E3 Impressions: XBox Smart Glass

Well I’ve done a lot of E3 coverage on the games lately, and I think it’s about time that we started talking a little bit of TECH don’t you? I also want folks to know that I’m an all inclusive gamer. I don’t want it to seem like I have a bias towards one company or the other just because I don’t happen to own a system to play games exclusive to it – SO let’s talk some XBox news shall we?

Microsoft’s press conference was loaded with some pretty awesome coverage of Kinect and their games, but there was something that definitely peeked my interest: XBox Smart Glass. Now what exactly is XBox Smart Glass:

What intrigues me about this concept is that Microsoft is realizing that gaming consoles are swiftly becoming hubs of peoples homes. Games are becoming more casual, movies are being streamed, music is being uploaded, and the web is practically a necessity in this generation of an interconnected world. So – how does Microsoft plan to answer this conundrum of how to provide all of this to mobile on-the-go families?

XBox Smart Glass.

Wii shows off Wii U, but Smart Glass looks sharp for sure!

The applications that you’ve seen above really grasped me. The idea that Microsoft will allow players to use their smartphones and tablets that they already own to interact with the 360 device is genius. They’re not asking for players to go out and buy a peripheral piece of hardware like they asked for when they released Kinect, but rather, they’re integrating their products into the already mobile lives of families and gamers. I’m sort of in love with this honestly. It’s not like I haven’t seen this before, in fact, this technologies been around for quite a while.

Tablet to TV? Awesomeness!

I’ve seen integrated screen technology being utilized by Microsoft and Apple for ages now. In Disneyland’s InnoventionsMicrosoft and HP fully utilize the integrated screen technology within the Disney Dream Home segment. They opened the exhibit in 2008 – so it’s been around. It’s a fantastic look at the usage that Microsoft can get out of their software and integration technology. Honestly, walking through that home, sometimes I wonder why some of these integrations haven’t been fully utilized in games. Well now that looks as though that’s about to change.

This is a girls room – look at how it customizes itself to the programmers interests!

If you want to learn more and take a virtual look of the Dream Home, check it out:

Disney Dream Home Tour

We’ve all heard about the voice command gaming using Kinect via Mass Effect 3 and other games, but what does Smart Glass bring to the table as far as accessibility? Well, here’s what I’m seeing. I see a gaming console that utilizes both voice controls via Kinect and touchscreen functions using your own tablet devices to bring a valued, immersive, and refreshing experience. All this would require is the download of an app to your phone or smartphone.

Clearly you can see from the demo that these ideas may actually make games like Madden, FPS games, etc. more accessible for those gamers with mobility issues. Imagine if you were able to play an FPS via a touchscreen, while still being able to interact and play with friends who participate via controllers. I would also love to see if they’ll start utilizing PC/XBox/Android cross play in the future. This technology may soon be able to shrink the boundaries and difficulties that many gamers find in trying to become valued and integral participants with their fellow gamers.

I thought for a moment that Wii U would be the leader in touchscreen gaming, but clearly XBox is trying to take a vast bite out of the newest console from their competition. I see so much potential in this that I can’t wait to pick up a 360 just to test out the future of this technology. I see a vast social and mobile aspect to this technology and I can only hope that Microsoft keeps up with this design!

Way to go Microsoft – you just set the bar for console accessibility in my opinion!

What are your opinions on the newest tech to be released by the tech juggernaut? Let me know in the comments below. How do you think this will change the face of the industry, accessibility for games, the way we design games, etc. I would love to hear from you all!

E3 Impressions: Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch

Now, for those of you who don’t know, I am sort of a huge Hayao Miyazaki fan. Studio Ghibli has helped to release some of my most cherished childhood memories via their films.  So imagine my surprise a few months ago when I found out that I would finally get a chance to play a GAME designed by the great Miyazaki himself?! Yep! You heard me right!

Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch

A GAME BY MIYAZAKI?! TAKE MY MONEY NOW PLEASE!!

Now I know this game has been floating about already, so why in the world is this E3 news? Well, the game has already had booming popularity in Japan, and a few months ago they announced that Studio Ghibli and Level 5 were going to be working on bringing Ni No Kuni state-side! So yes – all of this work simply for an English dubbed version you say? Well, I can’t begin to tell you how happy I am and why this forgoes almost everything else I’ve seen from E3 thus far!

The game looks beautiful and it’s done in full cell-shade artwork. They also seem to have put movie-style cutscenes into the game. This decision gave the designers a way to make the game look like a genuine movie quality piece of Miyazaki’s work. It’s a brand new story too, which I’m so excited about. It’ll be the first time that I’ll actually have an opportunity to play an interactive role in a Miyazaki piece of work. I’ve always loved movies like My Neighbor Totoro, Howl’s Moving Castle, Castle in the Sky, Spirited Away, etc.

All I will say about this movie is: Cat Bus for the win!

Would you like one lump of sugar or two No Face?

One of my FAVORITE Miyazaki films! I could watch this for days!

You name it, they were a part of my life, and to know that the start of 2013 I’ll be able to participate in one directly is a true blessing I can’t wait to experience! Level 5 is famous for their RPG designs, and so it’s to be expected that they’d use similar methods to design Ni No Kuni. If you’ve ever played White Knight Chronicles – you’ll definitely see notes of that game in Ni No Kuni. The main map motions, etc. but what I love the most is that it seems as though Level 5 is trying to make the game play out a bit like a Miyazaki version of Pokemon!

You start playing the game as the main character, Oliver, on his quest to be a master magician and save his mother’s soul from this other world called Ni No Kuni. In the game you’ll encounter spirit creatures, which you can collect [ Does this NOT sound like Pokemon, Folklore, etc. – either way I’m intrigued.] to help you fight off later monsters and bosses.

How beautiful! New characters to start loving!

The game isn’t turned based though, so it’s all action based and oriented. The HUD displays look simple and easy to navigate, and it seems as though controlling your creatures is simple as well. I’m truly looking forward to seeing this game and it’s touch towards accessibility. It may be a huge hit in Japan already, but I can bet that Ni No Kuni will sell out quickly in the States too!

Does this not scream vintage games like Pokemon, Chrono Trigger, etc.?!

My words don’t do the game justice though, so I’m simply going to stop. Just take a look at the game for now, and see what Miyazaki and Level 5 have given us humble citizens to look forward to on January 22nd, 2013! So far all I see that it’s getting released for is PS3 and Nintendo DS [ in Japan only ] Here’s to Studio Ghibli and their shining gem of interactive artwork! Can’t wait!

Gaming With A Cause: Humble Bundle V

Hey there world, now I know I’ve been touting E3 Impressions all over the place this week, BUT you guys know [ if you’re regular viewers ] my real mission for this blog isn’t just to talk about or develop games, but rather give back to my community via games. It’s been a while since I’ve found a reason to celebrate games as a charity – today I may have found the golden egg of ALL Humble Bundles! Yep – that’s right! This Humble Bundle supports the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Child’s Play. These charities help fund education and support providing video games to hospitals to provide kids with entertainment and fun.

Indie Games UNITE!

Now why am I so stoked about THIS Humble Bundle V? WELL, as a designer, there comes a time where I have found games which I personally feel that no designer should go without playing. The games which should be your guide to artsy, pop-culture, wonder hits. The games that, whether it be mechanics, storyline, or artwork, blew fellow designers and myself away with how amazing these games were for some reason or another. So without further adieu let’s pull back the curtain on what I believe to be the BIGGEST, and BEST Humble Bundle package yet! Oh, and by the way, Tim Schafer is in the trailer!

1. Superbrothers: Sword and Sorcery EP

Now I saw this game when it first came out as a tablet PC and iPhone game – and I was stunned by how cool it looked. It’s retro artistic vibe, with it’s text based dialogue, and it’s almost Zelda like adventure blew me away, and made me want to get a iPhone so bad! I’m stoked that it’s finally coming to a platform where I can have access to it and play it first hand all the way through! The story, art, and gameplay mechanics are something to admire and watch!

Here’s looking at you Tri-Force!

2. LIMBO

This game haunts my nightmares with how hauntingly beautiful and morbid this game is. You play as a young boy who is traversing this monochromatic black and white dreamscape. The puzzles are morbid and often end in the death of your character, but he comes back to life for you to try and try again. The gameplay mechanics are super simple [ one button for jump, the movement keys, and then another button to grab items ]

While it may seem odd and sort of macabre to take part in this death-defying dream puzzler, Limbo is hands down one of my favorite indie games. Each puzzle is super challenging and it keeps you invested with the emotion you feel for your little digital friend as he makes this journey. Produced by a company called Play Dead Studios [ fitting name ] it’s definitely one of the must see games on this list.

One small step for man… one giant leap for a boy.

3. Amnesia: The Dark Descent 

I actually have never had first hand experience with this game, but that’s also because I tend to shy away from the horror genre of games. I’m trying my best to branch out though, and from what I’ve heard of this game – it’s a must see and experience. I’ll keep you all posted on the accessibility and the gameplay once I buy it and run a play through. Here is a trailer though, to give you an idea of the game:

4. Psychonauts

Well, if this wasn’t the icing on the delicious cake that is this Humble Bundle V. Everyone should know by now that I’m sort of in love with a company called Double Fine Productions. I’m kind of infatuated with them and have been a long time fan of their work. Tim Schafer is like an icon in this industry to me, and one of the main reasons he’s had such an impact on my gaming life is because of THIS game!

Psychonauts is a quirky, off-the-wall, fun and whimsical adventure game. You – well, I would explain it, but honestly, the trailer speaks for itself:

Thanks Mr. Schafer. Thank you and your team for building such a memorable game.

5. Bastion [ If you pay over the average donation, which is $ 8.26 ]

A high-octane platforming narrative that really grasps you from the seat of your pants and carries you all the way to the end… umm… well, I guess there’s a better way to explain it. Perhaps the narrator of the game can:

6. Lone Survivor [ If you pay over the average donation. ]

This is one of the newest editions to the indie house of lovely games. You play as well, a lone survivor, in a pixelated platforming world. Evade pixel zombies, collect loot and resources, and do your best to survive this horrible fate – or you know? Die trying.

One man. Many zombies. All Pixels.

7. Braid [ If you pay over the average donation. ]

Well, how to describe this one? Oh yeah! Take a sprinkle of Prince of Persia [ the time altering ] and then add in some crazy puzzle mechanics that take my breathe away, and THEN compile it on one of the most beautifully retro, hand painted styles of art and graphics I’ve seen on an indie game and you’d have Braid. Enough said – for now.

Let’s do the Time Warp again!

8. Super Meat Boy [ If you pay over the average donation. ]

What do you get when you give a meat wad a lover? – separate them by force, and then ask the meat wad to come rescue his meaty bride? Well you get Super Meat Boy, and it’s one of the most odd, interesting, and funny experiences I’ve had in a game before. The game is definitely challenging, but it’s well worth the challenge – because the designers put so much time, effort, and love into this game. There is no way you’ll walk away from this game without a big, meaty smile on your face!

I’ll save you my ham-flavored princess! I just have to grind my way up the food chain!

I would try to give folks a full run down of all of these games [ and I may later ], but I would be so excited that it would take me a page for each one. Think about this for one moment. You not only get the GAMES, but you also acquire their SOUNDTRACKS – and ALL of these amazingly historic games can be gathered up for less than $10 dollars!! Are you kidding me right now?! That’s like someone knocking on your door mid-June and saying “Merry Christmas stranger!” leaving you some of the most lavish gifts they can give and then just driving away!

If you know nothing of these games, know this: Each of these games, in my personal opinion, contain an aspect of game design that I think EVERY designer should experience. Whether you’re a painter, a fashion designer, a game designer, or even a teacher – YOU SHOULD try these games. They’re emotional, challenging, and engaging stories that have captivated millions in the industry for one reason or another! What once were indie games nobody knew of, and few dared to explore, are some of the most cherished gems in gaming now. So, please, do yourself a favor and support a wonderful charity and grab these fantastic games while you still can.

YOU HAVE 5 Days left! 5! Games are supported for PC, Mac, and Linux! Go now and get your HUMBLE BUNDLE V! Make the most of it! Let your indie gamer live!

E3 Impressions: Watch Dogs

Well, so I’ve highlighted two PS3 exclusives in a row and so I feel it’s only right to detail a game that’ll be going multi-platform. It’s not often that I get surprised by a third-party conference, but Ubisoft punched me in the face this time. Near the end of their conference they released a brand new IP: Watch Dogs.

Everything is Connected. Connection is Power.

The following trailers contain some language and violence, but I’m so stoked by the conceptual idea that I can look past that, and look forward to the completed product.

This is how they introduced the product:

In a generation that’s littered with conspiracy theories, financial concerns, explosive gas prices, war, and civil unrest in our everyday society, I can’t tell you how chilling this game concept felt for me. The idea that data silos are sitting somewhere out there in an interconnected community and YOU can be in control of it all – makes the hairs on the back of my neck tingle with both fear and excitement. Here’s where it gets fun, so Ubisoft dropped that trailer, and THEN they released a section of initial gameplay for the game:

Are you kidding me?! – The graphics quality is something that I’ve always found special about Ubisoft productions. Their stories, graphics, and characters are some of the most prolific and beautiful that I’ve ever witnessed. I’m still unsettled on whether or not Watch Dogs will feature one protagonist, or if Watch Dogs will be some sort of multiplayer game – via the online services. Either way I’m excited to see what this unsettling game is going to deliver.

Total Control? Yes! Thank you!

The idea that I can go around playing as [ from what’s been presented currently ] a protagonist named Aiden Pierce, in the seedy underbelly of Chicago. The game seems to be about vengeance and justice being retained for Pierce. The game is also reportedly going to be an open world environment, which means I’ll be able to solve problems, accomplish goals, and side missions in more than one way [ Horray for non-linear formats! ].

It seems like Watch Dogs is not only going to test players abilities to solve problems, but also will give them the free will to determine how Pierce will escape capture, seek his vengeance, and so forth. This small detail will give so much more depth to the gameplay, allowing players to either play as a sympathetic, stealthier assassin – or a havoc and chaos type player where casualties aren’t a concern to your primary objective. How awesome!

The game is slated for some time in 2013 and will be fully playable on XBox, PS3, and PC. So – get your thumbs ready for some major conspiracy control folks! This game looks amazing and I love the HUD displays simplicity as well as the gritty, dark gameplay of it all! Watch Dogs – definitely a game to ‘watch‘ out for! I’ll keep folks posted as more comes about!

Thanks Ubisoft for this gaming nugget!

E3 Impressions: The Last of Us

The theme of  a post-apocalyptic survival game isn’t unheard of, in fact, it’s really quite a prevalent style found in some of the most recent games. I think I’ve found one, however, that’s going to rock the pants off me this upcoming season. Naughty Dog Studios is getting ready to release The Last of Us, a PS3 exclusive that’s far darker, grittier, and more adult than the former hero study of Nathan Drake in Naughty Dog’s Uncharted series. Seriously, the main characters of The Last of Us live such a violent lifestyle that it makes Drake look like a toddler still sucking on a bottle.

Apocalypse – WOW!

Now I’m a huge fan of the Uncharted series. I love the quips, the humor, and the high octane action. I’m excited though to see a studio who I’ve always associated with jovial, family friendly, entertaining series [ Jak and Daxter, Crash Bandicoot, Uncharted ] actually branching out into a far more mature realm with The Last of Us. This story deals with a duo, similar to how they did with Uncharted, but the pairing is far different. Here’s why I’m so excited for this game:

  • You play as Joel, a rugged survivor with a brutal attitude, who befriends and takes a young teenager, named Ellie [ Ashley Johnson ] , under his wing. It seems as though you’ll be playing primarily as Joel as you go throughout the game, but the AI of Ellie looks phenomenal.
  • I’m hoping there will be moments within the game where you can switch, or the game switches, the character you play. I understand that Ellie doesn’t really seem like she poses a threat, but I think that’s the strategy of it. It would be a whole new game challenge if you had to deal with drifters, infected, etc. as a young girl vs. a rough and tumble survivalist.
  • There seems to be some sort of infection going on. This was apparent to me since the first few trailers that were ever released for this game. It seems like some sort of fungus, or organic infection, that’s turning any living organism into some sort of zombified cannibalistic creature. This means, not only are you traversing the apocalyptic city scape, but you’re fighting off drifters AND infected as enemies.
  • The infected enemies seem to be dubbed “Clickers” and so I’m stoked to see how they became infected, etc. I also like the inventory system as it seems to be very fluid and easily accessible. The characters seem to mesh well and the vibe of the game seems to be increasingly focused on moment to moment combat, seamlessly ducking in and out of cutscenes and gameplay.
Overall, I’m stoked by this game – and even though I know it’s probably going to be rated M for Mature I’m so eager to grab this up like warm, piping blueberry pancakes from a morning skillet! It’s slated to be out some time [ I’m hoping earlier than later ] in 2013. So here’s to hoping the apocalypse doesn’t happen in December so I can focus on my gaming apocalypse in 2013!

 

Thanks Naughty Dog giving me something to look forward to, for providing me with two brand new characters I can now obsess over!

E3 Impressions: Beyond. Two Souls.

If you’ve been a fan of my blog, or followed me for any length of time, you’ll know I’m an avid fan of Quantic Dream. Their game designs are phenomenal, and they’ve managed to push the boundaries of graphics capabilities on the PS3 time and time again. If you’ve never played Heavy Rain, or if you haven’t seen that tech demo for their short film, Kara, that I covered earlier in the year – I insist you check them out. It will most definitely help you grasp why I’m on the seat of my pants for Quantic Dream’s newest IP: Beyond. 

Two Souls. One Adventure.

In the Kara demo, I described how Dream’s new graphics engine was going to expand the capabilities of what a gaming system can deliver emotionally, and this time it’s no different. Before I carry on, I would like to ask you all to please watch this trailer. I won’t say anything about it until you’re finished, because I don’t want to talk about details until you’re done. I would also definitely recommend watching it in FULL screen to get the best effect.

Now, what’s so amazing about that? Well, let me just start off by saying: ELLEN PAGE! I got goosebumps when they announced that the Inception actress was going to be playing the lead role in this new IP! Seeing that kind of star power start to come to video games is so intriguing and warranted. Let’s focus on the game though shall we? Here’s what I know:

You play the game as Jodie Holmes, brought to life by Page’s performance. According to David Cage, the game’s creative director, you follow the progression of her life and her interactions with this being. I caught a name in the trailer, so I assume this entity is named, Ivan. Now there are no details to how they are linked together, but with a game that states “Two Souls” as it’s tag line, I can only imagine the possibilities as to how these two are interconnected.

It seems to me Quantic Dream has really pushed the envelope this time around. They’re going from having one of the most unexpected successes in Heavy Rain, to now trying their hand at an action-drama. I can’t wait to see how it unfolds, but it looks like there will be tons of off-your-seat action, explosives, escaping, and that constant guise of mystery with this game as I try my hardest to figure out what’s going on in this game! It seems to me that Ivan might be some sort of poltergeist, maybe an imaginary friend come to life, I’m not sure – but I’m eager to find out!

I’ll keep you all posted as I find out more, but definitely Quantic Dream and their love-child: Beyond, is one to definitely keep watch on, and I will just for you guys. Anything new I’ll report as soon as I get word, but for now just let your mind’s be boggled and your thumbs twitch to play this, what looks like it will be, remarkable game! I’m certain that this game will probably be rated M for Mature, but that’s just my guess. The game should be out sometime in 2013 EXCLUSIVELY to the PS3.

I can’t wait for a full release date!

Retrospective: E3 2012

Well, I’ve done it. I’ve gone through all of the E3 conferences, and right now I’m exhausted by the amount of information and gamer love I have to share with all of you. There’s so much content that I have to cover that I won’t even begin to start detailing them all within ONE post. This would be unfair to developers, publishers, and pretty much anyone in the industry if I rushed detailing all of the highs and lows of this year’s biggest event.

I had some definite moments where I was blown out of my seat, and there were also moments where I was begging for more. I’ll have more reports on all of these games in detail, but for now I’ll give you a run down list of the games that were covered via the conferences and I’ll highlight the ones that shocked and awed me so that you’ll see what I’m looking forward to covering most:

Microsoft:

  • Halo 4
  • Gears of War: Judgment
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops II
  • Splinter Cell: Blacklist
  • Nike + 
  • Resident Evil 6
  • Tomb Raider
  • EA Sports [ Madden 13, etc.]
  • XBox Smart Glass

Sony:

  • Beyond
  • Playstation All-Stars: Battle Royale
  • God of War: Ascension
  • Last of Us
  • Assassin’s Creed III
  • Assassin’s Creed: Liberation
  • Call of Duty Black Ops: Declassified 
  • Far Cry 3
  • Wonderbook
  • and other Tech related improvements

Nintendo:

  • Super Mario Bros. U
  • Batman Arkham City: Armored Edition
  • Paper Mario: Sticker 
  • Scribblenauts: Unlimited
  • Luigi’s Mansion
  • Nintendoland
  • Pikmin 3
  • Zombi U
  • Lego City Undercover
  • Wii Fit U

Ubisoft:

  • Assassin’s Creed III
  • Splinter Cell: Blacklist
  • Rayman: Legends
  • Far Cry 3
  • Just Dance 4
  • Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth
  • Zombi U
  • Shootmania
  • Watchdogs

EA:

  • Dead Space 3
  • Madden 13
  • SimCity Social
  • SimCity
  • Medal of Honor: Warfighter
  • FIFA 13
  • Need For Speed: Most Wanted
  • Crysis 3
  • Other game updates, tech, etc.

Note:

I will also be detailing a couple of Tech Talk posts in relation to the new hardware/software properties that some of these companies put out. These posts will be more of my own personal opinion on how I feel these properties will aid/inhibit accessibility, education, etc. within games. They should be taken with a grain of salt seeing as I can currently only judge visually without actually having hands-on experience with them yet.

So – great E3 and I’m excited to talk in depth about a ton of these games and my impressions! Look forward to updates in the coming week. The first game I’ll be talking about is one of Sony’s great new IP’s that blew me out of the water: Beyond, so look forward to that soon!