Here’s a chat I had with Bonnie Ross, corporate vice president at Microsoft and head of 343 Industries. The piece was for the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences to promote Bonnie Ross’ upcoming talk at DICE 2017. She’ll be heading up a session called “Stewards of a Sci-Fi Universe.” The talk will cover how game creators and their communities can work together to preserve cherished sci-fi properties.
As Bonnie Ross is a huge fan of Star Trek, I was curious to hear her thoughts on how to work with longtime fans of a franchise that have…strong feelings about new takes on the property. While I love the new Star Trek movies, I know many longtime fans that loathe them. Here’s what she had to say.
At BlizzCon 2016, Blizzard announced that the original Diablo will be recreated in Diablo 3. The original game is considered a classic — one of the most popular, critically acclaimed, and influential role-playing games of all time. It’s fantastic that 20 years after its release, Diablo will get to be enjoyed and appreciated by a whole new generation of gamers. For those that were around for the original, the reimagined version is certain to be a glorious stroll down memory lane. Whether you’re a veteran of the series or a newcomer, this is a fitting tribute to a legendary game.
Here’s some of what Blizzard has promised for the upcoming remake.
Once one of the biggest franchises in videogames, Activision’s Guitar Hero series has been dormant since 2010. That’s going to change on October 20, 2015 with the release of Guitar Hero Live. With a reimagined guitar controller, a revamped visual style, and an all-new GHTV mode, Activision hopes that Guitar Hero Live will appeal to a new generation of gamers and longtime fans of the series.
The biggest and most obvious change to Guitar Hero Live is the controller. Instead of a single row of five buttons, the new controller features two rows of three buttons. In normal and harder difficulties, the new button arrangement is pleasantly challenging; you’ll often have to hit multiple buttons in multiple rows. For newcomers and those that enjoy music games but aren’t very good, the easier modes allow for single-row play.
It took me several songs to get used to the new controller and even then I didn’t have enough time with it. I enjoyed being challenged by the different permutations of button presses. The dual-row “chords” make the game more interesting and difficult (in a good way). While some claim that Guitar Hero Live approximates power chords, I disagree. The game is certainly more fun with the new controller, but still a far cry from playing an actual guitar. I don’t see that as a fault at all (go play Rocksmith for that) — just disagreeing with some game writers.
The first three Guitar Hero Live songs I played were a mess due to a combination of the new controller and songs I was completely unfamiliar with. I recall butchering a song by The Black Keys, murdering a Fallout Boy song, and demolishing two songs by two bands I never heard of (I fail at modern music, fyi). After getting accustomed to the new controller and switching to a different kiosk that had songs I knew, the game was easier. Part of it was simply spending time with the controller, while part of it was my deep love of Warrant and Faith No More.
Guitar Hero Live adds some significant visual changes too. Instead of cartoon-like graphics, the game uses live concert footage from the perspective of the guitar player. You’ll see your bandmates and the crowd as you play. The visuals change depending on your performance. I’ve never paid too much attention to the graphics in previous Guitar Hero games and the new graphics were mostly lost on me in the bit of Guitar Hero Live I played. I’m so focused on the notes that I block out most of the visuals. That said, it was cool to watch other people play and there are plenty of gamers that watch the whole screen while they play music games.
In addition to the main “Live” mode, Guitar Hero Live features GHTV mode. This mode features different channels of music, allowing constant access to a variety of new songs and different genres. Songs in GHTV mode feature music videos from the associated acts, as opposed to concert footage in Live mode. While you can play along with a GHTV song as it’s streaming, replays require a microtransaction purchase. It’s an interesting approach compared to traditional scheduled downloads, but I’m not sold on it just yet. I need to experience GHTV when it’s full functional and accessible to millions of players before making any judgements.
If you’re interested in the developer of Guitar Hero Live (and I hope you’re interested in all creators of the games you play) then check out FreeStyleGames. Acquired by Activision in 2008, the company has experience with music games, including B-Boy, DJ Hero, and Sing Party.
For the most part, I enjoyed the brief time I spent playing Guitar Hero Live and am excited to play more. Part of it is that I haven’t touched a music game in years and part of it is because the new controller is lots of fun. I’m confident that fans of the old Guitar Hero games will enjoy Guitar Hero Live and curious to see if it will appeal to younger games (i.e. those pesky Snapchat kids).
Guitar Hero Live will be available on October 20, 2015 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Wii U, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360.
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).
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’sWattam. 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.
Millions of Square Enix fans were dazzled by the Final Fantasy XV trailer shown at Tokyo Game Show (TGS) 2014 (embedded below). Many longtime fans of the series were disappointed in the last few FF games and believe that Final Fantasy XV will return the franchise to glory. Gamers loved the brilliant graphics and modern gameplay shown in the TGS 2014 trailer, so it’s easy to understand why so many people are excited. I’m quite excited for Final Fantasy XV too, but for a different reason — Hajime Tabata.
Mr. Tabata was the director of Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII. As I mentioned in Coffee Talk #286, Crisis Core was the last game I loved. The storytelling, gameplay, graphics, and music delighted me completely. For the type of videogame experience I adore, Crisis Core was just about perfect. When Mr. Tabata was installed as the new director of Final Fantasy XV roughly two years ago, my interest in the game went from “excited” to “OMG can’t wait!!!” With all due respect to former FFXV director Tetsuya Nomura, who has had a legendary videogame career himself, I’m way more excited about a Final Fantasy game with Mr. Tabata in charge.
There are other incredibly talented people working on Final Fantasy XV too. Kazushige Nojima is the game’s main writer. His scenario credits include Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy VIII, Final Fantasy X, Final Fantasy X-2, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, and Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII. Composer Yoko Shimomura is writing the game’s music. Her awesome tracks can be heard in Street Fighter II, numerous Kingdom Hearts games, several Mario & Luigi titles, and more. I’m hoping that all these talented people come together to form an unforgettable videogame.
While I enjoyed the Final Fantasy XIII games more than most, they certainly didn’t entertain me as much as FFX, FFVI, FFV, FIV, and FFVII (probably in that order). Loads of gamers have blasted the FFXIII games, going as far as saying that the titles tarnished the series’ reputation. Many of these gamers loved what they saw in the TGS 2014 trailer and are dreaming about Final Fantasy XV reestablishing the franchise as the king of RPGs. As for me, I’m just dreaming about a Tabata-directed Final Fantasy game. Hopefully it won’t turn out like Final Fantasy XII; originally directed by one of my all-time favorite developers — Yasumi Matsuno — the game’s creation was a disaster and the end product…wasn’t the best.
Anyway, check out the Final Fantasy XV trailer below and let me know what you think. Do you like what you see? Do you think the game will be a triumphant return for the series? Leave a comment and let me know (please!).
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, cherishing Derek Jeter’s last days as a professional baseball player, your favorite Fappening photos, or being threatened with “swatting,” Coffee Talk is the place to do it.
If you’re looking for an old-school hardcore platformer then you should definitely check out Fenix Rage. The game is being developed by Green Lava Studios and published by Reverb Triple XP. Fenix Rage is a relentlessly difficult platform game that’s extremely addictive and has lots of replay value. Some gamers that have watched videos of the game believe that it’s the next Super Meat Boy.
Check out the interview above with Reverb Triple XP executive producer Ted Lange. He provides copious details on Fenix Rage. For additional info on the game, be sure to check out the Fenix Rage coverage on PaulSemel.com.
A nifty side note about the game — some of its character and level designs were influenced by SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron. I totally forgot about that cartoon until Ted mentioned it. Good times.
Fenix Rage will hit Steam and other PC digital distribution platforms on September 24, 2014. The game will hit the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles in early 2015.
Now that we’ve all had a few days to absorb the multimedia assault that was E3 2014, let’s talk about the show! I was working for two outlets during E3 2014, so my schedule was all over the place. I did see a lot of great games, but it’s likely that you guys and gals were exposed to more from reading various articles and watching different videos. The thing that surprised me the most about E3 2014 was that there were a lot of mainstream games that excited me. For the last couple of years, independent games like Journey, Sound Shapes, and The Unfinished Swan were my big favorites. While I certainly enjoyed several indie games at E3 2014, there were a lot of mainstream games I had a blast with too. Here are some random thoughts on the show…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, the start of the 2014 World Cup, getting into a car accident on the way to The Vape Summit, or said accident crushing your coverage plans, Coffee Talk is the place to do it.
Now that we’ve all had a few days to absorb the multimedia assault that was E3 2014, let’s talk about the show! I was working for two outlets during E3 2014, so my schedule was all over the place. I did see a lot of great games, but it’s likely that you guys and gals were exposed to more from reading various articles and watching different videos. The thing that surprised me the most about E3 2014 was that there were a lot of mainstream games that excited me. For the last couple of years, independent games like Journey, Sound Shapes, and The Unfinished Swan were my big favorites. While I certainly enjoyed several indie games at E3 2014, there were a lot of mainstream games I had a blast with too. Here are some random thoughts on the show.
Nintendo Ruled — The Nintendo booth is usually the happiest place at any E3, but this year it was my happy place. I absolutely loved Yoshi’s Wooly World, Kirby and the Rainbow Curse, and Super Smash Bros. 4. Although I kept calling it Zelda Samurai Warriors, I had more fun than I expected to with Hyrule Warriors. Kicking ass with Zelda was extremely satisfying. I knew nothing about Splatoon going into E3 2014, but it was great fun as well. At the end of the day, Yoshi’s Wooly World was my favorite game of E3 2014.
Nintendo’s E3 2014 lineup was so well received that many people said things to me like, “I’m totally getting a Wii U now!” and, “Sweet! I’m really looking forward to dusting off my Wii U!”
On a side note, I pitched a high-ranking Nintendo of America exec on using Cat Stevens’ “Wild World” to market Yoshi’s Wooly World. Can’t you hear the commercial?!? “Oh baby baby, it’s a Wooly World.” That totally works…in my head, anyway.
Because I’m Batman: Rocksteady Studios’ first couple of Arkham games took Batman (and really, all superhero games) to new heights. I have a strong feeling that Batman: Arkham Knight will be the best yet. The demo had several elements from the previous games that I loved, plus some all-new Batmobile gameplay. The Batmobile stuff was so much fun that I can see myself enjoying that aspect of the game for hours and being completely satisfied. While I was disappointed that Batman: Arkham Knight got pushed to 2015, the E3 2014 demo showed a game that’s absolutely worth waiting for.
Indie Love: Naturally, there were several indie games that I ended up loving. Some pals from Sony instructed me to play Hohokum and I’m so glad that they did. This exploration/puzzle game is so aurally and visually pleasing that it’s easy to forget about the game’s goals while you’re soaking up the lovely sights and sounds. The game’s soundtrack is by Ghostly International and features several tracks by Tycho. Hohokum just made me happy every time I played it and the same thing happened to everyone that I dragged over to spend time with the game. This was probably my second-favorite game of E3 2014, so thanks Nate and Zach for making me check it out!
Meanwhile, at the Microsoft booth, my buddy Charla instructed me to check out Lifeless Planet at the ID@Xbox area. Another exploration/puzzle game, I was really struck by the sights and sounds of this one too, but in a very different way from Hohokum. While Hohokum is all about making you feel happy, Lifeless Planet is all about creating a sense of isolation as you explore a desolate world. The game’s graphics and sounds do a fantastic job at creating a sense of foreboding solitude. I definitely want to see more of this one…but in a brightly lit living room so as not to wig out.
Lastly, Galak-Z is an old-school sci-fi shooter that blends elements of classic anime and shooting games. It’s fun to play and watch other people play. If you’re into masochistic shooters that delight you with difficulty then you’ll definitely want to check out Galak-Z. I fully expect this game to be a darling among videogame journalists.
Les Unite: Several of you feel that Assassin’s Creed 2 was the pinnacle of the series and the games have been going (slightly) downhill ever since. I’m totally with you on that, so I was cautiously optimistic after being delighted by the Assassin’s Creed Unity trailer. After seeing the demo, half of me feels that Unity will be the Assassin’s Creed game that many AC2 fans are crying for. The other, more cynical half of me fears that Ubisoft whipped up an outstanding trailer and demo. Still, let’s be optimistic here and (cautiously) hope that Assassin’s Creed Unity ends up being the game that many longtime AC fans want.
Your Turn: Naturally, I want to hear how E3 2014 played in your head. What did you love? What did you hate? Any games surprise you? Any games disappoint you? As excited as I was to be at the show, I’m more excited to hear your thoughts on E3 2014, so fire away in the comments section (please)!
Microsoft’s Larry the Marketing Guy (aka Major Nelson) hosted a video walkthrough of the Friends App for Xbox One. Social interactions on Xbox One are quite different from how they work on Xbox 360, with loads of new and potentially exciting features. The Friends App takes Xbox social interactions to new heights. Learn more about the Friends App for Xbox One and see it in action by watching the video below. When you’re done with that, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.
Are you excited to give the Friends App a whirl? Or does it look like something that will bother you? Or do you need to see more or try it out yourself before you can form an opinion? Shout it out in the comments section (please!).
Activision has posted a multiplayer trailer for Call of Duty: Ghosts. I’m looking forward to the game, but honestly, I’m more into the Skylanders franchise these days. However, I know that several of you RPadholics are into the franchise, so kindly check out the video below and let me know what you think.
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!