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.

Gotta Go…

Sometimes from the beginning people hear of a movie, and they are like, “That is a bad idea.”, but given some time people come around. Like Detective Pikachu, but sometimes it is just a bad idea. I give you exhibit A: The live action Sonic The Hedgehog trailer:

Oh man this looks bad. Sonic looks like an unlicensed knockoff, and they just let Jim Carrey off of his leash to try and salvage things. Then they spoil the movie’s twist for no apparent reason. Anyway, I know one movie I will not be watching come November. Though you are welcome to disagree.

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.

Anthem Pre-Launch Update!

Hey it is me! Remember when I said that I wouldn’t be getting Anthem or The Division 2 until after they had been out a few months (like last week)? Well, it turns out a Streamer that I follow on Twitter, Exellion, had other ideas. I won his Anthem contest, so now I am playing the 10 hour free trail period of the game, and I thought I would give a quick update on what has changed.

The biggest thing that I have noticed right off the bat is that the frame rate is better. I don’t think it is perfect, but it doesn’t have the big hitches that it had before. I think the game is a little blurrier, so I am guessing that they dropped the resolution down a little bit, or they made the dynamic resolution a little more aggressive. Either way, the game is now much more responsive.

You can run in Fort Tarsis now! In the demo you had to walk from place to place to talk to quest givers, but now you can go a little faster. Running may be an exaggeration, but faster is faster. It isn’t a big thing, but it shows BioWare/EA is at least listening to their fans.

Once you get past the opening you get to choose your Javelin. You aren’t just stuck as a Ranger, and the other Javelins are sweet. I am loving the Storm. Hovering over the battlefield dropping lighting blasts and raining down bullets. Apparently I am not the only one, I have seen a lot of Storms out there. I am almost to level 8 where I get to pick my next Javelin, and I think I am going to go Colossus. Be a big bruiser that can mount a mini gun or two. Seems like the tactical opposite of a Storm, so that should be fun.

The biggest change is that I have not crashed or dropped once. There was one connection error that happened during matchmaking, but instead of crashing the game it just took me back to the Expedition screen so I could launch match making again. Which is how it should work.

That isn’t to say everything is peachy, I am still not sure how BioWare/EA expects this to be a ten year game. Apparently the main quest is only 30 hours long, and there is only free-play and the one Cataclysm (Raid) after that, so you are left with just playing the story over again at higher levels which doesn’t sound like enough for hardcore fans. For me, 30 hours and then being out sounds fine, but I would like to hear how their content roll out is going to work. Something they have yet to elaborate on.

Anyway, I am having fun. I am playing on Xbox One, so if you see Shmee out there, say “Hi” or emote a wave or something. Maybe we can drop lightning on some baddies together.