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Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo have already given their press conferences at E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) this year, and, as any self-respecting gamer should do, I’m going to reflect on all three of them.

Microsoft 

Microsoft was the first to take the stage, early Monday morning. Well, early in California; I had time to hit the snooze button seven times, roll out of bed, make some coffee, browse the internet and leisurely mosey over to the IGN streaming site before noon hit, Eastern time.

Microsoft started out with an epic, ten minute demo of Modern Warfare 3 running on the Xbox 360 console (not without “proving” that it was in game due to a controller connection interruption). It showed some pretty cool cinematic, though it did seem that the game was reusing quite a few assets used in Modern Warfare 2. Regardless, the game is sure to be the same, action packed romp that it always is.

Then came the new Tomb Raider reboot, which had the new, less-but-also-somehow-more sexually attractive Laura Croft getting stabbed, beaten, bruised, punched, and battered all to hell as she made her way out of what looked like a sacrificial cave. It looked quite exciting, and this will be the first Tomb Raider game that I’m actually looking forward to, let alone feel excited for.

Cliff Bleszinski, later, came on stage, and, together with the help of Ice-T, beat a enthralling single player mission on Gears of War 3, taking place on a ship that was actively being eaten by a giant squid-octopus hybrid thing. Looks to be pretty fun and over the top, as is expected out of Gears of War games.

Then Microsoft started shoving Kinect shit games down our throats. 85% of the entire press conference was glitchy, buggy, boring and unintuitive Kinect games that didn’t interest me in the slightest. Come on, Microsoft, Kinect doesn’t work; quit trying to sell it like it does.

Of course, they also announced the Halo 1 remake, which is a completely remade and high-definition of the original game, single player and all. It will have online co-op and online multiplayer with the original maps and some new, updated ones. I didn’t get super excited about that, but hey, Halo is fun, and fun is good.

At the very end of the conference, Microsoft showed us a Halo 4 trailer that left of right where Halo 3 did; with Master Chief floating away in a space ship. It looks like it could be cool, but I worry about the series without Bungie behind the helm.

Overall, Microsoft showed off some cool, multiplatform games that were interesting, but the majority of the gamers were flat, cardboard Kinect games, and that just doesn’t interest me.

Grade: C-

Sony

Sony started off with something they really needed to do: an apology. And while that was a nice enough gesture, they didn’t really phrase it in a way that made much sense. Instead of “Hey, look, we’re sorry about everything”, the phrasing made it seem like “We’re sorry you couldn’t enjoy everything that we know you love and is awesome on the PSN”, which is sorta the same, but it comes off like an advertisement more than an apology.

Then we got to the real stuff. Uncharted 3, duh, looks awesome. And by awesome, I mean FUUUUUUUU insane. This is a series that gets worlds better every iteration, and considering the first one was a very good game, that speaks wonders about the quality of the stuff Naughty Dog puts out.

Resistance 3… is another Resistance, which is to say, “yawn”.

Then Sony went into something that I hold very dear to my heart; HD remakes of older games. I’m oh-so pumped for the Shadow of the Colossus and ICO remakes, but ovbiously I’m going to buy the Metal Gear Solid remakes as well.

The press conference was littered with games that supported the Move controller. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, the Move shows so much more promise than Kinect, but so far, I still haven’t seen anything that makes it a must own peripheral (which is why I don’t have one), and E3 didn’t do much to rectify that. Try again, Sony.

The new Sly Cooper game looks very nice. Having never played his games before, I’m tempted to go back and explore the older games to get ready for the new one.

But easily the biggest surprise of all of E3 (surprise, and nothing more) was the Playstation Vita. Weird, new age-y name aside, Sony showed quite a bit of games running on the console, all of which looked like console ports. I guess that’s not a bad thing, but at some point, you have to ask yourself “Wouldn’t I rather be playing this on my actual PS3 and my HDTV?” I think that is the main problem that the Vita is going to come across, but I digress, that is not the exciting news I was referring to. No, the biggest surprise out of E3 2011 was that the PS Vita would retail in America for 250$. 250$!!! People had been guestimating at over 300$ and into the 400$ range, and for Sony to pull a “Yeah, we’re the same price as Nintendo” just blew me away. I’m still having problems believing it. Nintendo has got some work cut out for them.

Overall, Sony was interesting, if not terribly exciting. The PS Vita was easily the best part of the show, but still, it just wasn’t all that fun.

Grade: B-

Nintendo

Nintendo started off their press conference with a real orchestra playing Zelda music at Miyamoto’s request. I mean really, how can anything top that? They can’t… they just can’t.

After some quick footage of Skyward sword and some announcements about more Zelda games coming to the Wii, 3DS and DSi, Nintendo moved right onto their newest console, the Wii U. And this is where things started moving downhill.

They announced the name. Then they showed us a controller with a screen. Then, as the audience scratched their heads, they started showing games using this new controller. There was no announcement of a new console, no pictures of any sort of new hardware. It was just this controller. No one could figure out what exactly it was. Was it an extension of the Wii? Was it a portal gaming console that connected with the Wii? It wasn’t until minutes passed that it finally clicked for a lot of people: There was a new console, but Nintendo wanted to focus on the controller as the new expereince. Well, cool, Nintendo, except you confused everyone watching and I’m sure there are still some people confused as to what the crap was going on.

So yeah. Wii 2. HD graphics. About as powerful as the current generation (2006 technology. Woo) with another gimmicky controller that no one will take full advantage of. Sure sounds like Nintendo!

Then they moved onto 3DS stuff, and as a game deprived 3DS owner, was a good change of pace. The showed us some gameplay of the new Mario game, the new Mario Kart, the remake of Star Fox 64 and some Ocarina of Time 3D footage. The coolest surprise was the return of Luigi’s Mansion, and boy did it look nice! That’s easily become my most anticipated 3DS game (aside from Ocarina, which comes out soon!).

And… that’s about it for Nintendo. Their 3DS showing was all nice and dandy, but I just had a problem with the way they presented the Wii U (WEEEEUUUUU). But still, they put on a much better show than Sony and Microsoft.

Grade: B

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Nintendo is going to release their console before 2012; confirmed, E3 2011. It looks like new device, called the Wii U, will be more powerful than the 360 and PS3, which is pretty obvious, considering the 360 and PS3 aren’t getting any younger. This is a pretty exciting thought; having a new console in a little more than a year. But it also puts all three companies in a sticky situation. 

Obviously, by releasing the Wii U a year or two earlier than when Sony and Microsoft are expected to release their new consoles (both who have repeatedly said they’re waiting until 2014), Nintendo will have a rather large head start in the next console wars. Nintendo will have the stronger console for nearly two years, and that means that 3rd party developers will (hopefully) develop 3rd party games that can only run on the new tech in the Wii U, and that will lower the sales of both the 360 and the PS3.

Because of this bold move, it seems unlikely that Sony and Microsoft will sit idly by and watch Nintendo suck in profit. Two years is a LONG time, and during that time, Nintendo will move millions of units and make billions of dollars in software sales, and all the while, they’ll be stealing possible sales from both Sony and Microsoft. Seems like the first logical thing for them to do would get that new Xbox and Playstation out as early as possible, but it’s  unlikely that either Microsoft or Sony are anywhere close to being ready to release their console next year (both of them, Microsoft mostly, are focused on Kinect and Move, so it’s unlikely that they have their full force working on a new console). That would put a hurried console release sometime in the later part of 2013, with a E3 2013 announcement, which would only put them a year behind the Wii U, and, as we’ve seen from the past, that’s an acceptable amount of time for consoles to be released apart without some serious backlash to either company.

This one year gap would also help Nintendo. As it stands, if the Wii U is released in 2012 and the new Sony and Microsoft consoles in 2014, that leaves a two year gap in technology that Sony and Microsoft will CERTAINLY fill. When 2014 rolls around, the PS4 and Xbox 1080 will be nearly double the power of the Wii U, and the consumers and developers will all have the same problem that we have in this generation: Nintendo is stuck with an underpowered machine. However, if Microsoft and Sony move their conoles up by a year, that only puts Nintendo one year behind in terms of technology, and there will be a lesser chance that the gap will be quite as big.

It’s hard to play so many guessing games right now when we have no solid dates on anything. But, drawing from the past, and how much companies like to make money, it only makes sense that Microsoft and Sony won’t like it when Nintendo profits for two extra years, and will want to prevent that from happening by moving their console launches to 2013.

UPDATE: This topic has been updated after the events of E3. I’ll have more to say on the topic later, but for now, go here to read the slightly updated topic. Hit the jump to read the original article, unedited.

Read the rest of this entry »

It’s the age old debate: which computer is better, a Macintosh, created by Apple, or a PC running Windows, created by Microsoft. This debate has been waged since the beginning of both of these companies. Fanboys on both sides have and still fight to the death about which computer company makes the best hardware, software and everything in between.

I’ve been a Macintosh fan since I was very little, however, I’ve never once owned a current model of any Macintosh product (current being “released within the past four years”), so obviously, I grew up on Windows 98 and 2000 instead of Mac OS 8, 9 and 10. I’ve always loved how the Macintosh operating system worked much more than Windows and I’ve always loved the look of the products that Apple releases. However, since I was never able to afford a top of the line Macintosh, I have been using Windows Xp and 7 for the past decade with very little complaints. What can I say; Windows is great!

And right there is my point. Yes, I am an Apple fan (not fanboy, mind you). I prefer Apple products (both computers and music players) over any other brand. But when someone mentions how they hate Apple or how they hate Windows, I get sick. What is the point in arguing over who is better? Who cares who is better? The Macintosh and the Windows PC are two completely different beasts. It’d be like comparing apples to oranges and saying “Wow, well, this orange tastes nothing like this apple, therefore, it must be terrible!”. Macintosh can do things that Windows can’t. Windows can do things that Macintosh can’t. There is no need to get our panties in a knot every time that someone says they like Apple over Microsoft.

Yes, Apple costs more money that 99% of the PC’s on the market, but that’s because Apple demands a certain standard for everything they do. You can hate on Apple all you want, but everyone knows that they always produce quality machines, and with quality comes the higher price. Since Microsoft created their OS to run on any PC, there is no quality control; Windows 7 can be installed on any PC. That is the difference between Apple and Microsoft. Microsoft just creates the software and says “go for it”. They don’t care if it doesn’t run well on your computer (Vista, I’m looking at you), they just send the software out there and let people build around it. Apple creates their machines specifically to run their software; you will never find an Apple product that is too underpowered to support the official software for it because Apple makes sure that you DON’T. That is the main difference between Apple and Microsoft and it also explains the price jump; it’s all about quality (NOT of software, of hardware. Apple’s operating system software have ALWAYS been cheaper than Windows operating systems).

So please, can we stop the arguing? I love Macs, but I use Windows every day. I do not bash Windows (well, service pack 1 for Windows 7 bricked my computer, so that pissed me off, but usually I enjoy Windows greatly), so why retaliate to something I haven’t done by bashing what I like? And if you absolutely must hate on Apple all the time, don’t do it around me.

I love it, glitches and all.

Both Sony and Microsoft are pushing forward into new waters this holiday season. Sony is trying to improve on the Wii with their Move controllers and Microsoft is going controller-free with Kinect. Both of the new technology has been shown off in many ways, and a large amount of people have had a chance to test them out. And, of course, it’s too early to judge either one, right?

Well, maybe not.

When someone tests out either Move or Kinect, and they find that something doesn’t work, both Sony and Microsoft still have time to work out the bugs and make their controllers work better. But now, even this early in the race, Sony already has an advantage. And it’s not a preference advantage; it’s not a biased advantage. It’s simple fact: Sony already has more games compatible with Move.

Sony has showed off both Heavy Rain, Killzone 3, Resident Evil 5 and many more that are 100% compatible with Move. What has Microsoft showed off with Kinect? Nothing but new, mini-orientated games. Yes, there are some good looking games that are due for release around the time Kinect comes out (albeit, not many), but there hasn’t been any sort of announcement that any previously released games will be compatible with Kinect, or at least, if there has been, they’ve been so under the radar that I certainly can’t think of any.

There has already been many complaints about Kinect. People complain that it doesn’t work with more than just a handful of people. They’ve complained that it’s too hard to control something that doesn’t have any force feedback. But this is all biased preferences. The cold, hard fact is: Kinect doesn’t have nearly the game library set up that Sony has for Move.

Could Kinect go the way of the Gamecube: death by terrible 3rd party support? Could it be dead even before it comes out? All reports look towards: yes.

Game consoles down through the years have been all different shapes and sizes. We’ve gone from the incredibly big PS3 to the tiny little GameCube, and everywhere in between. We’ve had good features like Xbox Live and horrible add-ons like the Power Glove. But what if we took all the good from the consoles and put them together into one super console? Let’s see what we can create!

Pardon the crudely photo-shopped picture.

We are going to assume that the guts (all the megahertz and gigahertz stuff) of the super console are the current highest tech; we’re not focusing on that part on the consoles.

  • First off, while the Xbox 360 had some hardware failure problems, the case that the Xbox lives in is quite nice looking. I think if we got rid of the power brick, we should use the Xbox 360’s case. Let’s make it a little smaller, but it still needs to be able to stand up or lay down. Also, it should be stackable, without a curved top (the PS3 and the original Xbox’s were impossible to stack, while the PS2 and 360 are easy!).
  • The PS3 has the quietest DVD/Blu-ray drive I’ve ever heard in a console, so we should use the drive from the PS3.
  • Personally, I love the PS3/PS2 controllers, but let’s swap the place of the D-Pad and the analog stick. Also, real triggers like the 360 has, not those mushy buttons the PS3 has. If not that, let’s use the SNES’s controller. It had a perfect feeling to it. We’d just need to add analog sticks and some triggers.
  • Let’s make the console black, but matte, not shiny. It could also be available in other colors like white and a dark red.
  • It needs to have more than two or three USB ports. Let’s take a note from the original PS3 and have six total USB ports, four in the front and two in the back. Also, Bluetooth needs to be standard and should be compatible with all Bluetooth devices.
  • Obviously, like the Wii and PS3, we need built in Wi-Fi.
  • We seriously need the Xbox Live service, but free.
  • Let’s use the PS3’s operating system. The ability to use any USB device up to any size to store anything is also a must.
  • On the 360, you have a nice circle of lights telling you which controller you have plugged it. It’s a brilliant system and one of my biggest complaints about the PS3. We need that feature.
  • We need bigger hard drives, like the PS3, but really easy to remove, like the 360. And it should take any hard drive so we aren’t stuck with paying large amount of money for hard drives that should cost a fraction of the price.
  • HDMI ports are a must. Stupid older 360’s 😡
  • We need a virtual console! All three companies are doing pretty good jobs getting older games from their older consoles on their online service. Let’s keep it up!
  • Headsets need to come packaged with every single console, like most 360’s, but they should be Bluetooth wireless, like the PS3.
  • We need the Xbox’s ability to let most anyone make a game and get it sold, but we want it without the money Microsoft asks for. Along that same note, we don’t want to pay for DLC that the developers don’t want to charge for, like the PC and the PS3.
  • Netflix and Hulu need to be integrated at no extra charge (besides a Netflix subscription fee) with no disk needed.
  • Let’s do away with the avatars. Both Microsoft and Nintendo has tried to integrate them, but honestly, I couldn’t care less about my avatars. See ya!
  • We need to be able to store our gamertag or whatever to our controllers, sort of like what the Wii did with Miis, except it needs to be all our information so we can move our gamertag around much easier.
  • And lastly, we need two tiny things from Sony: we want the symbol for the console to flip around when we change the position of the console and we want the touch activated on and eject button. I am sorely missing having that on my slim PS3.

Any ideas of your own?

Alan Wake is a video game inspired by Stephen King, or at least, that’s how it feels (though I’ve been informed that King had nothing to do with the games story). The story plays out just like one of Mr. Kings novels: fast paced; created just to keep you on the edge of your seat. The game usually gave me the chills and there were times that got me a little jumpy. The most shocking part? The game is rated T for teen, proving that we don’t need blood, guts and sex to make a scary piece of media (not to say blood, guts and sex are scary, but usually gore tries to play itself off as “scary”, ala Saw which was more “ew” than “AHH”). All we really need to scare is good story telling and relatable characters.

Oh, and the sense of helplessness at all times goes a long way in the scariness factor.

Alan Wake uses light and dark as a large factor in its game play mechanic. It basically smears it all over the screen that “DAY TEH GOOD DARK TEH BAD!”. The enemies you fight are completely invulnerable to your guns and fists. How do  you kill them? Your trusty flashlight (Duracell: Smart Power *thumbs up*). After you blast the baddies with some serious lightage for a couple of seconds, they become human again instead of dark monsters, making them stoppable with your firearms. It’s a great gaming mechanic, one that really can send you into a panic when you have to change batteries on your flashlight and someone is already on top of you with an ax or if you’re running towards a light with bad guys behind you and Alan starts to get tired and slows down. The game does a very good job making you nervous.

The environments in the game are bloody brilliant, to put it bluntly. When running through the forest (which you do a lot) the trees swaying in the wind look gorgeous. The darkness power swirls around cars, buildings and trees, forming a sort of black smoke. It all looks very creepy. I found myself awed by most of the environment settings. This is certainly the best looking game I’ve seen in quite a while.

Unfortunately, as has been the case with a lot of recent games, the characters look like they just jumped off into the uncanny valley with an anvil tied to their leg. I’ve seen better face models in much older games. Some other recent games have been having the same problem with their character models; they look terrible but move the way that humans do.   Maybe this is a sign that we’re getting incredibly close to bridging the gap of the valley; we’re getting much worse right before we get perfect.

The voice acting was also taken very seriously in Alan Wake, as is the tradition in Remedy Entertainment’s games. The voice actors do a very good job creating real personalities for Alan, his wife, the dark creatures (which have some distortion on their voice to make them even creepier) and other various people that live in the town. Along side the voice actors is a very well scored soundtrack. The inclusion of some in-house rock added a small but brilliant touch to the game (when you get to that part in the game, you’ll see what I mean).

The only real problem I have with Alan Wake is that by the end of the game, I just wanted to know how the story ended. While I enjoyed the gameplay when it was new and fresh, at the end of eight hours, I had my fill and was ready for it to just be over. The story kept me playing though, because it was just so darn good. There are some collectibles to find, including pages from the book Alan is writing, but I found it easier to go online and look them up because I would always miss a single page or something stupid like that and I didn’t want to bother playing the entire level again to find one missing page.

Alan Wake is a brilliant looking game with a story that will stay with you for a long time, but it’s held back by semi-repetitive game play and some bad facial models. Regardless of it’s low replayability, it’s still worth your time and could possible be seen at the end of the year when voting starts for the “Game of the Year” awards.

As most of you know, Steam, created by Valve with a goal to be the biggest online retailer of PC video games, has made the transition to the Macintosh. Along with the program, many Steam games have made the jump onto the Mac as well. Portal was one of the first, and was being offered for free. Other games such as Plants vs Zombies and Half-Life 2 have followed suite. While it has been proven

that games on Steam don’t run quite as good on the Mac as they do on the PC (1), it’s only a matter of time before Valve managed to work out all the kinks and starts to rebuild the library of games that Windows users have onto the Mac. When that time comes, could this be a revolution for Apple and its computers?

Microsoft and its Windows operating system hold the market in amount of people who use their software. As of December of last year,  92.21% of people were using a Windows operating system, while only 5.11% were using Mac OS X (2). Most of us are already aware of this and have made our decision between a Windows OS or a Mac OS.

One of the biggest complaints from Windows users about the Mac is the lack of video game support on the system. I’ve heard people say countless times, “I’d use a Mac but they just don’t play the games I want. Instead, I bought a Windows computer”. I, myself, have said the same thing and have purchased my Dell running Windows 7 based on that train of thought. Obviously, that statement is a very common occurrence, but it’s one that I think it going to end with the coming of Steam.

When Valve finally gets Steam running 100% on Apple’s computer, we will be looking at hundreds of quality games finally being able to run on the Mac. Steam is the biggest online retail store and having full access to the store on a Mac is something that will draw the attention of gamers. People who at once thought about buying a Mac but decided against it will come back to take another look. And why stop at Steam? Other companies such as Direct2Drive might see the prospect of turning the Macintosh into a gaming device and decide they want in on the action, thus making the Mac play more games and bring in more users.

Steam being on the Macintosh could very well increase the market share to give Windows a run for it’s money.

Now, I’m not saying it’s going to happen over night. Steam has a lot of catching up to do on the Mac and it will take a while for the word to get out that the Mac is now a capable game playing machine. But, in time, I think the pie chart measuring the market share could soon favor Apple more so than Microsoft.

1. Steam for Mac Benchmarks: Windows is Much Faster.

2. World Wide Market OS Market Share December 2009

It’s no secret that, while Nintendo’s Wii is destroying both the 360 and the PS3 in terms of sales, Microsoft’s Xbox 360 is the leader in the number of exclusive hit games and is usually getting the popular vote when given a choice between the big three. The Xbox 360 was released in 2005 around the time of the Nintendo DS (which seems like forever ago) and has enjoyed many exclusive titles and numerous updates to it’s firmware, software and hardware. In 2010, with the prospect of Project Natal, it seems like the DVD wielding (and HD-DVD failing) console has at least two or three more strong years left in it.

So what about after that?

It’s no secret that the Xbox 360 chose the wrong video format when they sided with the HD-DVD. Blu-Ray and HD-DVD gave each other some good competition at the beginning of their lifespan, but Blu-ray quickly showed its dominance and the HD-DVD  is now enjoying it’s time next to the beta max and 8-track formats on the “thanks for trying” table. Meanwhile, the PS3 is currently enjoying some serious sales due to the included Blu-ray player inside of the device. It’s currently the #1 reason people buy the console (at around 60% of all total sales) and the most popular Blu-ray player used by consumers. Both Microsoft and Sony gambled on the new format and Sony certainly chose right. So where does that leave Microsoft?

The Blu-ray disks are increasing in size almost monthly. Last I checked, the bloody thing could hold almost 120 gigs, dual layered. Meanwhile, the DVD’s that the Xbox 360 uses hold about 9 gigabytes, but after Microsoft finishes chewing on them, they hold about 7.8 gigabytes. This is a problem, as I’m sure you can see. While it’s not been too big of a concern this generation, soon, as videos get more advanced and CGI takes more and more memory to store, 7.8 gigabytes is not going to cut it. And even though we’re not expecting a new console generation until into 2012 or 2013 (some even guess 2014), now is the time to figure out what to do with those tiny little DVD’s.

Sony’s got it made. With Blu-ray technology increasing all the time, there is no reason for them to switch formats any time soon; Blu-ray could, I suppose, last forever if they continue to find ways for it to hold more data. Microsoft, on the other hand, has a problem; their gamble failed. They certainly can’t work on a new console that uses DVD’s and it would be stupid to try the HD-DVD path again. So, what options does the Xbox 1080 have?

Well, I suppose the obvious thing for them to do would be to license a Blu-ray drive. This, though, would be completely embarrassing  for Microsoft as they have publicly bashed Blu-ray and the PS3 in favor of their over-priced HD-DVD drive add-on for the Xbox 360. This would also allow for Microsoft to be able to tap into the Blu-ray movie market, which is a money printing machine for Sony. But still, they would have to swallow a lot of pride to not only admit defeat but also to kiss the feet of their opponent.

Another possibility is the flash card, or even a solid state mini hard drive. Flash and solid state are both twenty times (usually more) faster than any disk in any format and, by 2014, the price of the technology to have a 50 gigabyte (or more) flash card or a solid state drive could be about equal to that of a Blu-Ray disk now. So not only would the games load incredibly fast (can you say literally no loading screens ala the Nintendo 64?) but they’d be smaller, which could quite possibly lead to a smaller game console, assuming the rest of the technology allows it.

Ironic isn’t it? If we go to flash cards, we’ve gone full circle: cartridges to CDs to DVDs to Blu-Ray and back to cartridges.

I think the last possibility is that Microsoft, being the computer geniuses they are, could come up with an entirely new format for their console. They could create a disk that holds the same amount (or more) than a Blu-Ray that’s exclusive to the Xbox console. It wouldn’t be a good idea for a new format to fight Blu-Ray for control over the movie market again because Blu-Ray is here to stay, but the console certainly could be backwards compatible with regular DVDs, assuming they’re still around by then.

Microsoft's solution to Blu-ray?

No matter what happens, it’s going to be a challenge for Microsoft. I suppose they could switch entirely over to digital distribution, but we all saw how well that worked for Sony and the PSP Go!. I think the most likely option for Microsoft is to just suck it up and put a Blu-ray drive into their console. It would make the most sense and probably bring in the most money for them.

Now, what about Nintendo…? They still haven’t quite figured out the DVD yet…

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