The Calm before E3 2017 – Crazy Prediction Time

April 23, 2017

This will be the first prediction article since 2014. Last year, Nintendo’s Zelda-exclusive entrance made it moot to speculate much. And I honestly forgot about giving my predictions for the year 2015. So here it is, the return to glory, my crazy predictions for E3 2017. It marks the first E3 post-Switch launch and there’s also Sony that has to prove a lot. Also, for the first time ever, I’ll have to put Microsoft on the back-burner. Their new philosophy of having no Xbox-exclusives and instead putting everything on PC, too, has made me lose any interest in their console. It doesn’t help that their first-party games output is on an alltime low point, unless you enjoy driving sims, which I don’t. But let’s look at what will hopefully be present at E3 2017!

Fanboy’s Favourite: Nintendo

Nintendo’s first and foremost task is to keep the current momentum of the Switch. It’s selling even better than the Wii did back then, but it’ll be hard to stay at that level of sales. But Wii-like success or not, quality games that drive hardware sales need to be announced!

That’s why I want to preface this section with a simple statement: I want ALL my games on Switch! This would have been fanboy-drivel in the past, had someone said “I want all my games on Wii U/Wii!”. But the Switch is different. Finally, I am free from the TV! I no longer have to sit in that one spot in front of the television, no, instead I can play my games wherever I wish. And that isn’t necessarily out of my living place. It also means I can play lying on a couch, chilling in bed, taking it with me into the kitchen while preparing a meal. And I can play it on the big TV-screen if I choose so. The level of comfort the Switch brought to the world of video games is unprecedented and can no longer be undone for my gaming tastes. So when I say “I want ALL my games on Switch!”, it means I want all my games to have this level of freedom and comfort. And it just so happens that Nintendo is the only company offering a hybrid system.

Since I’m already at it, let me talk about 3rd-party predictions. Western publishers will be disappointing. I expect two key showings at E3: Electronic Art’s FIFA 18 will be shown and made a big deal about. But I see two significant problems coming in: For one, the game will use a last-gen engine, emphasizing that EA is unwilling to seriously support the Switch, as in saying “it’s not worth it porting Frozenbite, because we won’t ever release any future games on this system”. And secondly, the game will be missing a couple of key features when compared to the PS4-/Xbox One-versions. Which will be unfortunate to the n-th degree, because despite those issues, it’s probably going to be a fun game, perfect for a handheld. But it’ll fail commercially and give EA an excuse to say “see, our games don’t sell on Nintendo-systems!”. The end. *sigh* Honestly, I’d love to be wrong about that prediction, but it’s the only outcome I can currently envision. And then there’s Bethesda’s The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim. Yes, it’s an old game that dozens of millions of gamers have already played. But I will say this: As long as it’s a good port, there’ll be plenty of hype for this version. I know because I’m kinda looking forward to it myself. I’ve played the game on both my old PC and laptop, but I never finished it. Having such a game on a handheld would immensely raise the chances of me beating the game. And nobody can say that the Switch-audience doesn’t love big open world-games, considering it’s number one-launch title. If this game can release in late summer/early fall, I could see it be a fantastic bridge title between Zelda and Mario, especially for gamers who prefer a more realistic artstyle (because there’s another big title announced for this year that will also satisfy fans of open world-games, except with a completely different art direction. But more about that one later). If Bethesda can maybe add some new Nintendo-exclusive stuff (like a Link-costume or a new dragon that’s called Volvagia or whatever), it would give even more incentive to Nintendo-fans to dig in.

Otherwise, I’m not sure what western 3rd-parties will be offering. If Ubisoft gave a damn about the Switch, they’d at the very least announce South Park: The Fractured but Whole for the system. If they’re fully committed, the new Assassin’s Creed-game should follow suit, too. But with them only having shown Steep, Rayman Legends and Monopoly so far, I’m not confident in them at all. The one semi-big third party-title that should be announced is Grand Theft Auto 5 from Rockstar. But rumors say that L.A. Noire is getting a port. Oh well … In terms of “it makes too much sense, so it’s probably not gonna happen”, I see Overwatch and Rocket League be ported to Switch. Both are social phenomena that could get even bigger by bringing them from online-only to local-multiplayer experiences. It’d be a good opportunity for these games to introduce offline-modes, too.

Now for Japanese 3rd-party developers. Much brighter outlook, although many announcements could end up being withhold until Tokyo Game Show in early fall. But ignoring the latter, some of the titles I expect for Switch are as follows:

All the obvious ports should become a reality. The upcoming Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth – Hacker’s Memory has no reason to not be released on Switch. Same for Persona 5, which would be so much better on a handheld than a console. I actively decided against getting the PS4-version, because I simply cannot play a 100 hours story-focused JRPG tied to a TV. Persona 4 Golden was so great partly because I could play it on the PS Vita. Unless Sony pays Atlus to keep a Switch-port from happening, it’d be true madness not to make this port happen. Lastly is the Dragon Quest 11-version for Switch.  It releases at the end of July in Japan. No idea if the Switch-version is planned for a simultaneous release, but even if it isn’t, it needs to be shown. And it better be based on the PS4-version, unless Square Enix wants to become the industry’s laughing stock. As for an out-of-nowhere neat surprise, I’d love to see Nier: Automata get ported to Switch. Platinum Games was very postive about the system and the game deserves all the attention it can get. And there could be exclusive Nintendo-themed costumes for 2B. Sexy Link-tunic dress maybe? ;>

But Switch needs new game announcements, too, so let’s get to them. These are based on what I’d love to see, not on existing rumors.

First of all, From Software needs to materialize its promise and deliver a game for Switch. Worst case scenario is a port of any of the existing Dark Souls-titles, something that would be boring for most players, as Souls-fans already played them to no end. I’d like to see a new franchise that’s exclusive to Nintendo, similar to how Demon’s Souls is exclusive to Sony. I have two predictions to make about such a new From Software-franchise for Switch: 1.) A slightly more light-hearted fantasy-action RPG. Emphasis on “slightly”, as I wouldn’t want some silly cartoon game. But speaking of cartoons, the kind of atmosphere I’m imagining here is that of the old cartoon-series “Dungeons and Dragons”, where a group of teenagers visits an amusement park and somehow gets lost in a parallel universe where dragons and magic are real. Despite being a kids cartoon, the atmosphere was very serious, oppressive, and gave a constant feeling of danger looming somewhere. What’s best, however, was how full of crazy secrets that world was. So when I say that I want a more light-hearted game, I mean an action-RPG with less focus on scary, tough fights, and more focus on creating a surreal atmosphere, induced with sympathetic, voiced NPCs. Less focus on stats, more focus on actual effects of your skills. Basically: “What if the Zelda-team helped From Software creating a game”. 2.) The second option for a Switch-exclusive From Software-game would be to simply make a game based on BLAME! or Knights of Sidonia. It’d be a scifi-take on the Dark Souls-formula. Focus on long-range weapons over swords. Not much more to be said about that, just watch a trailer of these manga/anime to get a sense of it.

Then there’s Capcom. Oh Capcom. I’ll put aside my annoyance over Monster Hunter Stories being released on 3DS instead of Switch in the West, sigh. But speaking of which, the Monster Hunter-franchise is *the* big topic here. The problem is that Capcom historically likes to have their own announcement event for MonHun, so it’s unlikely to see it at E3. But be it E3 or TGS, I predict that there’ll be an HD-version of Monster Hunter XX for Switch released in late fall/early winter in Japan, followed by a spring release in the West. They’ll also announce Monster Hunter 5 at the same event for the following year. Basically, a 1:1 repeat of how it went on 3DS (MH3 Ultimate first, MH4 the next year). I hope those silly PlayStation 4-rumors turn out to be wrong (stating that the main-version of MH5 is made for PS4, while Switch gets a lesser portable-version), although I’d take the entertainment of “Capcpom” driving yet another franchise into the ground by trying to appeal to an imaginary western audience. Keep MonHun MonHun, for god’s sake! But Monster Hunter isn’t enough from maybe the most important 3rd-party publisher during the Switch’  hardware conception. Despite personally not beingt that fond of the game, I expect Resident Evil 7 to be ported in form of a “Complete Edition” with all the released DLC. Capcom already talked about how they might look into getting RE7 to run on the Switch, so that’s already a precedence. Adding to that the fact that RE7 wasn’t a mega seller like previous series entries, it’d actually make sense to get another couple 100k units sold, while at the same time preparing Switch-owners for RE8. Following that train of thought, a release of the RE4-6 collection for PS4/One also makes a lot of sense. I don’t see any new franchises being announced. If we’re lucky, there’ll be a new Phoenix Wright-game.

I expect a bunch of games from various other Japanese developers and publishers. Bandai Namco Entertainment ought to show a reveal-trailer of their Tales of-title for Switch. Announce Code Vein for Switch, sigh. Sega will show more of Sonic Forces. I’d hope Konami brings something to the table after Bomberman’s success. Pro Evolution Soccer and maybe, although that’s from the realm of dreams, but maybe a new Silent Hill-game. Ideally Silent Hill: Shattered Memories 2, because the first game for Wii was fantastic. Unlikely to be shown at E3, but I want to see all of those smaller niche-titles that would typically be released on the PS Vita. Visual novels and such. And I hope to see some surprise-title like Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon and Opoona, too. Again, many of those are more likely to be shown at TGS, if they happen at all. But that’s it for 3rd-parties. Now on to my 1st-party predictions.

There will be big blow-out of the Switch’s Virtual Console-service. Not only will the amount of instantly available titles surprise everyone (100+ games), but there’ll be various business models, offering both the traditional “buy and keep” option as well as a subscription service. Previously purchased VC-titles from 3DS/Wii U can be played on Switch without any upgrade-fee, showing Nintendo’s good will towards its loyal fans. Most importantely, though: There will be online-multiplayer for all VC-games with multiplayer. Welcome to playing Melee online!

Other then the obvious huge Splatoon 2-showing, Super Mario Odyssey will be heavily demoed. Breath of the Wild’s new difficulty-mode as well as the new story-scenario will be shown. Splatoon 2 will have a lot of presence, considering its July release. The three most shocking announcements, though, will be: 1.) Xenoblade Chronicles 2 atually releases this fall in Europe and the USA! It’ll prove why a 100% MonolithSoft-developed open world-game is even superior to Breath of the Wild. 2.) Pokémon Stars will be unveiled. First home-console Pokémon-game. Massive hype. 3.) RetroStudio’s game. This will be a sneak-preview into 2018. It’ll be a non-cartoony 3D-game, maybe a shooter, maybe an action-RPG. The type of game the rest of Nintendo’s development studios isn’t good at.

Another group of smaller scale games will be announced: 1.) Endless Ocean 3 by Arika, 2.) a revival of Cosmic Walker, 3.) Wave Race and 4.) the long wished-for F-Zero NX.

More interestingly, Nintendo will have a trifecta of 3rd-party collaborations. These ambitious prestige projects will encompass The Last Story 2, Beyond Good and Evil 2 and Silent Hill: Shattered Memories 2.

To smooth things out, Nintendo will announce a stream of Wii U-ports that will add value to the Switch’  line-up without being an excuse for a lack of newer titles. Pikmin 3 will be the first of these ports, accompanying the upcoming 3DS-Pikmin.

To end their E3-presentation, they’ll announce a new Metroid-game that is developed in collaboration with a 3rd-party developer. I have no idea which one, but it’ll cause lots of attention. Maybe From Software. Maybe Hideo Kojima. Maybe Capcom.

Still there: Sony

I have one big task for Sony which also happens to be my prediction for them: They need to show why buying PlayStation VR was a worthwile decision. For the past couple months, it got more and more quiet around Sony’s virtual reality-headset. The software you’d see for it consisted of small-scale experiences, Resident Evil 7 marking the one big exception. But that’s not enough. Unless Sony intends to cement their unreliability when it comes to all things NOT a PlayStation home-console (see the Move-controller or the Vita), they need to show at least one big, ambitious PSVR-game, ideally exclusive to PSVR. The only game I can think of that would cause a huge splash is Sword Art Online PSVR. A first-person action-RPG title built from the ground for PSVR. No, nothing like those shitty Vita-games. I’m talking about a huge, seamlessly connected open world, full of well-animated, voiced NPCs. Dynamic battles that make you feel like you’re really there. And just a really engaging story and presentation (with a character editor. Please no more Kirito …). Would such an ambitious, expensive game make profit for Sony? Probably not. But neither did Bayonetta 2 for Nintendo. It’d be a strongly needed prestige title, there to reassure fans and the world that Sony gives a damn about PSVR. Show us, Sony! And don’t you dare announcing another bunch of 5 hour-experiences.

Why so PC: Microsoft:

Sorry, but due to their “everything releases on PC, too” policy, I have no more interest in anything Xbox-related. I’ll eventually play it on PC, when I ever buy a gaming-capable one again.

Conclusion:

As one can see, I’m stoked for Nintendo’s E3 offerings this year. As I laid out in the introduction, I simply want to play as many games as possible on my Switch. Free from the TV, wherever I choose to play. It’s been a fantastic experience so far, truly revolutionizing the way we play. Considering all that, it makes sense that the one thing I care about in relation to Sony is PSVR, which also has the potential to revolutionize gaming, but has been held back by the lack of risk-taking so far. When I think of E3, about the future of gaming, it’s the things that are new, that I haven’t experienced before. I don’t care about graphically impressive open-world games like Horizon that give me a feeling of “been there, done that”. I’m also not convinced that Red Dead Redemption 2 will be anything ground-breaking. But the Switch, the potential games for it, and the promise of PSVR are the elements that keep me invested in this greatest of all hobbies. Come June 2017, I hope to see at least some of my predictions turn out true. I know I tend to be overly optimistic, but … come on, Nintendo and Sony, show us! And Microsoft … at least make sure Phantom Dust rulez!

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About the Visor

March 24, 2010

The Virtual Boy marks Nintendo´s biggest business flop in the company´s history. The red-color-based stereoscopic device didn´t see the success that Nintendo wanted to achieve. Yesterday, the same company announced to risk another attempt at introducing 3D to video games. The Nintendo 3DS-announcement came completely out of left field, nobody expected it to be mentioned on a random Tuesday morning. There are lots of reasons that could explain why Nintendo did announce their next generation handheld now, but that is irrelevant to this article. What counts is that 3D makes a return to gaming. It´s not the first mention of 3D in a long time, though. Not only is Sony working on 3DTVs, but also have Nintendo-fans been hyping the rumored Nintendo ON-system, one of the most popular fakes in the video games history, that was supposed to feature a 3D visor, also called 3D glasses. It´s these 3D visors that I´m going to talk about in this article. What kinds of technologies are there, why do many gamers love the idea of a visor, and what would it actually bring to the table of further evolving the gaming experience?

eMagin´s Z800-visor

The technology of Visors

There are basically three different 3d-glasses technologies, two of them active, the other one passive. Active means that the visor is more complex, using electronic hardware, usually more expensive, while passive visors are cheap, non-complex items.

First technology are the shutter glasses, or also called “Liquid Crystal Shutter Glasses”. These are active visors, as they work in synchronization to the image shown on screen. The shutter glasses works via blocking or passing light through the device, working together with the framerate of the display used. It uses two different timed images, which results in lowering the actually experienced framerate into half, i.e. if you have a 120 Hz-display, you´ll get 60 Hz-output. The visor itself uses said liquid crystals to alternate between blocking and passing light. In terms of comfort and usability, many people reported that this kind of 3D is rather tiring for the eyes.

The next technology is called “Display Glasses“, though I like to call them “3D-video glasses”. They´re also the most expensive ones. That´s because these glasses actually have two displays built into the device. Basically, there´s a small screen for each eye. It should, thus, be obvious why this is the most expensive technology. And that´s also how it creates a 3D-effect, by offering each eye its own image. For a better understanding of how these two displayed images look like, close one of your eyes and look at an object in front of you. Then close the other eye and look again. You´ll notice that both times your field of vision will have change the angle of that object. That´s how these visors work. Now, this technology is also the most interesting one for gaming, not only because you wouldn´t need a TV anymore, but also could it create a free-look, without any sort of borders. Just turn your head and you´ll be able to look around inside a virtual world as if it was real. Most prominent manufacturer of these visors is eMagin.

The last technology is actually not only a single one. There´s quite a lot of different approaches, but they work very similar in the end. The glasses itself are totally inexpensive and cheap, specially compared to the above mentioned visors. The most prominent glasses of this kind are the red-green visors you sometimes find in TV-magazines. There also exist glasses that don´t rely on red and green, but otherwise polarize the light that´s coming from some source. No matter what kind you use, it always comes down to light being polarized, so that there´s two images created, one that can only be seen by the left, and one that can only be seen by the right eye. Each images slightly vary and thus create the 3D-effect. That´s the kind of visors youll get to use in cinema, for example when watching James Cameron´s avatar. Cheap doesn´t mean that it´s not good, but these passive glasses handicap is that they are dependent on the output-source, which is why Sony and other TV-manufacturers are working on a unified 3DTV-standard.

Nintendo´s Virtual Boy

A fascination called visor

Now, why is it that these 3D-visors are attracting so many people, fascinating a lot of gamers? First of all, it´s because 3D-effects are awesome. That´s not a well explained point, but everyone that never before has seen 3D, and then watches some IMAX-3D movie will go away with that reaction, “awesome”. The way artificial objects jump in the viewer´s face is something that cannot be explained with words. In terms of video gaming, 3D plays a big role for immersion, something that has become more and more important the more powerful video game-systems became. Games like Fallout 3 or GTA4 show what is possible in terms of creating a more or less believable virtual world. What´s missing is the accurate presentation of these worlds, which is exactly what 3D could make reality. Specially the 3D-video-glasses, such as those from eMagin, are fascinating. Their technology would allow for entering virtual worlds. That sentence doesn´t give justice to the importance of what it does. You have to imagine it like this: This technology would be as far as gaming and virtual worlds can go…without creating the Matrix, the one from the same-named movies. Virtual Reality couldn´t be enhanced any further. Well, maybe the invention of full body-holograms could do something similar, but then, at the point we´re able to use holograms for mass market-use, we´ll probably also be able to enter the Matrix.

Importance for Gaming

What would such a visor mean for games? That´s what many less-interested gamers ask whenever some enthusiast brings up that topic. There are a lot of possibilities. I just mentioned the creation of a true virtual reality-experience. Move your head to look around and the image displayed on the visor will change accordingly. It´ll make you feel as if you are inside another world. But it could also be used for flat games, only creating a simple 3D-effect to enhance the images quality. That´s what people expect the Nintendo 3DS to do, where you could play a Paper Mario-game and all the different objects are outputted on different layers within the 3D-image. It doesn´t have that much gameplay-purpose, but it is still a big step toward improved immersion. 3D-visors could also be used in third-person games like The Legend of Zelda. Again, the image would be outputted to feature a very nice 3D-effect, but additionally, by moving your head you could look around inside the world of Hyrule, while your neutral head-position would be locked onto Link, the game-character. That would create a different feeling of immersion compared to the above mentioned first-person-experience, and it´d remove the need of camera control. Simply look around to change your field of vision.

Virtual Reality

In the end, where 3D-visors would succeed in is making the old wish of a virtual reality come true. So many books and movies gave us impressions of what such virtual realities could be like, see Tron, Digimon or The Matrix. It´d be the ultimate dream-machine, letting you experience whatever you want, but cannot in reality. It´s such an enormous thing that wouldn´t only impact the gaming industry, but potentially every single human´s life. When everyone can have any experience, it could change the way we treat our life, our sense for working, our demand for certain wishes. You wouldn´t need to be a millionaire to drive a Ferrari. Just hop into your virtual reality and drive on. Just like that. Of course, visors alone wouldn´t make that experience. There´s also the control interface that needed to be worked on, but seeing how motion-controls are becoming standard on video game system, that shouldn´t be a problem in the future. And even then, the most important part of creating a virtual reality are the visuals, the 3D-effects, the free-look. The hardware for that experience is expensive, but at least it seems people will be getting used to wearing glasses, with 3DTVs forcing you to wear these. It´s an exciting time we´re living in, from an entertainment point of view, and by writing this article I wanted to give all the people that didn´t know that much about the often mentioned visors more insight into the topic, and, most importantly, why a lot of people love the idea of using them in video games. Visors are talked about so often, so hopefully you now have a clearer picture about the whole fascination.


Casual vs. Hardcore – What´s next?

January 15, 2009

Just today IGN published a nice…no, wait, i hate political correctness, so let´s restart:  Just today IGN published a ridiculous, embarrassing article about the ten things that are destroying the video game industry. One of the points that made me laugh most was “- motion controls”. No further explanation. The second point that made me write this text was “casual games”.

And it reminded me of how ludicrous this nomenclature is. You see, back then i always thought hardcore gamers were those that find out about awsome easter eggs or get the highest highscores. Those that become so good at Guitar Hero that you have to pitty their life (not that i do that). Casual games, meanwhile were all games that, well, casual gamers played. Which was games like GTA3 or popular first person shooters or Gran Turismo. Also called “the mainstream”.

As for me, i can remember three generations of ridicule:

– kiddy vs. mature

– mainstream vs. hardcore

– casual vs. hardcore

What i´m asking is: What is next? If Nintendo presses further into the virtual reality market, i could see the following become reality:

– VR-gamer vs. RL-gamer (Virtual Reality-gamer vs. Real Life-gamer)

And as awful laughable that sounds…it would fit just fine in line with its precedessors. Beware of the crusade of RL-gamer, that praise how games should be played on a TV, while the other group enjoys the newest gaming experience.

PS: While i wonder how IGN can allow such an article to go online, i certainly agree with #9. I cant get immersed when i´m playing a girl. It´s even worse with anime, all good shows have female leads. So, certain mods of a certain board should get the sand out of their vagina instead of banning IGN from the whole board.