Xbox E3 Event 2019 Notes

Microsoft’s annual E3-adjacent event for their Xbox sub-brand was today. Here’s what they announced:

Obsidian’s The Outer Worlds was annonced for October 25th, 2019, it’ll be an exclusive to Microsoft platforms since Obsidian was bought out by Microsoft. This is a sci-fi, Borderlands-aesthetic, faux anti-corporate, first-person, single-player, RPG. It’s about a new person shaking up corporate control of colonized worlds. I didn’t really care for the art style, but Obsidian makes good games.

Ninja Theory’s Rahni Tucker and Dom Matthews appeared to talk about how stoked they are to be owned by Microsoft and announce Bleeding Edge. It’s a four versus four team-based multiplayer action game that looks like it’ll have a bit of Ninja Theory’s unique action gameplay. There is a “Technical Alpha” starting on the 27th of June.

Moon Studios’ Ori and the Will of the Wisps had another gameplay trailer, it’s out on February 11th, 2020.

Mojang’s Minecraft Dungeons got announced, it’s an isometric game that looks like it borrows a lot from Diablo in gameplay and of course it’s got that blocky Minecraft aesthetic. 4-player co-op, local and online. Spring 2020 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and Windows. Looks like fun.

Phil Spencer’s Soapbox 2019

Spencer showed up about 15 minutes into the show. It’s kind of good that the Xbox division of Microsoft lets developers speak first. The attitude from the audience during this entire thing is completely ridiculous. Press shouldn’t applaud or cheer, so I hope it’s just whatever group of fans that Microsoft lets in making all the noise.

Spencer had nothing of value to say. It was entirely pandering to gamers.

Respawn’s EA’s Jedi: Fallen Order had another trailer. It looks good, I’ll be interested to read reviews when it comes out on November 15th. Don’t pre-order games. It’ll be out on the Xbox One, Windows via Origin, and the PlayStation 4. Where is Titanfall 3?

Blair Witch is a first-person horror game based on the movie, I guess, I’ve never seen the movie. Lots of running in the forest with a camcorder. August 30th. No developer named. Xbox One & Windows.

CD Projekt Red’s Cyberpunk 2077 first-person RPG finally has popped-up thermal collars, a release date of April 16th 2020, every corpo-cop in the sector, a protagonist named V, and Keanu Reeves telling us to “Wake the fuck up, Samurai.”

Reeves also appeared on-stage to talk about the game. It’ll be out on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Windows.

Thunder Lotus’ Spiritfarer is about managing a ferry for the dead. The developers call it “cozy” and I couldn’t disagree. I love the look of this. Xbox One, Windows, PlayStation 4, macOS, Linux, Nintendo Switch, 2020.

Battletoads was a game on the NES so bad that it became notorious. With notoriety it became a meme. As a meme, Microsoft decided that was worth resuscitating. This looks like a pretty standard brawler, with the addition of minecart levels. No release date. Xbox One.

Deskworks’ RPG Time: The Legend of Wright has a colorful hand-made aesthetic of 2D art on 3D pages and pieces of cardboard that looks like it was created from the perspective of a child. Very promising. Xbox One, Windows, iOS, Android. 2020.

id@Xbox had this montage of various indie games. Sarah Bond followed up to talk about the games in the trailer and guarantee they would be on the Xbox Game Pass the first day they’re released.

Bond also guaranteed that every Microsoft Game Studios’ game would be on the subscription service the day they are released.

The previously announced Windows version of the Xbox Game Pass “For PC” (Windows) is in open beta today. It’s a separate $10 subscription from Xbox Live Gold and Game Pass for the Xbox. Here’s the trailer of games they played for the Windows version of Game Pass which promises “Over 100 High-Quality PC Games by August”:

Presumably Xbox Game Pass for Windows doesn’t require Xbox Live for online multiplayer, but bond also announced Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, a $15 subscription that includes the Windows and Xbox One version of Game Pass and Xbox Live Gold.

The open beta appears to be not entirely functional. It requires version 1903 of Windows 10, which Microsoft says is available to anyone who manually checks for updates on Windows 10, but doing so didn’t provide my install with the update. It’s also hard to find the beta installer of this new app, which is linked from this page TK https://www.xbox.com/en-US/xbox-game-pass/pc-games

Microsoft Flight Simulator is getting rebooted in 2020 for the Xbox One as well as Windows.

Age of Empires II Definitive Edition got announced. It’s a remastered version of the original game, for Windows only.

Inxile Wasteland 3 was announced a few years ago for the ridiculous Fig crowd-funding faux-investment platform, here it got a trailer all about the isometric action-RPG in Colorado. It’s on Windows, macOS, Linux, PlayStation 4, and the Xbox One. Spring 2020.

Matt Booty came out to talk about games games games games games games great games games games games great games and they’ve also acquired Double Fine.

Tim Schafer appeared to joke about DF making Halo Stuff, Forza Stuff, and Excel Stuff, before introducing a new trailer for Psychonauts 2:

The description of that page promises that Psychonauts 2 is still coming to every platform it was announced for, Windows, macOS, Linux, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

WB’s Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga was announced for 2020, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows, Nintendo Switch. They say it’s all nine films in a “brand new” game, so, not redone versions of the original games? We’ll see.

Bandai-Namco’s Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot appears to be an action-RPG with lots of DBZ yelling, powering-up, and drama in addition to fishing, eating, and training with Goku. Those things don’t seem usual for DBZ games, but I wouldn’t know. Early 2020 release window. Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Windows platforms according to Cyber Connect 2’s Twitter.

Annapurna’s Luis Antonio’s Twelve Minutes looks like an interesting take on the mini-groundhog day nature of stories that repeat themselves. “Coming soon” for Xbox One, Windows.

Anthony Tan’s Way to the Woods was shown again. It’s a third-person game about a deer and fawn adventuring through some version of our world. 2020, Windows, Xbox One. Tan’s video description on YouTube is good. Recommended to click through.

It’s Gears of War 5. I am struggling to stay awake, the protagonist appears to be struggling, too. Rod Fergusson appeared to give a release date, September 10th. Xbox One, Windows. Game Pass Ultimate gives people access a few days early which is kiiind of shitty.

Fergusson introduced this trailer for Gears’ 3-player co-op Escape mode in the under-stage dungeon that also held some wrestlers who are playing the game for some reason:

A third trailer said that some people would get to play as an Endoskeleton from Terminator if they pre-order the game or play within the first week. Don’t pre-order games:

The Xbox Elite Controller is getting an update on November 4th. It finally gets Bluetooth support that the Xbox One S controller has had for years in addition to other promised improvements. Unfortunately there is a now a built-in battery pack, so you can’t use your own recharagable batteries. That isn’t going to be fun when you run out and can’t just swap in recently charged set. It’s $180 for the new version.

Techland’s Dying Light 2 is still in the works. Spring 2020. Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Windows.

Forza Horizon 4 was released last year, but this year Microsoft announced a bunch of Lego stuff is coming to the game on June 13th in a DLC pack Lego Speed Champions. I am on-board. Finally, the on-stage Forza car is a Lego car.

Funko Pop is objectively awful, Gears POP is that mobile game we talked about last year. It sure looks like a free-to-play game inspired by Clash Royale and absolutely nothing like the majority of the videos we’ve seen so far. iOS, Android. Another sad reminder that Windows Phone is dead. No release date yet. Please don’t encourage the Funko people.

State of Decay Heartland is an expansion for State of Decay 2 that’s out now.

The Free-to-Play Phantasy Star Online 2 is finally coming out next Spring for Windows and Xbox One. It had been available for years, but not localized for English. I’ve played a bit of this through the hacked version that the community had put together.

Phil Spencer introduced SmileGate’s Crossfire X, a ridiculous trailer that contained 0 gameplay. It’s “First to console on Xbox One in 2020.” Apparently the FPS has been around in one form or another since 2007.

Tales of Arise is another Tales game from Bandai Namco. 2020. PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows.

It’s Borderlands 3. I enjoyed 1 & 2, but wow it’s almost like any time I think about this game now, I think about how Randy Pitchford is probably at minimum a creep, and possibly someone who has embezzled money to steal from his employees, assaulted his employees, been a complete dickhead online to everyone, and much more. This game is coming out for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Windows on September 13th. There’s a free DLC pack to link Borderlands 2 and 3 out now called Commander Lilith & The Fight For Sanctuary. That DLC pack is “free to download” until July 8th if you have Borderlands 2.

Elden Ring is coming from From Software’s Hidetaka Miyazak and Gerorge R.R. Martin’s George R.R. Martin. It’s another fantasy action-RPG from From. Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Windows, no release date.

Phil Spencer’s xCloud Soapbox

Spencer promised that E3 attendees would get to try the xCloud service at the event. Spencer said that you could stream from your home Xbox or their Xboxes in data centers “wherever you go”

Xbox Project Scarlett is the code name for the next Xbox. All of the technical details in this video are completely ridiculous. 8K, “up-to 120 frames per second” “ray tracing.” I would not buy into what either Sony or Microsoft are selling us about anything besides possibly quicker load times. Any kind of real ray tracing means there won’t be high frame rates, and especially not at an 8K resolution. I am going to bet that some people will be a little upset with Microsoft and Sony for advertising these features that they cannot deliver. Microsoft says that the new console will be available late in 2020. Halo Infinite is the only announced launch game. No information about the size of that SSD.

Here’s the Halo Infinite trailer:

Overall

Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass is obviously extremely compelling as a “Netflix for games,” just like EA’s Origin subscriptions and Apple’s Arcade could be. The first problem with these subscriptions is that they can be assumed to be a little like a pyramid scheme for developers. Presumably the first people on board with the subscription services get better marketing placement and better cuts. If these subscriptions become the dominant way that we get our games, the middlemen providing the subscriptions will look to decrease the developers’ cuts over time until it’s like Spotify and Apple Music with artists receiving 0.0002 cents per play.

The second problem is the same as with streaming platforms, a decreased ability to preserve the games for the future. Some day the Xbox platform won’t exist. Microsoft will be out of business. The games that are exclusive to their platforms could be lost forever.

The only platform I know of that isn’t directly opposed to game preservation is Humble’s subscription service, but even that only provides DRM-free downloads for some of the games.

Lastly, ongoing subscription billing services are the parasites that corporations are desperately seeking to attach to our bank accounts at every turn. As fun as it is to have access to more music, movies, games, and shows than we could ever consume, there are just too many of these services. It’s the greatest irony that the introduction to this year’s show was The Outer Worlds with a trailer that was incredibly faux-anti-corporate when it’s produced by a subsidiary of one of the largest tech companies in the world.

The Steam Link App is Finally Out for iOS & tvOS

The Steam Link app is finally available on iOS (and tvOS) after being available on Android, and then the Raspberry Pi sbc, for a year. The Steam Link app acts like the now-discontinued Steam Link box and streams your Steam library (and more) to your phone, tablet, or TV. The iOS & Apple TV tvOS app allows for Bluetooth controllers like the Steam Controller as well as Apple-approved controllers that are already available for iOS and tvOS.

Apple initially approved and then blocked the Steam Link app for iOS last year. Presumably that was because Valve’s Steam store was available to users, which was a not-great on Apple’s part but makes about as much sense (none) as Apple demanding a cut of Amazon’s ebooks. The new version of the Steam Llink iOS app doesn’t let people access Valve’s store while streaming, it only allows people to play their game library.

The newest versions of the Android app also allows people to stream games when they’re away from home, the iOS app doesn’t have that feature yet and so you’ll be stuck playing on your home network.

As I’ve said before, I don’t think it is any good that the streaming of games you own locally is controlled by any store, platform, or driver company (like Nvidia’s Shield game streaming service.)  There could be a third-party, entirely open-source effort to stream your desktop with performance in-mind, but there isn’t. The closest thing is the Moonlight project, but it is only available for people with Nvidia’s graphics cards.

All that said, I played a game of Into the Breach streamed to my iPhone from a Windows host using the new app and while that was a confusing setup process (disabling the virtual mouse, enabling the virtual gamepad) it was ultimately rewarding.

I did have one crash when I switched apps and the network connection had been dropped, but I just resumed the game once I re-launched the Link app.

Streaming from a macOS host is a giant pain in the ass, involving the installation of multiple kernel extensions, reboots, and then installing more kernel extensions and more reboots. I can’t imagine this will get any easier with macOS 10.15, if it’s possible at all. Apple delivers a warning to let you know that something Valve is doing won’t work with “…a future version” of macOS:

Screen Shot 2019 06 03 at 12 49 37 AM

That is an ominous warning for a person to read who just wants to play a fucking game. I’m sure they’ll rush out to install the next big macOS upgrade.

I Hope We Don’t Get RSI From Crankin’ It (the Playdate)

Panic’s new console

Renowned Mac and iOS software developer, Panic published their first game Firewatch with Campo Santo a few years ago, are expecting to release Untitled Goose Game later this year, and have now teamed up with the teens that figured out how to monetize themselves in pursuit of wacky audio equipment at Teenage Engineering to make a portable game console called the Playdate.

The Playdate is a bizarre device. There’s a black and white 400×240 screen without a backlight, Panic promises that screen will be perfectly clear during the day and that a reading lamp will be fine at night. I have a question out to them about glare.

The button layout looks normal up until you see that crank on the right side. The crank can tuck away inside the body of the unit for games that don’t need it. The Playdate downloads new games over WiFi. There is Bluetooth, USB-C, and a headphone jack as well.

Playdate’s games promise to be real odd ducks, the current list of announced designers are Keita Takahashi (Katamari Damacy, Noby Noby Boy), Bennett Foddy (QWOP, Getting Over It With Bennett Foddy, GIRP), Shaun Inman (Retro Game Crunch), Zach Gage (FlipFlop Solitaire, Really Bad Chess) with more to come. Their 12 games are to be released at no other cost over the course of 12 weeks, once a week from the date a player first turns on their Playdate. There will be an option to skip the wait if you fire one up late in the “first season” of games.

Here’s how Panic describes a Keita Takahashi game for the system:

Crankin’s Time Travel Adventure, from Keita Takahashi, the creator of Namco’s Katamari Damacy. This game uses the crank exclusively to control the flow of time, backwards and forwards. Your goal? Get Crankin’ to his date with Crankette while avoiding an ever-increasing series of ridiculous obstacles — obstacles that aren’t affected by the time control. Will Crankin’ make it to his rendezvous on-time? (Spoiler alert: no)

The name is supposed to make us think of setting up a time for kids to get together, but this Playdate console doesn’t have a firm release date yet or any announcement regarding multiplayer, just “Early 2020” with Panic hoping to have pre-ordering available at the end of 2019 and an e-mail waitlist that is supposed to act as a queue for the $150 handheld. The promise is that there will be a limited number of the consoles available at launch, which isn’t great since it probably means you need to pre-order this thing without knowing much about the yet-to-be-released games. Pre-orders are not necessary for anything that is produced at any scale, and it isn’t clear if Panic and Teenage Engineering are small enough to require them.

Panic promises to let us know about future game releases, and more specifications about the hardware (storage capacity, CPU, RAM) closer to the launch of the Playdate. It is not at all clear if you’ll be able to just download rando games that anyone makes, or if this thing tanks you’ll just be stuck with the single season of 12 games that Panic commissioned.

Falcon Age

Falcon Age looks very different, it’s a first-person falconeering and falcon-friendshipper where you and your falcon pal (palcon?) fight off the robo-nvaders seeking to exploit your planet. You can also dress up your falcon buddy,

Outerloop Games’ website says they’ve developed Falcon Age for virtual reality first, but it is playable on regular televisions as well. They’ve even gone to the trouble of adding a non-combat option to just spend time with your falcon friend.

Reviewers for IGN and Gamespot enjoyed Falcon Age. Vice’s (Waypoint, before Vice decided to destroy the good will that Waypoint had created) reviewer enjoyed Falcon Age less from the perspective of someone who wasn’t playing in VR.

Falcon Age is $20 and only available on the PS4 (and PSVR, optionally) for now.

Capcom’s Bizarre Home Arcade Stick Machine Thing

I don’t even know where to start with this thing. It’s a two-player arcade stick with an HDMI port, wifi for leaderboards,16 games built-in. For
£199.99, which is roughly $260 USD. That’s expensive, but Capcom UK claims to have Sanwa parts for the Joystick lever and buttons. That’s kind of worth it. But then you look at the actual design of the case and it’s the fucking Capcom logo! What in the hell were they smoking?

I can’t find any press release from Capcom US, but the UK edition is promised with an October 25th release date. Unfortunately this is coming from Koch media, purveyors of such shit goods as The C64 Mini. Also, there are hints that this might be using an illegally re-licensed version of the Final Burn Alpha arcade emulator. It’s Yikes-O-Clock, do you know where your executives are?