Xbox E3 2018 Briefing Press Event Notes

We’re onto the second day of E3 press events, and here’s everything that was announced at Microsoft’s Xbox E3 2018 Briefing.

Halo Infinite
The show opened with a trailer for Halo Infinite depicting the wide-open spaces of an open-world version of Halo. It looks great. No combat was depicted, which is a pretty strong statement from the 343 development team, or their marketing overlords.

Phil Spencer’s Soapbox
Spencer quickly transitioned from Halo to talking about creativity for some reason. I can’t wait to upload my skateboard design with the Kinect. Spencer talked about how the game playing fanfest attendees in the audience had their ticket proceeds going to charity. Who knows how much money that is, it can’t be that much because no number was mentioned, but the chanting support Spencer received from this section of the audience was certainly something that Microsoft had no trouble with accepting.

Spencer at least sounds like a human instead of the robot dropped in from c-space that assumed Andrew Wilson’s form at EA’s press event.

Ori And The Will of The Wisps
A new Ori sidescrolling naturevania game is on the way. The trailer showed off a cute new owl character and new challenges. It looks good and it’s an Xbox exclusive. It was given a 2019 release window.

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
The first “world premier” of this event, which means that this is not at all exclusive, was a From Software made and Activision published third-person cyber augmented-samurai in feudal times action game. Lots of swords and a 2019 release window for multiple platforms.

Fallout 4
Bethesda’s Todd Howard showed up at the Xbox event to receive the fanfest cheers as he announced that Fallout 4 would be on the Xbox Game Pass video game subscription.

Fallout 76
Howard also talked about the upcoming Fallout prequel, Fallout 76 was rumored to be an online game and it is. According to Howard, 76 has four times the land to explore as Fallout 4 and it’s in the hills of West Virginia. A trailer played showing a power-armored figure watching nukes land. The trailer looks a lot like Fallout 4, but with a country song playing over it. The trailer is heavy on rebuilding and the power-armor from the start of the trailer is depicted under-foot and rusting in the ground until the vault 76 dweller puts on that armor again. It’ll be out on November 14th, 2018 for multiple platforms.

The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit
Another “world premier” with a Sufjan Stevens-scored trailer from Dontnod and Square-Enix. It’s the Life is Strange spin-off about a young man with super powers. It’ll be out for free on multiple platforms on June 26th. Dontnod infamously broke picket lines and hired scabs to replace their union voice actors during a strike, so I won’t be downloading this.

Crackdown 3
Terry Crews’ voice over opens the sci-fi open-world game’s Sumo Digital trailer. It looks like Crews is playing himself, or the version of himself he acted out in the Old Spice commercials. There’s a rocket launcher that shoots an array of rubber ducks as Crews’ character exclaims “Quack Quack, Mother F-” but the expletive is beeped. As rumored, the game has been delayed again until February of 2019. It is still an exclusive to the Xbox One and Windows 10.

Nier: Automata: Become as Gods Edition
It’s a repackaged version of Nier: Automata with the DLC that came out for it. This version of the game will be out on June 26th, 2018. The Windows version on Steam is miserably broken without using some hacks to fix issues, hopefully this port will be better. I’m glad that people without a PS4 or Windows gaming computer will finally get a crack at this game, it is an extremely odd third-person action game with a style that is typically exclusive to Sony’s consoles.

Metro Exodus
Boiling seas, people turning into shadows, why it’s a Metro game trailer. You’re still Artyom in an FPS from 4A games, and it’s still going to be a very post-apocalyptic world with gas masks and other tools of the trade. It’ll be out on February 22nd, 2019 for Windows, Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

Phil Spencer is Talking Again
He’s standing in the audience and there’s a guy with a jersey that says “Lord Hot Monkey” seated in the aisle seat next to him. He’s introducing a trailer for…

Kingdom Hearts 3
Sora’s on the Xbox One for the first time in Square Enix’s action RPG. He’s joined by Goofy and Donald Duck. A character from Frozen runs across the water. A ton of other Disney characters show up. There’s shield surfing, gummi spaceships, and battles that look like they take too long. Some parts of this trailer have voice acting, and music, but a lack of any kind of foley so they’re really odd. It’s out on January 29th, 2019, if you’re into this kind of thing.

Sea of Thieves Cursed Sails & Forsaken Shores
A trailer boasts about the 4 million people who’ve played this Xbox exclusive pirating game game that’s been out for a bit, and some other numbers. A pirate visits a fortune teller who tells him about some evil nonsense that’ll be in the game later on. An update called Cursed Sails will be out in July, the Forsaken Shores update will be out in September. It isn’t clear if these are paid DLC or not from the trailer.

Battlefield V
Hey it’s still the same FPS coming out later this year for Windows, PlayStation 4, and the Xbox One. They played a short trailer for the single player mode and somehow didn’t include the release date, which is still October 16th. How odd that they don’t mention the “Airlifts” or the deluxe version or the early access if you pay EA $100 a year or the other nonsense that EA is doing with this game. It’s almost like they don’t want to boast about that when they’ve promised no more lootboxes.

Forza Horizon 4
Walmart Canada got one thing wrong, it’s not time for a Forza Horizon 5 but a 4 instead. This time the open-world racing is in the United Kingdom.

Ralph Fulton from Playground appeared on stage to talk about the game. Fulton introduces some folks playing the game on-stage, what cars they chose, and what part of Britain they’re in. All of the players are in the same shared world and we’re told that the game supports 60 frames-per-second on the Xbox One X in a certain mode. Apparently the game supports dynamic seasons. A lake can freeze and be available for driving.

I am very much hoping for unintelligble (to me) accents from the announcers but I doubt that Playground Games will do that. Otherwise, the game looks great. I just wish it were a little bit more arcadey in the damage profile. Burnout still isn’t really back yet, maybe next year. Forza Horizon 4 is out on October 2nd, 2018 for Xbox One and Windows.

Phil Spencer Won’t Stop Talking
He’s promised to buy more game development studios to make more exclusive games, as well as making more internal teams and studios. He announces one called The Initiative in Santa Monica, California led by Darrell Gallagher. He’s been all over working at Activision, Square Enix, Crystal Dynamics, THQ, Rockstar, and Sony. We aren’t told what specifically they’re working on.

Spencer tells us that they’ve also bought Undead Labs, the developers of State of Decay 1 & 2.

Spencer then says they’ve bought Playground Games, who you may recall from Forza Horizon 4.

Ninja Theory has also been bought by Microsoft. They once made Heavenly Sword for the PlayStation 3 as well as Kung Fu Chaos for the original Xbox. Most recently they shipped Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice for Windows, the PlayStation 4, and the Xbox One.

Microsoft’s wallet opened once again for Compulsion Games, the developers of We Happy Few which appeared to be in a bit of a nightmare of a development cycle. I didn’t care for their odd survival game when I saw it last, hopefully the finished product is better.

We Happy Few
The dystopian first-person game about “robots made out of meat” now has a release date, August 10th 2018. In 2018 I’m not sure how much interest I have in playing another dystopian game but the theme is interesting.

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds
A very hectic trailer plays for PUBG. It’s still PUBG as all hell. The smaller tropical map is said to be due this summer. A new war mode is mentioned, as well as a very short teaser clip of a winter map, but all you see is snow and boots. That winter map or mode is supposed to be out this winter.

Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition
A “world premier” of this remastered anime RPG that’ll be out on the Xbox One as well as the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Windows, late this year. Apparently some of the content and characters in this version were never in the older versions of the game released a decade ago.

The Division 2
Another “world premier.” This time, it’s set in a toppled Washington D.C. Ubisoft made a very graphically impressive version of New York City with the first Division game, but it had some oddly fascist choices to the plot. This looks like more of the same. The trailer features some of the most unrealistic online voice chat I’ve ever heard as the players fight around a downed Air Force One. Ubisoft promises it’ll be out on March 15th, 2019. No doubt the platforms are Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Windows.

Ashley Speicher Speaks About Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass Subscription
Apparently games are going to boot quicker on the Xbox One, somehow using machine learning. I’m not sure what that has to do with their game pass subscription. Speicher mentioned some more games being added to the subscription. I’m not excited about the hit to game preservation, but I understand why this option is a good choice for some people.

Indie Montage Break
Lots of games with differing levels of exclusivity, or none at all. Sable has a very unique look that I’ve never seen in a game before. Below is apparently still in development. Harold Halibut looks like a very interesting polygonal adventure game. I’m not the first to say that Generation Zero looks very familiar.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider
I’m already one game behind on playing the modern Tomb Raider series. Apparently I have until September 14th to catch up before this one is out. They’re good games, Lara.

Session
It’s awesome to see a full-on 3D skateboarding simulation game again. This is yet another “console launch exclusive” which doesn’t mean much. The developer is Creature, and Session was originally a crowdfunded project that targetted Steam’s Early Access program as well as the Xbox One’s Game Preview program. There’s an old prototype demo on the Kickstarter page. No release date yet.

Black Desert Online
Hey it’s an MMORPG. In 2018. Somebody’s gotta do it. Might as well be another console launch exclusive. They’ve got a beta late this year, and it’s headed to the PlayStation 4 as well. Or you can play this game on Windows today. I have a special fondness in my heart for Korean-made video games after working there a decade ago.

Devil May Cry 5
This looks very silly, somehow. There’s a ridiculous cyborg arm and a fun sidekick. It’ll be out next Spring. This is just a “world premier,” so there’s no exclusivity expressed but it sure is wrongly implied. The game will actually be on the Xbox One as well as the PlayStation 4 and Windows. Weird as hell to hear the voice actor for Jet from Cowboy Bebop at the start of this trailer. I hear that Ninja Theory’s DmC was super, involving fighting the idea of dubstep and other goofy stuff.

Hideaki Itsuno and Matt Walker from Capcom showed up to talk about the series. They’re very excited to bring DmC back.

Cuphead DLC
Cuphead is getting “The Delicious Last Course” with a new character, Ms. Chalice, a new island, and more. 2019.

Tunic
Finji’s got a fox in a Zelda-y action-RPG by Dicey. It’s so not exclusive it already has a Steam page. Tunic will be out in 2019 on the Xbox One as well as Steam for Windows and macOS.

Phil Spencer’s Still Talking
Really. They just bring up the stage lights and he keeps talking. He’s promised that the rest of the games in this show are all “…world premier games nobody has seen before.”

Jump Force
Bandai Namco has a bunch of anime characters from Dragon Ball, One Piece, and Naruto fighting. It’ll be on Windows, PlayStation 4, and the Xbox One in 2019. Somebody is going to get really into this, but it isn’t me. Spike Chunsoft is developing it.

Dying Light 2
This trailer made me wish for an open-world Condemned, which was excellent. Dying Light  was good, but I never got far in it. Chris Avellone is apparently working with Techland on this one, and he showed up on stage to talk about it. “Dying Light 2 will be the first in it’s genre where your choices have genuine consequences in the game itself.” Avellone sets up for this gameplay trailer:

Avellone says that there are hundreds of decisions that change the game world and the characters in it, but promises like that have been made so many times before. No release date is given, but it will be on the Xbox One as well as Windows and the PlayStation 4.

Battletoads
Well heck, it’s a world premier. The original game was a crap ripoff of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Battletoads is back because of a joke about calling Gamestop to ask for it and this trailer is full of bad jokes like “4K Hand-Drawn 2.5D Graphics.” Yikes. It’ll be out in 2019 from DLaLa Studios on the Xbox One and Windows 10. Hopefully there’s a good game that comes out of this.

Just Cause 4
Steam managed to leak this one with an ill-timed popup advertisement. Rico’s still fighting a ridiculous open-world fight. It’ll be out on December 4th, 2018. Surprisingly few games are targeting a 2018 release in this event.

Gears Pop
Who the hell decided to make a Gears Funkopop game? It’s apparently a mobile game for iOS and Android next year. Why couldn’t we just let Funkopop toys fade away?

Rod Fergusson is Geared up for Gears Gears Gears Gears Gears
He’s attempting to justify this Funkopop garbage game for terrible people, and redeem himself by announcing a Gears Tactics game in the style of XCom for Windows. It really looks like XCom. Gears 5 is also announced.

Gears of War 5
I’m so out of touch with the Gears games I don’t recognize many of these characters. Apparently the protagonist is someone named Kait. The armor sets still looks very ridiculous. Like Batman Forever ridiculous. This trailer is big on haunting music spoiled by sudden action scenes. Gears 5 will be out some time in 2019.

Phil Spencer Wants to Talk More
This conference has to be over soon, right?! He’s talking like it’s closing out. He’s mentioning all the buzzwords. AI research, streaming game video. He’s even talking about building more consoles.

Cyberpunk 2077
Okay I’m onboard for more Cyberpunk 2077. It’s been too long and CD Projekt Red has purple mohawks for us.

Overall
Please condense your press events. It’s nice that people who bought an Xbox One get some exclusives. That Battletoads trailer was embarrassing, but closing the show with a non-exclusive game is an odd choice. The audience near the stage was full of fans, which is not a bad decision on Microsoft’s part to get the reaction they want, but it is still odd to me to hear clapping and wild hollering reactions during what was once exclusively a press event. Press don’t clap. They’re there to work and focus on their job. The fan reactions are a distraction from that job. I learned this lesson during a NASCAR post-race interview event, of all things.

GitHub Getting Acquired by Microsoft

Microsoft, today:

Microsoft Corp. on Monday announced it has reached an agreement to acquire GitHub, the world’s leading software development platform where more than 28 million developers learn, share and collaborate to create the future. Together, the two companies will empower developers to achieve more at every stage of the development lifecycle, accelerate enterprise use of GitHub, and bring Microsoft’s developer tools and services to new audiences.

Yours truly, 3 years ago when Google’s Google Code code hosting service shut down:

This is your continued reminder that Google, and start-ups funded by VC money, are not a safe place to store your work. Own your shit before GitHub starts inserting malware into downloads or sells out in some original and disruptive way. Get a domain, some shared hosting, maybe a Linux or BSD VPS if you’re rich. With git it is easy enough to move a project if you have cloned the project locally and have established a web presence that people can check for updates. At the very least, don’t make the GitHub page the public-facing home for your project.

This kind of bullshit is why ioquake3.org exists and is the front-door for that project. Github has some great collaboration tools in their web front-end, and I’d guess there are developers out there that don’t even understand yet that there are other options for Git hosting.

It’s a burden that hosting is expensive, but these kinds of sell-outs happen all the time, that’s why you have to give your project a real homepage and not rely on a third-party that doesn’t have a sustainable business model.

I don’t know yet if we’re going to move ioquake3’s code off of Github, but at least people will still be able to find the project if we decide to do so.

What Would Make You Want to Upgrade Your Console?

Yours truly back in June writing during Microsoft’s E3 presentation for the Xbox One X:

…it feels like Microsoft is less interested in challenging Sony with this high-end console than harvesting their hardcore Xbox fans for yet another console purchase.

I don’t doubt that this console will live up to its technical promises, but it won’t offer much to anyone who already has an Xbox One, it’ll still play the same games. Unlike an iPhone upgrade, the smaller physical form-factor won’t make the Xbox One X any more pocketable. A more powerful desktop computer can also run many of the same exclusive games in Windows 10.

Eurogamer’s headline from Martin Robinson yesterday: Microsoft’s final sales pitch for Xbox One X falls flat:

Microsoft stepped up its commitment to PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, backing a proven winner and this year’s true phenomenon in what amounts to quite a coup for the Xbox brand, but the messaging was all over the place. This, it seems, is an exclusive in that very loose definition of the word, with all sorts of obfuscation being peddled out when it comes to future versions on other platforms. Maybe if Phil Spencer hadn’t skipped this week’s show he might have advised that, mindful of a Gamescom from the not-too-distant past and the muddied reveal of another Xbox ‘exclusive’, you can’t pull the wool over people’s eyes for too long.

There were better signs elsewhere, and the list of 100-plus games that will be receiving updates to make the most of the Xbox One X hardware makes for impressive reading – the promise of an improved and definitive console version of The Witcher 3 is almost enough alone to justify the upgrade, and elsewhere there’s an appealing list of games that will benefit from a facelift. But at this point in the console lifecycle, Microsoft needs more than prettier versions of multiplatform games if it’s to make serious inroads into Sony’s considerable lead this generation.

At this point I’m pretty sure that in general people aren’t interested in more expensive mid-generation console upgrades to support 4K televisions unless they have a tremendous amount of disposable income.

The argument that people would buy a desktop computer as powerful also doesn’t seem to hold water. Are people really buying them in droves? Where are the boastful hardware companies filling press release pipelines with numbers? I haven’t seen them, but maybe I’m looking in the wrong places.

I get the sense that people are pretty displeased with the PlayStation 4 Pro, as well, but at least Sony has truly exclusive games like Uncharted and that won’t also be available on Windows 10.

What reason is left to buy the upgraded consoles? Here I am back in June again:

That could change later on. In the future this could be the baseline version of the Xbox One and some games could require the Xbox One X to run at all. The same is true of the Playstation 4 Pro, and I wouldn’t recommend buying either of the original Xbox One or the original Playstation 4 at this point.

So, the fear of being left behind when games might require the upgraded consoles, that’s basically all I’ve got for reasons to buy the Xbox One X or PlayStation 4 Pro today. Maybe Microsoft and Sony don’t want to tank sales of the the Xbox One S and PlayStation 4 Amateur. Is something going to change between now and November 7th?

Xbox E3 2017 Briefing Notes

Every E3 has an Xbox press event, this year Microsoft is leading it off with a brief history of different resolutions
that their hardware has supported. Or at least it has upscaled games to that.

If you’re new to my writing, I’ll note here that I worked for Microsoft over a decade ago on the original Xbox, but I don’t think that really matters much anymore.

Here’s what Microsoft announced during this year’s event.

Project Scorpio‘s final name is the Xbox One X

Just last August Microsoft released the first revision to the Xbox One, the Xbox One S enabled playback and upscaling of video to 4K.
It was bizarre that last E3 Microsoft announced two new versions of the confusingly named Xbox One, the S and they also hinted at an upcoming “Project Scorpio.”

Could you imagine Apple announcing an iPhone 9 and hinting at what is to come in the iPhone 10? It would have the potential to tank sales of the 9 especially if the 9 was as meek an upgrade as the Xbox One S was to the original Xbox One.

The Scorpio had its technical details available back in April via Eurogamer, and now it has a release date of November 7, 2017.

While the Xbox One S had the ability to upscale video to 4K, the Xbox One X should actually be able to run games at a 4K resolution without upscaling. Although it will add graphical updates to older games that haven’t been upgraded for the Xbox One X, Microsoft promises “True 4K” with this console and supersampling from 4K to 1080p if you don’t yet have a 4K display. Nvidia calls this feature “Dynamic super resolutions.” Think of 4K as an incredible chef versus a good amateur chef as 1080p. Scaling down from 4K to 1080p is like the amateur chef watching the incredible one and attempting to recreate the same dish. You’ll end up with something better than if the good amateur had simply tried to make it on their own.

Microsoft is all about these specifications, and there is a price to be paid for them at $500. $100 more than Sony’s Playstation 4 Pro, and the Xbox One S can be had for $250 to $300 which leaves a huge price gap between the two Xbox One consoles.

It’s a strange price to pick when Sony’s PlayStation has outsold Microsoft’s Xbox, but it feels like Microsoft is less interested in challenging Sony with this high-end console than harvesting their hardcore Xbox fans for yet another console purchase.

I don’t doubt that this console will live up to its technical promises, but it won’t offer much to anyone who already has an Xbox One, it’ll still play the same games. Unlike an iPhone upgrade, the smaller physical form-factor won’t make the Xbox One X any more pocketable. A more powerful desktop computer can also run many of the same exclusive games in Windows 10. At least it could if my Microsoft Account would work in Windows 10.

That could change later on. In the future this could be the baseline version of the Xbox One and some games could require the Xbox One X to run at all. The same is true of the Playstation 4 Pro, and I wouldn’t recommend buying either of the original Xbox One or the original Playstation 4 at this point.

Forza Motorsport 7

Racing games have always been showpieces for graphical prowess, and that’s why Microsoft’s racing software has a trade-off each year. One year is a game in the Forza Horizon open-world racing series, the next year is Forza Motorsport’s take on competing with Sony’s Gran Turismo. The cars and racetrack and weather effects look pretty. I don’t really care for non-Horizon games in the Forza series. The best part of the Forza Motorsport trailer is the use of K.Flay’s Blood in the Cut. Great song.

Microsoft also unveiled a new physical car from Porche on-stage during this announcement. Weird.

It’ll be out on Xbox One and Windows 10 on October 3rd.

Metro Exodus

The Metro series hasn’t been exclusive to the Xbox. They’re beloved first-person shooters, but I’ve always had a difficult time getting used to the gameplay mechanics. It was always crazy that the standard currency in them was ammunition. This made any combat experience a trade-off. Fight with cheap ammo, or watch money flight out of your guns and be more effective in combat. In Exodus the hook like we’ve moved on to an open-world post-nuclear apocalypse.

It’ll be out in 2018 for Xbox One and Windows.

Assassin’s Creed: Origins

Speaking of games I haven’t finished, I haven’t finished an Assassin’s Creed game since 3. With Origins the game has gone to a historical depiction of Egypt with a new RPG leveling system with skill points and a Hawk companion. It also seems to reject all of the alien stuff from the early games, but still has stabbing. That’s why you play an Assassin’s Creed game.

It’ll be out on October 27th and definitely won’t be exclusive to the Xbox One.

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds

I love Battlegrounds, and Microsoft has a huge coup here in getting console exclusivity on it. Although the specific wording is not clear. “Xbox One Console Launch Exclusive” could be interpreted to mean that Battlegrounds‘ exclusivity is only temporary.

My hope is that the gamepad controls are improved for the Windows version as well.

It’ll be out in “Late 2017” on the Xbox One. Or you can play it now on Steam for Windows.

Deep Rock Galactic

It’s a first-person digger with space dwarves as another “console launch exclusive.”

No release date or range was given.

State of Decay 2

The zombie shooter with a twist on community-building gets a sequel. There’s a good hint of that twist in the trailer.

It’ll be exclusive to Xbox One and Windows 10 in Spring of 2018.

The Darwin Project

A shouting man appeared on stage to turn this battle royale game into an esport that appears to be completely undeserving. Way to ruin your game reveal. It’s an Xbox Console Launch Exclusive, so at least you know where not to be if you want to avoid someone shouting at you about a game.

Minecraft

It’s Minecraft, but this time they’re going to fix it so that players on many different devices can play together, excepting the original Java version. Because Java is shit.

They’re also adding 4K, other graphics options, and a “Super Duper Graphics Pack.”

This update will be out in the Fall.

Dragon Ball FighterZ

The name is dumb, the cartoon makes anime look bad. This is a fighting game that has so much shouting.

It’ll be out “Early 2018” and doesn’t appear to have any exclusivity to the Xbox One.

Black Desert

Another console launch exclusive, it’s an MMORPG without a release date.

The Last Night

A game that looks very interesting if you watch the trailer and love cyberpunk aesthetics as much as I do. Then you find out the game was created by someone who hates women and loves GamerGate. Apparently this cyberpunk dystopia is also going to have themes of what happens when progressive politics go “too far.” Expect there to be absolutely no nuance to that. I’m gonna pass on this game.

 

The Artful Escape

A side-scrolling game with guitars and dinosaurs and future stuff. Looks like it could be great, no release date and it is another “console launch exclusive.”

Code Vein

Another take on the post-apocalypse is here. Finally.

It’ll be out on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows, some time in 2018.

Sea of Thieves

I feel like I’ve been hearing about the multiplayer pirating in Sea of Thieves for the past 10 years. It’s actually supposed to be out early in 2018 exclusively for the Xbox One and Windows 10 stores.

Tacoma

The next game from Fullbright, developers of Gone Home, is this spacefaring spacestation exploration. After Gone Home, I am pretty excited to see how Tacoma turns out.

It’ll be out on August 2nd on Steam for Windows, Mac, and Linux as well as gog and Xbox One.

Super Lucky’s Tale

This game was originally exclusive to the Oculus VR HMD. No hints were given as to how or if this upgraded version of Lucky’s Tale will be displayed in VR on the Xbox One.

It’ll be out on November 7th for Xbox One and Windows 10.

Cuphead

Exclusive to Xbox One on console, Cuphead still looks amazingly like early cartoons. I hate Jazz and I still want to play this game.

It’ll be out for Xbox One and Steam for Windows on September 29th.

Crackdown 3

I loved Crackdown. You either loved Crackdown or haven’t played it. I hope this game is anywhere near as good as the first.

It’ll be exclusive to Xbox One and Windows 10 this November 7th.

ID@Xbox Games Montage

This is the point in the show where they realize they’re about an hour and 12 minutes in and they need to condense a bit. How about a montage.

Games Montages will be available at every games conference ever until the end of time.

My favorite part of that montage was Ooblets. It’s supposed to be bits of Pokemon, Harvest Moon, and Animal Crossing. Here is a better trailer of it:

Ooblets will be out in 2018 on Steam for Windows as well as the Xbox One. I’d like to see the shouting dude from earlier try and shout about this game. I dare him.

Ashen

Ashen is a little bit like Journey and Dark Souls to me, it’s very mysterious and has “high risk combat” according to its official website. http://www.ashen-game.com/

It’ll be on Xbox One and Windows.

Life is Strange: Before the Storm

Teenage drama is back, and it’s in Oregon. I still need to go back and finish the first game.

Life is Strange wasn’t exclusive, it’ll be out on August 31st, presumably for Xbox One as well as many other platforms.

Middle Earth: Shadow of War
I can’t find the exact trailer used during this press event. Here’s a recent story trailer:

It’s another sequel to a game I haven’t finished. The nemesis system made me want to play a real sequel to Mercenaries. Can J.R.R. Tolkein’s ghost babysit my son while I play through it?

Shadow of War will be out on October 10th on Xbox One, Steam for Windows, and PlayStation 4.

Ori and the Will of the Wisps

A sequel to another fun side-scrolling metroidvania. The game’s composer appeared to be playing the piano live to backup the trailer.

No release date, but it’ll be exclusive to Xbox One and Windows 10. The original was on Steam, so we could expect that as well for this sequel.

Backwards Compatability & Crimson Skies

I’m still surprised at how well the Xbox 360 backwards compatibility program has gone. Despite leaving it up to the game’s original publishers to decide if the game can be made available for the Xbox One it has been very successful in bringing so many games onto the current generation of Xbox consoles.

Phil Spencer announced that the original Xbox would also be emulated on the Xbox One. I’m sure there are even more original Xbox developers and publishers that are out of business and won’t be able to approve their updates for backwards compatibility.

Backwards compatibility for some original Xbox games will be available later this year. Phil specifically pointed to Crimson Skies. There was no separate video available for this announcement online.

Anthem

Bioware’s new game looks a lot like Rage at first, and then turns into an open-world co-op adventure. It’s definitely not exclusive, but it’ll be out in 2018 if it doesn’t get delayed.

Overall
This is another strange Xbox event that hasn’t convinced me that I need an Xbox One when I have a more powerful desktop computer. At this point I am keeping that console around just for backwards compatibility and exclusives that either weren’t brought to Windows or that I can’t play on Windows because my Microsoft Account isn’t functioning correctly with my Windows 10 user account.

Windows 10 Something Went Wrong Edition

Microsoft just announced a new laptop Surface device, it’s $1000 and comes with an intentionally broken version of their Windows 10 operating system. Matt Weinberger:

The one thing to know is that the Surface Laptop is the poster child for Windows 10 S, a new version of the operating system that Microsoft says is more streamlined and secure — and offers better performance and battery life — than the standard Windows 10.

The trade-off for those perks is that Windows 10 S won’t let you install any software that’s not from the Windows Store app market, which means that, at the very least, you wouldn’t be able to install the Google Chrome web browser.

If you’re not down with that, Microsoft will let you switch any Windows 10 S computer, including the Surface Laptop, to the regular Windows 10 Pro for a one-time $49 fee — less if you’re on a tablet or something else with a smaller screen. But if you do that, Microsoft says, it can’t guarantee you’ll get the improved battery life and performance.

$50 to fix the operating system on a $1000 laptop! This loses all of the benefits of Microsoft’s touch-enabling of their operating system, and I wouldn’t recommend that anyone buy one of these devices.

There’s a comparison to be made here to the iPad, but I don’t think that works out. The iPad was always locked to an app store, this version of Windows 10 is more like Windows RT. RT was the version of Windows for ARM-processor based Surface devices that couldn’t run x86 applications. It was based on Windows 8, limited to apps from Microsoft’s app store, and a few custom applications they produced outside of it like Office RT.

Windows RT was shitcanned because nobody wanted that environment, so this is another attempt at the same thing but based on Windows 10.

Epic’s Tim Sweeney:

 

Twitter readers will know that about 6 months ago my Windows 10 user account became unable to access any Windows 10 functions that require a Microsoft account. That’s their app store, the Xbox app, and so on. I get this error whenever I try to log in to my Microsoft account on that Windows 10 user account:

That “Send feedback” link is the only other option besides cancelling out and giving up in the dialog that Windows gives you when your login fails. “Send feedback” takes you to the Windows 10 Feedback Hub app, which, wouldn’t you know it, requires a login:

Depending on how their bug reporting works in Windows, they’ll never see any user feedback about this issue because you can’t report it directly to them through the tools that you’re giving as a Windows 10 user. Can you imagine if a Surface laptop user had this same problem on Windows 10 S? They would be furious, they couldn’t get new applications from the Windows app store.

My story got worse.

I contacted Microsoft’s Windows support team over their text support chat to get assistance with the problem after spending a few hours looking into it. After going through a few different options to debug the problem their technical support agent offered to remotely access the computer and try to resolve the issue.

The agent accessed the computer and we went through a few troubleshooting steps and then asked me what the two-factor authentication on my Microsoft account was. After I explained it, he started using Google’s search engine to research two-factor auth in my web browser.

He loaded up a Google help page that explained how their two-factor authentication system works for users.

Support agents are supposed to research problems with their computers, not the one requesting support, and Google’s help pages aren’t going to be very useful for understanding Microsoft’s two-factor solution.

That’s all very strange, but it gets better. The Microsoft support agent then disabled two-factor authentication on my Microsoft account without asking if that was OK to do first.

It’s a reasonable step to figure out if the problem with the Microsoft account logging in to Windows 10‘s app store and other functionality is the extra step in two-factor authentication, but disabling the option on the Microsoft account puts that user at risk. Almost worse was that at no point did the Microsoft support agent remind me to re-enable two-factor auth.

Finally, the support agent gave up and gave me the only option of creating a new Windows 10 user account. That is not a good solution.

I know what I would think if I were reading this, “That’s not Microsoft support!” It certainly was. They called to apologize a few days after I contacted Microsoft through a different channel with a complaint about what happened.

Still can’t log in to my Microsoft account with that Windows 10 user account.

I’m fortunate enough to be technically literate and comfortable with downloading applications manually, but a Windows 10 S user whose computer has this bug is just left with a completely broken computer unless they make a new user account or pay the $50 ransom Microsoft is charging to get access to the rest of their computer’s functionality. Unless that ransom is payable through the Windows app store, in which case they’re shit out of luck.

 

Xbox Scorpio Tech Details

I’m Hank Scorpio

Eurogamer’s Richard Leadbetter has technical details of Microsoft’s goofy Project Scorpio. Unless Microsoft adds or changes something significant about the functionality of the console before it is launched, it just means a more expensive and more technically powerful Xbox console:

Combining smart design with sheer horsepower, Project Scorpio hits the six-teraflop target set for it as E3 last year, thanks to a custom GPU that has been designed from the ground up for optimal performance on today’s game engines – and that runs at an unprecedentedly high clock speed for a console. The GPU is paired with 12GB of fast GDDR5 memory and a custom eight-core CPU, and the whole thing is housed in a compact body with integrated power supply and, for a console, state-of-the-art cooling.

Performance is remarkable. We saw a Forza Motorsport demo running on the machine at native 4K and Xbox One equivalent settings, and it hit 60 frames per second with a substantial performance overhead – suggesting Scorpio will hit its native 4K target across a range of content, with power to spare to spend on other visual improvements. And while 4K is the target, Microsoft is paying attention to 1080p users, promising that all modes will be available to them.

It’s interesting to me that the upgraded hardware is so similar to the Playstation 4 Pro, although the Scorpio has bigger numbers and will perform well, this re-emphasizes a theme that Microsoft has gone with since the original Xbox of promoting the technical specifications of their hardware over the games that take advantage of that hardware.

Just like with the Playstation 4 Pro, nobody should buy an Xbox until more details of the Scorpio are available like a price, a launch date, and if a game they actually want is upgraded by this hardware revision. I bet there will be a lot of used Xbox One S’, and disappointed people who bought them last year, right before this thing launches.

What a bizarre time we are in where Microsoft pre-announced the Scorpio last year before launching their Xbox One S in order to remain competitive with Sony’s Playstation 4 Pro.

Eventually, if these upgraded consoles sell well enough, it could be that new games don’t support the original revisions of the Playstation 4 and Xbox One.

One other point in the article I wanted to quote, talking about the upclocked CPUs of the Scorpio:

On the CPU side, there’s been much conjecture that Scorpio would feature AMD’s new Ryzen technology – something we thought unlikely, owing to manufacturing timelines, not to mention Microsoft telling us last year that the new console would feature eight CPU cores. All signs point to the upclocked Jaguar cores we find in Xbox One, and Scorpio’s CPU set-up is indeed an evolution of that tech, but subject to extensive customisation and the offloading of key tasks to dedicated hardware.

“So, eight cores, organised as two clusters with a total of 4MB of L2 cache. These are unique customised CPUs for Scorpio running at 2.3GHz. Alluding back to the goals, we wanted to maintain 100 per cent backwards compatibility with Xbox One and Xbox One S while also pushing the performance envelope,” says Nick Baker.

I don’t for a second believe that Microsoft couldn’t upgrade the architecture of the Xbox and retain backwards compatibility. Even if AMD’s new Ryzen platform introduced new CPU instruction, it would still have the old ones. This isn’t like going from a Power PC to x86 processor, or even as big as the 32bit to 64bit, change.

It reminds me of the time when I was still listening to Larry Hryb’s podcast where he and his guests were talking about HDMI and saying that it wasn’t an upgrade over component cables before the 360 had HDMI connections.

In this case it isn’t clear if the idea is a miscommunication of Leadbetter’s or that Baker actually was responding to a question about Ryzen and Leadbetter should have called it out, either way it is total bullshit and stymies an otherwise fine article.

Speaking of things that should have been called out, there is also this choice quote:

During his presentation, Del Castillo literally constructed a pre-production Project Scorpio unit in front of us. Bearing in mind the advanced manufacturing techniques on show here, there’s a very simple, elegant, modular design that makes the most of the space. We saw the hard drive fit into place on dampeners designed to absorb vibration, reducing error rates in and ensuring optimal data throughput.

You know what’s really elegant? Not using a spinning-disk hard drive with fragile platters in 2017. Nobody buys a computer with those anymore. They only continue to persist in consoles. Nothing is advanced or elegant about dampening the vibrations of an old hard drive. It will be a real upgrade when we can get to solid-state drives everywhere.

Xbox Game Pass Announced

Microsoft recently announced their Xbox Game Pass subscription service.

Most people are comparing it to a Netflix for games, it’s not a bad comparison excepting that while Netflix streams, the games with Microsoft’s service will download to an Xbox One.

The selection of games available will be pretty small, “over 100” when the service becomes available later this spring for $10 a month. The games will change every month, and once the game is cycled out you lose access to it. You do get a discount for purchases of games in the Game Pass library. The Xbox Game Pass games are mostly older from the Xbox One and 360, no real newer options though there isn’t a final list of what will be available.

There’s nothing exactly comparable to this from Sony, their Playstation Now service on the PS4 and Windows is $15 a month at its cheapest (3 month subscription), only streams older Playstation 3 games. The PlayStation 4 has no backwards compatibility with the PS3 otherwise.

Both Microsoft and Sony include “free” games every month with the subscription they charge for online play. I dropped my Xbox Gold subscription because I wasn’t playing online regularly, and the games they were offering weren’t as good as the Playstation Plus games.

Nintendo is going to include free games with their online service for the Switch, but final pricing is unknown, and they’ll all be swapped out every month.

There’s nothing at all like it from Valve on Steam or Windows, though the third-party Humble Bundle has a monthly subscription for $12 that acts like a blind box. Subscribing to that only gives you access to the next month’s games.

There are a lot of questions left to be answered. Games are different from movies, you might take more than a month to play through something and even some games could stick around for multiple months you might be coming up on the end of the month wondering if the one you’re playing is going to cycle out.

Windows 10 Game Mode Doesn’t Sound Very Effective

Rock Paper Shotgun’s Alec Meer interviewed Microsoft’s Kevin Gammill about the upcoming Game Mode in Windows 10:

Kevin Gammill: With the Creator’s Update and Game Mode right now, we’re primarily focused on biasing the game versus the rest of the operating system, from a GPU and CPU perspective. So for some of the other system resources, we can get into a roadmap discussion on the next call, but really right now Game Mode is about biasing the game from a GPU perspective so it gets more of the cycles if it’s in the foreground, and from a CPU perspective both biasing to get more CPU cycles as well as avoiding what I’ll call thread contention for the game.

At any time a user can call up the Game Bar and enable Game Mode for any title or game they would like. That’s kind of option one. And then at the same time we will have what we call kind of an approved list or whitelist of games that we feel super-comfortable about and we want to enable out of the gate.

Kind of the way I look at it is that any increase is a benefit, without question. Even it’s as low as, say, a 2% increase in framerate, if you’re running a hundred frames per second, I will take those extra two frames per second without question.

This is a strategy for getting gamers to switch to Windows 10 and use the built-in game bar overlay for a possible 2% increase in framerate, or a slightly more stable framerate overall. A framerate increase at all is very unlikely, because driver developers at Nvidia and AMD are already very focused on that. I wish the interview addressed the system rebooting in the middle of a game for updates, because that is a real problem for people playing games on Windows today.

Xbox One S: The Upgrade Nobody Should Buy

Daniel Perez hasn’t given a final verdict yet, but has a review in-progress of the new Xbox One S that is out today:

When the original Xbox One was revealed, there was quite the uproar as to its size and design. Microsoft didn’t change the overall shape of the Xbox One S, but what it did change makes it look less like my grandmother’s VCR. It’s smaller, white, and offers an interesting use of textures to various parts of its body. While the holes located at the front of the console appear to be for aesthetics, the holes surrounding its perimeter are obviously for venting purposes as I can spot smaller vents that aim directly into them.

It also finally did away with the infamous Xbox power brick as its power supply has been squeezed into the new console’s body. Without a power brick to weigh it down, the Xbox One S feels more portable than ever when combined with its reduction in size and weight. It also has done away with a dedicated Kinect port, which we’re sure won’t surprise many considering how Microsoft has been slowly steering away from motion-based gaming.

It also displays 4K UHD Blu-ray discs as well as upscaling games and other videos to 4K if you have the appropriate display. It sounds like a good upgrade, until you realize that the other new Xbox, codenamed Scorpio, will be out next year with a healthier tech upgrade that actually has more powerful guts than this Xbox One S.