• Home
Header

Animal Crossing ::: Pixel Perfect

While some are most content stood on the beach, fishing rod in hand, willing the illusive sharks to take a nibble of their bait, I’ve been very happy honing my skills in Animal Crossing: New Leaf’s image editor. Though only a tiny grid of pixels it allows villagers to craft a whole host of custom accessories. From tiles to dot around town to designer wallpapers for your home, a one off haute couture to silly scribbles for your standee, your pixel art talents can be shown off to all who visit.

New Leaf may be chock full of a host of customisation options already but most operate within a set collection. Within the hundreds of furniture options there will no doubt be something that suits a player’s style but with a little work it can feel far more personal. For me it was a chance to place a handful of my favourite things into the town. Starting with unearthing the secrets lying under Buneaton.

From a young age I’ve loved dinosaurs and so need little excuse to shoe horn them into any of my projects. Of course Blathers and his ever expanding palaeontology exhibit help satiate this but I decided to blow his tiny owl mind with a slightly larger excavation. Taking up six tiles and inspired by the opening scenes of Jurassic Park we find a Deinonychus (the pedant in me won’t allow it to be mislabelled as the tinier Velociraptor) ready to be transported to the museum.

Elsewhere, in the clothes shops on Main Street, we find more contemporary items. Inspired by Marvel’s Avengers the Able Sisters stock a line for you and your friends to dress up as your favourite superhero. The Pro Designs, which allow you design front, back and the sleeves independently, are a great addition to Animal Crossing and offer far more creativity than seen before.

HNI_0044

There’s a relaxing joy I gain from spending time poking pixels. Taking the real world concepts and turning them into a tiny stylised version can lead me to lose hours as I play dress up with my tiny virtual dolls.

If you like what you see, use the QR code reader found in Mable and Sable’s and fill your village with fossils and superheroes. And, of course, we’d love to see what you’ve made.

[nggallery id=416]

Ethan Meteor Hunter ::: Let’s Play

Fresh from Rezzed, Seaven Studios have sent us a build of Ethan Meteor Hunter with the express instruction that I shouldn’t suck quite so much. So join Ali and myself as we take a look at the platformer featuring a rat with the power of telekinesis.

Animal Crossing ::: Review

During the three weeks since its release, I’ve thought of little else. In body I may be at work yet my mind continually drifts back to Buneaton; to its colourful residents, its sandy beaches, and to the community that I’m building there. I think of the circle of trees I’m nurturing around the standing stone we recently unearthed, the letters I need to write to thank my kind neighbours, and the projects I should execute as Mayor to move the town forward. It is all consuming.

All consuming, and yet unassuming. When it welcomes you in with its bright colours and big heads it’s easy for the uninitiated to wonder where the draw could possibly be. How could a game that looks like it could be a candidate for a CBBC show see grown men and women setup whole Facebook groups dedicated to what fruit each other are growing in their back garden?

Well, it begins with a train journey to a far off town.

Upon arrival you’re welcomed by the townsfolk, an enthusiastic collection of colourful creatures, they crowd around you excited to greet their new mayor. There’s been a case of mistaken identity but they won’t hear your protests, such is their eagerness to make you feel at home. But before you can take it all in, your new mayoral assistant Isabelle has whisked you away to Town Hall for a meeting with property mogul Tom Nook to break ground on your official residence.

HNI_0036

A whirlwind introduction to the town sees you scurry back and forth between your home, the shops, and your office, catching fleeting glimpses of meandering rivers and groves of fruit trees as you rush by. They at least hint at the sense for the idyllic country life you’d originally signed up for. Thankfully the last piece of paperwork is soon signed and you’re left on your own. From the solitude of your tent it feels a lot like being on holiday; despite an exhausting journey there’s a sense that you should be out doing something but you’re not sure what.

A quick stroll, maybe, round down to the beach, possibly with a touch of shell collecting. Turn those in at the local shop for some bells – the local currency – and you get a fishing rod, leading to a trip to the riverbank. There you may pick some fruit so plant a few trees, discovering a world of insects in the process. But what’s that, a fossil? Scamper off to the museum to get it checked out. And now the curator suggests you donate one of everything you find to him, better get fishing again… it’s a series of constant distractions.

Such is the aimlessness of it all some could wander around and lose interest, but equally the discovery can easily draw you in. A few inquisitive paces in one direction or another could be all it takes as you start to unearth your village’s treasures. Shaking a tree here or talking to a fellow resident there, this is where Animal Crossing starts to bite. I envy those discovering strange marks in the earth or floating presents for the first time as there’s a wealth – quite literally in some cases – of distractions that can pull you this way and that. It may not be the fully realised world of a Fallout or Oblivion but there are just as many treats that will cause you to forget where you were running to and pull out a fishing rod.

Those who do wish for a more directed sense of progression can look towards their Mayoral duties. Up until this point in the series Nintendo has let you simply live in the world, enjoying all it offers but with minimal ability to guide it. In New Leaf you can now direct how the village grows. This may be as minor as installing a park bench, as useful as building a new bridge to cross the river, or as fulfilling as constructing a new wing to the town’s museum, and with each opportunity it feels a far more personable experience. Many of the stalwarts of the series are hidden behind this urban renewal too, causing you to squeal with glee as names from the past are hinted at by Isabelle as she hands you the proposed list of projects. This already has caused Animal Crossing to have a far longer tail than before. The need to work for old friends – or even discover new ones – is a huge draw, and keeps you playing the turnip market in the hope of a huge profit and the ability to pay for the coffee shop that you know will herald your favourite pigeon’s return.

HNI_0005

Be it a beverage serving bird or the red tree frog who lives next door, the characters you meet play their part in keeping you hooked. They may be dim enough to continuously try and walk through trees but the personality their little AI possesses causes you to remember them, to seek them out for conversation or even to wish they’d leave you in peace. It’s like true village life as you hope for gossip and exchange pleasantries, even if the undercurrent of all your interactions is secretly hoping your “friends” will hand over presents if you’re nice enough.

Large portions of Animal Crossing are wrapped up in the ideal of community and conversation. Even basic operations such as character creation and heading online are disguised as normal chats, the latter hidden behind a train journey metaphor. At times this wordy approach can be draining as you just want to get things done speedily, but to reduce it down to a simple menu wouldn’t be half as charming. It’s part of the Nintendo ideal and here the clunky nature pays dividends.

What is also surprising is how fluidly the online integration works as four villagers can meet together for fun and frolics. An area set aside from the main town is dedicated to simple mini-games based around day to day activities, and if that’s too much you can all just potter round one another’s houses, critiquing the décor, and hitting each other with spades. It’s the epitomy of New Leaf as you’re as much the creators of the entertainment as Nintendo.

In a world of Dark Souls and The Last of Us, this is the ultimate retreat. A casual affair that allows you to dip in and spend some time cleansing your mind of demons and the collapse of mankind as you stand on the beach fishing as the sun sets behind you. Cynics may look too deep, past its charm and relaxing nature and question it, but not everything has to be a mentally taxing or rewarding feat.

As ever, it’s easy to dip in short stints during the train ride to work, but it also rewards those that want to put the time in and invest in their town. The rewards may not always be immediate but they’re subtle and plenty. New Leaf will coax you in and encourages you to stay.

HNI_0062

Rezzed ::: Video Roundup

As the dust of Rezzed settles we want to show you one final thing, our video roundup. For the first time 7outof10 took more than their notebooks to a show and decided to try a little filming. We take a look round the stands, zoom in on a couple of games, and grab a few devs for a chat. It’s by no means perfect (it was is our first time after all) but we hope you like it.

And as ever, if you’ve any feedback please do let us know.

Rezzed Roundup ::: Part Two

Quick draw

When demonstrated it’s hard to fault Quick Draw. Hand a group of people PlayStation Move controllers and tell them they’re in a gun fight and instinctively everyone knows what to do. Controllers are immediately slung at people’s hips, fingers start twitching, and everyone eyes their rivals waiting for the first one to twitch. Bam! Bam! Bam! And in an instant only one person is left standing.

Quick Draw is a game without the need for a screen, and its clever smoke and mirrors allow living rooms to turn into the Wild West. All the software is looking for is a handful of stats about fastest trigger, elevation and angle of the shot but to the user it’s all about the very physical experience. It’s a motion game that achieves so much by only using a fraction of the technology on offer.

Along with the Wild West style shoot-out there was also the English equivalent where duellers would take several paces and wait for the bell to toll before turning and firing. Also on show was a game of tag which saw players popping the Move controllers in their back pocket, initially obscuring the orb on its end. One would then light up – usually without the controller’s owner knowing – and they would have to survive for as long as possible without being tagged, which usually involved heading into the crowd of onlookers for protection

It was superb fun and the booth was a constant success as show goers wanted to try something a little different. Though the concept seems a little limited it’s already received the green light for release on PS3, PS4 and PC and so a wide audience awaits it.

rezzed_thatdragoncancer

That Dragon, Cancer

If there was a surprise in the Leftfield Collection, a cramped corridor showcasing some of the up and coming indie talent, it was found in the shape of That Dragon, Cancer. A much understated experience, it unfolds as an interactive story rather than a game, offering an insight into one of the developer’s lives and how cancer has affected it.

The scene opens with them siting in an uncomfortable hospital chair, musing on the décor of the sterile room around them and the reasoning behind it. The topics point to someone looking for a distraction from their situation, willing the mundane to take them away from the realities they’re suffering from. Significant words form in the environment pulling your eye around as the reality of the situation unfolds. There are no great monologues ramming home the point, instead the power comes from the subtlety in the lead’s dialogue.

As we faded to black I found a lump in my throat. Despite the hustle and bustle about me That Dragon, Cancer had managed to cocoon me in its world and I was wrapped in the drama. It may be an emotive topic but the delicacy with which it was portrayed and the knowledge that it was a very personal account shows how powerful interactive storytelling can be.

rezzed_ethanmeteorhunter

Ethan Meteor Hunter

From the very friendly Seaven Studios, Ethan is a rat that has developed several unique talents, including telekinesis and the ability to pause time. How? Well that’s left to the vagaries of the science behind being hit by a meteor, and now he’s navigating the rat runs and sewers around his home collecting pieces of said rock.

At its heart it’s a 2D platformer but Ethan’s powers mean the challenge comes from more than pixel perfect jumping. At certain points he can pause time and move objects about him. These can include crates, planks or even small flame throwers, and all need to be rejigged either to clear blockages or create bridges before continuing onwards. Everything is physics driven too so they’ll all clatter and fall about as you move the level, leading to some interesting segments where items need to be rearranged mid-jump to take advantage of them before gravity sucks them back to earth.

There’s also the more traditional fare of spinning blades and mouse traps that can catapult the lead across gorges. It took me a while to get the feel of the weight and movement of Ethan but it soon settled into an enjoyable experience that mixed sections of swift moving platforming chained with block laden puzzles. Nothing was overly tough but it does require a patience as most dangers cause instant death and a trip back to the last checkpoint.

There are touches of Ratchet & Clank and Max & the Magic Marker about Meteor Hunter, both in terms of look and feel. At the moment it’s looking for backers on Steam’s Greenlight and is definitely worth investigating if you’re looking for a platformer with a twist.

rezzed_redshirt

Redshirt

If there was one game I wished I had had more time with it was Redshirt. Barely scraping the surface I had still managed to throw a party for my work colleagues, start stalking a Second Lieutenant, and complained bitterly about my days working long hours as a teleportation clean-up assistant. And if that sounds curious, you should see what some of the other social media users of Spacebook say in their status updates.

Redshirt is a social climbing game where you must increase your standing aboard a galaxy-trekking starship, from that of the lowest rank to something far more Tweetable. These aims need to start small by buddying up with your workmates, slowly growing your circle through friends of friends, and then gradually drawing in more and more influential people that you’d like to schmooze with. Move too fast and you’ll just get ignored, so it’s all about throwing the right sort of parties and posting the most careful and manipulative status updates possible.

All this is balanced through a limited number of daily actions and having to split your character’s time between their social climbing and actual work. With this limitation in place, prioritising your actions is crucial, and it’s easy to get to the point where you’ve a plan in mind but you’re a handful of actions short of pulling it off.

Not only does it produce a satirical take on today’s social media culture but it embraces the past too. From Star Trek to Red Dwarf the best of sci-fi’s flagships have been referenced and homaged creating a very interesting blend of cultures. Fifteen minutes couldn’t do Redshirt justice and so I’ll be awaiting its forthcoming release to spend more time climbing the ranks and joining my very first away team.

rezzed_morph

Morphopolis

Morphopolis displays a world from a point of view usually only seen by David Attenborough. In amongst the blades of grass and flower stems we witness caterpillars preparing to enter their cocoons and bees going about their nectar gathering business. It is a beautifully depicted world full of bright colours, layers of details, and gently moving creatures.

Whilst some of these creatures are fine without your attention, others need a helping hand. A drag of the mouse will move them along their path, edging them towards their eventual goal, but each time they will reach an inevitable impasse. In one instance this was a much larger insect blocking your path or in another it was the caterpillar’s hunger for food before beginning his transformation. For both situations, there was only one solution.

Each blocker can be resolved by finding a number of a specific objects in the background, be it eight drops of nectar or a dozen insect legs, and so Morphopolis turns into a “find it” game. This is easier said than done, too, for although the backgrounds are not littered with objects to cause you distraction, the detailed nature of the world causes these items to be lost in plain sight.

This style of game is not traditionally one I give much time to but the lush art work caused me to linger, though quite whether there’s any more to this insight into the world of insects is unclear. It may have caught my eye but sadly not my imagination.

Rezzed Roundup ::: Part One

Ice Fishing V

Possibly the most surreal experience I’ve had without the aid of a corrupted graphics card driver. A contender for videogames’ 2001, it marries striking visuals with a heavy soundscape into a unique world that not even a crowded and noisy Rezzed floor could impinge upon.

Offering very little explanation, this first-person adventure drops you into a world of red, white and black geometry, your only aim to move towards a white lift that transports you to further bizarre settings. From planes scattered with ice shards to floating in a void filled with six large eye balls, you are left to wonder and ponder your way through this abstract maze taking in the sights as you go.

The only interaction with the world that’s open to you is through red beams fired with a click of the mouse. They glide away into the distance, bouncing off surfaces until the world is a series of geometric noise. Most progression is triggered by cannoning this ability off of the various white objects in the world, turning them red in the process, and unlocking your exit. At least this is what I believe I’d gathered but given how little I understand about the rest of Ice Fishing that could have been pure coincidence.

Taken at a glance it could be easily be dismissed as a piece of performance art, but the puzzle nature of your progression is intriguing. If it keeps on layering on the interesting locks between worlds then it could prove as much substance as style.

rezzed_franknjohn

FranknJohn

Whereas many dungeon crawlers offer elusive suits of armour, magical weaponry and fantastical buffs as loot, FranknJohn offers but one simple upgrade path: find better heads. You see your skull is your weapon of choice here, capable of being swung away on a chain and whipped at your enemies to do damage. It starts off as a simple wrecking ball but as you delve deeper into this rogue-like it can be swapped out for anything from spinning blades to fire balls.

Though not on show, those were just two example offered to us by developers bitsmith who have only been shaping the game for a matter of weeks. It’s a definite work in progress but already they’ve managed to fashion randomly generated levels and a very Torchlight-esque art style that takes the dungeon setting and puts a characterised slant on it. Impressively, at this early stage, you also get to see the lower floors sitting underneath your current floating room, offering an insight as to what faces you on the road ahead.

Rather than being a straight slog through the underground corridors however, the world of FranknJohn is separated out into arena battles. Here the combat shows potential as you mix the right-stick driven physics of your bonce attacks with a myriad of traps that litter each room, allowing you to coax evil spellcasters and monsters to a spikey death. My one criticism would be that in its current guise the combat could become repetitive. The nature of your attack, though seemingly projectile, feels more like a brawler due to its limited range and not all the enemies on show felt complementary to that style of fighting.

rezzed_hacker

Hacker

Anyone who has an ounce of understanding as to command lines and programming will no doubt have seen at least a dozen movies in their time where Hollywood makes it appear as though all you need to do to crack the Pentagon’s security net is to type fast. Really fast. Hacker takes that ludicrous concept and runs with it.

A simple interface reminiscent of old DOS shells of the past and heavy in ASCII symbols it challenges you to “type” as fast as you can, filling up a hack meter before a brutal time limit expires. Extra points are rewarded for varying where you type on the keyboard but any sense of finesse should be forgotten.

Further challenge comes when certain characters are banned, but this is a simple premise executed very knowingly. It’s lifespan on your screen will no doubt be short but that’s probably a good thing if only to avoid RSI.

rezzed_helix

Helix

Touch screen controls have always been very subjective. One man’s love of a virtual joystick is another’s idea of hell. And so to see such universal praise amongst all I saw share and compete on Helix’s high score table was something quite novel.

A single screen game, you control a sprite that must avoid being touched by any of the host of other sprites that begin to invade the screen. To do so you move your finger about the screen but rather than being obscured under your digit it permanently hovers away from it. Initially this leads to a sensation that it’s attached to your finger by an elastic band, as though you’re sling-shotting it across the surface of the tablet, but before long it becomes incredibly intuitive and you find yourself weaving in and out of danger despite lacking any direct control, and your movements being nowhere near the action itself.

Its core mechanic is very much like Geometry Wars’ Pacifism mode except with an art style that reminds me of 80s graffiti, decked out in neon colours. Unlike Pacifism though it is possible to dispatch the other sprites who are intent on crowding you out. Moving about will start to draw a circle around them and should you complete that circle then they explode earning you some points in the process. It’s a wonderfully fresh approach to a genre that has been around almost as long as the pastime itself, and for extra difficulty there are those that need multiple circles or circles drawn in specific directions.

For many games it’s all about the ‘feel’, and Helix managed to capture that perfectly. It could be a wonderful new take on an old favourite.

rezzed_luftrauser

Luftrausers

With all the bright colours on show at Rezzed, it was curious that the first game I was drawn to displayed such a muted palette. The sepia tones gives this 2D dog fighting game an aging look, yet what is rendered is anything but; dozens of pixelated planes crowd the screen, all firing oversized bullets towards your tiny craft, whilst on the sea below enemy ships alternate between launching aerial reinforcements and homing missiles.

Though never quite “bullet hell” the action on-screen is non-stop as you pirouette and dive through the gaps in the enemy waves before firing back on them as you drop towards the sea. It has the feeling of a manic Asteroids or Solar Jetman to it. As you release the throttle your highly manoeuvrable aircraft uses any momentum it has to continue gliding forward whilst you rotate freely firing back on your pursuers.

There’s more than simply a high-score challenge too as plane parts can be swapped out to alter not only handling and weaponry but your objectives. Furthermore they take advantage of the environment as with the right engine or fuselage you can take a quick dip in the drink to avoid an incoming volley of fire before resurfacing unscathed and continuing the aerial duel.

It’s the arcade fluidity that proves Luftrausers’ strongest facet, with your movement through the sky as graceful or jarring as you want. Though there is a free flash version online it does not do justice to the frantic nature or variety available in the forthcoming release.

Thomas Was Alone ::: Review

Within my profession there’s a certain movement known as “programmer art”. This is usually identified as something created in Paint, taking results from a Google image search, or by use of very simple shapes. For the most part it plays its role as a placeholder until the real professionals breeze in, knock something gorgeous out in a matter of hours, and make me wish I’d never boastfully mentioned my A-level in art.

In the right setting, however, this look thrives. Listening to Mike Bithell’s director’s commentary for Thomas Was Alone, the simple shapes forming the core aesthetic came about because they were easy to work with. Couple that with a striking approach to shadowing that developed due to a wish to get something up and running quickly, and you have a game that is not only built on programmer art but defined by it.

It does nothing to diminish the game’s qualities, however. In fact it enhances what’s on show as the lack of high polygon models or master-crafted sprites highlight the heart of the experience, that of platforming and that of Thomas.

Each of the hundred-or-so levels are simply constructed, built from solid black lines where geometric design is key. There are no gentle slopes or undulating plains, everything is at 90 degrees to one another creating a world of floors, staircases and floating platforms. Strip away the tile editor from the old-school Mario or Megaman games and you’d probably find a very similar aesthetic, it’s just that Thomas Was Alone is not afraid to show you behind the curtain.

thomaswasalone_banner1

What this achieves is a distilled platformer. There are no trappings to distract here, leaving you to focus on traversing the levels with nothing but the jump button to rely upon. Stripped of everything it puts a lot of pressure on the core mechanics but happily there is a subtle brilliance to the control you have over your cube and his friends.

With each dab of the stick the movement feels solid and as you leap through the air your momentum is predictable. With so few – in fact zero – visible cues from your characters it would have been easy to feel detached, as if you were merely guiding rather than commanding their path through the world. Yet the controls are tight and responsive and are a joy to play with. This isn’t the floaty feeling in LittleBigPlanet but a far more measured approach where you have utter confidence about when and where you can jump and exactly where you’ll land.

This foundation is built upon with each shape having different talents. Initially you’ll meet Thomas who is a rectangle of average height and possesses a relatively good jump, whilst Chris is a small, stocky cube who fails to jump anywhere near the height of Thomas. Levels that were easy for Thomas are now slightly tougher with a short-arse in tow, and so cooperation is required. All the characters at one point or another will become extra platforms for their less able chums to clamber up, though, not to be heightist, the smaller ones will be able to sneak through low gaps to trigger switches. It’s all about choosing the right shape for the job and then ensuring they can get there.

As well as mere size and reach, further shapes are introduced which add extra complexity to levels. Some can be used as trampolines, others float in water, though the best physics defying cuboids are left for later in the game. These in particular add a sense of experimentation and come about at just the right point to reinvigorate proceedings.

thomaswasalone_banner2

Left here Thomas Was Alone would go down as a very elegant and well-executed platformer. It reduces the genre down to a base set of components and then builds up a stead degree of challenge. However there is more, as surprisingly the developer manages to inject personality into these simple shapes, causing you to care about them more than most polygonal game leads you’ll meet.

As the various quads are introduced, so are their characters. Our friend Thomas turns out to be an optimistic chap, fascinated with the world, and yet Chris is a dour, grumpy sod. He gets along with Thomas, but more because he has to rather than as a willing companion. It may seem a little contrived initially but as your time in this Flatland-variant continues you forget you’re puppeting faceless shapes. They turn rather into abstracted personalities and are very well suited to the form and its properties.

I remember back during the era of Worms and Cannon Fodder that my hapless soldiers would always develop their own traits, be it the coward always hiding at the back or the grumpy bugger that continually whinged because he had to carry the heavy rocket launcher. The same is true here, with Chris who always seems to need that extra helping hand due to his diminutive stature very believably having a chip on his shoulder. Then there’s the lean athlete who quite fittingly has the cocky attitude that he’s carrying the rest along, right through to the very self-conscious larger lady. I may be committed after this next sentence, but each shape is perfectly cast.

These personalities are all brought to life through the narration of Danny Wallace who at the start of each level reads an insight into the minds of one of our party. From the personal struggles of each through to the larger team dynamic, this storytelling makes the whole experience feel far more compelling than just a well-crafted platformer. It becomes the tale of personal struggle as a misfit bunch try and come to terms with not only the world about them but their own personal demons.

It’s a surprising outcome for a game primarily focused on getting you to jump from left to right but proves almost more rewarding because of it. Your motions are analogous with the shape’s journey and your reward for reaching your goal is helping them towards theirs.

thomaswasalone_banner3

Little Inferno ::: Hands On

So, Little Inferno. At first I thought you were silly. Then I thought you were setting the wrong example. And then I wanted to burn things with you. A lot.

It’s a devilishly simple premise that rewards players for setting light to their newly acquired possessions. Join Ali and James as they play with matches.

Reus ::: Hands On

Reus! A quaint unpronounceable Civilisation game where you control four giants all looking to terraform and plant their influence on the planet. Join Ali and James as they nurture their planet from a desolate wasteland to a thriving evolution of mankind.

Xbox One

The last 48 hours have seen a series of ups and downs regarding my views on Xbox One. As the Ghosts demo faded to black and the countdown to E3 shone in vivid green across the screen I was relatively upbeat. We’d seen some new hardware, been given a taste of what new functionality it would bring to the living room, and were but a few short weeks from another data dump in LA. A quick trawl through my Twitter feed however and it would appear not everyone was thinking the same. A silly name, an ugly box and a dearth of games lead to one scathing comment after another. My mood deflated.

Now, with the naysayers decrying Microsoft with full gusto, I still stick to one thought: that presentation was not for us. Not for those who have built up five-digit Gamerscores, the dedicated midnight-launch enthusiasts willing to pay the high price of early adoption, or the lovers of Fez. This was a show for the broader market. Just take a step back and just look at the items that were the focus of the presentation.

Before the first mention of Xbox One had faded from the auto-cue there was talk not of games but mainstream media. Of television, of Skype, of surfing the net whilst watching films, this was a play for the living room that many had predicted.

When games did appear it was the classic trinity of guns, sports and cars. Each can be appreciated by the connoisseur and casual player alike but as franchises they represent what gaming is to the general population. FIFA and Call of Duty alone representation annual releases that Joe Public will come back year after year to play, proving crucial to the success of any platform.

Taking up the bulk of the hour, these two key aspects should have told us everything we need to know. This was a bid to be a wider news story than simply being splashed over Eurogamer and IGN, this was a play to crack larger markets. The executives had grander visions, especially as they were broadcasting live on TV in the States. Quite how that panned out it’s hard to tell in our hobby’s very opinionated and heated bubble, but it’s fair to say that we were not its primary audience.

xboxone_banner

That said I was fairly philosophical about what was shown. The initial media demonstration was pleasing without blowing me away. Most of what we saw appeared built into the operating system, responding quickly as Don and his friends flicked between Star Trek and Skype. As someone who uses their consoles – of all persuasions – as media centres these new traits intrigued me, especially the opportunity to “snap” multiple items together onscreen. I can imagine already imaging watching a film whilst playing a snapped version of next-gen Hexic or, visa versa, playing through an RPG with iPlayer in a sidebar keeping me entertained as I grind.

If it’s as simple as Kinect makes it seem too then so much the better. The inclusion of the camera as standard with the console I think is a good decision. I believe that half the problem with any peripheral is the install base; even prolific successes, such as the harddrive with 360, can never be taken for granted as there are always some who are without. Only when everyone has it can it truly flourish as developers will consider it more worthy of attention. Personally I’m hoping for more joint control schemes whereby players use both controller and pad to interact with their games. Throw in smartglass and you’ve an interesting set of inputs, but like so many of the more interesting points this was brushed over. There were scant examples of how any of this higher fidelity tech could be worked into your Xbox experience other than the rather lacklustre one of browsing the Internet.

Whether this avoidance of drilling deep into too many pieces of tech was again so as not to put off the more casual viewer is arguable. What it meant was that the new machine’s specifications were quickly trotted out (though confirmed in more detail in a technical panel after the main show) and tantalising words like cloud computing, personal DVR, and being always on were dropped in casually. What half of them do is still a mystery, we just know they’re in, almost mentioned in passing so as to appear nonchalant about their appearance.

The biggest news was of course Stephen Spielberg’s involvement with a live action Halo TV series. Not quite the Halo 5 reveal that we’d hope but as both a Spielberg and Halo fanboy I almost fell off my chair with glee. Between that and Remedy’s involvement with game-come-TV-show Quantum Break and the rumours that Microsoft are bringing back Heroes as an Xbox exclusive, the Redmond company look to be branching out their media production. Could this be where our Xbox Live Gold subscription money goes? Are they turning themselves into a cable channel?

xboxone_banner4

This of course is but one of many questions left unanswered. The lack of specific detail on so many topics, from Gold to second hand sales, from how the TV software sits in Europe to the unknown 15 first party games in the first year, is odd. In the past these conferences were designed to fill you in on every aspect of a console’s launch and leave you in no doubt that the next morning you’d skip down to GAME and hand over your preorder slip.

This felt different. It was an error on Microsoft’s behalf that so many dedicated gamers were expecting the traditional unveiling and no mitigation was put in place to either lower that expectation or fill in the blanks afterwards. This can be seen in the handful of interviews I’ve read with games journalists doing their best to extract nuggets from Phil Harrison and alike in a bid to make up for the deficiencies on stage.

How I feel, however, is that this was an hour long teaser. That probably wasn’t the intended result but I’ve had a taste and I want to see more. There was enough promise in the hour to pique my interest and seeing the same Final Fantasy trailer for a third time wasn’t going to enhance that any further. Yes, it was disappointing not to see games, more disappointing that we didn’t see traditional games using Kinect and smartglass in interesting ways, but that’s what E3 is for.

To have two hardcore conferences in the space of three weeks was never going to happen. The space in between was never enough time for developers to spit out two unique demos of the same game and so the only logical conclusion was what we got. What we saw there was the hour of filler that companies often get lambasted for at E3, it’s the reveal of a YouTube app, the vitality sensor, that sales figures. With that out the way then hopefully in LA we can concentrate on the meat: the games.

The shape of the box never mattered, it’s just going to hide under my telly; the name of the box never mattered, I bought a “Wii” after all; the amount of power never really mattered, as long as it was comparable to PS4 then it’s all going to be ok. What matters is what the box can do. I saw a snippet on Tuesday and I can’t wait until E3 to see more.

xboxone_banner2