Weekend Short-Takes: 5/24/13

The PS4 has had it’s turn in the spotlight; now it’s time for us to dissect and parse every word Microsoft dared to utter during their hour long press conference on their prizefighter, the Xbox One in another Weekend Short-Takes double feature.

Xbox One Achievements expanded with 'Challenges,' cross-game Achievements

Simon Wu:

Having just come off of our podcast speculating about the future of achievements, this is impeccably timed. The Challenges take a concept that was organically developed and evolved over the course of the 360’s life cycle in online play in games such as Left 4 Dead or Halo: Reach/4, and integrates them directly into the system itself. This creates a more uniform and seamless experience, in addition to making the achievement system even more competitive; you’re not only jockeying for a set of static achievements which you can max out, but can continue your competition with friends on a daily basis. If you miss a timed challenge, that’s something you’ll never have and your friends will have eternal bragging rights.

Max Gruber:

It is very exciting that achievements from the 360 will transfer over to the Xbox One. The addition of Challenges really takes the aspect of Achievements to a whole new level, because they’re not just fixed achievements for a game; they’re now a constantly evolving roster of achievements throughout the game’s life. And it’ll make people become even more obsessed with achievements. (Spoilers: I have a higher gamerscore than Simon. Tee hee.) Though this is a great change for the achievements, I wonder how this will work when the servers are shut down for the game and/or the Xbox One. Maybe they’ll replace the Challenges with the original array of Achievements that were on the Xbox 360?

Alex Miller:

I was definitely excited when I read this. The challenge system in Halo: Reach and Halo 4 was a very cool way to keep the game fresh and interesting for months. Seeing that across the entire platform is nothing but a good thing. I also love the way that some achievements are based on your performance in past games ala-Halo Waypoint or perks in Mass Effect 2. Keeping games more interesting for longer is one of the key purposes of achievements. The expanded control they are giving to developers is another big deal. On a recent podcast Simon and I talked about older games and how, when multiplayer servers went offline, you could potentially be locked out of getting 1000/1000G in a game. If developers can now dynamically update and add achievements, hopefully they can find a way to set aside those locked ones so that those who have them have them while those who don’t can still get a completed game.

John Fenix:

This is a nice upgrade to the achievement system. As stated before, some achievements on the Xbox 360 would not be achievable (no pun intended) because of glitches and multiplayer systems shut down before latecomers (like myself) are out of luck. Keeping it going and up to date is a great way of giving all players, new and late comers, able to keep up with everyone else and continue to play. Challenges also bring back the fun of other types of achievement based challenges like the Vidmaster Challenges in Halo 3 and ODST. Throwing in some in-game assets or items as prizes and you got a new solid dynamic achievement system.

gawkerassets.com

Xbox One games will need to check-in online, possibly once a day

Simon Wu:

This still has yet to be fully fleshed out, and every minute that passes without total clarification eats away at Microsoft in the eyes of the gaming faithful. Obviously those that will buy it for media purposes don’t care; how else are you going to get streaming services? It’s not the draconian always-online we’ve spent months now discussing. Nor is it, however, the ideal solution. Now the question still remains: Will there be an option to go fully offline for some time, or will I simply have the monolith from 2001 when I am on vacation?

Max Gruber:

This is where I’m dubious about all this. I’ve been reading that Xbox One doesn’t require an always-on connection—or even an internet connection whatsoever. But, on the other hand, we’re seeing that it needs to check to see if you’re connected to the Internet, which is troubling. It seems like there’s mixed messaging and uncertainty with always-on and always-online. Phil Harrison was even talking about this and he, the VP of Microsoft, was confused about what he was saying. That’s some lackluster acumen on his part, and a very bad augur in general. We’ve all had our say about Always-Online, so I won’t rehash the topic again.

Alex Miller:

Conflicting reports on this subject seem to come out every hour, each claiming Microsoft as the source, so until we see a more definite answer I will be reserving judgement. However, if the system mentioned in this article were to go into place, I wouldn’t be all that bothered. Let’s consider for a moment the darling of hardcore gaming: Valve’s Steam service. That service which can do no wrong requires gamers to have an internet connection, and always has. Furthermore, if you lose your connection without going into “offline mode”, say when you unexpectedly lose Internet connection, you are unable to play any of your games. While I love Steam, at least Microsoft seems to say that if you lose connection you can keep playing and that you have time to fix the issue. Anyways, my take on the always online potential of this console, especially with the news that the Xbox 360 will be supported for the foreseeable future reported below, is summed up I think best by Tim Buckely over at Ctrl-Alt-Del: “you wouldn't buy a cellphone if you lived in a city with absolutely no service. You just use landlines to make your phone calls. In this case the landlines are the Xbox 360 and PS3.” (I agree with a lot of the things he said in his blog post here)

John Fenix:

For once I’m not the only one to wait for the dust to settle on this topic. Alex makes a great comparison on how this system is not as bad as some people believe. You be surprise how much can be played in a day, and if the data stream is fairly small and passive package that doesn’t take much time, like Steam’s system, then that will be alright in my opinion. I understand the concern of some like soldiers who have a more urgent need, however, I’m sure Microsoft will be more than willing to offer something for them (Happy Memorial Day Weekend to all our American readers!)

Microsoft: 'Only Xbox One controllers, accessories will work with the new console.'

Simon Wu:

While disappointed, I had been preparing myself for this for some time now. This was actually a topic we considered on one of our first podcasts, and we finally have our answer. The problem I have is that the new console is headed for a $599 price tag if all indications are correct. While that does include a Kinect now and is probably cheaper than a comparable gaming computer, each controller is probably going to be at least $60 each, in addition to $60 for Xbox Live Gold. As the 360’s existence drew on, we got far more accustomed to playing games with 4 controllers, and that cost was spread out over more than half a decade. Now accustomed to that, we now have to pay up front to have the experience we’ve become used to.

Alex Miller:

When you consider the fact that the 360 controller has remained effectively unchanged for almost a decade, it makes sense that a new console with newer, more advanced technology behind it would have a similarly upgraded controller. According to this write up by the Guardian we can look forward to over 40 new and improved features, ranging from an integrated battery, to “dynamic impulse triggers”. While I will of course be upset that I can’t squeeze just that much more life out of my old peripherals, the have been well used and these new controllers sound promising indeed (the higher fidelity audio headset input might actually convince me to return to using an Xbox Live headset after the horribly mangled mess that is the current iteration’s excuse for communication.)

neoseeker.com

Xbox One: 15 platform exclusives, 8 new franchises in development

Simon Wu:

Evidently Microsoft is spending a cool $1 billion to make sure all these games are solid titles. Hey, beats buying a company for about that much that only makes $13 million in revenue. But I digress. While these numbers are very impressive and refreshing, we saw during the press conference one new title and seven or so new entries in existing series. And the one new franchise came from the devs behind Alan Wake. All I’m saying is that new IPs in and of themselves are not the panacea. While the term is a buzzword for fresh thinking and creativity, there is currently still no guarantee that these games will all be hits. Even so, the recognition of the console transition as a potential break point is welcomed.

Alex Miller:

As I pointed out while tweeting during the event, Nintendo needs to take notes from Microsoft. This is how you move units early on, you have games for your console ready to be played. While everyone is complaining that the Xbox One isn’t about games anymore, they seem to conveniently avoid this part of the Reveal, the bit where Microsoft mentions spending $1 Billion (!!) just on game development. If Microsoft was just phoning it in for their games they wouldn’t be spending this much money. I look forward to seeing more of these titles pre-E3, and I’m glad Microsoft has taken the proactive step to ensure that their new device doesn’t lack for content.

John Fenix:

For once I’m not the only one to wait for the dust to settle on this topic. Alex makes a great comparison on how this system is not as bad as some people believe. You be surprise how much can be played in a day, and if the data stream is fairly small and passive package that doesn’t take much time, like Steam’s system, then that will be alright in my opinion. I understand the concern of some like soldiers who have a more urgent need, however, I’m sure Microsoft will be more than willing to offer something for them (Happy Memorial Day Weekend to all our American readers!)

digitaljournal.com

Xbox One forbidding indie game devs from self-publishing

Simon Wu:

Microsoft is clearly here making a statement of intent, and it’s a fundamentally different path from Sony. Microsoft clearly thinks that carefully curating and vetting content is the way to go. And from a more critical standpoint it does somewhat make sense. A game console is very hard to navigate on, so having hundreds of thousands of apps like on the App Store or Google Play would be somewhat of a detriment to ease of use with a controller or hand in the air. I also think that Microsoft then intends to have these very carefully curated selection of apps work well on its other platforms as well, perhaps.

Max Gruber:

This is a major contrast from what Sony is doing for indie games for their PS4, which is really scary. Microsoft is limiting any sort of creativity for indie devs to put out for themselves to give others the opportunity to play a game with great concepts implemented to great effect. To put out your game to a publisher is now the difference between it being published in the first place, and your talent never being recognized at all.

Alex Miller:

I am of two minds on this one. While it makes sense that Xbox would want to have some sort of quality control in place lest an android market level of shit get through, I also like the way services such as Steam allow indie devs to publish their games. However, as the article says, Xbox Live Indie Games has not been seeing a lot of use and this might have convinced Microsoft that spending money to include the service just wasn’t worth it. This might get revisited in the future, especially once we see how Indie games do on the PS4, but in the meantime we will just have to wait and see.

John Fenix:

I am with Alex on this as well. While Xbox Live Arcade has been a big success, very little has come out of Xbox Live Indie Games. Microsoft wants to have some control over their content, similar to Apple’s control of the App Store, maybe a bit tighter, not a bad thing since for the most part, you know the app is pretty well polished and works. Yet, as we’ve seen in the last few years, Indie Games are becoming a huge asset in bringing in not only money, but also IPs. I would not be surprise if Microsoft’s idea loosens later on. 

msdn.com

Xbox One HDD is non-removable, USB 3.0 supports external storage

Simon Wu:

So it appears my ultimate dream of the next Xbox sporting an SSD or at least a hybrid drive is unfulfilled. I am curious about whether Microsoft lowballed the size of the hard drive, however. This may sound crazy, but think about it. Every single game needs to be installed to the hard drive per this new opaque sort of non-used game-ish policy. The Blu-ray drive was clearly chosen for the higher storage capacity, royalties to Sony for each unit sold be damned. The average Bluray disc size is 50GB. I have at my count right next to me 33 360 games. For those of you keeping score at home, that’s a theoretical 1650GB. That doesn’t include DLC, movies, TV, apps, and whatever else Microsoft clearly wants to foist upon me. That’s content pruning like crazy; constantly only keeping a small subset of your games active. If you get the nostalgic inkling to play an older game, get ready for some PS3 waiting times.

Max Gruber:

I don’t really see why the HDD cannot be removed, but I do like how the storage is doubled to what the current HDD space is for the 360. 500 GBs of storage is huge, but I was really expecting something... longitudinal, like 1K GBs, or even 1 TB of either HDD or SSD storage, which would have been amazing. But still, it’s better than nothing, I suppose. I wonder how someone will be able to transfer data from one Xbox to another if the actual HDD cannot be removed from the device.

Alex Miller:

I certainly like the higher standard size for the hard drive in the 360, and the USB 3.0 available to hook up external storage is also a big plus. While Simon makes a good point above this space running out pretty quick, we won’t have to face the torment of PS3 loading screens again, as Microsoft have said you will be able to play the game as it installs. So at least that personal hell can be avoided. However, it will be interesting to see if they put any kind of size limit on external storage like they did on the 360. I don’t think they will, meaning a $100 spent on a 1.5 TB external hard drive might not be a bad idea a year or two down the road, but whether they do will seriously determine whether or not the hard drive size is an issue or not.

dengeki.com

Xbox One is Not Backward Compatible

Simon Wu:

At least both consoles are equal in this regard. Inherently, this marks a fundamental shift by both companies towards more standard hardware, as also seen by the use of Windows 8 as the core of the Xbox software now. While this does strand those that were hoping to ditch their 360s on launch day, it does possibly mean that even greater meaningful crossover between Windows PCs and tablets, Windows Phones, and Xbox is now a far more real possibility than in the past, with largely limited and gimmicky use cases. This goes not only for games, but also for apps and services which devs might be able to, with slight coding changes, seamlessly push out experiences for all three platforms with minimal effort.

Max Gruber:

Bad sign for both the PS4 and the Xbox One. The infrastructure for the Xbox One must be a lot more different than the 360. Given that both the PS4 and Xbox One will have a cloud service, Gaikai and Agawi respectively, it’s more likely that they’ll just add Xbox 360 titles on Agawi—and make us pay to play those titles on the Xbox One—instead of making it backwards compatible. Sounds like Microsoft is, once again, trying to make up money on the console itself, since consoles are always loss leaders.

Alex Miller:

In a way this had to be expected. Its been 8 years since the Xbox 360 was released, and a new core architecture had to be expected. However, the use of Windows 8 as one of the 3 parts of the OS could lead to some really easy and useful tie ins across console, computer, and phone as Simon said. If a developer can make an app that works on three different platforms with only a minimum of tweaks they might be more interested in developing for it. As Xbox is Microsoft’s most popular brand, sales and use of this new console along with an increase in meaningful apps might do a lot to boost sales of the other two, increasing the usefulness of the unified Windows 8 ecosystem that Microsoft is trying to produce. 

John Fenix:

This is the one thing that really bugged me. The reasons for this are sound, with the large jump in technology, especially in core architecture, in the last 8 years. I can’t say so much about the cross-platforming structure with Windows 8 since I haven’t had much experience, but I am impressed with what I have seen and the Xbox One will definitely benefit from it. Yet this is quite tragic. With the 360 having such a strong catalog, this will be a significant loss, especially initially with launch. So there is no surprise that Microsoft put so much effort into launch titles. They are basically starting with a clean slate.

techdigest.tv

Xbox One game pricing up to publishers, Phil Spencer says

Simon Wu:

Uh oh. Firstly, upon further reflection, I can’t remember if there was ever a particular mandate by Microsoft or Sony to make games $59.99 or if that simply happened and became the accepted norm. Now, cue Emperor Palpatine music, because the following is a quote from Activision CEO Bobby Kotick: “if it was left to me, I would raise the prices even further.” While this could cause lower prices for games on the level of Aliens: Colonial Marines, it could be raised further for marquee titles. Considering the cost of Call of Duty on launch day is essentially $110 ($60 + $50 DLC season pass), not to mention the implicit cost of Xbox Live, the possibility for abuse is rife.

Max Gruber:

This is a bad sign, especially the example Simon brought up with everyone’s most beloved corporate punching bag Bobby KoDick. It’s scary that games could become even more expensive than what they are now (a game for the 360/PS3 costs as much as paying for a full tank of gas where I’m at), but this is also something that we could see from publishers in the future, because we’ll see who’s being reasonable with the prices and who’s just trying to make as much money as possible. But that’s a dream that could be broken, with unyielding tears of disappointment running down my cheeks.

Alex Miller:

I think this is closer to good news or no news than anything else. First of all, either Microsoft sets a standard price for all titles, or this has been something decided by the publishers. If Microsoft never set the standard price for games for the Xbox 360 their lack of action here would be nothing new. Alternatively, if they have been setting the price then this will allow for the innovation in pricing that Simon and I have talked about. While Activision may charge more, they might find they won’t reach their record setting numbers that way, and then the market will correct itself. However, the fact that titles remain the same price across multiple platforms leads me to believe that this is and has been a publisher side decision.

John Fenix:

While this would seem doom and gloom, the price set within the last few years has been fairly stable. Yes, DLC and Season Passes and Limited Editions cost more, but the standard game release has stayed the same, for the generation. Consumers are happy. Console manufacturers are happy. Publishers (well, most of them) are happy. Unless there is a general agreement by all to raise prices, I don’t think we will see the doom and gloom predicted by some.
 

Xbox One vs. PlayStation 4: the next console war pits living room against cloud

Simon Wu:

The hardware is almost identical on these two consoles. So now we take the battle to the software and the fundamentally divergent philosophies behind this next generation. While the now previous generation was for the most part equal in what the software experience delivered, the divergence that is shown here began to manifest itself in the past year or two. Ultimately, I think the split is more about how these two companies intend to keep the console viable. Microsoft thinks it’s by broadening the base with more casual users through entertainment services. Sony instead wants to extend the Playstation everywhere you go, whether through Vita, smartphone, the cloud, in addition to making games far more accessible.

Max Gruber:

I’m going to be honest about this. I was absolutely disappointed in the Xbox One announcement. They’re moving WAY too far away from why the 360 was the dominant console. They’re primary goal was to “wow” us with the TV feature, and nothing more. Less talk about games, more TV and apps. Great. You know what’s ironic about all this? It’s the fact that the Xbox One is going in the direction the PS3 was trying to go in, while the PS4 is moving in the direction the 360 was trying to achieve. The PS4 is now the primary gaming device, while the Xbox One is the entertainment device. To be honest, I say the PS4 is so far winning the battle against the Xbox One in all this. But, what makes this so sad is that I’ll still buy the Xbox One, because of how accustomed I’ve become with the Xbox controller—I like both the Xbox and Playstation controllers, but I much prefer the Xbox controller over the Playstation’s awkward layout—and the fact that my brother will be picking it up because he’s studying up to apply for Med School, so gaming isn’t even on his mind right now, though it will be at some point down the line.

Alex Miller:

I actually disagree with almost every point Max brought up. As Simon and I have been saying since the first Com-cast, consoles are no longer purely gaming devices. With all the success that extra content like Netflix streaming has brought them, of course Microsoft is going to expand on what the Xbox can do. More functionality is a bonus, its not taking away from the gaming side of things but rather making your purchase worth more to you, more usable in your everyday life. It has 8GB of RAM, 12 times that of the Xbox 360. Do you think it needs that to watch a movie over the internet? A netbook can do that. Just because your sports car has a really cool stereo system and hide away cup holders doesn't mean it can’t go 150 MPH down some deserted road when you want it to. Anyways, E3 is a matter of weeks away, so all the best gaming reveals will of course be saved for then, otherwise we would be facing a rather boring press conference there. As for the battle between Xbox One and PS4 in the cloud, I’m amazed more isn’t being made of this. That Sony’s goal is to do the thing that everyone is freaking out that Microsoft might do yet no one is calling them on it is ridiculous. 

John Fenix:

Change can be something exciting and good, but it also means that something we cared about must move on. In a decade, the era of having a dedicated hardware for JUST playing games is just financially and practically out of the question. With most people watching tablets and phones more than they are watching in front of a TV, and when they do watch TV, They watch with one or more other devices with them, plus factoring the explosion of mobile gaming, it makes systems like Wii U and the 3DS, although offering more services, still shift more towards games than others, seems antiquated if a bit ridiculous (and I own a 3DS). This is the evolution that has to happen, whether you love it or hate it. With Xbox One wanting to become the entertainment center of the home, and PS4 wanting to be everywhere else, the “winner” of this generation will come down to how well each work with what they have and how well they complement their consumers. And as for games, once again we seem to forget about an event that’s focused on gaming called the Electronics Entertainment Expo.

extremetech.com

Microsoft teases 'huge' Xbox 360 announcement for E3

Simon Wu:

Don’t forget that venerable old thing yet! A further revision to the 360 to make it even smaller and more efficient is very possible. While Paul Thurrott has said the dedicated Xbox Lite has currently been shelved, the 360 could very capably take its place. If there’s one thing we learned from the press conference, it’s clear that the cost to build the 360 is near nothing now and is probably exponentially more efficient and smaller than it was. This could bring the size and cost of the 360 down further still. The main issue is that app switching, which would be the main purpose of this device, is extremely slow on the 360, meaning significant Dashboard improvements would be critical.

Alex Miller:

Speaking of E3, the event which everyone seems to have forgotten about, a lot of cool things are yet to come. I am happy that major publishers are saying they will continue to support the current generation well into the future, as this gives people real options and certainly takes away any real objects towards the new consoles. Don’t like it or can’t use? Then don’t get it, it is as simple as that. The new games will still be on your old console (most likely at a reduced price) while those who think the new features sound interesting and useful are more than welcome to purchase the new device. It all works out in some way for everyone.

Jonathan Tung:

When I think of huge announcement, I think of DLC exclusivity or some random bombshell that can totally be considered mindblowing. Remember what happened when Microsoft announced that they were going to release Final Fantasy XIII on the Xbox 360? Well, expect to see something a lot like that come E3. 

John Fenix:

Like the old saying goes, if it isn’t broken don’t fix it, or at least throw it out when the new thing comes in. With no backwards compatibility on the One and big name titles like Destiny being continued to be announced for both generations, I feel the ol’ 360 horse has something still in her. Will she fade, sure, but she’s got a few more years left in her, and she’s going to make use of them. (Man, I really need my own car).

digitaltrends.com

Whiplash's picture

I just want to make this a lot clearer about my take on the Xbox One. While I was intrigued by a lot of the features that were shown off, overall, I was disappointed that their entertainment lineup was what they used to get the hype train moving, which did not work at all. I do realize that the Xbox is no longer a gaming device, but it's primary use is, and will always be, a gaming console. That's why they entered the market to compete against Sony and Nintendo in the first place with the original Xbox. One thing I was asking myself during the entire presentation was, "Where was the focus in all of this?", because they kept going back and fourth between talking about the services—which was a parade for the addition of TV functionality for the Xbox One—and what little mention of games they had.

That, and their lineup of games are not the kind that the most hardcore of players would even pick up. FIFA? Madden? Forza? Yet another Call of Duty? Uh, is that all you're going to present for the unveiling of the Xbox One? Where was Destiny? Watch Dogs? GTA V? Surely those are games that people would be getting the second the Xbox One comes out. And I acknowledge that E3 is coming up, and that they'll have more things to announce, but for an unveiling, this was the wrong thing to do to hype the Xbox One. In fact, I think they de-hyped the potential customers who were already on the fence about getting it, what with these new rumors that are, somehow, even worse than what the initial rumors about the Xbox One were.

I was viewing the /v/ board after the announcement, and I found this rather funny comment talking about the Xbox One, and how it was "a paperweight for my upcoming PS4 to rest atop of."

Solifluktion's picture

Im looking forward to the Halo-Show and the reduced X360s around the X1s release. Right now I don't actually care much for either PS4 or X1.

Mr Hat's picture

Haha, your comment about AAA games like CoD being USD $60 + $50 Season Pass made me laugh. In Australia, the game alone already retails for around AUD $110 at launch, and that's before you even think about getting a season pass. If companies like Activision and EA do start charging even more for their blockbuster titles, well, all I can say is that I'm glad I sold my 360 a couple of months ago and now game solely on my PC. Steam sales FTW!

Milleniummaster18's picture

Yep, all of a somewhat underwhelming reveal. It wouldn't have really been that rattling (or interesting, for that matter) if it weren't for Phil Harrison's interviews. Now the Xbox One should be renamed Xbox Two, because the internet is surely ripping this Xbox a new One.

The thing about this recent reaction to the reveal is that it has been pretty loud, even some game critics have actually started taking a defensive stance against the Xbox. It's like the PS4 worked on a painting depicting the inconvenient, money grubbing machine that would be the next Xbox, then Microsoft came along and said "here, let me varnish it up for you".

E3 is going to be the real reveal for both consoles, as expected. However, there's always a line that, when crossed, keeping a secret is actually more damaging than beneficial. I don't know if Microsoft's got that good of a secret to be keeping it pristine, especially with the horrendous image they're getting right now. But hey, we'll know in good time.

Microsoft thinks that the E3 reveal will appease all the fears of their followers, but even if it did, you're going to lose a chunk of people out of simple mutual mistrust. Same deal that happens with adultery on some married couples, it all depends on how forgiving can both entities be. Microsoft, being the company that it is, will look to be all forgiving, but do they somehow truly think that the mob part of their fellowship will be that forgiving? Well, most likely some of them will be, sometimes love can be blinding; how many won't be, however, is going to be the kicker; even the dumbest of people have an ultimatum in regards to how many times can they be deceived by their significant other.

(Somewhat parallel to this situation, but not related to the gaming community, is the negative reception on the trailer for "Equestria Girls", an upcoming anthropomorphic special of the MLP:FiM series. Let us say that the reactions were similar. Though, as opposed to the Xbozone's rumors, there's actually more people that are willing to give a chance to the final product, regardless of the nature of their impressions)

disgruntledavians's picture

@Mr Hat would you say that's because of Australia's strange parental guidance and rating laws? 

 

Also as a general comment, I fully intend to keep my 360 for the games I have for it. I've invested way too much money to just give it up like that.  But on the other hand, I feel like games move so quickly these days that I won't have time to get nostalgic like gamers could before.

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