ll be Microsoft themselves, and their inability to admit they got things wrong.

The Game Jar Files: Could the PS Vita be Sony’s Secret Weapon?

Originally published on The Game Jar.com – 27/09/2013

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When it was time to replace my trusty PlayStation 2 with a next-gen console, the choice was pretty simple; Xbox 360. The PlayStation 3 hadn’t been released, and Microsoft had the market all to themselves. This November that won’t be the case. For the first time in a long time, two new consoles will be going head-to-head right before Christmas. Who comes out on top is irrelevant to me. Neither console is likely to fail, and I’ll end up buying both at some point, but I have been wondering whether Sony have a very clever strategy to gain the upper hand. The question I keep asking myself is; could the PS Vita be Sony’s secret weapon? OK, you can stop laughing now. I know it sounds crazy. The Vita has sold terribly, and the overwhelming perception is there’s only a handful of good games, but what if Sony changed all that?

As a pretty bitter launch day adopter, I’ve been critical of Sony’s support for the Vita. Justifiably so in my opinion. But they have managed to turn me round. After two years, and two decent Gamescom’s, the Vita’s future looks a lot brighter. There’s a slew of decent titles to play, with more are on the horizon, and the hardware and memory cards have had a reasonably decent price cut. It may have taken them some time, but Sony has finally made the Vita a tempting prospect. If the Vita is to go on and have any significant positive impact upon PlayStation 4’s success, Sony need to continue their efforts, and work out how to leverage it correctly. They need to convince gamers that the PS Vita is an essential part of the whole PlayStation experience, and early signs seem to indicate they’ve worked out how to do that.

Believe it or not, the prospect of a fully functional Remote Play is a big thing for many Vita owners. When Sony first pitched the Vita, the idea of switching over to the handheld when the wife and kids wanted to watch Doctor Who was a big enticement to me and many other gamers, and yet Sony never really delivered. Yes, there are games on PlayStation 3 compatible with Remote Play, but the number of games available is a mere drop in the ocean compared to those that are not. When Sony announced at Gamescom 2013 that “almost all” of PlayStation 4 games would be Remote Play compatible, they gave the first hint that they’d finally figured out how to leverage their handheld properly. Clearly, the Vita is capable of delivering a quality Remote Play experience, all that’s left is to make it a reality post launch.

The extension of PS Plus to Vita is another huge step in right direction. PlayStation 3 owners subscribing to the service already know that their existing subscription fee will cover both consoles, effectively doubling the amount of free games available, and the bond to the service only gets stronger when you add the Vita to the mix. When the PlayStation 4 hits the shelves, buyers will be able to take advantage of a service offering free games for three different consoles. That’s not to be dismissed lightly. The Vita’s role in this offer only gets stronger when you consider it’s less likely to replicate the duplication between the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4’s selection of free titles. As the PlayStation 3 moves in to being the last generation, the Vita will continue to be the “added value” of PS Plus.

I’m not for a moment suggesting that potential Xbox One buyers are going to change their choice in next-gen console because of a poorly selling handheld, but I do think it will make a significant difference to some. Sony have very cleverly created a PlayStation ecosystem that becomes increasingly harder to leave the more you buy into it.  The handheld may not attract Xbox gamers to its console, but by making the Vita an essential part of the ecosystem, they’ve not only made it impossible for current PlayStation owners to leave, they’ve also expanded their offer to the brand-agnostics out there. It’s my belief that PS Vita owners undecided about which next gen console to buy will find it very hard not to choose the PlayStation 4, and that’s why my question isn’t so crazy. A successful PS Vita will sell PlayStation 4’s, only time will tell if Sony can make it happen.

The Game Jar Files: The smoke and mirrors of E3

Originally published on The Game Jar.com – 12/07/2013

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If you spent any amount of time following what happened at E3 this year, you’ll no doubt be aware that a rather embarrassing photo from what appears to be the Xbox booth surfaced on the internet, not long after the show finished. The photo depicts a demo station with its doors open, and within we can clearly see that a gaming PC is being used to run the games being demonstrated. On a personal level, I wasn’t at all surprised. This kind of thing is always going on at E3, but usually we don’t get to see it. What I did find interesting, was the reaction to the photo, and how opinions differed depending on which side of the divide you were. Those within the industry broadly saw nothing wrong with the picture, and that’s what worries me.

In the interests of full disclosure, I should tell you that I’m not at all bothered about PC’s secretly squirreled away in demo station. I don’t think they should have Xbox One written above them, but beyond that? If the specs of the PC are comparable to the final hardware, then whatever. I do have a problem with some of the reaction coming from those within the industry though. Based on what I read in the aftermath of that photo going live, there seems to be a healthy amount people working within the games industry that don’t understand the reach videos games have now. They don’t seem to realise that the smoke and mirrors of old have no place in today’s interconnected HD world, and that gamers are more switched on than ever.

Those within the industry argue that E3 is a trade only show, and that all attendees are well aware of the smoke and mirrors that goes on. Within the confines of a closed conference hall, this is a valid argument. Once you’ve seen behind the curtain of E3, you know how things work. The trouble is E3 isn’t a closed shop any more. It’s streamed directly to our consoles in high-definition. Gaming websites cover every inch of it. Gameplay trailers, shown in an amphitheatre “for the trade only”, are on YouTube for global consumption within hours. The consumer has intimate access to E3, and most of them don’t know what standard industry practice is. If platform holders and game publishers want their E3 presentations to go beyond the trade show flow, directly out to consumers, they need to be much clearer about what they’re showing us. I have no problem with using PC’s – so long as they tell me that they’re doing so. The same goes for carefully scripted gameplay demo’s and pre-recorded demos. I want to know what I’m watching.

Speak to a game developer about that photo, and they’ll probably tell you they’re wondering what all the fuss is about. Their point of view is that they’re demonstrating the game, not the hardware, so why does it matter what platform it’s running on. Using high-powered PC’s inside the demo station is standard practice at E3, everyone who goes there knows it, and as a result this is a non-story. I have to be honest, I have some sympathy with this argument, but I think it falls down when you consider that photo in particular. It clearly says Xbox One above the monitors. There are controllers laying in front of those monitors. The whole stand is awash with the green and white colour scheme synonymous with the Xbox brand. People are going to assume they’re playing an Xbox One, regardless of any kind of standard practice. When the usual suspects are being interviewed in front of the pods, the gamers watching will, in all likelihood, believe that it’s Xbox One’s running those games.

When an industry insider defends the smoke and mirrors with something like  “…well technically we never said it was running on a console” I roll my eyes. It’s a pathetic answer in my opinion, it’s what five-year olds do when their parents are telling them off. It’s the kind of answer given by people who know they’re morally in the wrong, but haven’t broken any actual rules. The point is, they’re not being wholly honest with their customers, and they know it. Previously, when E3 really was a trade show, they could get away with it. Now, with the whole world watching them, they can’t. Publishers and platform holders can’t continue with the same old sleight of hand if they expect to maintain consumer trust. Gamers want to sit down and watch these press events without having to worry about what they’re seeing. They want transparency, and personally I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

I’m sure that if you’re on the inside, E3 still feels like a trade show. To everyone else on the outside, it clearly isn’t. E3 is a global event that reaches out beyond the walls of the conference centre it’s in, and everyone within the industry needs to come to terms with that. The games industry has built a massive hype machine that allows gamers to scrutinise up-and-coming titles in greater detail than ever before. Pulling a fake-out is getting tougher and tougher, and in future, if they continue to use the smoke and mirrors, we’ll be seeing more company’s  getting caught with their pants down. Every time one of these photos appears on the internet, it erodes the goodwill gamers have for developers. I for one just wished those industry insiders understood that.

Video: PS4 UI

Just a quick post this morning, to highlight this new video of PS4’s UI. It all seems like good stuff to me, not too bloated, quick to navigate through, and functional. One thing I really did like was the trophy rarity rating. Being able to see how rare unlocking a trophy globally is just the sort of thing we trophy hunters need to know!

The Game Jar Files: The Next Gen Console War: Play all the games!

Originally published on The Game Jar.com – 06/02/2013

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With the alleged specs of the next Xbox and PlayStation leaked on-line recently, the battle lines have already started to be drawn by the faithful. Hardened veterans of the last console war are re-digging old trenches, ready to fight it out over who’s console will be best. personally I couldn’t care less. When it comes to console wars, I’m a conscientious objector. I like to play good games, and good games are available on both consoles, so I’ve never really understood the fanboy mentality. In this article, I try to get under the skin of these console war soldiers, to highlight just how silly picking sides in a phony war is. If you are one of these console war soldiers, or regularly offended by strong opinions, it’s probably best you don’t read any further…

The Xbox die-hard. This guy or girl is someone who simply cannot give Sony any credit whatsoever, for anything they’ve done. They cling on to the notion that on-line gaming is vastly inferior on the PS3, and often couple that with vague complaints about the controller being the wrong shape (Almost as if human hands hadn’t evolved to the point of being able to grip a variety of different things). But perhaps the single most laughable thing Xbox dude or dudette often argues is there are no good games on the PlayStation 3. Of course, this means that they totally gloss over the fact that most big third-party titles (such as Call of Duty or Fifa Football) are multi-platform these days, but what really baffles me is how they can overlook game series like Uncharted, God of War, or Little Big Planet. Uncharted 2 is one of the best games of this current generation, on any platform, so why would you deny yourself the opportunity to play it? Why let some bizarre sense of brand loyalty prevent you from admitting that Little Big Planet is one of the most charming platformers ever made? Even now, they’re probably busy mentally writing off all the good scores Ni No Kuni is getting, simply because it doesn’t come in a green box. I have friends like this, tell them that Uncharted 3’s co-op is good (for example) and you can hear the scepticism in their voices when they reply.

The PlayStation die-hard. This guy or girl’s opening salvo in any argument about whose console is best will be one of two things, either A) Playing on-line is free, you suckers! or B) my console doesn’t come with a long, storied history of hardware failure. Whilst ignoring the fact that Xbox reliability has gotten much better over the years, they also fail to mention the global sales figures for Xbox consoles versus the PS3, the Kinect versus Move sales figures, or the number of Xbox Live subscribers. But what really twists the knife is the DLC timed exclusivity deals. They really hurt. Whilst all my Xbox version owning friends are telling me how great the Skyrim DLC is, I’m staring at the game box I have, which has PS3 written on it, and seething, all the while wondering why Bethesda has forsaken me. And so, the PlayStation die-hards have had a hard time this generation, they’ve had to come to terms with the fact that their console has spent the entire time in second place, with their third-party games being shackled to what the Xbox 360 is capable of, and with publishers putting Microsoft’s money above them when it comes to DLC releases. Oh, and on top of all that, they can’t play Gears of War or Halo 3, the poor little mites. Not that they’d ever admit to wanting to play those games, obviously…

Of course, both these examples are slightly ridiculous, but they do exist. There really are gamers out there that simply cannot countenance that Uncharted is good, or that Gears of War is good, and I really do find it strange. All I want as a gamer is to play good games, I don’t care about the name on the game box, or the shape of the controller. If the rumours are to be believed, 2013 is going to be the year the next generation of console are launched, and if you’re a gamer that only owns one console, your choice is probably already made. If you’re an Xbox 360 owner you’ll be buying it’s replacement, if you’re a PS owner you’ll be buying it’s replacement. But why make the same mistakes of this generation? Why deny yourself the opportunity of playing great games, on other consoles? I understand that buying a console at launch is an expensive proposition, and two consoles doubly so, but that doesn’t stop you from owning both eventually. Do yourself a favour in this next generation, stop picking sides, and play all the games.

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