New Xbox to Debut at E3 2012?


That’s the word from Videogamer.com as Crytek is apparently on board for another Timesplitters game on the new console. Some interesting details:

The Crysis 2 developer says that Microsoft will announce the existence of a new Xbox within the next 12 months, hinting that an E3 2012 reveal is likely. Crytek believes that Microsoft will announce and launch its new machine ahead of rival Sony, though the developer is also investing resources into next-generation PlayStation development. The information was detailed to VideoGamer.com by a high-ranking industry source at Crytek, who stated that TimeSplitters 4 is currently being demonstrated internally, is being built with CryEngine 3, and was being shown privately in video form at E3 2011.

Details are few but DirectX 11 support is supposedly a focal point. Interesting. In this same news story Crytek also talks Wii U. A Crytek engine on a Wii…what is the world coming to?

Read the whole story here.

X-Men Destiny Trailer Looks Old School

And by “old school” I mean last generation. Seriously, it looks like Silicon Knights is using the same engine they used for the GameCube version of Metal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes. I’m going to assume this is super-mega-pre-alpha or something.

Atari to bring Gamma World to XBLA/PSN/PC


Here’s one from E3 that didn’t get much attention. As in, almost none. Atari, having recently screwed the Displacer Beast with their atrocious Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale game for the download services, is taking a rare dip out of one of Wizards of the Coast’s othernon-D&D properties. The result? Gamma World: Alpha Mutation, coming soon for XBLA, PSN, and PC. Gamma World is a long-running, sort of cult-classic science fiction RPG that just recently saw a major 7th edition renovation that introduced a somewhat ridiculous collectible card game element. Now, before I share with you the press release, which makes this sound like a very promising and potentially awesome game, let’s put it right out on the table. This is being handled by Bedlam Games. Yes, the same people that crapped out Daggerdale. Proceed with caution and set expectations to “zero”.

In the fall of 2012, scientists at the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland, embarked on a new series of high-energy experiments. No one knows exactly what they were attempting to do, but a little after 3pm on a Thursday afternoon came The Big Mistake. Something unexpected happened, and in the blink of an eye, a multiplicity of possible universes condensed into a single reality. Welcome to Gamma Terra.

Gamma World: Alpha Mutation sends you to Gamma Terra, a savage land of adventure, where the survivors of “The Big Mistake” must contend with radioactive wastes, rampant lawlessness, and monstrous predators. Against a nuclear backdrop, heroic scavengers search crumbled ruins for lost artifacts while battling mutants and other perils.

Create your Gamma World hero from a variety of primary and secondary origins. Radiation-triggered Alpha Mutations change the players abilities in unpredictable ways throughout their adventure, and powerful Omega Technology will allow players to bend the laws of reality itself in their quest for survival.

Explore Gamma Terra: Take on a variety of perilous missions through a variety of regions of gamma terra, from ruined cities to barren wastelands and beyond, the collision of multiple realities has created a world as exotic as it is deadly.

The Quick and the Dead: Gamma world delivers the depth of an RPG and the action of third person shooter. Quick reflexes and split second decisions are just as important as effective character design.

Lone Wolf or Death Squad: Take on missions solo or join up with friends to tackle the challenges of the Gamma Terra. Play with two players locally or up to four players online.

Evolve Your Character with Alpha Mutations: Gamma World’s character customization system allows players to actively develop their character in almost unlimited ways.

Discover Omega Technology: Powerful technology from other dimensions can turn the tides and preserve your hero’s life… for now.

Conduct Weapons R&D: Scavenge the environment for parts to create new weapons, armor, tools and more. Your ingenuity is your edge in this fight for survival.

NPD: May Sales Hit Record Low


The sky is falling. Ok, not really.

Game Politics has write up about how May 2011 is one of the lowest sales months on record according to NPD with the following, somewhat important, caveat:

“Keeping in mind that these sales figures represent just the new physical portion of the market for video game hardware, software, and accessories and not the growing portion of the industry that is comprised of digital format content distribution, May 2011 was the lowest month of sales for the industry since October 2006,” said Frazier. “A light slate of new releases is at the heart of this month’s performance.”

So….in other words your data doesn’t mean a hell of a lot. Until we can get a look at the whole picture, I don’t know what purpose NPD serves anymore. Brink was the #2 seller for May behind LA Noire — not bad considering the early press and that doesn’t even count PC download sales.

EA Taking Dragon Age II Criticism to Heart?


First off, Eurogamer is bringing it. Lots of good stuff over there today.

Like this little number with EA’s Frank Gibeau regarding the reaction to Dragon Age II from a good chunk of the fanbase. Going so far as to admit “we lost some fans” with the release of the DA sequel.

“We’re very proud of the game. We tried to innovate and do some different things with the combat system and some of the way we told story. For some fans it worked well. In fact, we brought a lot of new fans into the Dragon Age franchise. But to be honest, we lost some fans as well. They were not pleased with some of the innovations and things we’d done. We understand that and we’re listening.”

It’s a good read and I like that the company is listening to feedback. Then multiplayer is mentioned and I start to get worried.

Are Sequels Unfairly Criticized?


First off, that is one of the greatest images I have ever seen. Ah, Conan the Destroyer.

Anyway.

id CEO Todd Hollenshead discusses the bad rap sequels get in the game industry. I guess he means from the press? Gamers can’t get enough of sequels, just look at the sales figures. It’s the new brands that struggle.

It’s a tricky thing, really. You can’t blame companies for playing things safe — look at Red Faction Armageddon, a game that shuns the old design and opts for something totally different, people hate the switch, and the series could be in trouble because of it. People wanted for RF:G, didn’t get it, and are not pleased. Now look at Prey 2 which is doing the opposite– going from a traditional shooter to an open world sci-fi game that has nothing really to do with the original game, at least gameplay wise. Then again look at Assassin’s Creed, Mass Effect, etc. These games are playing it safer than a politician — 10000% playing to its base. It’s a delicate dance. Do you just pump out more of the same or radically change direction? I guess it depends on the franchise.

Hollenshead makes some fair points until he uses a film analogy. Of all of the movie franchises to link to his argument he chooses…Road House? Really Todd? Road House?

Go Back to High School with NCAA Football '12


For the past few editions NCAA Football has included a mode known as Road to Glory, in which you create your own player and take him through a college football career. I’ve always wanted to like the idea behind this mode, but have never been able to get into it. I haven’t touched it in a couple years, but I remember it as being too easy to get the starting nod at a school, with far too few decisions to make once you get there and those you did make being rather silly and superfluous. This year EA Tiburon has evidently overhauled the mode and have just released this teaser video, narrated by one Kirk Herbstreit (boo!). Here’s the highlights…

- The High School Experience. Play out your final year of high school using either a 7 or 12-game schedule. You can do custom uniforms and difficulty for your opponents, import created teams to serve as high school cannon fodder, etc. You can play both sides of the ball and, in doing so, find yourself being recruited differently based on your multiple positions. You might, for example, be viewed as a 5-star safety, but a 2-star quarterback. Schools will recruit you accordingly and you’ll have to accept going to a lesser school if you want to have ultimate control over your position. As gimmicky as it sounds, I actually like this a lot. I’m not sold that they’ll really implement it well -check the stats for the 5-star safety recruit in the video; they’re woefully incomplete- but it peaks my interest.

- Signing Day. The video glosses over your actual recruitment process, but you can see a Signing Day screen in the video where you choose the school you’re committing to and your number. This gives me the wiggins because, if you’re going to make going through your senior year of high school a big deal, there’s potentially a lot you could do with the recruiting process in terms of interested schools making promises to you, taking campus visits, academic factors, soft and hard commits, etc. Would be a shame if they completely glossed over this as there’s interesting off-field gameplay to be found there.

- On Campus. Once you’re on campus you can see options to practice (with a set number of available reps), see what kind of trust your coach has in you, and upgrade skills. There are tabs in there for My Career and ESPN, but no mention in the video of what they contain. The Herbstreit narration says you do have to “win” a starting job and that even once you do, you’ll have to endure “position challenges” in practice. Good! Coach Trust will come into play here as it determines what you can do on the field in terms of things like calling hot routes, audibles, plays, etc. (The video shows you earning different levels of captaincy as well.) This is excellent if it’s done in a sensible way, but here we lead into the part that makes me throw up in my mouth: Experience and one-game Ratings Boost Packs.

- Player Progression. Yes, you want your player to evolve as you play. You want how you perform to have an effect on it. Absolutely. But, again, it needs to done sensibly. This looks nonsensical and arcadey, like something you’d get from NFL Bliltz. Hey look I just scored enough points to get the “No Fumble For You” boost pack. Does that come with a stick of gum in every pack too? Sigh. At one point you can see a Skill Upgrade called Crow Hop with the following description, “Use that Crow Hop from left field with this Throw Power, Acceleration & Jumping Boost.” I don’t even know that means or what those three skills have to do with each other that they’re being bundled together. It also shows each of those ratings getting a +2 bonus which also boosts the Overall rating by +2. You can only worry so much about numbers in a 2-minute preview reel, but that’s absolutely terrifying because this is the game that, at E3, shows Michigan’s defense being rated as a B+. I’ve been a fan of the Maize and Blue since I was five and last year’s was the worst Big 10 defense I’ve ever seen. There is no way they should be rated that high going into this year. (Better, maybe, but a B+ isn’t even in the ballpark.)

To sum up, I want to like what this mode brings. I really do. A lot of people don’t care a wit for this mode (or Madden’s Superstar Mode), and I understand why, but it’s the kind of thing I can get into and have fun with. And for the first minute or so of that video I think, “Yeah, alright, this could be cool.” But the system looks like it completely derails once you start dealing with player progression, which is arguably the most important part of the mode. Two words: Not sold.

Who is Cowen and Company Analyst Doug Creutz?


I have no earthly idea who that is. I guess I should because when he ripped Bioware’s Star Wars MMO after seeing the E3 demo, Bioware felt the need to publicly respond. I clearly do not have the clout of Cowen and Company analyst Doug Creutz. This is what Doug said about the Galaxy Far Far Away MMO:

“Despite promises from EA/Bioware that the title represents a major step forward in MMO design, what we saw was essentially a World of Warcraft clone with Star Wars character skins and the BioWare RPG nice/nasty dialogue tree mechanism bolted on for non-player character conversations.”

Eurogamer has BioWare’s response which contains such reassuring statements as, “The content’s getting there” and “Things are tracking well.” Nothing BioWare says openly refutes what Creutz said, however.

Here’s Tom’s E3 write up for GameShark. Doesn’t install confidence, but part of that is that it’s hard to demo an MMO at E3 for the masses. I think you need a specific event with serious MMO fans to convey your vision because you need to show more than normal E3 demo fluff.

And Now, Some 3DS Release Dates

No High Scores

Despite the 3DS not selling as well as Nintendo, or really anyone expected, the 3DS section of Nintendo’s booth was packed all through E3. It wasn’t until 4PM on Thursday, an hour before the show closed, that I was able to get up there and see any games. I didn’t get a booth tour this year, so wandering Nintendo’s booth was my only recourse for seeing 3DS games.

Joystiq recently spent some time on Nintendo’s press site and came away with a release schedule for a whole mess of Wii and 3DS games currently in development. Rather than list all of them here, which would be a waste of space given how much shovelware is still yet to be shoveled, I figured I’d point out the highlights, as well as my thoughts on them. The bottom line is that while the 3DS will get some good content soon, it’s still not enough to warrant a purchase for anyone in the near future. I still don’t understand why they didn’t launch this fall and just hammer people with good games. You can argue that there’s nothing to lose by launching early and getting that sweet, early adopter money, but at the same time, the system now has a reputation of not being worth it due to the anemic library. Maybe that reputation will dissipate once the good games start coming in, but maybe not. Come fall, I think people are going to be all about the Vita so the 3DS is going to have its hands full. Of course, Sony’s mutant power seems to be colossally messing up their hardware launches, so maybe all the 3DS has to do is sit back and let Sony screw itself.

Let’s take a look at that calendar, shall we?

June
Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time – June 19
Try as I might, I just can’t get excited for this one. I loved the original game, and it still stands as one of my all time favorites, but I’m not sure that means I want to play it again. Especially for 40 bucks. I can watch beloved movies and tv shows over and over, read favorite books more than once, listen to favorite albums multiple times in the same day, but once I’m done with a game, I’m done with it. Plus, I just don’t like the idea that the only thing Nintendo thinks the 3DS is good for is remaking Nintendo 64 games. It’s lazy and seems like a cash-in, regardless of how good the source material is.

Resident Evil Mercenaries – June 28
Also somewhat of remake, as this is basically taking a game mode from a previous RE game (5, I think) and making it a full game. Still, shooting zombies is always a hoot and 3D in conjunction with the over the shoulder view will probably make for some pretty visuals. Still, even with this, at best this is a rental for me.

July
Dr. Lautrec and the Forgotten Knights
When I played this at E3, Konami was saying September, however the demo was pretty lengthy, so lengthy that it made me think this wasn’t a demo but the actual game, so maybe Konami took a look at the anemic summer 3DS release schedule and moved it up. That would be awesome if it were true because this game is much more than a Professor Layton clone. On that note, we’ve been told that a Prof. Layton game is coming for the 3DS, but other than that, we know bupkus. Konami should fill that void while they can, because once the Prof. Layton game drops, I think there will be too many comparisons for Dr. Lautrec to get a fair shake. Then again, these dates are what Nintendo thinks, not the publishers, so who knows.

August
Cave Story 3D – Aug. 9
Danielle is real big on this one, but I don’t know much about it. It looks like they’re completely redoing the game’s world for 3D, so maybe the story is different too, but if I never played the original, does it matter? To me as a player, no, but to me as someone who doesn’t want the 3DS lineup to consist completely of remakes, yes it does.

Shin Megami Tensei :Devil Survivor Overclocked – Aug. 23
Devil Survivor is supposed to be one of the best SMT games and I’m sure the SMT fans will gobble this one up, but again, it’s not a new game, just a DS game made prettier and given more stuff. Still, as 3DS games go, it will certainly stand out among the 3DS offerings, so maybe that’s worth supporting.

James Noir’s Hollywood Crimes – Aug. 30
It’s a puzzle based murder mystery set in a 60′s game show. Yes please! I imagine Card Sharks, but with murder. No, wait, with murrrrrrderrrrrrr.

September
Star Fox 64: Sept 11
I’d say this is just another remake, but I don’t know as all Nintendo would talk about in their booth was that it has 4 player local multiplayer. No mention of non-local multiplayer, or the story, or really anything other than what I just said. In fact, despite having played it at E3, I left it out of the GShark feature, because really, what is there to say about it? Besides, I’m not going to do Nintendo’s job for them. If they don’t want to talk about it, fine, I won’t talk about it. I never played Star Fox 64, so maybe I’ll pick this one up. Then again, Slippy is damn annoying.

Shinobi
I didn’t get a chance to play this one at E3, but I watched people play it and yeah, ninjas!

October
NCIS Oct. 25
I love NCIS. I can not wait to play this game in 3D, and to stare into Gibbs’ horribly rendered, soulless, dead eyes as his ghostly hand comes out of the screen to slap me in the back of the head. The only thing that could make it better is if they made an NCIS: LA game where I could take LL Cool J with me via the built in pedometer, and he’d randomly drop rap rhymes when I hit predetermined step goals. Cool J cookies indeed.

November
Kid Icarus: Uprising – Holiday
All of these say “Holiday” which I’m taking to mean November. Finally, a new game! Hopefully it will be good. It looks nice, but that doesn’t mean much. I have never played a Kid Icarus game, so I have no ties to the franchise at all. I just want to fly around and shoot stuff.

Mario Kart – Holiday
I cared about Mario Kart for about ten minutes before I went online and saw that I had no business playing this game. Carry on.

Super Mario – Holiday
Mario is, to me, the Beatles of video games. I understand and respect Mario games’ influence on the industry and medium, but do not want to spend my free time playing them. They just don’t do it for me.

Sonic Generations – November
I also could give a crap about Sonic, but this Sonic game appears to be decent, which is more than you can say about most Sonic games of late.

Lego Harry Potter: Years 5-7
The LEGO games lost their appeal to me some time ago, however I am interested in seeing how they handle the darker tone of these movies. Probably not at all, but maybe I’ll get to see a jokey scene of Nagini eating dead Hogwart’s instructors. I played this on at E3 and while it looked good, I had no idea what I was doing, which is why I didn’t write it up for GShark. Wouldn’t exactly make for a compelling entry.

December
Metal Gear Solid Snake 3D Snake Eater – Winter
Konami isn’t stupid. They’re not going to let all of that sweet remake money pass them by when they’re sitting on a metric ton of Metal Gear Solid titles. Like all Metal Gear Solid games, I will safely ignore this one. It’s not a condemnation of the series, these games just aren’t my thing.

2012
Luigi’s Mansion 2
Can’t wait for this one. Sure it’s a sequel, but I don’t care. It’s been too long since I’ve played Luigi’s Mansion. From what I saw at E3, the game sure looks pretty.

Heroes of Ruin
I’m also looking forward to this one. The feature set, including daily support with items, quests and challenges for a year after release is intriguing. I’m interested in getting more story details though as right now, I have no idea what the game is actually about other than killing monsters.

Who knows?
Resident Evil: Revelations
Set between RE 4 and RE 5, it has Jill Valentine searching for Chris in a mansion built atop a boat. No, I don’t know why you wouldn’t just call it a houseboat. Do they make mansionboats? I don’t know. Any way, I played this one. It looks like Resident Evil. Do with that what you must.

Tekken 3D
I guess every 3D fighting game is going to make it to the 3DS at some point. Soul Caliber seems like the only one left. All I know about Tekken is someone has a cheetah head. Or maybe it’s a leopard. Guess I don’t know as much about Tekken as I thought.

Animal Crossing
You had to know this one was coming. I would imagine Nintendo will go nine sorts of crazy with the StreetPass and SpotPass one with this game. Hell, the whole game will probably just be trading furniture by walking around. Fun!

Paper Mario
Despite not liking Mario games, I do love Paper Mario, so I’m excited for this one, but I think it’s just a remake. I hope I’m wrong because if it is a remake, I won’t be buying it. Stupid Nintendo and their stupid remakes.

So there you go. I still don’t see enough compelling content to make people run out and get the system, but maybe there’s more coming we don’t know about. Even so, there would have to be some seriously badass games coming. I’m not saying the 3DS won’t eventually be worth it, but for the next six months or so, not so much.

Why Vita Will Succeed (According to Sony)


I thought Sony had a solid E3 with the Vita announcement. It was a clear shot across the bow of Nintendo. Today, Edge talks with SCEE president Andrew House on why the Vita will not succumb to the same failures of the PSP.

“In contrast to the PSP, which was essentially taking a home console experience and replicating it on a portable device, we’ve worked really hard on Vita to pack in as many interfaces that are only possible on the portable experience,” he explained. “That differentiates gaming on [Vita] from other devices, but it also gives developers different ways to explore getting the best out of their franchises.”

I have to admit, while I’m, not much of a handheld gamer, I like what the Vita is offering, at least on paper.