Archive for the ‘Opinion Piece’ Category

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by Paul Tassi via Forbes

The rivalry between Xbox One and PS4 Destiny players is years old at this point, with the Sony version of the game always ending up with more content thanks to a never-ending deal with Activision. Continuing into Destiny 2, this really works against both groups, seeing that things like a PS4-exclusive sniper rifle can never be sold by Xur, or a PS4-exclusive strike can never be the Nightfall, yet that’s not enough of an issue for this partnership to be dissolved.

I finally got fed up with missing content on Xbox One, so for Destiny 2 I switched over to PS4, which always happens to be where most of the playerbase resides, given the console’s massive marketshare. It’s been…fine. I haven’t really noticed a difference because once you have all those missing items, you just view them as part of the game, not some special bonus. This is opposed to just being sad about not having X thing on Xbox, which is a hallmark of a deal that really does nothing except upset half your playerbase.

But I won’t lay into this deal for the 50th time. Rather, this is about another issue, one that gives Xbox One players the upper hand for the first time in Destiny’s history.

They can actually play the damn game.

I’m not joking. Destiny 2 on PS4 is reaching a point where playing it is more exhausting than it’s worth because of one error specifically. I cannot reach the Tower without a maddening series of glitches, crashes and restarts.

Yesterday, over the course of about two hours, I desperately tried to reach the Tower to decrypt engrams and turn in faction tokens for Faction Rally to try and secure the last few pieces of armor I’m missing.

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What followed was a comedy of errors. Either my ship would get stuck in an infinite loading loop, floating above earth or trapped in an endless tunnel of light and color, never reaching its destination even if it sat there for 5, 10, 20 minutes. Or if I was lucky, the game would just crash outright right away, at least sparing the sense of false hope that I might actually reach the Tower.

I ended up having to go to the Farm (the Farm!) for the first time since the story campaign. There I could load in just fine, and seeing how there were about 20 other level 20 people there, I assume this is a common workaround. But while you can support the lesser-known Cryptarch that lives there by having her decrypt your engrams, you still need to access to the Tower to reach all three Vanguard vendors, the Gunsmith, and most pressingly this week, all three Faction vendors.

I would say I was able to reach the Tower maybe one out of every three to five attempts yesterday. This is not just some minor error. Every time the game crashes or you get stuck in a loading loop, you have to restart Destiny 2, load the title screen, load the character selection, load to your ship, and set the destination again and hope it works this time. It is not a quick process, and by the fourth Tower failure in a row late in the day yesterday, I had to set down my controller and literally walk away from the game. This was just a waste of time.

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Bungie and Sony are aware of this issue, or at least some version of it. Previously, there was an error where every time you logged out of the game either manually or through inactivity, Destiny 2 would blue screen crash. That was fixed in a new patch, but now Bungie says they’re working with Sony to resolve this Tower crash, and hopefully the infinite loading loop as well, which is almost worse.

The common thread here? This is a Sony-exclusive error. Every time I complain about it online, I get a dozen Xbox One players saying they’ve never had a problem loading into the Tower since launch, followed by a bunch of jokes about how this is karma for me switching to the “enemy console.”

They’re right! I hate this. I really do. Destiny is already a time consuming game already, but wrestling with the basic functionality of going to the most important social hub of the game makes me want to stop playing until the issue is fixed. To me, it feels like it’s getting worse. I’ve had some Tower issues before this, but never what I experienced yesterday.

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I hope this is resolved soon, but until it is, Xbox One players, enjoy your temporary victory. Lord knows after all these years you deserve one.

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by Napier Lopez

The Oculus Rift sparked the virtual reality race, but so far, VR has mostly remained the realm of extreme enthusiasts and one-off gimmicks. Now Facebook is looking to achieve true mass market appeal with a standalone Oculus headset.

According to Bloomberg, Facebook is planning to unveil an Oculus headset later this year that relies on neither a cellphone (a la Google Cardboard or Gear VR) nor a powerful PC (like the Rift or Vive). The device – codenamed ‘Pacific’ – will be built by Xiaomi and cost around $200 when it ships next year.

The report isn’t particularly surprising. Mark Zuckerberg described standalone headsets as the VR “sweet spot” during last year’s Oculus conference, and basically confirmed one was in the works:

We don’t have a product to unveil at this time, however we can confirm we’re making several significant technology investments in the standalone VR category.

Going by Bloomberg’s description, Pacific will likely be similar to the Gear VR in overall function and capabilities. It shares a similar interface and can also be controlled with a wireless remote.

Despite the low price point (compared to buying a smartphone and the VR enclosure), the device is supposed to be lighter and more powerful (at least for gaming) than the current Gear VR options. It won’t include spatial tracking like the Rift at first, but that will arrive in a future version.

Oculus is also planning a headset that duplicates the functions of the Rift, but wirelessly. It would likely have a battery pack for powering the internal hardware, and beam data back and forth with your PC, as seen in some accessories for the Vive.

Standalone VR headsets are the logical end goal for VR. Though they won’t be as powerful as the ones requiring a PC, they’ll certainly be the most practical. Facebook envisions the Pacific as a headset that small and practical enough that people will be able to pull out it of their bag and use it to distract themselves during a flight.

It’s a future where you can teleport yourself to an IMAX theater during a boring seven-hour flight. That’s the world I want to live in.

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Sony can kill the Xbox One X

Posted: June 13, 2017 in Opinion Piece

 

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The war is going to be over price

by Ben Kuchera via Polygon

Microsoft had a decision to make: Did it want to price the Xbox One X at $499.99 and just say that it had the most powerful console without selling the system in great numbers, or did it want to release the system at $399.99 and get competitive with Sony when it comes to the actual hardware?

The Xbox One X will be $499.99, and that means Sony can go in for the killing blow tonight. That price is a mistake.

The PlayStation 4 Pro is $399.99 at the time of this writing, and Sony can increase the price difference by dropping it to either $349.99 or $299.99, if the company really wants to get nasty. Sony has a history of twisting the knife when Microsoft exposes a vulnerability, and dropping the price of its most powerful console to make the Xbox One X seem even more expensive than it does right now would be an effective strategy.

Sony wants to continue outselling the Xbox, and dropping the price of the PlayStation 4 Pro is an easy way to keep its lead. If there’s a $150 or more difference in price between the Pro and the Xbox One X, the more expensive system doesn’t stand much of a chance to sell in high numbers.

“I think that the price point is too high,” Wedbush Securities’ Michael Pachter stated. “Consoles have historically failed at this price point, and consumers seem unwilling to accept anything over $399. The X will have even more trouble, because the S is at $249 and so is the PS4. A consumer could buy both the S and the PS4 for the cost of an X, so it makes it a tough decision for anyone who is budget conscious or constrained. I think it will resonate well with the wealthy few who buy it, but I think it’s too expensive.”

You can argue that the Xbox One X is more powerful — and you’d be right! — but it’s tricky to show that difference to players who don’t have a 4K television. There’s no clear, instantly recognizable advantage the Xbox One X provides based on everything we’ve seen so far. Both systems increase the visual fidelity of existing games, and the Xbox One S even delivers a variety of 4K features at a much lower price. Raw power and stats are likely to prove less powerful in the market than price and value, and Microsoft is about to find out the hard way.

 Sony may be comfortable in its lead right now, but dropping the price of the PlayStation 4 Pro would be an amazing dunk on Microsoft.

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by Erik Kain

Paul Tassi is wrong. Again.

While he makes a compelling case for Destiny 2 on PS4, and while he’s certainly right to ditch the Xbox One, he’s still settling for second best. (Honestly, I’m surprised he didn’t jump the Xbox One ship sooner given the myriad reasons to play the original Destiny on PS4.)

Having played the game on both PS4 and PC, I can honestly say I prefer the latter in just about every single way imaginable. I’m excited to fire up the Blizzard App and see Destiny 2 side-by-side with Overwatch and Diablo III. 

Yes, the PC version of the game might be delayed. We don’t have a firm release date for the port just yet. It could come out the same day as PS4 and Xbox One (September 8th) or it could come out days, weeks or even months later.

That’s the only reason I can see playing on PS4, though, and even then only temporarily for the sake of our jobs as critics. Extra PS4 content is not a good enough reason to confine yourself to a gamepad when mouse and keyboard are so obviously superior in every way, at least for first-person shooters.

I think it’s a real shame that there’s any sort of exclusivity deal at all, to be honest. I’ve gone on at length before about how this is a mistake, and these kinds of deals are bad for games and gamers, but an extra strike and some extra crucible content out early for PS4 is just not enough for me to accept a subpar gamepad over mouse and keyboard.

I’ll likely play the game on PS4, too, right up until the PC version lands. In fact, if the PC version is released only shortly after the PS4 version I may skip consoles altogether. These games are an enormous time investment, and I’m not sure how much time I want to put into a character if I’m just going to jump ship for PC down the road.

So that’s my take. PC is the best place to play just about anything, and that includes Destiny 2.

All of this hinges on Bungie being able to control cheating on PC, of course. If cheating becomes a serious problem, I may have to eat my hat and go back to console. I hope that’s not the case, however. I don’t want filthy, no-good, rotten cheaters ruining the experience for the rest of us.

P.S. I forgot to mention the frame-rate difference. I meant to but I forgot. On PC gamers can expect 60 fps or higher, whereas consoles are locked at 30 fps. This makes a huge difference especially in an action shooter. There’s simply no comparison.

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by Dave Thier via Forbes

We’ll be hearing more about the Xbox Scorpio this week. Rumors were swirling around yesterday, but now we’ve got some confirmation. Microsoft and Digital Foundry will be revealing the more powerful follow-up to the Xbox One on Thursday, where we can expect to get some concrete details on a machine that’s only existed in theory so far. It’s a big moment for Microsoft, which is trying to get out from the shadow of both the PS4 and it’s own early missteps with the Xbox One. Here’s the relevant tweet:

To clear up the speculation: will have an exclusive Xbox Scorpio reveal on this Thursday at 2pm UK / 6am Pacific.

For those that don’t know: Digital Foundry is a vertical on Eurogamer that gets into the nitty gritty of how graphics work across consoles and PC. It’s where writers review new PC hardware, compare graphics and performance across platforms, evaluate patches, and so on. Your average user can usually get the thrust of an article, but it also goes much deeper than your typical game blog. It’s a deeply technical place, with a whole lot of information on offer for those capable of digesting it. I consider myself informed, or at the very least more informed than the average customer about graphics hardware and capabilities, but a given Digital Foundry article might be 50 percent incomprehensible to me.

In short, Digital Foundry is a place for video game gearheads on the Internet, and that makes Microsoft’s choice to reveal there a very clear signal. The company has talked a lot in the past about how this is the most powerful console ever made, how it’s going to be geared to the gamer that wants the best, how it’s meant to run circles around the somewhat underwhelming PS4 Pro, and more. If anyone in the mainstream gaming media is equipped to evaluate that statement, it’s Digital Foundry. We can expect a reveal that’s more or less entirely focused on raw hardware, with a stronger emphasis on games and exclusives to come at E3. There’s a certain degree of confidence implied, as if Microsoft is calling in expert witnesses to evaluate its claims.

It’s a striking difference from the reveal of the Xbox One, which many criticized for paying little more than lip-service to the fact that the machine was, you know, a video game console, choosing instead to focus on entertainment options. We all know how that went: a combination of early messaging missteps, a high price point and underpowered hardware handed the console war to Sony, which continues to dominate with the PS4 line. We’ve always expected the Xbox Scorpio to take a hard turn away from that fateful press conference for the sole reason that Phil Spencer and co. have no interest in making the same mistake twice, but a Digital Foundry reveal gives us a stronger indication of where they’ll be going instead.

I’m still wary of the whole concept in general, just like I am about the PS4 Pro. But we’ll wait for more evaluation until Thursday: stay tuned.

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by Gabe Gurwin via Digital Trends

Last September, Comcept Games’ ReCore launched on Xbox One and PC to poor reviews. While the game showed promise prior to release, the final game was simply not finished: Its narrative went nowhere, its enemy design was homogenous, and whole sections of the game seem to have been scraped together using whatever art was just lying around, so to speak. One of the robotic companions that protagonist Joule was supposed to befriend was left out of the game, even though he’s clearly visible on the game’s cover art. Though developers Comcept and Armature Studio plan to correct some of these issues via downloadable content later this year, it’s been six months since the game went on sale, and it is still broken.

So I was shocked to find that, though the game is still unfinished, the developer is planning to take another pass at selling the game. According to a German Rating Board, Microsoft plans to publish a “Definitive Edition” of ReCore, presumably later this year. Should it be published, the game will mark an incredible low-point for Microsoft. By elevating of one its worst games in recent memory, Microsoft is publicizing a moment when it failed to meet players’ expectations.

ReCore, which ends with a resounding “thud” and spends its latter half making players backtrack through nearly every area as a means of disguising its lack of meaningful gameplay, doesn’t need to be bolstered. It needs to be overhauled from the ground up. It doesn’t need DLC-style content that gives its story “context,” it needs a story. Its paper-thin narrative included in the game at the moment offers almost no incentive for its hero, Joule, or the player to trudge through its monotony. It doesn’t need a new coat of shiny paint. It needs foundational work to expand on what’s already there, not to mention systemic improvements to eliminate its odd checkpoint bugs and infuriating loading times.

These aren’t “extras” that fans should be paying a premium to receive. They are what we should expect of a video game, especially one with a AAA publisher, Microsoft, and created by legendary talents like Mega Man creator Keiji Inafune and Metroid Prime’s Mark Pacini.

Perhaps my anger is unwarranted. It’s rare, but not unheard of, for developers to add meaningful changes in a definitive re-release. Ori and the Blind Forest, another Microsoft-published game, added new areas, new mechanics, and new artwork. Should Microsoft choose to release the additional robot – the T8NK – and the previously unfinished area as free DLC before publishing Recore’s definitive re-release, it could at least show that there’s a commitment to improving the game, rather than merely reselling it.

Even if they do everything right, though, framing a new version of ReCore as the “definitive” edition suggests that the original game was somehow worthy of a re-release. It suggests that the game even remotely met the lofty expectations of players, who had been waiting years for a successor to the Metroid Prime series. The promise of “more ReCore” isn’t going to get fans excited. It will simply remind them of the game’s failed potential, and the hours they wasted as they dared to hope that the game might improve after launch.

Microsoft would be wise to put ReCore in the rearview mirror. It exemplifies everything the company has done wrong in recent years. It not only failed to match Xbox’s high publishing standards, but paled in comparison to the offerings from both PlayStation and third-party publishers. You can tweak and improve certain aspects of a bad video game after release, but without fundamentally changing how it was designed and removing the filler, it can only be improved so much. It takes more than a few words to make a bad game into something “definitive.”

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by Stephanie Pappas via Live Science

The zombie apocalypse won’t take long.

A new article in a peer-reviewed student journal finds that the zombie hordes would take Earth’s population down to a mere 273 survivors in 100 days.

The paper, published in the University of Leicester’s Journal of Physics Special Topics, was a fanciful use of the so-called SIR model, which is used in epidemiology to simulate how diseases spread over time. It’s not the first time zombies have been used as a public health metaphor. In December 2015, for example, the British medical journal The Lancet published a tongue-in-cheek paper titled “Zombie infections: epidemiology, treatment, and prevention.” And a viral blog post from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged zombie-apocalypse preparations as a a metaphor for real-life disaster preparedness.

In the new analysis, the University of Leicester undergraduates assumed that each zombie would have 90 percent success at finding and infecting one human per day — a rate that would make the zombie virus twice as contagious as the Black Death, the plague that devastated Europe in the 1300s. [Zombie Animals: 5 Real Cases of Body-Snatching]

The researchers further estimated that each zombie could live 20 days without braaaaaains.

Assuming a starting population of 7.5 billion people, approximately the world’s population today, the students calculated that it would take 20 days for a single zombie to start an epidemic of noticeable proportions. At that point, the pandemic would have begun. Assuming no geographic isolation, in fact, the human population would drop to 181 by day 100 of the epidemic, with 190 million zombies roaming around.

With some geographical isolation, the situation would be a tiny bit better for humans. Assuming the zombie virus had to spread through contiguous regions and that zombies were somewhat limited in their ability to travel (not leaving their current region until there were 100,000 zombies roaming there), human survivors would number 273 by day 100, the study found.

A more realistic model might assume that each zombie could find fewer human victims over time, the students wrote, because there would simply be fewer humans to find.

“We have also not included the possibility for the humans to kill the zombies,” they wrote.

But never fear: In a follow-up paper, the students did just that. They extended the zombie life span to one year in order to up the challenge a bit, but also gave each human a 10 percent chance of killing a zombie each day. They also accounted for human reproduction, assuming reproductive-age women would be able to have a baby once every three years.

These assumptions provided some hope for humanity. Under this model, the human population rapidly dropped off to a few hundred again. However, the zombies died off after 1,000 days, under this model; 10,000 days after the beginning of the epidemic, the human population would start to recover again, the students found.

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