Coffee Talk #656: Random Thoughts on E3 2015

Another E3 Expo is in the books! Since we’re a few years removed from console launches, E3 2015 was gloriously software heavy. That said, virtual reality hardware was huge at this year’s show and generated lots of excitement. There were tons of great games on the show floor and behind closed doors. Special thanks to old friends and new friends that let me cut lines and sneak into demos that I didn’t have appointments for. Now here are some random thoughts on E3 2015.

Console Press Conferences: Sony crushed it. The company had lots of great original content and showed off juicy timed exclusives. The Shenmue 3 and Final Fantasy VII announcements won the hearts of millions of old-school gamers. Sony has come a long way with presentation too (remember those old Kaz Hirai PowerPoint slides?), largely because Microsoft raised the bar for E3 press conference theatricality. Microsoft put on a good show, but I found Sony’s press conference far more exciting. As for Nintendo’s latest direct-to-video presentation, the company had lots of games that I’m excited for…but the Nintendo executive muppets will haunt my dreams for the next few months (the Satoru Iwata muppet is terrifying).

Nintendo Muppets E3 2015

Publisher Press Conferences: I’m probably in the minority here, but I was more impressed with Square Enix’s presser than EA’s or Ubisoft’s. While Square Enix’s presentation was flat and the company didn’t have the celebrity star power its competitors flaunted, the games were excellent. Square Enix simply had more games that I wanted to play. While many of my friends loved Ubisoft’s lineup, it didn’t do much for me, save for South Park: The Fractured But Whole. Ubisoft gets bonus points for Aisha Tyler hosting and for Angela Bassett’s appearance. As for EA, it had frickin’ Pele — one of the coolest and most legendary single-name celebrities ever. EA’s Star Wars Battlefront, Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2, and Mirror’s Edge Catalyst had me amped, but not as much Kingdom Hearts 3, World of Final Fantasy, Life is Strange, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and Final Fantasy VII (more on that in a bit).

Virtual Reality: I played a bunch of VR games/demos and totally understand why so many people are excited about this type of gaming. It feels fresh and exciting. When VR works, it’s amazing and makes you feel like you’re playing a game from the future. When the frame rates are clunky, VR games give you a headache. What I’m unsure about is the business model. From what several people told me, making a VR game is very expensive. Gamers will need expensive hardware for the best VR experience. From the (admittedly limited) information I gathered, Valve has the best plans for making VR accessible for developers and consumers. I’m curious to see what the other VR companies will do to help make VR affordable for creators and gamers alike.

Wattam: Going into the show, I was certain that I’d be charmed by Funomena’s Wattam. The creation of Keita Takahashi (Katamari Damacy) and Robin Hunicke (Journey), Wattam is wonderfully creative — a game that’s simple, but with complexity that makes it difficult to describe. Some people are calling it a puzzle game, while others feel it’s adventure, and some are calling it a platformer. Check out the trailer below and see for yourself. Whatever category you think Wattam fits in, there’s no denying that the graphics are cute, the gameplay is creative, and the sound design is adorable. I love that Sony publishes atypically delightful games like Wattam.

Final Fantasy VII: Some gamers feel that FFVII is the best game in the series. Others feel that it’s the most overrated. Either way, it’s a huge deal that the game is being remade and coming to PlayStation 4 (initially). While I enjoyed the original game, it’s not in my top five for the Final Fantasy series. Having said that, I’m a big fan of FFVII world, since Crisis Core and Advent Children helped make sense of everything. I’m going to dedicate a full topic to this column next week. No matter how good or bad the FFVII remake ends up being, I’m excited to watch the process and listen to the debates. I expect full fanboy fury over FFVII and gamers better not disappoint me.

Mario Tennis: I “accidentally” spent more than hour playing Mario Tennis Ultra Smash at Nintendo’s booth. I’m a longtime fan of the Mario Tennis games, both on home and handheld consoles. Even though the game is early and there were only two playable characters, I had a blast with Mario Tennis Ultra Smash. The core gameplay is tight, while the addition of power-ups gives it a wackier feel that make sense in the context of the Mario universe. I’ll give this one a full preview in a bit.

Sword Coast Legends: As a huge fan of the Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale games, I was really looking forward to learning more about Sword Coast Legends. After getting a demo and playing the game, my expectations were exceeded. It will surely satisfy fans of the isometric PC RPGs that I mentioned, but should also satisfy fans of pen-and-paper RPGs. The dungeon master features look awesome, powerful, and fun. While most of the game will have professional voice acting, I was delighted to learn that there will be opportunities for live action role-playing. I vow to make a character based on Azrael Abyss from Saturday Night Live and annoy the hell out of anyone foolish enough to let me be a dungeon master. I’ll be giving Sword Coast Legends a full preview too.

Your Take: Naturally, I didn’t get to play or see everything I wanted to. This is where you come in! I’d love to get your take on E3 2015. How did it play from home? What games are you excited for? Who do you think “won” the press conferences? Kindly share your thoughts in the comments section.

Coffee Talk #628: What You Want From E3 2014

E3 2014 is just around the corner. Honestly, I’ve been avoiding thinking much about it. My June is pretty nuts — E3, The Vape Summit, hosting a pair of store grand openings, family visits, and more. Obviously E3 shows are something that I always look forward to; they’re wondrous events that are unlike any other trade show I’ve attended (and I’ve attended a ton of ’em). It’s always awesome seeing new games, seeing how other games are coming along, watching the press conference spectacles, watching the publisher pissing contests, and (most of all) catching up with longtime colleagues in the gaming business. Still, I’m so detached from the industry at the moment that I don’t…continued

Welcome to Coffee Talk! Let’s start off the day by discussing whatever is on your (nerd chic) mind. Every morning I’ll kick off a discussion and I’m counting on you to participate in it. If you’re not feelin’ my topic, feel free to start a chat with your fellow readers and see where it takes you. Whether you’re talking about videogames, 50 Cent’s new album, the rumor that Marvel will cancel the Fantastic Four comics to spite Fox’s FF movie, or weeping that AJ Lee is off the market, Coffee Talk is the place to do it.

E3 2014 is just around the corner. Honestly, I’ve been avoiding thinking much about it. My June is pretty nuts — E3, The Vape Summit, hosting a pair of store grand openings, family visits, and more. Obviously E3 shows are something that I always look forward to; they’re wondrous events that are unlike any other trade show I’ve attended (and I’ve attended a ton of ’em). It’s always awesome seeing new games, seeing how other games are coming along, watching the press conference spectacles, watching the publisher pissing contests, and (most of all) catching up with longtime colleagues in the gaming business. Still, I’m so detached from the industry at the moment that I don’t have the giddy feeling that I usual get going into E3 2014.

That’s not to say that I won’t be busy. I’ll be spending the bulk of my E3 2014 days working for EGM and a couple of minutes each day doing daily video recaps for a foreign outlet (they love me in Singapore). While I won’t have much “free” time, I’ll be using it to check out a few indie games that I’m high on and checking out stuff for you guys.

So how about it? What are you looking forward to at E3 2014? Are there any games that you’d like me to check out on your behalf? Is there an aspect of the console war that you’d like me to keep tabs on? Is there an executive you’d like me to throw a drink at? Share your E3 2014 hopes, wishes, dreams, and requests in the comments section (please!).

Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg Team Up For Console Wars Movie

In addition to working on the nerdily anticipated Preacher TV show for AMC, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg are teaming up for a movie based on Blake Harris’ Console Wars book. Rogen and Goldberg will be directing and writing the movie. The book’s subtitle is “Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation,” so as you can imagine, the Console Wars movie will cover that chapter in the never-ending saga known as Robotech The Console Wars.

Console Wars focuses on former Sega of America CEO Tom Kalinske. Known for his brash and aggressive moves, Kalinske helped Sega thrive from 1990 to 1994. At the time, it was unusual for a Westerner to have such a prominent role in a business that revolved around Japan. Of course he also contributed to Sega’s demise with the mishandling of the Saturn console (1995-1996). It will be interesting to see how the book is adapted and what portions of videogame history will be covered.

Here’s a clip from the press release:

Sony Pictures and Scott Rudin (Moneyball, The Social Network) are developing Console Wars as a feature film to be directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (Knocked Up, Superbad). Rogen and Goldberg are also writing the screenplay. Harris is serving as Executive Producer, and is also co-directing a documentary on the same subject, with Rudin, Rogen and Goldberg producing as well.

Of course I’m excited for the Console Wars movie. The subject matter is near and dear to my heart. I’m also a big fan of the Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg duo. I’m sure they’ll treat the topic and the people involved with reverence. Those guys seem like nerds at heart.

How about you? Are you interested and excited for the Console Wars movie? Have any of you read the book? Kindly use the comments section for casting ideas.

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Microsoft Lists Xbox One Gold Features

Microsoft has posted a list of Xbox Live Gold features you can enjoy on the Xbox One for $60 a year. The expected features of online gaming and premium entertainment apps (i.e. Netflix) are extra. Features touted at the two Xbox One press conferences earlier this year also require Xbox Live Gold — NFL on Xbox, OneGuide, Game DVR, Skype, and SmartMatch are part of the premium service. Check out the nifty infographic above for a visual explanation.

Now that you have more information on what’s free and what’s not on Xbox One, has your opinion on PlayStation 4 vs. Xbox One changed? Do you feel that Microsoft is being to stingy with the features that it holds behind the Xbox Live Golden gate? Or do you think these features justify the cost of a premium subscription? Do you believe that the PlayStation 4 is a better value because it offers more features without a subscription? Feel free to have a console flame war in the comments section!

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Xbox 180: Microsoft Changes its Stance on Xbox One

In a major turnaround, Microsoft Interactive Entertainment Business president Don Mattrick announced that the company will not require an Internet check every 24 hours for Xbox One. Gamers will also be able to trade, gift, sell, and rent games freely. Here are the relevant bullet points from the announcement:

An internet connection will not be required to play offline Xbox One games — After a one-time system set-up with a new Xbox One, you can play any disc based game without ever connecting online again. There is no 24 hour connection requirement and you can take your Xbox One anywhere you want and play your games, just like on Xbox 360.

Trade-in, lend, resell, gift, and rent disc based games just like you do today — There will be no limitations to using and sharing games, it will work just as it does today on Xbox 360.

During the week of E3 2013, Microsoft was getting slammed by enthusiast gamers and the videogame press for the Xbox One’s Internet connection checks, DRM policies, $499 price, and heavy Kinect use. Sony highlighted Microsoft’s issues during its press conference and a series of viral videos. While some believe that Microsoft had no choice but to pull a 180, others are surprised by the quick reversal. While Microsoft had a horrendous PR week during E3, it’s nice to see that it’s making changes that will make gamers happy.

With all of that in mind, it’s poll time! Are you down with Xbox One now that some of the DRM silliness has been swept under the rug? Or are you still uninterested because of the price and Kinect integration? Kindly vote in the poll below when you have a chance and share your thoughts on the Xbox 180 in the comments section (please!).

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Today’s Poll: Do You Want a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One?

After a pair of reveal events, a pair of E3 2013 press conferences, and an evening to think about it all, I’m sure that you have a pretty good idea of what the Microsoft Xbox One and Sony PlayStation 4 have to offer. Which next-gen console do you want more? Kindly vote in today’s poll and, if you have time, explain your pick in the comments section.

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Coffee Talk #588: Scattered Thoughts on E3 2013 Day Zero

Yesterday I went to three E3 2013 press conferences: Microsoft, EA, and Sony. I watched some of Ubisoft’s with a few friends through streaming video, but quickly got bored (to be fair, I was pretty tired at the time). Here are some random thoughts on the day’s pressers…more

Welcome to Coffee Talk! Let’s start off the day by discussing whatever is on your (nerd chic) mind. Every morning I’ll kick off a discussion and I’m counting on you to participate in it. If you’re not feelin’ my topic, feel free to start a chat with your fellow readers and see where it takes you. Whether you’re talking about videogames, iOS 7, Ian Ziering working at Chippendales, or Tim Tebow signing with the New England Patriots, Coffee Talk is the place to do it.

Yesterday I went to three E3 2013 press conferences: Microsoft, EA, and Sony. I watched some of Ubisoft’s with a few friends through streaming video, but quickly got bored (to be fair, I was pretty tired at the time). Here are some random thoughts on the day’s pressers.

Sony Curb Stomps Microsoft: The biggest talk of the day was Sony giving Microsoft a major beatdown — at least in the eyes of hardcore gamers. Enthusiasts love that Sony isn’t following Microsoft’s strict stance on game licenses, allowing PS4 owners to sell, trade, and gift games as they see fit. Mainstream consumers will see the $100 difference in price points: $499 for Xbox One and $399 for PS4. To be fair, the Xbox One package comes with Kinect, which is required to use the system. The new PlayStation Eye will cost an extra $59, but isn’t required to use the PlayStation 4.

Still, the sentiment right after the Sony presser was one of disbelief. Some people couldn’t believe how thoroughly Sony one-upped Microsoft. Some couldn’t believe the manner in which the company did it, equating it with the beating in American History X, repeated curb stomps, and repeated kicks to the testicles. The words to used to describe Sony’s delivery were fascinating. Some thought it was funny, some thought it was arrogant, and others thought it lacked class. No matter what they thought of the delivery, almost everyone agreed that Sony had a point and shoved it in the competition’s face.

Microsoft hosted a party shortly after the Sony presser was over. Several joked that the party should have been reclassified as a wake.

The Rape Joke: Blogs, forums, and social media services blew up over some trash talk used during the Killer Instinct portion of the Microsoft presser. A guy was trouncing a girl in the game and said, “Just let it happen. It’ll be over soon.” Several people labeled the comment a “rape joke” and lambasted Microsoft for using misogynistic comments in its press conference. I really want to hear your take on the matter.

Rape didn’t come to my mind at all. At first I thought of Muhammad Ali using similar lines against his opponents. Then I thought of an Ultimate Spider-Man arc that had Spidey and Wolverine switching bodies. When Spidey (in Wolverine’s body) got shot in the head, he panicked. Wolverine (as Peter Parker) pulled out the bullet and said, “Relax. Let it happen.” I had no idea that phrase was a rape reference and didn’t think of it as a rape joke. However, I want to check myself. There’s a good chance that I’m ignorant of the connotation because I’m older, a boxing fan, and a comic-book nerd. Did you guys and gals think anything was wrong with comment?

My Indie Darlings: While there were a lot of big-budget games to get excited about, two of the ones I’m amped for are smaller games from independent developers. I was delighted that Capybara Games’ Below was featured at the Xbox One presser and Supergiant Games’ Transistor was featured at the PlayStation 4 presser. I’m a huge fan of these independent developers. Capy is known for the lovely Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP, while Supergiant Games created the fantastic Bastion.

I know that most of you aren’t nearly into indie games as I am and that journalists are often accused of overrating indies (though I’m a verbal entertainer, so I’m not sure that I count), but I’ve noticed that independent games have been catching my eye at these shows. At the last few E3s, I recall being enamored with JourneySound Shapes, and The Unfinished Swan. Perhaps it’s because I’ve covered and played so many big-budget games; maybe I find indie games refreshing? I’d like to think that I genuinely love these games, but as a philosophy major, I have to question the pattern.

Do you guys and gals pay any attention to the indies? Or is it all about the major releases for you at E3?

The Big Boys: Respawn Entertainment’s Titanfall got the most buzz according to the incredibly inaccurate survey I took (i.e. chatting with industry friends). A lot of people were high on Bungie’s Destiny. At the EA presser, the teasers for Mirror’s Edge 2 and Star Wars: Battlefront were met with joyous reactions. While I was psyched to see Kyrie Irving during the NBA Live demo, my inner 12-year old keep chucking at the repeated use of the phrase “ball handling.”

Games shown today that excited me include Dragon Age 3inFamous: Second SonKnackUFCCrimson DragonKingdom Hearts III, and Final Fantasy XV.

While most of my pals are certain that Watch Dogs will be a quality game, they’re starting to lose interest in it. It never clicked with me and I still don’t see what’s so amazing about the game.

Of course all of this stuff played differently to the people that watched the press conferences at home and/or read about them. What games shown at yesterday’s pressers have you jazzed?

Onto Day One: Tomorrow should be a light day and heavy night for me. I have one important meeting (at the Hooters across the street from the convention center) and will use the rest of my time to play stuff that I care about (journalists rarely get to do this, which is another advantage of being a verbal entertainer). The evening will be the outstanding Wedbush party (my favorite E3 party, affectionately called Pachter-palooza) followed by a Bethesda shindig. If there’s anything you want me to check out, please let me know in the comments section.