The ability to play classic games in 4K is one of the most interesting, and sometimes under-discussed, features of the Xbox One X. The system currently provides the only way to play the first Red Dead Redemption in 4K, and doing so is absolutely worth your time. The list of Xbox One X-enhanced games that are backward-compatible isn’t huge — there are currently only 21 as of this writing — but there are some jewels in there, from the original Mirror’s Edge to Portal.
I bought a 4K HDR TV last weekend. My first thought after purchasing it was, “PS4 Pro or Xbox One X?”
Thankfully for my wallet, the original PS4 supports HDR, and that’s more meaningful than 4K in my book. But had I owned neither, I’d be all over the Xbox One X.
While the breadth of catalog isn’t there, there’s certainly enough for my casual needs. But most importantly, for cross-platform games, I’d know I’m getting the best console experience on the market. That’s tough to swallow for a snob like me.
Between (enhanced) backwards-compatibility, early adoption of cross-platform multiplayer, and unmatched performance, I agree with Kuchera. This will be a holiday to watch Microsoft.
He continues: “Performance is not really the issue. The issue instead is in the size of carts. The 32GB carts are expensive, you shouldn’t be wanting to do that. So we need to fit everything on 16GB, whereas the standard game on PS4 is much, much larger. It’s a crazy ratio we’re talking about. However, thankfully, there are a lot of opportunities for reduction without changing anything anyone will notice. Another thing we can do is do a cartridge version and then do staggered downloads to make the game complete. That’s probably the hardest part. Finding all the new technicalities and quirks that you get with a new platform.
Interesting and somewhat encouraging that performance isn’t the primary challenge of porting to the Switch. Also encouraging that dual-layer DVDs — the ancient technology used by the PS2 and Xbox 360 — maxed out at 8.5 GB. (Apparently, Xbox 360 discs topped out at 7.95 GB.) Thus, I remain hopeful for Final Fantasy X and Kindgom Hearts ports.
Nintendo focused on making a system that was easy to use, relatively inexpensive and could be both a portable and a home console. The stats show that players are taking advantage of these factors, and the sales speak for themselves. In a business where it often seems like companies are killing themselves trying to push for the greatest visual fidelity possible, Nintendo has completely shifted the conversation to convenience and fun. The Switch is being richly rewarded for this approach.
Nintendo has also changed the game when it comes to third-party developers. Visual quality is no longer the most important thing, the game just has to run well enough to be playable and enjoyable. A company’s back catalog of older games is now a treasure trove of potential Switch ports. Fans are asking for any number of games from any number of companies to be brought to the console, and publishers would be wise to listen to them.
The Nintendo Switch once again proves the value of changing the game if you can’t win by the existing rules, and there’s not much Microsoft or Sony can do to gain the same momentum with strategies that focus on raw power. Nintendo has this market all to itself, and that’s a great place to be. The game developers just have to learn that looking good enough is a great way to sell a game to an appreciative audience.
In August, I wrote about moving to handheld — shelving my PS4 and Xbox One and exclusively playing Switch and 3DS. I’ve since gone one step further by disconnecting the Switch dock from the TV. It now serves as a holster on my nightstand. There are games I yearn to try, but the thought of anchoring myself to our living room television just to partake in a boisterous chaos for my own pleasure seems irritating, selfish, and wasteful. I much prefer the experience of dipping in and out — sound off — while my wife and I relax together. Conversations aren’t drown out. A quick press of the Switch’s lock button not only pauses the experience, it completely disengages me when necessary. No static menu hogging the television screen. No anxiety about not being able to pause in certain areas.
I won’t go as far as to say that mid-cycle upgrades are outlandish. There are small things I’d love to see enhanced on the Switch: smaller bezel, larger screen; better kickstand; move toward haptics vs. vibrate motors; better speakers. The one thing I haven’t craved is better graphics — a statement I would not make for the 3DS. The Switch has hit a fidelity sweet spot.
This has been a long time coming. I would go as far as to say that the boom of pixel art, retro, and minimal art styles is a statement about bearable visuals as much as it is about style. What was novel has become an expected and even desired norm. This extends beyond mobile and casual games to hearty indies like The Witness and Super Hot.
The fact that new and recent third-party titles are making their way to the “underpowered” system is impressive. While we wait for Nintendo’s online service / Virtual Console to make an appearance on the Switch, there is an abundance of third-party back-catalog that could be used as a testing ground. I cannot comment with any authority about cost to port legacy games vs current-gen, but I do know that there exists a wealth of proven titles that will run current hardware rather than gambling resources to try to port new titles to the Switch. Really, I’m just jonesing for Final Fantasy X and Kingdom Hearts.
On Friday, January 13 at 1 PM Japan Standard Time, Nintendo unveiled new details about their Switch “home” console. While hard tech specs didn’t make an appearance — I thought for sure Nvidia would have been showcased — deeper insight to the Joy-Con, play styles, and 2017 library were provided. Above all, what the keynote will be remembered for is an awkward Squid Researcher.
Nintendo Switch will launch in “Japan, US, Canada, major European countries, Hong Kong, and other territories” on March 3rd. It will retail in Japan for ¥29,980, the US for $299.99, and varying prices in the European territories.Software will not be region locked, which is an incredibly big move for Nintendo.
Pre-orders for the Switch went up after the event and appear too have quickly depleted.
As a whole, the presentation felt backwards and tonally awkward. Without building any hype, Nintendo opened with launch dates and pricing. The Joy-Con demonstration as well as the trailers for first-party titles 1-2-Switch and Arms felt long-in-the-tooth. At least two of the presenters garnered “WTF” moments that also seemed to throw off one of the translators. And then there was Hisashi Nogami’s Splatoon 2 appearance as a “Squid Researcher”.
Nintendo makes cute games and they’ve done cute things during presentations, but they’ve never struck me as outlandishly awkward. The Splatoon 2 portion sapped the presentation of its professionalism, which feels odd to say as it’s a game about squid children shooting paint at one another. At it’s core, Switch is a toy. But it’s audience doesn’t treat it that way. Nintendo is a global company. It has been since the Wii, and certainly before that to its core, 30-somethings audience.
Even for the crazy toymaker, there has been something professional about their presentations, marketing, and — since the Wii — industrial design. The latter of which is present in the Switch. The system’s design is as plain as ever and comes in stark contrast to a squirt-gun wielding executive taking the stage.
Note the quotes around “home” in my intro. Early in the presentation, Nintendo stated that the Switch is a “home” console:
7:45: “Nintendo Switch is a video game system for the home.”
8:14: “Nintendo Switch has been designed to be a home console gaming system that gives you the freedom to change your play style.”
Within 30 seconds, Nintendo hammered on the idea that Switch is built for the home. It felted pointed and explicit. It’s an important point. The Switch is intended to be the dream: a home console you can take with you.
Modes of play include:
TV Mode: “Typical video game style.”
Tabletop Mode: “Play video games in front of a screen with others, wherever you like, even away from the TV.”
Handheld Mode: “Take it with you and play indoors, outdoors, or anywhere you like.”
The Switch will also offer 8-person local multiplayer in portable mode. Depending on adoption, this could be a killer feature. The capability alone screams that Nintendo is gunning for a new generation of portable gaming.
Last but not least, it was great to see Nintendo adopting USB-C. Color me shocked that Nintendo, the company that passed up HDMI on the 2006 Wii and was still using resistive touchscreens on the 2011 3DS and 2012 Wii U, would ship a device with the latest standard in USB technology.1
These are impressive little gizmos with a funny name. From what I could count, they include:
7 gameplay inputs (buttons) on each controller
NFC (shown on right, but presumably both)
Home button (right)
Camera button (left)
Accelerometer and gyro sensors
“-” (left) and “+” (right) buttons
Motion IR camera (right only)
The HD Rumble demonstration claimed that the sensation of a glass with one, two, or three ice cubes rattling as well as the glass filling up with water could be felt in a single Joy-Con. The best I could figure was that HD rumble include three independent rumble motors, allowing for altered effects.
It’s worth noting that when the Joy-Con are separated from the Switch itself, the right Joy-Con features a joystick in its center. I can’t imagine this feels great. I guess I’ll leave it up to a company that shipped a controller with an analog joystick in its center to make that call.
We’ve known about The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild since 2013. And the October 2016 announcement of Nintendo Switch teased a new 3D Mario game. Two staples we, without a doubt, knew we were getting. Even Skyrim was a fairly sure certainty for the platform.
The equivalent of Wii Sports for Wii and and Nintendo Land for Wii U, 1-2-Switch is Switch’s tutorial game. It looks extremely awkward, but I’ll blame that on the all to lengthy Mexican standoff demonstration. For better or worse, it was a solid reminder that Nintendo is a toy company.
Interestingly, Nintendo introduced a first-party fighter. But not just any fighter. In true Nintendo fashion, Arms is also a shooter of sorts. A fighter-shooter hybrid labeled as a “Fighting sports game.” It looks like it might even be fun without motion controls. Like other Nintendo franchises before it, it appears to feature a cast of (possibly) memorable characters such as Spring Man and Ribbon Girl. Will Arms be the next Wii boxing or Splatoon? What do you think of the name?
While Wii Remotes (how did they not go with “Wiimotes”?!) were available for Wii U, Switch seems like a much more natural fit for Splatoon. As far as motion control shooters go, I loved the feel of Metroid Prime 3 on Wii. It’s also nice to see Nintendo doubling-down on this new franchise.
Mario is out of the Mushroom Kingdom, and seeming into the real-world. At least for some portion of the game. Super Mario Odyssey is meant to evoke “the excitement when visiting unknown countries for the very first time.” The visuals look incredible, relying heavily on shadows and environmental physics. This is in contrast to another visually impressive Mario game — Super Mario Galaxy, which used an opposite lighting effect on Mario, providing a white shine around his model. While the visuals and openness of Super Mario Odyssey look sunning, there is something discomforting about seeing the cartoonish Mario next to Sim-ish humanoids. I’m most looking forward to this game.
I’ve always wanted to dive into the Xenoblade series, and this might be the title that does it. The art design is imaginative and the scale looks impressive. The blue armor and prominence of a helmet on one of the characters kept screaming “Mega Man” and had me scraping credits in search of any possible crossover. The one thing I couldn’t shake from this trailer was the scene of a character riding a lion-like creature. The frame-rate seemed very low and jittery. A similar jarring moment occurred during the Xenoblade Chronicles trailer in the Nintendo Direct 1.14.2015. (See my note mid-way down the page.)
Boy, oh boy, does this game look great! Next-level Paper Mario meets Retro Final Fantasy? It’s titles like this that make me excited for the portability of the Switch. Something about retro stylings screams “personal” and “portable” to me.
I’ve been itching for a portable version of Skyrim since I tried playing on Xbox 360. Skyrim is a game to get lost in; to spend hours with. But to spend hours taking over the TV in our house would be unconscionable. Needless to say, I never got more than three hours into this game on Xbox 360. I’m very much looking forward finally working through this game on my own portable screen.
There was a brief clip of a Street Fighter game during the final Switch video. Like others, I immediately thought we’d seen a glimpse of the Virtual Console on Switch. Alas, it appears to be a standalone version of Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers.
I don’t have much to say about Super Bomberman R. I was never a huge fan of the Bomberman series. I do recall playing a ton of Blaster Master Jr. on Game Boy. I mainly wanted call out my nostalgia and affection for Bomberman 64.
Breath of the Wild is a Switch launch title. Nintendo presented this as huge news, but it comes off more as a confirmation to quell fan fears. Beyond that, not too many additional details were given. The new, extended trailer showed off the breadth of the open Hyrule as well as new and familiar characters. And while cartoony, the tone of the narrative seemed fairly adult.
At the very beginning of the keynote, Shinya Takahashi gave a quick run-through of Nintendo’s past consoles. It had a nice Apple-y touch, focusing on the innovation and lessons of the past to brought Nintendo to the Switch:
Famicom (NES): Shipped with two controllers
Game Boy: Pioneered portable video games as we know them today
Super Famicom (SNES): Added X & Y and L & R shoulder buttons
Nintendo 64: Introduced the first analog joystick and rumble (Rumble Pak) to a controller
GameCube: Included a handle with the intention to be a home console could move from location to location
Nintendo DS: Touchscreen portable gaming
Wii: Brought motion controls to the mass market
Wii U: Enabled console gaming off the TV
Without question, Switch is another unique and possibly industry changing device. Like Apple, Nintendo often skates to where the puck is headed, defining industry trends. And without question, the biggest dream of all is being able to take your home console on the go.
1I am so thrilled that USB-C seems to be taking off like it is. Within months of Apple going whole hog on their MacBook and MacBook Pro lines, I’ve purchased a Drobo 5C and ROLI Lightpad Block that are also equipped with USB-C. Now I’ll be able to add Nintendo Switch to the mix.
On June 9th, 2015, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller, a man who has spent half of his life at Apple Inc., joined Daring Fireball’s John Gruber on stage for a live episode of The Talk Show.
When asked if Unreal Engine 4 will span the next 10 years, Sweeney says that it’s for the foreseeable future, that Unreal Engine will get to “the promised land,” a vision of the future Sweeney’s hinted at earlier in the day during his speech at the Game Developers Conference. “This is the word I was afraid to use earlier. This is the convergence of all these forms of media.”
Technologists, media theorists, and game designers spoke of the convergence ad nauseam in the 1990s, when film and video games came together in a garbage fire of media that could neither be called a good game nor a good film. In the 2000s, the convergence was replaced with the notion of transmedia, with entertainment spread across different mediums, connected through a shared universe or narrative. However Sweeney believes the convergence is making a comeback, that the graphics world is seeing humans and technology meeting at a unified point. Sweeney sees photorealistic 3D objects and lighting and virtual reality attracting game designers, sure, but also industrial designers, architects, and film makers to engines like Unreal Engine 4.
In this future, or present if you ask Sweeney, lessons learned from one field, say an architect designing a virtual building, can be applied to games or film, and likewise. Sweeney believes the potential application of the engine across all fields increases exponentially as information is shared.
All of this raises the question: does Epic Games identify purely as a games company? “We’re realizing now that Unreal Engine 4 is a common language between all these common fields.” Sweeney doesn’t see the industries as all that different. More interesting than Sweeney’s prediction of field-sharing information and experience is the speculation of the fields in some ways merging together. For their most recent demo, Epic Games partnered with Weta to create a VR demonstration featuring the dragon Smaug from the The Hobbit.
The separation between game and experience and art is becoming more defined. Under the guise of this piece, interactive experiences such as Journey and Dear Esther feel like the blossoms of Tim Sweeney’s greater vision, most recently demonstrated with Smaug.
Update: I failed to mention the main reason why this important. Not only does the diversity of Unreal Engine 4 practical uses help clarify the categories of computer generated media, there’s this:
… this year, Unreal Engine 4 is free — the company asks for a 5 percent royalty for any commercial product made with the engine that makes more than $3,000 a quarter.
Commercial product: a product that can make money (i.e. video games, VR/AR experiences, movies, TV shows, YouTube shorts, amateur animations, etc.).
I’ve spent the better part of my career in technical support roles; hours upon hours equating RAM to freeways and CPU-cores to cooks in a kitchen. Countless individuals taking backup advice with a “ya, sure” and a head nod. People terrified over the word “server” and unassuming over the word “cloud”. It baffles me how such basic knowledge is so foreign.
We spend large parts if not the majority of our days wrapped up in feeds and phones, devices and displays. How is it that none of us understand the fundamentals of how they operate?
I am not talking about the Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (STEM) behind everyday objects. I am not talking about teaching higher level concepts or tinkering with “niche” concepts like geometry, chemistry, or physics. I am talking about the everyday. I am talking about principle understanding of devices we fear to go without. Tools we use more than anything else in our lives!
Why is it that computer classes are electives? Why is it that those enamored with video games are the only ones expected to understand the relationship between browser tabs and RAM? Why is it that those obsessed with science fiction, participating in chess club, or enrolled in AP classes are the only ones expected to understand the severities of hard shutdowns? Why should cookies, encryption, or battery drain be mysteries to anyone born into today’s world; mysteries to those touching unfathomable technology at 12-months-old?
This is not STEM. This is fundamental. This is commonplace. This is home economics.
Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS), also known as home economics, is the profession and field of study that deals with the economics and management of the home and community.The field deals with the relationship between individuals, families, and communities, and the environment in which they live.
As a subject of study, FCS is taught in secondary schools, colleges and universities, vocational schools, and in adult education centers; students include women and men. It prepares students for homemaking or professional careers, or to assist in preparing to fulfill real-life responsibilities at home. As a profession, it includes educators in the field and human services professionals.
The field represents many disciplines including consumer science, nutrition, food preparation, parenting, early childhood education, family economics and resource management, human development, interior design, textiles, apparel design, as well as other related subjects. Family and Consumer Sciences education focuses on individuals and families living in society throughout the life span, thus dealing not only with families but also with their interrelationships with the communities. Other topics such as sexual education, food management, and fire prevention might also be covered.
The misunderstanding or incomprehension of OS differences, dot-version subtleties, and computer languages can be expected. What should not be expected is the misunderstanding of “memory” versus “disk space” or the incomprehension of a kilo/mega/giga/tera/petabyte.
I do not fault those without basic computer knowledge or those born into this embarrassing system. There are simple things about computers I’m sure I do not wholeheartedly understand. There are simple things I use every day that I don’t understand. I drive a car to work and still have a very little idea of how it operates. I’m intimidated by the cable, electric, and gas lines in my home. Hand me a toggle bolt (yes, I had to look it up) and I would swear it was a missing piece from an Erector Set. I’m a music junkie and I still have a hard time wrapping my head around the technology behind vinyl records and cassette tapes, let alone speakers themselves!
The lack of basic knowledge about the technology we utilize day-in and day-out, the technology we can’t go five minutes without touching, tapping, refreshing, or waking gives me chills. I’m sure I get more pleasure from solving technological problems for people than most, but I sure as hell get tired of the same questions day-in and day-out. I know this is much bigger than a blog post, but his needs to stop. Redefine Home Ec 101 and make it mandatory.
When Microsoft announced the Xbox One in 2013, it was going to require an always-on internet connection to function. After backlash from gamers and Sony’s gloating proclamation that the PlayStation 4 would play games just fine without the help of the internet, Microsoft backed down and dropped the requirement (except for a one-time console activation). As it turns out, Microsoft’s initial approach was more realistic about the modern reality of how games are made, and what’s effectively required in order to have a reasonably stable experience with a physical copy of a game you buy off the shelf today. Your console will indeed run without a connection, but your disc-based games may not give it much to work with.
This piece started and ended exactly how I wanted it to; picking up with Microsoft’s original (and much maligned) “always-on” strategy, and ending with today’s “always-on” gaming reality.
Ben Kuchera recently spoke with former AAA developer Keith Fuller for this tragicomic piece on the instability of recent AAA titles. In short:
This sort of thing is more common than you think, and it leads to muddled, unfinished and often buggy releases. It’s not a matter of including the kitchen sink; developers are sometimes tasked with adding a hot tub at the last second as the project develops.
Stapleton touches on the fact that patches are blessing, but I seem to remember a time when there weren’t even a reality. Maybe I’m showing nostalgic naivety, but I’m having a very difficult time recalling game-breaking bugs from the pre-PS3/Xbox 360 era. But can today’s AAA, reality-verging games truly exist in a non-patchable world?
Games are more complex than they have ever been. The benefits of more powerful hardware are simply enablers. In 30+ years, we have moved from simple sketches of fantasy to unparalleled productions that now challenge reality. Global resources are required to make today’s video games. That doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of the time and resources it takes to generate cutting-edge animations and textures in highly detailed main characters, let alone randomly generated NPCs. I imagine it’s easier to create windblown hair now than five years ago, but nothing compared to the two frames it took in 1988. Just because a console “can” doesn’t make it any easier create.
As an aside, allow this 2011 piece from Gamesradar entertain you: how I wish Microsoft would have stuck with their original strategy.
Up until recently, both Xbox One and PlayStation 4 have reserved two entire CPU cores (out of eight available) in order to run the background operating system in parallel with games. Since October, Microsoft has allowed developers access to 50 to 80 per cent of a seventh processing core – which may partly explain why a small amount of multi-platform titles released during Q4 2014 may have possessed performance advantages over their PS4 counterparts in certain scenarios.
However, there’s no such thing as a free lunch, and the additional CPU power comes with conditions and trades attached – however, there is the potential for many games to benefit. Firstly, developers need to give up custom, game-specific voice commands in order to access the seventh core at all, while Kinect’s infra-red and depth functionality is also disabled. Secondly, the amount of CPU time available to developers varies at any given moment – system-related voice commands (“Xbox record that”, “Xbox go to friends”) automatically see CPU usage for the seventh core rise to 50 per cent. At the moment, the operating system does not inform the developer how much CPU time is available, so scheduling tasks will be troublesome. This is quite important – voice commands during gameplay will be few and far between, meaning that 80 per cent of the core should be available most of the time. However, right now, developers won’t know if and when that allocation will drop. It’s a limitation recognised in the documentation, with Microsoft set to address that in a future SDK update.
The concessions Microsoft has been making to the Xbox One (revised DRM model, “dis-Kinect”, price-drop, bundles, and now opening the seventh processing core) are admirable, and considering the recent spike in sales, certainly make for an interesting future for the console war. However, these are just that — concessions. Sony has continued to stay the course with compelling hardware and a simple story. Not to mention this is another hit against Kinect and the original vision of Xbox One.
Being born in ’85 (we may as well call it ’86), some of topics discussed in both of these pieces grazed the edges of my memory but weren’t so far off that I couldn’t muster up a sliver of recognition or plausibility for the topic at hand. However, many of the subjects and terms (DOS, floppy disks, “raster”, 8-bit, etc.) had me pining for life in an earlier time. A time when faster, smaller, cheaper meant a Gameboy vs. Gameboy Pocket; not a 250GB 2.5″ HDD vs. 3TB of cloud storage. It may seem crazy to wish for a pre-Internet era, but then again, Golden Age Thinking is crazy.
Paul (Michael Sheen), Midnight in Paris:
Nostalgia is denial – denial of the painful present… the name for this denial is golden age thinking – the erroneous notion that a different time period is better than the one one’s living in – it’s a flaw in the romantic imagination of those people who find it difficult to cope with the present.
I then got to thinking about my mother’s lack of interest in technology. She’s on a candy-bar phone, still abides by a phone book, and prints out directions from MapQuest. Maybe she was never focused on her Golden Age as much as she is comfortable living in it. Where she stands in the current tech landscape is likely a Golden Age for others.
I love technology, but at some point (and I don’t feel it’s too far off) I will I call it quits on trying to keep up? Will I settle in what will become a future someone’s Golden Age? All I know is that this morning, I was the guy in the 7 year old car (my wife drives the new one) listening to talk radio (podcasts) on a 2+ year-old smartphone (I’ve been upgrade eligible for months). And today’s music is terrible. And I’ve been to a movie theater once in the past year. And there will never be better TV than Seinfeld. And I don’t understand EDM (Electronic Dance Music / Erotic Dancing Miley / Exorbitantly Deep Minecraft). And I’m comfortable.