The Calm before E³ 2012 – Crazy Prediction Time

April 11, 2012

Just got done re-watching last year´s Nintendo press conference, then decided to take a look at when I posted the previous prediction-blog entry and found out that I´m right on time. Anyway, yes, it´s “that time of the year” again! Gamers´ christmas is almost upon us, with less than two months away.  From June 5th to 7th, publisher from all around the world will once again show off what they´re going to deliver in the near and far away future of gaming. Strangely enough, this E3 2012 is an odd one for me, personally. I was hyped beyond belief last year, which lead to a little bit of a let down. Wii U and its tablet-controller were unveiled, but we didn´t get to see any real, exclusive games, just smallish mini-game prototypes. Meanwhile, this year´s E3 is bound to feature a total Wii U blow-out. Yet, for the first time in a long time I´m unsure if I´ll get the new console at launch. But more about that in the next paragraph. No matter my personal hype-levels, predicting stuff, mixing the likely and crazy, is always fun. So let´s begin the Flyingfisch´ predictions for E3 2012!

 Fanboy´s favorite: Nintendo

 As I just mentioned in the introduction above, I´m strangely unhyped about the Wii U-system. It´s been clear for a long time now  that Nintendo´s nextgen-console wouldn´t be up to par with the supposed specs of Xbox 720 and PlayStation 4. But when rumors went from 4-5 times a 360, to 2-3 times a 360, to “on par”, and, as of lately, not even being as powerful as a 360 in certain areas of its hardware – that´s a bitter pill to swallow. By no means would I consider myself a graphics whore. I never understood how any enthusiastic gamer could let his fun be dictated by hardware, instead of software. When console gamers were still happy with the PS2´s SD-visuals, I was enjoying higher resolutions and smoother, more detailed graphics on my PC. At the same time now, I have no problem having fun with Radiant Historia, a 2D-ish Nintendo DS-game that I´m playing via my 3DS´s backwards compatibility, when I was playing Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Assassin´s Creed: Brotherhood, as well as Gears of War 3 not too long ago. The heck, I even tried playing Zelda II: Link´s Adventure, though I stopped that. Not due to bad graphics, but because it´s too frustratingly hard for me – shut up, you! What it all comes down to: I have no problems with enjoying games from any technological point in time, as long as they´re simply that: great games.

However, there´s a limit to it all. For me that limit is launching a brand new nextgen-console in 2012 that´s not even clearly more powerful than a 2006 console in every area of its hardware. It´s got nothing to do with actual game graphics. For me, it becomes a matter of principles. As much as I love Nintendo, I *do not want* to day 1-support a video game system that´s that disappointing in terms of raw power. And it truly is a matter of principles. I wouldn´t complain if the Wii U was only insignificantly stronger than a 360 in some areas. But it is absolutely unacceptable for it to be weaker in parts. Absolutely unacceptable. I do realize that this might sound like an unreasonable, irrational rant, but that´s just my very personal stance on these matters. I´m truly annoyed by gamers that´d rather play hardware than software – but there´s a difference between going for the blue ocean or simply taking a yellow stream of piss. Of course, all of those hardware rumors are, well, rumors. So I guess the above is something preemptive in its entirety. Let´s hope it wasn´t justified.

 Now, on to happier topics: Games! The one Wii U-game I cannot imagine *not* to be at E3 2012 is Pikmin 3. In my mind, this has long been confirmed as one of the new system´s launch-titles. While being loved by the fan-crowd, the Pikmin-franchise isn´t Nintendo´s most powerful one, so putting it at launch would give it a nice boost. Also, I couldn´t imagine any more suited titles to show off the improved graphical capabilities, if only for HD. And aside from the visuals, there´s just a ton of ideas that the tablet-controller could be used for. Another title I´m looking forward to is RetroStudios´ nextgen-game. I really hope they´re working on a “hardcore” title with impressive graphics, and not being wasted on another 2D-platformer that could have been done by any of Nintendo´s many studios. In a perfect world, RetroStudios would be working on a western RPG (*cough* Raven Blade *cough*), giving birth to Nintendo´s answer to The Elder Scrolls and Dark Souls. More likely, though, they´re developing some kind of first-person shooter. Even so, I´m looking forward to seeing that shooter, because there´s really only two developers in the world that create shooters that go beyond the Call of Duty-archetype: Valve and RetroStudios. As for this year´s surprise franchise-revival, I´d like to see a new Startropics-game. I hardly know anything about the franchise, but I´ve been told that it´s something like Nintendo´s answer to Sony´s Uncharted-IP, so just like a RetroStudio-developed WRPG, stepping into the blockbuster action-market would make for another interesting move. Since I´m actually having trouble to come up with more first-party related predictions, here´s the one thing I want above all else: A first-party announcement that has the gaming world in awe, both from stunning visuals AND daring, revolutionary gameplay. For a faint, spontaneous idea, I´d like to see some kind of open world game set in a sky world. Yeah, something along the lines of Skyward Sword being done right …

There´s not much of interest to predict about third-party support for the Wii U. Basically, ports, ports, ports. Accompanied by some ridiculous excuses for why game XYZ won´t be released on the Wii U (“if we were to make game for Wii U, we feel like we´d have to make good use of the tablet-controller. Since game XYZ doesn´t do that, we´ll not release it on Wii U.” sigh). There´ll be Assassin´s Creed 3 and Darksiders 2. Maybe Resident Evil 6 and the new Call of Duty. But what will third-parties be offering beyond their multiplatform stuff? Well, there´s Ubisoft´s Killerfreaks, which looked surprisingly nice at last year´s E3. But you cannot shake of the feelings of this being another Red Steel-repeat, turning out to be some half-assed token-effort. Prove my doubts wrong, Ubisoft! Other than that … nothing. I totally expect Square Enix to announce Final Fantasy 13 Versus for other systems than just the PS3 (they´d deserve to go bankrupt if they keep it PS3-exclusive), but not at E3. That´s something for Tokyo Game Show. Same reason why I don´t expect a new Monolith Soft-title at E3. Generally speaking, though, I expect more Wii U-announcements from Japanese developers as the year proceeds, while the West keeps putting lazy ports on the new console.

The Nintendo 3DS is in a completely different situation. We already got announcements for Kingdom Hearts 3D and Theathrhythm, both being released in summer, with Mario Tennis Open coming next month already. Here´s hoping Monster Hunter 3G will be announced, featuring an added online-mode for European and American gamers. The latter half of the year will see Paper Mario and Fire Emblem: Awakening, and a new 2D-Mario platformer is heavily rumored to be shown. Beyond that, I´m hoping to get a first trailer for Super Smash Bros. 3D, with a release date for early 2013. Since it´d be dumb to release both the 3DS- and Wii U-version of the next Smash Bros. at the same time (at least, it´d be horrible for my personal sanity), spreading them out over at least a year makes sense. Sakurai hinted at the handheld-version being a more personal experience, while the console-version would set up the grand stage. So, I´m expecting Smash Bros. 3D to be announced at this year´s E3, missing an elaborate story-mode, but introducing new, exciting gameplay-mechanics and enough content to be happy anyways, while a Wii U-version will be released some time in 2014 for the Wii U – letting 3DS-gamers transfer their individually equipped handheld-characters to the console-version (yeah, Sakurai´s totally putting some Kid Icarus into Smash Bros!). The one franchise only I and like three other people in the world care about, is Endless Ocean/Forever Blue. This should look fantastic in 3D, with the diver hovering in front of the screen, fish popping out even farther and using the depth to present the … uhm, depths. And, of course, there will be Zelda. Between a brand new 3DS-Zelda, a Majora´s Mask-remake or a New The Legend of Zelda-game, anything is possible. We´ll get at least one of them.

On the third-party side of new announcements, I´ll keep firm and demand Final Fantasy 15 to be a 3DS-title. That´s not just a fanboy´s wish, though. I truly believe that the only way to get the Final Fantasy-franchise back on track is by shrinking down its *glamour*. Get rid of Dragon Ball-esque attacks, forget about those fancy cutscenes that suck away so much of the game´s budget. Concentrate on what made the Final Fantasy-franchise popular: Creating a great, fun game. Maybe that´s just me, but Bravely Default (which is hopefully announced for a western release at E3) looks so much more charming and interesting than Final Fantasy 13 could ever wish to be. You don´t need to spend 5 years+ on high end-graphics to make a fun Final Fantasy-title. And maybe it takes putting the franchise on a Nintendo-handheld to realize that. Aside from a MH3G localization, I´d like to see Resident Evil: Revelations 2, or whatever it´d be named. Sales in Japan were good, though only solid at best in the rest of the world. Still, the first Revelations-game received lots of praise and 3DS-gamers from all over the world would love to get another entry of the RE-series. And while PSVita-fans are heralding it as the savior for their system, I´d actually be interested in a proper 3DS-version of the next Call of Duty, supporting the Circle Pad Pro as well as a Touchscreen-aiming option. Not expecting much from western developers generally, though, they don´t like money, so supporting the 3DS would make no sense, amirite. More Japanese games to be seen at, again, Tokyo Game Show or Nintendo´s fall conference.

Now, the one big surprise besides the Wii U blow-out would be a 3DS-revision that so many gamers are clamoring for. Honestly, I have no idea what Nintendo could change about the current Nintendo 3DS-model to make a revision appear as hot as the DS lite did when compared to the DS phat back then. There a some people that think the 3DS is ugly, but I don´t see what you could drastically change about its looks. Personally, all I want is better battery life and maybe a slide pad with better grip. Just for “the lulz”, I´d love for a revision to still lack a second slide pad, just to spite the silly, annoying “I´m waiting for a revision with two slide pads“-crowd. Anyway, the reason why I´m speculating about a 3DS-revision in such a casual way is that I honestly couldn´t care less about it. In times where idiots (yes, I think an ad hominem is justified here) spend 600 Euro/Dollars on a new tablet *every* year, a new 500 Euro/Dollar smartphone *every* year and a 300 Euro/Dollar handheld that´s got nothing announced for the near and far away future, in times like these, I can very well justify spending a measly 150 Euro/Dollar on a 3DS-revision. I would have never thought that I´d ever think like that -I bought a DS phat at launch and kept using it until I got my 3DS-, but all the insanity and neglect of crazy expensive prices for luxury devices changed my mind on that. So, uhm, … thank you?

Microsoft´s effort machine

I gave away my Xbox 360 during last christmas, so I have no Microsoft-console at the moment. I also don´t have any plans to get a Xbox 720. Being multiplatform doesn´t make sense for my software-likings, so having a 3DS, a gaming-PC and maybe a Wii U will do the trick. However, it´s going to be interesting what Microsoft is gonna do with their nextgen-system, and more importantly, when they´re gonna do it. Are they rushing it out to avoid giving Nintendo too much of a headstart? Are they going all out in terms of power to go for the kill move against Sony? And what´s going to be their lineup? Exclusives haven´t been Microsofts stronghold, but can they really beat the competition without these incentives? The new Halo-game will be a nice good buy-gift for 360-gamers. Maybe it´s time for Kinect to go *hardcore*?

The Third Place: Sony

I´m (not) sorry, but i just don´t care.

Conclusion: 

Phew, I guess that´s that then. Dunno if you got the same feeling during reading the above text, but it seems kinda … boring, doesn´t it? Even assuming we´ll get all the stuff I predicted, it´s all great, promising stuff, but nothing too revolutionary (well, except for where I predicted a “daring, revolutionary” game), but consisting of sequels and known franchises. Especially for the Wii U, it remains to be seen if Nintendo can successfully manage to make their first HD-system feel fresh beyond upped resolution. E3 2012 would be a good place for revealing new incentives and directions for this stale growing industry. With that in mind, I´d like to conclude this year´s crazy prediction with the following words: Have a nice E3 and fuck you, Apple!


About “Café”´s Power

May 23, 2011

A new generation of home consoles is confirmed to be unveiled at this year´s E3. The Wii-successor, known as “Project Café”. There is a multitude of crazy rumors flying around, the most prominent being a built-in screen in every controller (which I believe was misinterpreted from those that reported it initially). But, of course, big part and big reason for a new generation of consoles is and has always been the jump in sheer processing power

 

The rumors about Café´s power go from “a little bit better than 360/PS3” all the way to “significantly more powerful (than the current HD-systems)”. Basically, will we face a repetition of the Wii-strategy, or are we going to relive a PS2-like situation? Both would put the Café in the third rank, compared to the expected power of Xbox 720/PS4, but the latter would enable Nintendo´s new system to enjoy long-lasting third party-support, while the former might give them superior versions of current gen-titles, and then suddenly support drops off like a cliff. Both is realistic, but I´m not going to talk about the likeliness of one over the other. I want to express how it just doesn´t matter. At all.

Right off the bat: The reason why I´m kinda tired of my 360 is not its visual shortcomings. I have a (still) modern gaming-PC that can run multiplatform-titles in higher resolution and with much more details than Microsoft´s system is capable of. Yet, I´d gladly play more often on my 360. The reason I don´t, is that there´s nothing of interest. To me, I will consciously add. There´s Mass Effect 3 that I´ll buy, so I can use my game saves from ME1 and ME2. And there´s Deus Ex: Human Revolution, though I might buy that for my PC instead. Other than that, nothing. And I´m not saying that there aren´t well-made, high quality games still coming out on the system. But only to me, they´re boring. They´re always the same. They´re … shooters.

People are waiting for a Halo: CE-remake. They´re waiting for Modern Warfare 3. For Gears of War 3. For GTA5 (which could turn out positively different, but …). But it´s not only shooters, sure. They´re also waiting for the cool MGS: Rising. For Dead Island. For Skyrim. For whatever. But even if you fail to see it: To me, these games appear oh so un-special. Maybe you can see what I mean when I put it like this: The reason why you are waiting for these games is because of their new setting, their new story, their gruesomeness, even. However, it is not because of they offer new in terms of gameplay. So it isn´t used in a too ominous way, let me explain what I mean by claiming such a seemingly bold thing. The two HD-console games that made me feel like I´m playing something that wasn´t possible in the same way on GameCube/Xbox/PS2 are Dead Rising and Assassin´s Creed. Dead Rising had all these zombies, all that interaction, all these objects – what happens when you try to recreate that on a power-lacking hardware can be witnessed in the Wii-port of the game. Assassin´s Creed similarly featured a high count of npcs, but more importantly raised the bar of environment interaction close to the limit of what is creatively doable. Climb up almost everywhere, freedom total. And they´re adding a grappling hook in AC: Revelations, “oh my god” is what I said out aloud. These two games actually felt like an effort to break the barriers of last generation and introduce gaming to a new world. And then that stopped.

The Wii 2/Café might turn out to be just a slightly more powerful 360, but I´d happily buy that system. Why? Well, because I feel like there´s currently two scouting ships sailing within the vastness of an unknown ocean of possibilities, obviously unable to explore it all alone. All that while the other ship-manufacturers  keep investing their money into adding fancy, shiny decoration to their big, slow ferry boats that keep driving between point A and point B, because it´s making them enough money to be content with, or because they´re too scared to enter the realm of unknown depths.

I am not claiming that it is safe to say that Nintendo´s entering the HD-era of gaming and instantly finding out about those unexplored possibilities. But I feel a strong disagreement for those people that beat down the Café already, only because of the potential that it might just be on par with the 360 and not introduce the next jump in power.  So much creativity went missing in-between all those shooters and “mature” aka kiddy “cool games” or games that tried to mimic Hollywood-movies instead of pursuing the medium of the video game (in before “but why has it to be either or?” Don´t ask me, ask the industry´s reality). Since I know that it is a favorite amongst a lot of gamers (not my favorite, teehee), I´ll end this opinion (and you´re free to disagree) by  throwing The Legend of Zelda: Majora´s Mask into this debate. Majora´s Mask was released towards the end of the Nintendo 64´s lifetime, yet it introduced a shockingly fresh gameplay-concept. And it was a smaller game than Ocarina of Time. It didn´t pursue the mantra of “bigger, prettier, better“. It dared to take an unexplored idea and that would later turn it into one of the fans´most beloved Zelda-games. It was released at the end of 2000. The same time when Sony´s Ps2 launched.

PS: I admit that I myself would be a bit disappointed if Café was just a slightly improved 360 in terms of power. You simply expect big things from a next generation console, and no matter the power, that´s what the Wii 2 is going to be in type. But not only is the above article my true view on the relevancy of processing power, it is also backed up by my current gaming reality. A superior gaming PC, a 360, a Wii, a N64 – all connected to a screen and still in use. Starfox 64 still rocks. Baten Kaitos Origins still wants me to finish it. And I´m not playing these games because of their looks, haha. Power is important. But power only can do so much. That´s what is the truth for me, when talking about whatever power range Nintendo shows up with their new system.


Let’s talk about Team ICO

April 18, 2010

I´m eating grilled chicken and a small piece of bread at the moment, the sun is shining and tomorrow, a new semester at university will be beginning. I´m in good mood, so I thought: Let´s write about why I hate Shadow of the Colossus. So be prepared for one extremely subjective article (not that there´s any objective video game article anywhere in the world) that some might easily shrug off as a piece of mighty troll-art…well, it´s hard not to touch into the realms of trolling here, as it´s a highly emotionally loaded topic to me. Oh, I mentioned “emotions”, how fitting for this developer´s games, eh?

Being Zelda-fan and Team ICO-fan - It´s possible!

The Playstation 2 entered my room very late into the system´s life. I´ve never been a Sony-guy, just as I´ve never been a Sega-guy before (though I bought a Dreamcast for the zombie-time of Nintendo 64, leading up to the GameCube´s launch), and the one big reason I wanted a PS2 was Kingdom Hearts 1. Yeah, that sounds really silly now that I look back. But there was another game that I was once interested in, only read a bit about it in some magazine, a two-page article. Some game called “ICO”. Sounded really interesting. But I didn´t have a PS2, so, whatever. Then a friend, who wrote for a video game website back at that time, published his ICO-review. And there I was, almost being instant-hyped about this game that I never looked into that deeply. For what is worth, ICO became the one PS2-game that really stood out to me (again, not a Sony-guy, never interested in all these MGSs, DMCs, GTs or FFs) and turned me into a believer. A believer of Team ICO, who really managed to create a game that didn´t feel “gamey”. Except for the really annoying monsters, especially during times when you had to leave npc Yorda alone, the game was one unique, impressive 7-hour-game. Then, NICO was announced.

NICO, which we later found out would be called Shadow of the Colossus, got me hyped from its very first mentioning. I guess I really liked Team ICO´s choice of colors, polygonal design and animations. And it also helped that ICO was really interactive. You can imagine how thrilled I was when the first trailers about SotC were published. Gorgeous! That has to have happened sometime in 2004 or so, because both SotC and some other game hadn´t been released. It´s that other game and Sony-fans´ reactions that managed to make me a hater. Before I go on, let me tell you: I think that SotC is a nice video game, but it failed to be as special and unique as ICO. I don´t think it´s a “piece of sh**“, that´s what “they” got me to say thanks to “their” behavior.

So, what game could that Sony-fans chose to pick on, while making comparisons to SotC? Yeah, right, it was The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Apparently, having a sword and horse and big boss-enemies convinced these “fans” that SotC would be, and it´s not me that created the following phrase, a “Zelda-killer“. Now, at that time we already knew quite a bit about SotC, most prominently that it would consist of only fighting boss-enemies, without any kind of dungeons or other overworld content. Nonetheless, fans all over the world, be it the “Other consoles”-section at some Nintendo-board, another, bigger German multi-console board, or the infamous NeoGAF-board. A “Zelda-killer” had been chosen. Looking back at it with today´s knowledge, I´d say that this was the birth of the modern Sony-fan, i.e. look at what happened prior to Killzone 2´s, MGS4´s, Heavy Rain´s or God of War 3´s release. Terrible.  So I got into arguments with some people I used to talk with a lot about SotC. Mainly about the fact that they claimed, SotC would trump Twilight Princess as an action-adventure. I then explained to these people how Zelda-games are all about the complete package, aka dungeons, overworld, sidequests, smaller enemies, big boss-enemies, npcs, combat, story, and so on. Whereas SotC limited its concept to a very compact offering, focusing on finding and beating 16 boss-enemies, within an empty world, nothing else to do than what you´re supposed to do. In the following quarrels, I lost two friends that I knew from discussion boards, as they couldn´t get it into their mind that someone rejected the idea of SotC being a “Zelda-killer“, because it didn´t have anything a Zelda-game has, except for boss-fights. And there´s another, specially funny detail that these people conveniently “forgot“: The whole “feeling bad for killing monsters” had been done before. In a Zelda-game! Remember Majora´s Mask? All fours boss-battles were not against evil monsters, but ancient guardians. I still remember the second boss, the taurus-like enemy, that was rather easy to defeat. But it took some time, and you really felt much more powerful during the fight than this ancient being, making you feel bad. All that while the taurus would make such horrible, agonizing sounds of suffering. And when you had done what had to be done, you´d see a very moody scene, once again strengthening the feeling of doing something very wrong. That was in 2000, Majora´s Mask. Which leads into the next phase of people making me hate SotC. Let´s call it the era of

SotC is art“. How sick I am of this statement. I wrote an article on video game art for FlyingFisch a long, long time ago, where I finely crafted a definition of what video game art actually is. I didn´t make up some definition that went to my advantage, but looked into what other media do, so people call them “art”. Basically, some piece of a certain medium becomes art when it achieves a really high quality of its medium´s strengths. Meaning, a painting becomes art when it looks really awesome, music becomes art when it sounds awesome, and movies become art when they show you something awesome. And what is it that makes video games its own medium? Interactivity. The possibility to directly interact with something by your own will. So, even though I´m sick of the whole “games as art”-discussion and think we should just enjoy them, seeing how art is not something irrevocably positive, IF we choose certain games as examples of art, whe should pick the right ones. And even though there are many self-proclaimed “hardcore gamers” that hate the company, Nintendo achieved to create lots of games that fit the video games´ definition of being art. Be it Zelda or Super Mario Galaxy, you´ll have a hard time finding more interactive games than those. But to mention a non-Nintendo-game, how about this: Just Cause 2 is closer to being video game-art than SotC.

And now we´re in the pre-release phase of The Last Guardian, Team ICO´s next game for Playstation 3. And to tell you the truth, I just don´t care about it anymore. Though, I sometimes have to shake my head in disbelief, but that´s something I cannot change. Let´s just say: For most Sony-fans, The Last Guardian is already Game of the Year of whatever year it´s released in. We know nothing about the game. We saw a trailer that could as well have been a movie-trailer. There´s a griffon, there´s a boy, and apparently you´ll make the griffon help you to proceed in the game. That´s it.  But oh the feelings! I´d say, at this point it´d be more refreshing of Team ICO to NOT include a tear-jerker scene, seeing how everyone expects that already. The griffon dying, the boy dying, or finding the dead parents of the boy and/or the griffon. Whatever, people expect that to happen.

To conclude this text, I´d like to tell you that I really loved ICO. And that SotC was really lacking as a game. In this modern time, people seem to prioritize certain side-aspects of games higher than the actual game-part (and even then I don´t see where SotC had a great story…there was none). Emotions in games are great, which is the reason why I became a Zelda-fan after playing Link´s Awakening on the original GameBoy. But emotions alone are not enough for a video game to be great. It is the combination of many aspects, and I´d hope that people manage to understand that thought-process of mine. I guess I would´ve enjoyed SotC, had it not been for its “fans”, but that cannot be changed. Right now, I hope not to see fanboy-sh** like “The Last Guardian will obliterate Zelda Wii!” or, regarding potential PlaystationMOVE-inclusion,  “Well somebody has to teach the Zelda team how to use it“. Team ICO is capable of very fine, niche experiences that some people love, some people hate, and lots of people like but don´t think of them as something holy. Zelda Wii is my most anticipated game, and I´d love to look at The Last Guardian without always being reminded of its “fans“. Because I really don´t hate the game. I hate the player.