The Xbox 180

Some weeks ago, I posted a little about the Xbox One with my admitted bias towards Sony and PlayStation. Since then, E3 has happened along with a flurry of public backlash against the policies Microsoft wanted to impose, namely a required 24-hour check-in online and how used disc-based games would be handled.

During that time, there was a campaign started at the NeoGAF forums to make voices heard with regards to the whole matter in convincing Sony not to follow in Microsoft’s footsteps. Some action was done towards Microsoft as well, but after E3, their minds did not appear swayed. This was not all just NeoGAF though much of what they did focused on Twitter trending and contacting gaming media about the movement. Some voiced out against people wanting their voices heard – either it was a wasted effort or one could be sure that Sony would do the same. The opposite happened. Sony had quite the presentation at E3 explaining how they were not doing what Microsoft was doing. It led to tremendous applause and general buzz online. They made a simple video of how to share PS4 games showing two of their executives exchanging the disc by hand, and it went viral with millions of views.

Today, Microsoft announced a backpedal on the very policies gamers were so vocally against: the 24-hour check in will be gone, and you can buy/sell/trade disc-based games the same way you can on the Xbox 360 (and PS3/PS4 for that matter). In other words, the efforts were not wasted. Sony did not assuredly follow due to publisher pressure or anything of the sort.

Some things can be learned from the whole process: Complaining can work when done right – customer feedback is valued (truth be told, the company I work for, unrelated to all this video game stuff, is all about that in fact). Working together for a cause, however simple, can work. Sometimes people will indeed see through the BS presented. My favorite is probably that telling people to do nothing because nothing can be done when something can be done makes you wrong and appear foolish.

My main complaint on the console still rings true, the always-on Kinect, but it’s not like I was going to buy one anytime in the near future (or probably ever if this remains true). I actually found the course of events very amusing, but it’s good to see results from a worthy effort on the matter.

Thoughts on Xbox One

What a train wreck.

That being said, I should note a few things. I have long disliked, near hated, the Xbox 360, largely out of jealousy and frustration that stems from the previous “console war.” The domino of lost exclusives while watching many people buy a product knowing that it had a 33% failure rate while also watching game quality deteriorate as a result of multi-platform development left a bad taste in my mouth. And that green-ick! But mainly it was how the 360 impacted PS3 games that I resented it. Games from certain franchises I liked took longer to be released and then weren’t as good as their predecessors to boot. After several years with the dust settling from such things, I have considered buying a 360 for a few particular games, but the resentment still exists nonetheless.

So, I’m making my bias known and admitted in this post.

Having watched how things unfolded for Sony and the PlayStation 3 between 2005 and 2008, it’s truly astonishing to see what’s happening with the Xbox One now. I will also admit, I didn’t actually watch the conference and the following is based on a number of pieces of info I’ve gathered from visiting the NeoGAF forum.

There’s a lot of unknown factors yet to be finalized and announced, so I’ll go over the points that bother me most. Most of what I read is particularly bothered by the unknown impact on used games. My main concern there is that from what is reported so far I can’t do something that I did at least once this past generation with the PS3 and would probably do if I were more active and sociable gamer: loan a game disc to a friend. See, based on what is reported so far, I would have to login to my profile on my friend’s machine so they could play the game, but if they want to play it on their own profile, then they have to pay a fee, and not like a small fee either but basically the price of the game. As for trading and/or reselling, there’s not enough known yet but based on the previous example and some other factors I’ll describe next, I am pessimistic as to what that system will end up being.

So, here’s a laugh:
Q: Does Xbox One require an “always on” Internet connection?
A: No, it does not have to be always connected, but Xbox One does require a connection to the Internet.

Internet required but not always, just…well, reportedly from one of Microsoft’s executives, 24 hours. But then MS continues to say that they’re still working out the details.

Truthfully, what bothers me most based on what I’ve read is that the Kinect that is boxed with every unit is [i]always[/i] on. There are assurances from Microsoft that there will be privacy options (if you so choose), but how about we have that option by just being able to, I don’t know, turn it off? I simply don’t trust them that these options will suffice.

Another thing I don’t like, petty as it is, is the name. Xbox [i]One[/i]? The idea is that you have an all-in-one entertainment device except that a lot of the functionality touted already exists in multiple devices, such as a PS3 or Xbox 360. It suggests the same kind of backwards thinking represented in the whole console’s reveal (now you have a box to watch TV on your TV that requires a cable subscription you’re already paying!).

I have the luxury of already disliking Microsoft’s console efforts, meaning I’m not particularly attached to any Xbox exclusive games, so the mantra of “just wait for E3” to learn about whatever new games are coming isn’t very convincing. I wasn’t planning on buying one (at least not at launch), but MS has made a very compelling case for not buying one ever.

Will the North American market (since the rest of the world is not likely interested at this point) still be as welcoming to MS despite all its faults when this new console hits? Maybe, though I still hope not. They’re really going to have to justify buying a whole new machine that does a lot of things people are already capable of doing with other advice. I do believe that a success in this invasive approach would be bad for the industry, especially consumer side.

I’m probably forgetting something, but that’s all I’m thinking of now.

My Gaming in 2012

Well, in 2012, I played a lot, by my standards, for the first few months of the year. Most years, I play around 6 games and had reached 3 by early February. If one counted the Jak HD collection as the 3 games it contains, I had reached 6 not long after that. It’s a good thing I blogged my progress because I could easily forget a lot of the other earlier stuff.

It started with Portal 2 in January, a game that was released in 2011. I had not played Portal 1 but knew of it. Both Portal games are first-person perspective with a portal gun that you use to resolve puzzles. And both have a good dose of humor along the way. You play as Chell, and she never speaks or reveals anything about herself. Where it shines is in the characters of GLaDOS, Wheatley, and let’s not forget Cave Johnson, a recorded voice telling us that when life gives you lemons to demand to speak to life’s manager. The puzzles themselves present interesting and worthwhile challenges. I probably looked up some help but tried to minimize it.

Presumably in February, based off my blog posts, I played Portal 1 as well. I still haven’t technically beaten it though I am on the last part. The first game is mainly you and GLaDOS and obviously none of the added characters or mechanics from Portal 2.

In February, I also played Soul Calibur 5. Having previously been disappointed with Soul Calibur 4, I mainly played it, like many other games in 2012, because I had easy access thanks to my husband. Due to past experience, I limit my hype and expectations when it comes to video games, and this was no exception. I like to explore the single-player options in fighting games despite them being competitive since that is where I tend to find characters that I like.

However, SC5’s story mode was horrible. Many know of my criticisms for the Tekken 6 story mode, and SC5 surprisingly went the route of somehow taking a concept that was already bad and making it worse. You do not get to pick your character, and good luck seeing if your favorite or some half of the cast even makes so much as a cameo. Too much focus on two new characters AGAIN. At least it was still the core gameplay.

On the one hand, there seemed to be notable additions to what you could do for creating characters, yet on the other, even with black-feathered wings, and DLC Jin clothing, you still cannot make Jin or Devil Jin because of no similar hair option. Oh, and how about removing Talim and Zasalamel while giving us TWO versions of the two characters already clogging up the story mode?! Yeah, that sucked. There is some fun to be had with this game, but all these other things were glaringly bad and annoying.

February also saw the release of the Jak HD collection. Now I’m not as vocal about my fondness for Jak 2 and Jak 3 as say Tekken 5, but they are among my favorite games. I was very happy and actually kind of excited-enough that I bought it Day 1 (which I tend to not do anymore). I had never bothered playing the first Jak game, but hey, trophies, that gives me an excuse. It was alright, but I still like 2 and 3 better. It’s my own fault, but some of my enjoyment was dampered a little with trying to platinum all 3 games, especially Jak 2. Jak 2 is hard. Not only is it hard but getting all 286 precursor orbs is REALLY hard. So hard in fact, that I used a glitch, especially once I realized that I had NEVER gotten 286 before. I had only ever reached the 200 necessary for earning Hero Mode. And then for Jak 3, somehow, somewhere (under a bridge in the port), I had missed ONE orb and started up a new game just to help me track where I had missed it! All that aside, they looked great, Jak 3 especially during a sequence where you glide in the sky, and played great too.

In April or May, I picked up Street Fighter x Tekken. This game’s release fascinated me because it was almost kind of scandalous the things that Capcom tried to pull with DLC in placing 12 locked characters on the disc and pre-order gems that would have an advantageous impact on competitive play online, as far as I know. I don’t play online or competitively so am basing that more off what I read. Regardless, I find it dumb and wrong to encourage paying to cheat in a competitive game. Anyway, I didn’t buy it for any of that but because it had Jin, one of my favorite characters ever, and my most hated character ever was happily locked away, so I never had to see his ugly face either. I got my Jin cut scene and I think Asuka/Lili as well but didn’t really find the rest of the game compelling enough to keep going. With no gallery and a general lack of favorite characters, I stopped there.

Around April, I finally got with the times and bought a smartphone. It was around this time that Draw Something was the popular game, so I checked it out. A bit of a fad, now looking back, but I had good fun with strangers and friends alike.

I am not sure which month I started, but my blog posts for FF13-2 start in June. This game was so…annoying. I still played it and made the most of it. I found some enjoyment through enhancing my monsters, making an especially strong Behemoth, but still…I wrote when I started that it was the worst FF I had played, and that opinion has not changed. Improvements were made over FF13, such as not being as linear and being able to change a party leader, but other things were taken away. Serah and Noel are okay but hardly favorites, and the party member options were very limited given that it was those two and a monster. A guest might appear but not for long and with little to no control. Worst of all was the ending. It felt like a slap in the face and gigantic nonsensical waste of time. Thankfully, there were alternate endings. If that crappy main ending was supposed to get me excited for the next game, it had the opposite effect as I have no faith in the team working on this story after that. Tekken 6 is still the game that makes me the most angry so far as a number of factors go, but FF13-2 is probably the angriest I’ve been at an ending.

In September, Tekken Tag Tournament 2 was released. After T6, my future fandom with the series was questionable and as others would ask me if I were hyped for TTT2, my answer would always be no. One person in fact seemed particularly bothered by such a response, but something to understand about me and Tekken is that even supposing T6 had not sucked, my being hyped for TTT2 would be a stretch because it isn’t canon, and presumably any type of cut scenes of interest would be either short and/or of little relevance. So far as Jin was concerned, that was completely true. I went ahead and spoiled his endings and decided the game could wait as that was more or less my “make or break” for a purchase. Well, my hubby picked it up of his own accord, so I played it in later September all the same. When asked if I “liked” it, I say I do with hesitance. See, so far as I’m concerned, anything with the worst character ever is better off dying in a fire but given WHY I complain about this character was mostly rectified (aside from his general existence), I did what I could to avoid him and enjoy the rest. It’s certainly better than T6, but I regard T6 as a steaming pile of crap, meaning the bar isn’t very high. All the same, there is no Scenario Campaign, which was my biggest issue with T6. Not a whole lot to rave about regarding Jin’s scenes given the best ending with him in it was in my opinion Hwoarang’s not either of Jin’s own endings. My favorite options for Alisa’s customization were taken away, and nothing all that good replaced them.

In December, I had an itch to play something but what? I didn’t know. I have no shortage of options thanks to my husband. At first, I settled for a small free game he had picked up through PlayStation Plus called Rock of Ages. You work your way through the ages using a giant boulder to roll through and do some damage against an enemy gate. It’s humorous and interesting, but I stopped after about 3 rounds upon realizing the money doesn’t really collect as you progress so each attempt is a self-contained challenge. Maybe I’ll go back, maybe I won’t, but I haven’t yet.

Finally, I decided to try something very different for me: Mass Effect. I don’t like shooters, either first-person or third-person, but I do like certain characters and had observed some of interest when my husband played ME2 and ME3. Given that, now that I can start from the beginning on the PS3, I have done exactly that. It hasn’t really changed my opinion on shooting, but I found it interesting and addictive for other reasons. I mainly liked how much I could replay it.

I always make an arbitrary and hesitant list because well…people like lists. Forever subject to change upon further reflection, here’s what we got as of this typing:

1. Portal 2
2. Mass Effect
3. Jak HD Collection
4. Portal
5. Tekken Tag Tournament 2
6. Soul Calibur 5
7. Draw Something
8. Street Fighter x Tekken
9. Rock of Ages
10. Final Fantasy XIII-2

I’m hoping to work on a video version of this post this weekend.