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E3 2015: All the details we have on the Xbox Elite Controller

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UPDATE: There’s no new info but if you want to see some more angles of the controller as well as its carrying case, Microsoft has a swanky page up for it.

I was going nuts yesterday looking for concrete details on that crazy new controller that Microsoft showed off. So with this press release in hand I’m just throwing this up as quick as I can in case others are looking as well. The biggest point that they didn’t mention at the show, though, is the price. $150. Ouch…. but maybe it’s justified? Check out all the junk it comes with and what all it can do.

Available October 2015 for $149.99, the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller package will include:

  • Carrying case
  • Set of four paddles
  • Set of six thumbsticks: standard (two), tall (two) and domed (two)
  • Set of two D-pads: faceted and standard
  • USB cable
  • AA batteries

The Paddle Buttons
There are four slots on the back of the controller for the new paddle buttons and you can use them in any combination. You don’t need to plug in and configure all four if, for example, you just want one paddle for your right hand. The wording in the press release implies that these four paddles will execute button macros for “intricate jump, aim, and shoot combinations”. On one hand this could address the repetitive stress and fatigue problems I run into but it could also automate spamming/cheating/griefing. We’ll have to wait for more hands-on reports to see how robust this functionality is but probably don’t expect these to be supported in competitions.

The Faceted D-Pad
That new D-Pad looks like a diamond but how does it feel? The jury is still out but the press material states that the faceted pad will “enable more confident combo execution” while the traditional D-Pad provides “precise control to change weapons or call in a strike”. So the new one is… mushy? At least Microsoft continues trying new things with the D-Pad and if you hate it just swap it out for the old one.

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Trigger Locks
The soft, smooth throw of the current triggers feels great for driving a vehicle but for guns some folks find it too squishy. Now with the trigger lock switches you can stop the pull on the triggers a little shorter. Flip it back and you’ve got the standard full range of motion. I didn’t catch it in the video but the switches for the triggers are on the back of the controller so you can quickly flip from short to long throw without looking away from the screen.

Xbox Accessories App
How do you control the macros on the paddle buttons or fine tune your stick sensitivity? With the Xbox Accessories app for Xbox One and Windows 10. With the app you’ll be able to:

  • Adjust trigger min/max values
  • Adjust thumbstick sensitivities
  • Change button assignments for any of 14 inputs (ABXY, paddles, D-Pad, triggers and sticks)
  • Create up to 255 profiles unique to individual games
  • Load any 2 profiles to the controller and switch between them with the Profile switch

It’s worth repeating the press release here so it’s clear: the Elite controller will work with PCs running Windows 7 to play games but to use the Xbox Accessories app and configure the thing you’ll have to be on Windows 10. Otherwise you’ll need to do all the adjusting on the Xbox One itself which may not let you customize profiles and macros for PC games.

Worth $150 for all that? I didn’t think so at first but the paddle buttons alone may be worth the price for comfort and convenience. It would’ve been nice if the package also included the $25 USB dongle you need for Xbox controllers to work wirelessly on PC. And there’s also been no confirmation of the headset/headphone functionality on this model. So that’s all that I know about this thing without being at E3 to try it out and ask more questions. No doubt, though, we’ll get all the answers by the time these things are available in October.

The Trials Evolution Riddle just got even crazier

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I try not to go making posts where I simply link to a major gaming blog but for this incredible mystery I’ll gladly make an exception. The Trials Evolution riddle has been solvedish. The Kotaku piece does a great job of summing it up (and providing links to their posts as it developed; all worth reading)  so I won’t recap.

The amazing revelation after years of deciphering cryptic imagery and hunting down buried puzzle boxes (really, go read it!!) is that the next step will take place in August of 2113. Yes, that’s the 2113 that is 98 years away! You’d like to think that’ll be the end but it’s very likely another clue will be revealed at that meeting beneath the Eifell Tower. The mastermind behind the riddle, RedLynx’s Anttil Ilvessuo, ensures that even though all of us reading this today will likely be dead or close to it, that the meeting will take place. If he’s gone to the trouble to make a legal arrangement why would it end there?

Regardless of how it ends I feel a little sad, even a bit angry, that I won’t ever know what came next.

Some random playtime with Zero Divide

I’m not a super sociable person (even online) but sometimes conversations snowball and I find myself playing a game I wouldn’t have thought twice about a few days before. Case in point, I posted a random photo of Zero Divide to Instagram for #PlayStationThursday last week and it got a few people talking. What kind of game is it? What’s it like to play?

It was a perfect excuse to load the game up for a bit since I’m not in the habit of playing fighting games these days. I originally bought Zero Divide in 1995 but the copy I have now is from 2001 which is probably the last time I played it. Flashes of memories and re-discovery ensue and now I’m wanting to stick with it long enough to see the real ending.

The developers of Zero Divide also created the notable 2D shooter, Phalanx, and filled up the remaining PlayStation disc space with a “Tiny” version of their other game. It seems like a crazy, potentially illegal thing for a developer to do nowadays so I recorded a separate video just for Tiny Phalanx.

Sad Musings about this new Chibi-Robo

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As disheartening as 2014’s Chibi-Robo: Photo Finder was, the hot Nintendo Direct reveal of Chibi-Robo: Zip Lash is doubly so. In its original form, Chibi-Robo was a wonderful little game about discovery. Not only discovering the gigantic human world he inhabited, but also Chibi-Robo’s discoveries about human nature, often from the most inhuman characters. While they were flawed, each and every Chibi-Robo game until now has done something unique. Now we have Zip Lash, a side-scrolling platformer with gameplay that’s been done a hundred times before.

Chibi-Robo’s electrical plug “tail” is now a whip/grappling hook. That’s it. It’s the damn laziest conceit you could think up from looking at the character and it makes me wonder if anyone who had anything to do with the previous games is still involved. But who cares because AMIIBO!!! Sadly, the fact that the toy is exclusively bundled with the game means this will be the best selling, most sought after Chibi-Robo title ever. It also makes me wonder if we’re about to see a deluge of cheap games and apps simply to justify an amiibo.

Maybe there’s more to Zip Lash than the little that’s been shown. Maybe it’s not just a vehicle to sell a toy. Maybe we’ll find out more at E3 and I’ll be happy to rescind these comments. Maybe.

Say hola to ADIOS on PlayStation 4 this Autumn

Can’t wait for No Man’s Sky? How about 2D No Man’s Sky? I don’t even mind putting that reductive of a label on ADIOS because the developers themselves are pretty cheeky with how they define it. Their site calls Amazing Discoveries in Outer Space the world’s first “2D-space-simulator-platformer-rougelike-explore-em-up-hybrid-genre-did-we-mention-space-game (2DSSPREEUHGDWMSG)”. But it also, more succinctly, defines it as “a 2D space exploration game with a rich simulation grounded in astrophysics”. Ok, that’s a pitch I can get behind!

I first saw ADIOS in this year’s IGF entries back in January but it was a tiny demo of some physics and it didn’t grab me. Almost half a year later it now looks dead-on like something I could get into. The lighting and atmosphere look splendid and it’s got realistic newtonian physics that govern over celestial bodies, your spacecraft and the stuff you drag around with its tow cable. Best of all, no weapons or combat! Yes, that’s a big plus in my book these days. The peril comes in keeping your ship fueled as you hop from planet to planet, searching for a way to get back home.

And unlike most other indie games coming to consoles, ADIOS hasn’t been kicking around on PC for years. It may not be an exclusive forever but it will launch first on PlayStation 4 this autumn. Check out the first gameplay footage above if words and mental imagery aren’t exciting enough for you.

Top-down, Side-scrolling Aces of the Lufwaffe hurts my brain

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Verticality makes perfect sense for arcade games; the less width each machine takes up, the more you can cram side by side. It makes even more sense for arcade shooters, providing more space to see the bullet hell ahead of you. Home versions of these games, however, have struggled with reshaping that vertical presentation to fit square CRTs and now widescreen formats. The best solutions have been to shrink down the game to fit the height of the TV screen or to physically turn the TV on its side.

Aces of the Luftwaffe takes that less-than-ideal physical solution and applies it to the game itself, rotating the vertical shooter action on its side. I’m no shooter historian but this is the first top-down shmup I can think of that scrolls left to right and it’s a little unsettling to see in action. It wasn’t designed this way from the beginning — Aces has been around on mobile devices since 2008 — but it’s a clever twist that lets the action fill the screen instead of being shrunk down. It also looks like a hearty challenge and is currently $4.99 on PlayStation 4 and Steam. Or check it out for free on iOS, Android, Windows, Windows Phone or the Amazon app store.

A new videOST for CounterSpy is out today!

There’s something in CounterSpy’s visual style and soundtrack that more than compensate for its gameplay flaws. It’s a terribly inconsistent game when it comes to being spotted which makes the experience more frustrating than it should be. Still, I really liked it and after the first several hours with the game I couldn’t stop humming its cool 60’s spy flick music.

I went looking for an official soundtrack but only found a few songs on Soundcloud and one copy on vinyl… that comes direct from the developers??! So I did the thing I usually do and recorded it myself! It was a fun process and really got me thinking about the audio design and how it’s all linked to go along with the randomly generated levels. Then I thought about things even more and edited all the musical cues and interludes into a new videOST series. Watch, listen, enjoy and then go play the game yourself. It’s pretty fun, only a little flawed and it’s on every PlayStation platform as well as iOS and Android.

Q-Games’ Nom Nom Galaxy launches on PlayStation 4 May 12th

Oh hi there Nom Nom Galaxy, where have you been hiding? I haven’t touched the Early Access version of the game in nearly a year and the email updates stopped coming in from the team. Turns out they’ve been posting major updates to their blog over the last few weeks which makes this surprise PlayStation 4 launch trailer a little less surprising.

Nevertheless, the console version — now running on an optimized engine with a new career mode, gear, recipes and 4-player online co-op — is launching on PlayStation 4 next Tuesday, May 12th. The Early Access version available on Steam goes for $9.99 so expect that to be the minimum price on PS4, though I wouldn’t be surprised to see it at $14.99 after a launch week or PlayStation Plus discount.

Play Spelunker Z as gaming’s most famous spelunker

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In what I have dubbed the most adorable cross promotion in years, the free-to-play Minna de Spelunker Z now has an assortment of gear themed after Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris. Most notably is Lara’s trademark tanktop and short shorts, made extra adorable in Spelunker’s chibi style. It’s also really powerful and I want it really bad, but here’s the rub.

Gear in Spelunker comes in pieces. As you play stages you’ll find little shiny egg thingies which you crack open at the end to see what you’ve won. It’s very gashapon and very grindy. Special Event items are only available for a limited time — in Lara’s case it’s through the end of May — so you’re motivated to play the same specified stages over and over, preferably with other players which boosts your chances.

So, anyone interested in trying? I finally found one person to play with but the game supports up to six players at once and that sounds fantastic to behold, even if we don’t get short shorts.

Get Funky with Sega Swirl’s Soundtrack

Thanks to Giant Bomb’s Dan Ryckert and the Demo Derby series, I was once again reminded of something I’d forgotten about; how great the music is in Sega Swirl! It’s also one of those great oddities of gaming, having only been distributed on demo discs or bundled on the Dreamcast Web Browser discs. I remember really enjoying it back in 2000 and getting much more use from it than the Dreamcast web experience.

It also had a great funky soundtrack that I quickly recorded. Though it’s lost to time now I remember emailing with Tremor Entertainment (or possibly Richard Jacques who is credited on the game) about the soundtrack. He mentioned that the music was interactive, changing with the player’s speed and performance. I swear I’ve never heard it change because the rounds are over so quickly. Regardless, it’s got a handful of great tunes and you can listen and watch along in my latest videOST playlist.

Other videOST offerings include Beetle Adventure Racing, Crash ‘n Burn, San Francisco Rush 2049, Extreme-G 2, and X-Men on the Genesis.