Did Control Come Out Too Early On Consoles?

I am a big fan of Remedy Entertainment. They continue to make groundbreaking games that push narrative and graphics technology to their limits. Remedy’s newest game, Control, is being hailed by some as a modern masterpiece, but not on original Xbox One or PS4 hardware. The game has massive stutters and framerate drops to the low teens, and as low as 10FPS on the PS4. You can watch the whole graphical run down on Digital Foundry:

If you watch the video above, you can see that the game runs ‘okay’ to acceptable on the mid-generation consoles with just small short framerate dips. With the Xbox One X fairing the best, but man it is hard to watch what happens once the analysis gets to the base consoles. I would argue that at that low of a framerate the game is unplayable, and it never should have passed QC.

Based on the order of the framerate going: Xbox One X > PS4 Pro > Xbox One (S) > PS4, I would guess this is a CPU issue. Since the PS4 does have the slowest CPU clock speed out of the bunch. Its faster GPU usually pushes it past the Xbox One, but in this case, there is something else going on that needs some serious CPU horsepower, and while I am ragging on the PS4, Control has a pretty poor showing across the board.

This all leads me to believe that Control is generation too early. People with beefy PCs are quite happy with Control, but people with mid-tier and lower PCs are feeling the pain as well, but that happens in the PC space from time to time, and it is more acceptable there because PC players have an upgrade path if they want to get the most out of Control. Not so much with console players.

If Remedy had waited a year, Control would have come out on machines with modern CPUs and stronger GPUs with a little ray tracing thrown in, and I am sure Control would have looked great in that environment, but as it stands now, it looks like you should skip Control if you didn’t get a mid-generation console, or you have a low spec PC. Otherwise I hear it is quite the game.

Hands On Xbox Game Pass For PC!

During Microsoft’s E3 briefing they launched the new Xbox Game Pass for PC. Much like Game Pass for Xbox, you pay $10 a month, (currently $5 a month during its beta period) and you get a collection of games that come and go from the service much like Netflix. Also like Netflix, all original Xbox Game Studio Games get added to Game Pass day one and will not leave the service. Since I already have Game Pass and Xbox Live Gold, I got to combine those two services and upgrade to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. Which includes Game Pass for both PC and Xbox, and Gold. I have a little over a year before I start paying anything (I had a whole year of Gold and a couple months of Game Pass, so it gave me credit for all that), but once I do, it will be $15 a month for all the Xbox services.

That is all well and good, but if the service is not any good, it is a waste of money. So far it seems like a winner. You need to have your computer on the latest version of Windows 10 (1903), then you need to download the new Xbox beta app, and then you will see a list of games that you can download and play. The new Xbox app is a big upgrade over using the Microsoft Store for finding and downloading games. All the games are organized in a much better fashion, and it has a sleek way of showing you the games you have installed on a little left hand bar, that way you are never more than a click a way from playing your games. Unlike say Steam, where if you are in the store you need to click on your library tab and then scroll through a bunch of uninstalled games to get to the game you want. Now, to be fair I have hundreds of Steam games and there are less than a hundred games thus far in Game Pass for PC. How sleek it will be a few months or a year from now has yet to be seen.

There are some annoyances however. For one, once a game is installed it is added to your Start Menu, but if you don’t ‘own’ the game, you need to first launch the Xbox app, and then start the game from there. I am guessing that is so it can make sure your Game Pass subscription is up to date, but if that is the case, why add Game Pass games to the Start Menu at all? Also, there need to be more tabs in the new Xbox app, like a built in way to check out Achievements, or search for Xbox Groups. In order to do that you need to open up the Xbox Console Companion App, but I would rather just use one app if I could. The new Game Bar helps a little with this, but I would apricate a more complete solution.

All in all, Microsoft has another winner on its hands. It has found a way to bring a lot of value to gamers, and an odd way for gamers to get around the Epic Store. A lot of Epic’s ‘exclusives’ are now on Game Pass since Microsoft bought Double Fine and its publishing arm, and all games for the Xbox are already on the Microsoft Store, so Epic can’t do anything about a game company selling the PC version on that same store as well. Loopholes are fun aren’t they? It is also an easy way for friends to insure that they have a lot of games in common if they want to play together. They can both just look in their Game Pass library and pick out something that sounds fun.

I am not sure how much I will use Xbox Game Pass for PC, my PC is a little long in the tooth, but since it is included in the services I am already paying for, it is a nice bonus. Game Pass also let me see if my PC is up to the task of running Metro Exodus, it mostly is, but it has a few little hiccups. If you are a PC gamer, I would say it is something to be aware of for sure, though you may want to wait a little bit for the roster of games to fill out and for the Xbox app to get a few more features. Then you can get your money’s worth out of your one month $1 trail period.

Microsoft Kicked Off E3 2019 With A …. Well It Kicked Off E3 2019!

Microsoft had the first big press event of E3 2019, and it wasn’t a bad show. I mean it had Keanu Reeves, but there was nothing mind blowing about it. Its job was to remind everyone that even though Xbox Scarlet comes out Holiday 2020, there will be tons of games to play until then. Xbox Game Pass for PC launched, and for $15 a month you get everything (Live Gold, Game Pass PC, and Game Pass Xbox) which is nice. Battle Toads will be a thing again, and of course Gears 5 comes out this fall. Gears 5 will be the only big Xbox headliner this year.

The real big news was Microsoft bought Double Fine Productions, which I mean, holy crap, but they didn’t have anything new to share. Just that Psychonauts 2 will still come to all the promised platforms and to Game Pass. The news behind the news is that with that purchase Microsoft now owns all the founding members of game financing and profit sharing site Fig.co, so Microsoft probably owns Fig.co as well.

I think that means we are once again seeing the death of independent game studios. It happened before in the ’00s when EA bought BioWare/Pandemic in 2007 and Bethesda/ZeniMax bought id Software in 2009, and the same reasons for selling out then are being expressed now. Back then it was too expensive to create AAA games without being part of a mega-publisher, and now it is too expensive to create top tier independent games, let’s call them AA, without being part of something bigger. Games are too big and gamers expect a lot, and unless you have tens of millions of dollars at your disposal it is impossible to get those games made. Due to the finical risk publishers are in turn looking towards their own studios to make those games instead of taking a risk on funding outside talent, so to survive you need to find someone who will buy you and not change your studio, and for now Microsoft is saying that is what they are going to do.

On that somber news, I look forward to playing what was shown at this year’s show, and getting an Xbox Scarlet next fall. The show will not be remembered as anything special, but it did its job. I will not lack for games for the next twelve months.

They Are Actually Making A Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2?!

There is not really a lot to gather from this trailer. Mostly that Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 is a go, but other than that, there is no gameplay or real story shown here. Just that they are shooting to release in early 2020, and that it clearly takes place in Seattle. What is also interesting is that at the end video it says it is coming to “Xbox” not Xbox One, so I am guessing they are hoping for this to be a launch “window” game for the new console. Though it does say it is coming to PS4, so maybe I am just reading too much in to it. Either way, I will be looking forward for this in Q1 2020.

The Quest For The Forever Game!

The Paladin and I finally beat the main questline for The Division last night. It was as anticlimactic as I had heard, but it was always going to be. Ubisoft wanted us to play The Division for 100s of hours, so to have an ending that pretty much said, “Well, you did it! Go back home to your family and friends for the few days you have left. You know, because while those half-masks look cool, really cool, there is no way they keep super-viruses from infecting you. I mean, they don’t even cover your eyes and ears. Anyway, thanks for all the help. Burn all your gear and take a chemical shower on the way out.” No, they want you to continue hunting down rogue New Yorkers with extreme prejudice for forever.

Which is kind of the problem with these games, expectations. According to the in-game stat counter, I have played The Division for 1 Day and 16 Hours, so to max out the main base, get to level 30, and finish the main quest it takes about 40 hours. For a dad that works full time. 40 hours is plenty of game. Had the game been sold that way, most people would have been fine, but that is not what happened. It was going to be the game to end all games. You would never need another game. It was the cornerstone in Ubisoft’s future financial plans. However, once it was released the hard-core players did the base stuff in about two days, and then demanded their “End Game”. AKA the real game. Judging by all the cool stuff I can play and do now in The Division, it looks like there is a lot of end game content now available, but for many players it got added too late, and they were off to the next thing.

What is curious, is that this keeps happening. Ubisoft is releasing The Division 2 saying that this time they got it right. Bungie and Activision said the same thing about Destiny 2. EA said that Anthem was a game you would be playing for 10 years. Right now, you are lucky if you can play Anthem for 10 minutes before it tries to destroy your console. Why do companies keep doing this? Why keep chasing the new MMO craze every time they come around? Games are expensive, and they are getting even more expensive to make. Even chasing niches costs a lot of money. You should go check out the Game Informer interviews they did with Obsidian about The Outer Worlds on YouTube. See how many times the lead developers, Tim Cain and Leonard Boyarsky, said they wanted to do something, but it was cut due to time and budget, that they hope gamers are satisfied with the smaller scope of the game, or with the CEO Feargus Urquhart when he says that the reason they got bought out by Microsoft was that even “little” games now take a lot of capital, and there is no way to really afford that alone anymore.

In an era where it costs 100s of Millions of dollars to make a game, having a game out there that continues to bring in cash year after year grantees a company’s stability. Not to mention, if people are rushing through 40-hour games in days, and then complaining there isn’t enough to do, an endless game sounds like something that can fix that, so to keep striving to be the next WoW, or Warframe, or even Eve Online makes a lot of sense. Even if they keep screwing up. Because, if they get it right it can keep their company afloat while they work on other projects. Most companies will fail to create their forever game, but I don’t think we will see them stop trying any time soon. Not when GTA V is still selling millions of copies and tons of virtual currency.