Happening now on GameLuv

Questionable Kinect Puzzler, Q, plopped on Xbox One today

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I expressed my concern over Microsoft’s deluge of indie releases in my E3 wrap up. Case in point. This new game, Q, has come out of nowhere to be dumped on the Xbox store today. I’d have bought it straight away as it looks like a silly, WarioWare-esque Kinect game but given the quality of recent releases on Xbox One, I hesitated. Check out some of these choice quotes from the game’s description:

  • It may sound simple, but the truth couldn’t be further
  • “There are Q’s that even we developers cannot solve”
  • It can be used as an educational tool for children
  • There is so much here to sink your teeth into which makes it the best app for those moments when you have some time to kill

Broken English, the limp claim of it being educational, and they refer to it as an app? Turns out, it is an app, a Japanese iPhone and Android app released back in January. While it might be entertaining for a few minutes on your phone, I can’t convince myself to pay $6 to find out if they implemented Kinect in a way that is at all fun to play. Here’s hoping Giant Bomb takes a quick look at it some day.

Pillow Fort Sim ‘Fort Meow’ out now on Steam

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I just happened to be looking at Steam’s new release page today and noticed that one of my Top Twenty IGF games of the year is out and on sale. Fort Meow is a delightfully cute and clever game of “physics based pillow fort building” or as I put it “Angry Birds in reverse”.

Each round sees you placing pillows, tables, brooms and other household items to fend off overzealous lap cats so Nia can investigate her grandfather’s journal. It’s a little madcap overall but in the preview build I played the story was getting surprisingly touching in that ‘Up’ kind of way.

Fort Meow is out now on Steam for $7.99 and is on sale for 20% off until July 1st.

E3 2015: Things that make me say ‘oh… umm’

This isn’t merely the opposite of yesterday’s “oh yeah” list. These aren’t games I hate or have lost faith in. No Man’s Sky and The Last Guardian are still must-plays for me but this is the year that my pessimism for these long-promised games equaled or surmounted my excitement.  For the rest, these are just things from E3 that gave me pause or raised a concerned eyebrow.

Again, organized alphabetically by PlayStation 4 and Xbox One console exclusives and then by multiplatform

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Dreams (PlayStation 4 from Media Molecule)
The presentation was gorgeous and delightful but as soon as I started thinking about it as a retail product my brain melted. I get the 3D sculpting with the controller and its motion sensors but how can you animate and script intricate vignettes while feeling like an ethereal dream? And is the experience only in watching others creations or can you build playable games? I’m impressed but skeptical of how well it will work and if a large enough audience will support it.

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The Last Guardian (PlayStation 4 from Sony)
Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan of Team ICO and Fumito Ueda; there was even a time when I wrote fan fiction for ICO. So what’s more surprising than finally seeing The Last Guardian in action on PlayStation 4 is thinking that maybe it’s too little, too late. Granted, the scene that was on display was reportedly from early in the game but the animation, puzzle design and slow pace only felt nostalgic, not exciting and fresh. Another incomprehensible boy, another companion whose inevitable death will hang over your head for the entire game, another lifeless, Escher-esque castle.

By the time The Last Guardian is out it will have been 15 years since the original ICO and after the demo I’m a little worried that all we’re getting is a mashup of it and Shadow of the Colossus. I’ll still buy it on day one and probably put all these concerns behind me once I’m playing it. But right here and now I’m wondering if it could ever live up to the years of hopes and expectations.

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No Man’s Sky (PlayStation 4 and PC from Hello Games)
Similar to the predicament with The Last Guardian, No Man’s Sky has touted and promised and tweaked our excitement for so long now that I can’t help but worry. The most dismaying moment was during the E3 demo where Hello Games’ Sean Murray comes upon a growing battle between starships. He says this is the boundary of the two factions and that the player can choose to engage (at which point he takes a few shots at a ship) or not, and he zooms off to a random point in the game’s infinite space.

What’s troublesome is that there’s no context given for the warring factions, hell, there’s barely even sound effects. It’s simply a bunch of 3D models moving around one another and it’s seemingly up to my imagination to explain why I care. At one time randomly generated content promised that you could play a game forever with personally unique experiences. Nowadays it just feels like a lot of lifeless repetition. With an infinite universe of lifeless repetition randomly spewn out it’s no wonder the shiny mystery of No Man’s Sky is starting to fade.

Again, that’s how I feel right now with loads of questions yet to be answered about the game. And even with those concerns I’ll be right there on launch day, ready to be wowed, hoping to have my fears put to rest.

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Crackdown (Xbox One from Microsoft Games Studios)
Yeah yeah, it’ll get its big reveal at Gamescom but I was nonetheless bummed to hear it wasn’t going to be at E3. That’s all, no huge concerns over game design or nostalgia on this one… yet.

Sea of Thieves (Xbox One from Rare)
For me, this game looks like nothing. A pirate themed MMO with PVP, no thank you. But beyond my own personal baggage it’s just another in the long history of post-Nintendo Rare games that doesn’t feel like a Rare game. Great looking water though, I’ll give ‘em that.

HD Remake/Collections (Every damn platform)
Yes, I have been excited about some HD remake/collections in the past, usually for very old games or unexpected comebacks. Where it gets bad is when you spend more time at your press conference talking about Dishonored: Definitive Edition than the sequel to it you just announced. Or when you charge the same for the singular Gears of War remake as you do for the 4-in-1 Master Chief Collection. Or when a good portion of your first-party lineup includes a remake of God of War 3, a collection of Uncharted titles, and a standalone offering of Last of Us DLC. It wouldn’t be nearly as painful to see these collections and remakes if there were more new and original titles alongside them. The only thing more painful to see on a release calendar is…

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Indie overload (Mostly Xbox One but also PlayStation 4)
At Microsoft’s press conference they detailed four indie games and had their creators come out on stage to demo them. That’s awesome to see these small teams and their games on the bright, world stage of E3! But on the same day Microsoft posted over 30 trailers for indie games to their YouTube channel of wildly different quality. With new releases unceremoniously pushed to the store every week and no more free demos, how do you keep track of what’s good? How do you find anything in one, three or five years when the store is swollen with releases? Sadly, Phil Spencer’s answer is simply that “the good games sell well and the bad games don’t”.

It’s what I have come to think of as Indie Cannon Fodder. Exposure of any kind is great for a small team and their game but it feels unfair and disingenuous to me. They work hard, sometimes for years, to bring their game to a release and it’s shot aimlessly like a single bullet in a firestorm. The chances of anyone seeing it after the first week where it might be featured on the storefront is slim. This behavior marginalizes independent games at the same time that it brings them to market. It’s dysfunctional and complicated and maybe it’s not a big deal to developers. I don’t really have a solution, just observations, but it’s definitely something I kept dwelling on looking over E3 press materials.

If all this makes me sound like a crazy old man, check out yesterday’s post about all the things at E3 I liked

E3 2015: Things that make me say Oh Yeah!

I went into E3 this year not expecting much. The things I’ve been drawn to aren’t the kinds of games that get much attention on fancy stages or in the deluge of coverage from major sites. Sadly, there were less of those games that grabbed me than any year before. But that’s not something to dwell on today. Nope, this post is all about the stuff that got me hype, made me nod approvingly, smirk with satisfaction or tap my toe frantically with anticipation.

Alphabetical by PlayStation 4, Xbox One and 3DS console exclusives and then by multiplatform

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ABZU (PlayStation 4 from Giant Squid)
Several former thatgamecompany employees formed Giant Squid and it shows in PlayStation 4 exclusive, ABZU. It’s Journey, but underwater. At least, that’s what everyone keeps saying. I love underwater exploration and despite my interpretation of the ending, I loved Journey as an experience. So I’m sold on this one from what I’ve seen.

Firewatch (PlayStation 4 and PC from Campo Santo)
You can joke about not knowing what Firewatch is but from what I’ve seen already, I’m in. I love the remote setting and the almost mundane feel of the tension I’ve seen so far. It’s not end-of-the-world sci-fi and it isn’t over the top, torture porn, crazy mountain man horror. It’s a mystery and if the game in hand feels like the trailers then it’s just the right mix of exploration, introspection and danger for me.

Horizon: Zero Dawn (PlayStation 4 from Guerilla Games)
I think just about everyone will list this one as a surprise. Gone is the passe gameplay of the Killzone series, replaced by a gorgeous, post-post-apocalyptic world where tribal humans inhabit a world of robotic animals. Hunting, crafting and survival ensue as you, no doubt, will come to unravel what happened to our world. It’s one of my favorite settings and the twist with the robot animals is all the more enticing. The only thing I don’t like is the title. It’s supremely forgettable and any 3 random words would fit just as poorly. Vanished: Tomorrow’s Ascent. Primal: Evolution Imperative. Robots: And Arrows, wait, that legitimately explains something about the game.

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NieR New Project (PlayStation 4 from Square Enix)
Against all odds, I am a fan of a modern JRPG. NieR was just weird enough to offset the melodramatic babblings of its horrible anime characters to keep me playing. It’s also set in a distant future, long after our modern civilization is nothing but ruins. I told you, I like that stuff. NieR New Project sounds like it’ll be more of the same with a combat system beefed up by Platinum Games’ expertise. So far it’s just a bunch of concept art with Japanese names attached to it but I am simply happy and totally surprised to see it coming back.

Rise of the Tomb Raider (Xbox One from Crystal Dynamics)
The murderous avalanche chase scene from the E3 demo wasn’t all that exciting but the promise of more actual tombs to explore was. Also, yay Jonah! Unfortunately, Tomb Raider comes out on the same day as Fallout 4 which means I’m not going to be playing it any time in 2015, maybe not even 2016.

Tacoma (Xbox One and PC from Fullbright)
I liked Gone Home. It had atmosphere and for the first hour I was certain things were going to kill or chase me even though I knew they weren’t. It was palpable. The only thing that could’ve made it better is if it were set in an even more mysterious space station so Tacoma is hitting all the right buttons and I’m very much looking forward to it.

Gotcha Racing (Nintendo 3DS from Natsume)
There’s just something that seems pleasant and fun about this little top-down racing game. The way the action expands across both screens looks neat and car upgrades are doled out via gashapon capsules. It’s no colossal mega-hit but I’m into it.

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ADR1FT (Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC from Three One Zero)
This one falls into my newly-coined favorite genre of entertainment: Space Calamity. It’s probably amped up because we’re currently listening to the audiobook of The Martian but even on its own ADR1FT looks terrifying and tense in all the ways that video games usually aren’t. Unfortunately, it’s another September release but if it’s a short enough experience maybe I’ll squeeze it in around the major timesinks of Metal Gear and Fallout 4.

Fallout 4 (Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC from Bethesda)
UGH! Can it just be September already!? As a latecomer to Fallout 3 and New Vegas I’m even more excited to jump into Fallout 4 alongside everyone else. The layers of mechanics revealed at Bethesda’s show hit me with waves of amazement. You get to see the world pre-apocalypse ~WHOOSH~ There’s base building now ~WHOOSH~ The guns and power armor are immensely modable ~WHOOSH~ All the junk in the world can be broken down for parts ~WHOOSH~ The Junk Jet is a gun that uses all that junk as ammo. ~WHOOSH~ September can’t get here soon enough!

Hitman (Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC from Io-Interactive)
I went into Hitman Absolution ready to love it but with each new chapter I would exclaim with increasing desperation: it’s still not over!? I came out of it washing my hands of the series and initially wrote off this E3 reveal. Thanks to some show-floor impressions, though, I’m back on board. It sounds like Io is trying to get back to the classic Hitman strategy while pushing forward with unique and intelligent new mechanics in an… open world? There’s loads more I need to know first but I’ll once again toss my hat into Hitman’s ring.

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Just Cause 3 (Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC from Avalanche Studios)
I giggled at the original teasers for Just Cause 3 but after the showing at E3 (and the reactions from seeming everyone who saw it) it’s officially my new December video game. It’s like the Mercenaries sequel I always wanted. It’s like a new Red Faction Guerrilla only more destructible. It’s like Just Cause 2 but even crazier. I don’t really need to see or hear any more to know I’m in.

Mass Effect Andromeda (Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC from BioWare)
Some have scoffed at the Johnny Cash/space cowboy teaser trailer but for me, I’ll take just about anything Mass Effect at this point! Things may change by next E3 but for now it fills my head with dreams of new adventures in a familiar (and not-so-familiar) universe. And hopefully one that isn’t so damn fate-of-the-universe serious so I can have some fun.

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Metal Gear Solid V (Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC from Kojima Productions)
The best news I could possibly hear about The Phantom Pain from E3 is that it’s mostly an HD follow-up to Peace Walker. Having just spent 90 hours consumed with that game — and only walking away because I ran out of things to do — it was all I needed to hear. Story be damned. Kiefer Sutherland be damned. I am SO very ready for Kojima’s swan song.

SteamWorld Heist (Just about every platform but 3DS first, from Image & Form)
Finally! I’ve been waiting to find out what SteamWorld Heist is for ages and after E3, I finally know. It’s side-scrolling XCOM. Got it. Yeah, that’s reductive but so are any further details on the game so for now I’ll just say I’m down with it.

I’ll be back soon with my sorta opposite list: Things that make me say ‘oh… umm’.

E3 2015: The PlayStation 4 finally has a media player

Amidst the game reveals at Sony’s press conference they also announced that the long-overdue PlayStation 4 media player was finally available. As someone who regularly has videos downloaded to a flash drive and enjoys mixing game audio with Spotify music, I was clearly in the target demographic. I expected to do a video of the media player but it’s pretty cut and dry so I’ll just type up a bit here. I will point out that the player supports USB devices as well as network sharing but I don’t have any network stuff going on at home so my experience is solely related to USB.

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Music (supports: MP3, AAC)
For starters, all music has to be in a folder on the USB drive titled ‘music’ and the app only displays files in a single list of filenames and folder titles. There’s also no concept of sorting, filtering or creating playlists; you can only mark songs as Favorites. Not ideal for anyone hoping to navigate a large music collection during gameplay.

At least album art is supported so you’ll see those in the app and in the pop-up display where you can quickly change tracks and adjust the volume, just like when using Spotify. There are no visualizers, however, which is sad because the PlayStation 3 had a handful of real pretty screensavers.

It’s a barebones presentation (thankfully the standard playback controls and shuffle/repeat options are included) that seems designed only to get your music started and then live in the background as you play, chat or use other apps. A little more pizazz wouldn’t be bad but after such a long wait for the app I’ll take anything.

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Video (supports: MKV, AVI, MP4, MPEG-2 TS)
This is what I was really excited about as the PlayStation 3 always did a great job of handling video playback. Like the music side, the options are slim here and the files have to be stored in a ‘videos’ folder on the USB drive. Also like the music player you get a simple listing of filenames and folders and you can hit Start on a title (video or audio) to view the file size, format, codec and other details.

Playback controls include all the usual stuff with shoulder buttons controlling next/previous and fast forward/reverse. Press Triangle to view a simple timeline or hit Start during playback to bring up the control display. Sadly it’s missing the breadth of options (subtitle, audio track, picture adjustment) from the PlayStation 3 but you, uhh, can rotate the video by 90 degrees which might be handy if you’ve got a lot of clips shot from a phone. One handy feature I wasn’t expecting is playback resume. Start a video, hop out and then load it up again and it’ll resume right where you left off.

Pictures (supports: JPG, BMP, PNG)
There’s a picture viewer. It is very simple. You can view pictures with it. It has a slideshow and very few options. Does anyone view downloaded images on a console? Anyways, there’s a picture viewer but for whatever reason you still can’t view your in-game screenshots here.

So just download it already
It’s totally great for a free app even if it is the most basic of offerings. It won’t replace feature rich PC software like VLC or PotPlayer but for getting music and video up quickly on your TV it works just fine. It’s also free and a pretty small download so there’s not much to I can really complain about in the end.

P.S. Here’s Sony’s blog post about the player and their help page with more details on supported formats

SpinTires sales at nearly 500,000 copies

How is this so captivating?

How is this so captivating?

Forget all the hype going on around E3, it’s time to talk about something important: getting giant trucks stuck in the mud and then getting them unstuck again. That’s right, SpinTires news! It’s been one year since the truck-in-mud simulator launched on June 13th, 2014 and the folks behind it wanted to share some stats. As a fan of the game (who still can’t explain why he loves it so much) I’m happy to pass along the figures.

As of today nearly half a million copies of the game have been sold; 455,000 in total with 310,000 copies sold on Steam and another 145,000 at retail. Though the game is set in the rugged forests of a fictional 1980’s Russia, only 13% of those who bought the game are in Russia. There’s a few more stats to mull over in the accompanying infographic and if any of this has persuaded you in the slightest, SpinTires is currently 33% off as part of Steam’s Summer Sale. Go grab it, you’ll probably maybe love it!

E3 2015: Here’s how Xbox 360 games work on Xbox One

We’re in the Xbox Preview Program so we got to give the Xbox 360 Backwards Compatibility a shot just a day after the big announcement at E3. I grabbed all my capture gear last night and set out to cover how the feature works and what it does. So here’s Geometry Wars, Super Meat Boy, Viva Piñata and A Kingdom for Keflings.

One thing I did forget to mention in the video is that the Xbox One doesn’t recognize saved games on a USB stick. You’ll have to make sure any saves you want to use are in your cloud storage first. Any other questions? I’ll try to answer them or at least point you to the official Xbox One Backwards Compatibility page.

E3 2015: I never expected to hear New Order in Metal Gear Solid

Lightning hot E3 news fresh off the wire!!! Konami has announced that “a new unique licensed music track [from Metal Gear Solid V] will be revealed at the show”. I hate to jump on the Konami dogpile but it is pretty sad to see this as one of only two games the languishing publisher is talking about at E3.

On the upside, the “unique licensed music track” is none other than ‘Elegia’ by New Order. It’s one of the group’s few instrumental tracks and a rare one you wouldn’t readily dance to. It’s dark, foreboding and angry synth/rock and as a product of the mid-1980’s it fits the time and vibe of Metal Gear Solid V perfectly. I’ve long adored the song and was probably happier to hear it in the trailer than I was supposed to be.

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.