Consoles have ruined gaming.

For the last little while I’ve been very harsh about the state of affairs in gaming, especially in the console space. Specifically with Ubisoft, EA and Activision. Console gaming exploded onto the scene in the last two decades and the 90s was perhaps the most important decade for gaming and gaming innovation both in PC and the console space. Technological leaps and graphical bounds happened during this decade. The Nintendo 64, Dreamcast, and Playstation revolutionalized the 3D genre for consoles. I have never before or since enjoyed a console as much as the N64.

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In the PC space, I remember buying an additional 4 Megabytes of RAM when DOOM II came out. I paid about $230 dollars for it. I also paired the RAM with a 16 bit Soundblaster sound card that cost me almost $150. I walked to the Futureshop at the town center with my older brother to pick it up. He was my insurance policy or rather muscle just incase someone was tempted by $400 worth of computer equipment. $400 was a lot of money for a 13 year old. It was an exciting time to be a teenager during those days and to be passionate about computers, computing, and computer games. But those days are long gone and now the Gaming industry has turned in to a perverse capitalist machine. A machine that is more concerned about profit than releasing a good functional product. I’m sorry to say it but the indie gaming industry is not immune to the above statement either.

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These corporations are trying to churn out a game each year in every one of their Intellectual Properties. Recently I even read somewhere that Ubi said they’d like to release a new assassins creed game every year. These game budgets have swelled to millions of dollars, and there are so many people on these projects that the product comes out incomplete, buggy, and usually with a day one patch. The right hand is not talking to the left hand. The reason these games come out like this is because these companies are run by CEOs that have no idea what the game subculture is actually like, and I think they are trying to mimic the model T assembly line that Henry Ford championed but with games. If this happens you can pretty much guarantee the death of the creative and innovative. The industry is sucking the life out of gaming and all the naive kids that accept mediocrity are buying the garbage that these companies are flogging.

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If anything the last two years has been a great example of how not to do business within the gaming industry. Evolve was the perfect poster child of gaming mediocrity masked by the illusion of original content and thought. The game was plagued by repetitive play, then came the DLC content overload. I read somewhere that if you bought Evolve and all the silly DLC that does not come with it by default you would spend about $200 on the game. If that isn’t a cash grab I don’t know what is. Then the broken game of Halo Master Chief Collection was another blunder. The online portion of the game wasn’t playable for 3 months after release. Guess what you consolation prize was for buying a game and not being able to play it? One free week of Xbox Live, ha ha ha, what a fucking joke. Don’t get me started on the actual operating system of the Xbox One, it is broken, and it is broken badly. The online experience is painful at best, there are so many bugs and glitches in it that most online play is met with frustration and anger.

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All this leads me to the Wii U. I was always a firm believer that the only honest company and the only one that cares was Nintendo. Their games, albeit few and far in between, almost never needed a day one patch. You could usually play them straight out of the box, and their DLC prices for Mario Kart 8 were extremely reasonable. They were driven by gaming and creating fun games based on their already existing IPs. I was always a firm believer… but I was wrong!

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Insert the amiibo. The amiibo is essentially an NFC enabled figurine that allows you to recall data associated with said amiibo. Well at first I was ok with these figurines, as they would mean a new revenue stream for Nintendo and the kids would have something cool to put in their rooms. I though it would be a sort of memory card that would hold your characters stats and you could carry it over to your friends house, tap it on their controller, and voila your character appears. Well I was completely wrong. Not completely wrong but overall wrong. You can still do with amiibo’s what I described above, however that is not all that they can do, let me tell you about the dark side of the amiibo. Some amiibo’s unlock game content. Tor example the Toad amiibo unlocks extra content in the game Captain Toad Treasure Tracker. I kid you not, and that is not the worst part either, the worst part is that Nintendo is doing limited runs on some of these. What does that mean? It means you are shit out of luck, unless you want to pay $30 CDN to someone online, where the retail price is $13.99 CDN. What about the coveted Gold Mario amiibo, $50, fortunately the Mario amiibo has 3 versions at this moment so any content locked behind the Mario amiibo can still be accessed with the other two figures. In the end Nintendo has created a black market for their amiibo figures. In my books this is worse than any of the other sketchy business practices that the console industry employs. With that said goodbye Nintendo, and finally, goodbye console gaming. You will wither into obscurity as mobile gaming is gaining traction and replacing the casual console gamer. PC gaming was  and always will be my mistress.

Update: Someone recently said to me.. “Consoles haven’t ruined gaming we’re just getting old.”. Nah, I don’t believe this at all, I still play games, I just play them on the PC where there is variety in gaming and the prices are not ridiculous. Also I can pinpoint exactly when consoles ruined gaming, this happened as soon as they became online capable. As soon as online capability was no longer a pipe dream for consoles DLC became a prevalent presence of the profit margin for gaming. This was true for the Xbox 360s and the PS3s. With the newer generation of consoles the Ubisofts and EAs took this a step further, now these companies would release broken games and with the online necessity of the Xbox One and PS4 they would patch the games as they see fit. This multi-billion dollar industry needs to be regulated, there needs to be a set of standards. Everything else has a lemon policy, and software should as well.

Update 2: COD Black Ops 3 was recently announced and with it further proof that gaming is just a cash grab for the industry. I haven’t for a long time nor will I ever again suppor this franchise. Check out the price.CaptureI rest my case!

 

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Evolve Big Alpha

Like many around the globe I received an Evolve Big Alpha key on Thursday, and last night I downloaded the game and got a chance to try it out. My first impressions are right after the video.

So as you can see Evolve is an asymmetrical multi-player game. What does that mean, well it’s 4 vs 1, not 2 vs 2, etc. In the video you can see me playing as a support guy and as the monster. The monster is big, fast, and strong. The human characters are generic, and your typical space shooter characters, not much there really. I found that the monster was a little to powerful and the human characters were a little too weak. But I’m sure there will be some balancing done on this game in it’s near future. More than anything though I found that the game doesn’t really require any skill. At it’s core it’s very basic, great for the pre-teen in your household. Much like CoD I think this will be the target demographic of Evolve. In general I found that the game is very underwhelming. My excitement lasted all of about 5 minutes and then it quickly subsided due to it’s lack of skill level requirement. The game is just not challenging enough for me to keep playing for an extended period of time. In my personal opinion there needs to be more to the game, maybe the maps need to be more interactive. Perhaps the addition of levers and switches that change the layout of a map and change the pace of the game. If this would occur the human players would be forced to alter their strategies and change their play style, in the end this would alter the flow of the game. There is one thing that the developer did right and they deserve credit for it, this would be the basic level design. When I was running around as the monster trying to feed and Evolve I wasn’t getting hung up on the map and areas with in the map, well done.

Having played the Alpha, I will not be picking up the final product. I can not see the final product being much different from the current Alpha, aside from the standard balancing and what not of course. Being able to play as the monster was fun for a short while but it was short lived and over all the game is a huge snooze fest. The game didn’t really draw me in, and in my personal opinion this is a testament to it’s mediocrity.

Happy Halloween and Happy Gaming.

Did you have a different gaming experience in Evolve, what did you or did you not like about it?

The state of Video Game affairs in Canada.

Ever since the inception of the $69.99 price point for video games here in Canada, I’ve been very loud about how we the Canadian consumers are getting ripped off. This is very evident if you walk into your local Best Buy, which I did on the weekend. You will see that some game pre-orders are 59.99, others are 64.99, and then you have most at the 69.99 Price point. Nobody has officially come out and said that the price hike is due to the exchange rate, and there is only online speculation, which is sound and logical. Personally I think the 69.99 price hike it is due to greed as there is no consistency in a price point between software publishers, aaaaand a 10% exchange rate difference should yield a price closer to $65 not $70. Funny that when the US dollar was trading at less than the Canadian dollar we were still paying the same as the US.

More recently the PS4 hardware price was raised and went up from 399.99 to 449.99, an additional $10 profit for Sony per PS4 sold in Canada. The Xbox One however maintained it’s original price. A few weeks ago Microsoft announced a Kinect-less Xbox One that will be selling at the 399.99 price point. I was curious to see what the price would be for this in Canada. To my dismay I learned that this Kinect-less Xbox One can be pre-ordered on the Best Buy Canada site for 399.99 as well. Interesting that a hardware manufacturer is willing to take a slight hit on their hardware but the majority of software publishers have actually increased their profits beyond the point of the exchange rate. Sorry it’s not interesting, it’s very greedy. I would like to thank Microsoft for showing us Canadian gamers some love. Just like they did when they lowered the 360 price in Canada first.

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Best Buy Canada screen shot.

Right now I’m going to pick on a single game that I have a slight problem with, Wolfenstein The New Order. One thing that irks me about a title like the new Wolfenstein, is that it does not have any multiplatyer, online or co-op game play aspect to it, yet they warrant charging 69.99 for the software. This game at best should be 49.99, even with the 10% exchange increase… but I digress. To be honest I was going to pick this title up when I learned of it, until I also learned that it is a purely single player game and that it would be selling at $69.99 CAD.

So the question everyone should be asking is, does a 10% exchange rate difference warrant a 17% price hike? And will the price drop once the exchange rate balances out?

For your consideration, below is a historic look at the USD to CAD exchange rate. Ranging from 1990 to now. See that huge spike prior to January 2000, this is where I purchased Turok 2 for the N64 and taxes in it cost me about $120, ouch.

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On the other hand PC prices are more forgiving. This is partly due to the fact that Steam and others like Greenman Gamin deal in US currency. Dealing in US currency reflects the true pricing and not this inflated cash grab.

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There are ways to get around this ridiculous pricing on the Xbox One. I’m not sure if this is possible on the PS4, but let me know if it is. If you buy digital on Xbox Live and use PayPal to pay for your purchases, you can temporarily switch your Xbox One to the US region, purchase the game and then switch back to your Canadian region. Online users have reported this as working. This way you pay what the game is actually worth, except for Wolfenstein.

This brings me to another point, why the heck are we paying full price for video games sold to us digitally? Games that have no resale value and do not impact sales of new software. Yes we have to consider the bandwidth and server storage, but come on we have effectively eliminated the need to print a cover, press a disc, mould a case, ship to a distributor, ship to a retail store, have to travel to said store…. etc. You get the point. So why is digital the same price as physical, it makes no logical sense. An incentive in a form of a discount for digital distribution would be most welcome, and would push digital over physical.

I understand the 64.99 price hike but going to 69.99 is just plain greedy. I’m not sure who is setting these prices, weather it’s the distributors or the retailers. One thing I know for sure is that the Gaming industry is run by dinosaurs that do not know how to adapt to new and emerging technologies and like the music industry is driven by corporate greed not profit.

Titanfall

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First, I’d like to say that this is one of the most responsive first person shooters I’ve ever played on a console. The controls feel good, and the thumb stick acceleration is just perfect. I’ve had the chance to try the Beta for both the PC and the Xbox One. It plays well on both, the PC doesn’t offer much over the Xbox One version even with an Eyefinity setup. The Xbox One version does however offer the Xbox Live experience, which I personally prefer over the PC multiplayer platform. So you can imagine that I will be getting the game for the Xbox One.

Now having shown you some of the Beta game play, in the Beta most users experienced three types of game modes. Attricion, Hardpoint, and Last Titan Standing.

Attricion is where you start out as the pilot and wait for your titanfall. You decrease the titanfall wait time by getting kills and scoring points, etc. You can manage many titafalls with this game type. In my experience this is a very disorganized and lone ranger run and gun game mode.

Hardpoint is a mix of Attricion and to what BF4s conquest mode offers. You capture points and the enemy can recapture them. Didn’t really spend much time in this mode.

Last Titan Standing is by far my favourite game mode and one I spent most of my time playing. This is a team based effort and you really have to communicate with your team, what and how you will attack the enemy. This is also where the Xbox Live voice communications come in very handy. In this mode you have only one life and you start out in a Titan. Once your Titan is destroyed you can eject and assist your team as a pilot. As the mode indicates, the team with the last titan standing wins. Doesn’t matter how many pilots you have left, it’s the titans that count.

Burn cards are similar to Call of Duty’s perks. Except that they need to be selected prior to the level being loaded. Once in game one can select and use a burn card prior to the round starting. Burn cards have options such as, 80 second decreased wait time for titan fall, alternate guns for the load out, sort of sonar that pings the level every x seconds to show friendlies and enemies on the screen, permanent cloak for the pilot, an additional AI titan to be dropped and help your team out, nuclear titan core that blows up everything in your proximity when your titan is killed, etc. You get the picture. These can come in very handy, and if you win the round the card will be carried over to the next. If you lose the card is burned or discarded.

Controls on the Xbox One are fluid and just a treat. This is by far one of the best FPS type games on the console as far as controller sensitivity and responsiveness goes. When playing I felt that it was perfectly balanced and I needed no further adjustments to sensitivity. Button mapping is very basic and and it took only minutes to get used to the layout. After about 30 min of play I was worried that the game would get stale and boring really fast. This was not the case, there is a lot of replay value and even with two levels and limited load outs this game managed to keep me occupied for about 6 hours straight and then some. 

In the Beta there was only one titan to play with, the Atlas class. So there wasn’t much choice there. The choice was in the load out and guns one can equip, a heavy machine gun, a 40 MM cannon that packs a punch, and quad rocket launcher. Then on the secondary side of things you had passive rockets and ones that lock on to their target. In addition to the guns you could customize the defensive load out and go with the vortex shield that catches gun and rocket fire then sends them back towards the enemy, or an electric smoke screen that gets pilots off your titans back and damages enemy titans if they go through it. The vortex shield can make for an interesting game of catch and there were instances where opponents would throw ammunition back and forth between them. As for the electric smoke screen it comes in handy during close combat situations between titans. My favourite was dashing towards an enemy titan, deploying the electric smoke and following up with a titan punch. Then there is the titan core load out, when you titan takes too much damage it explodes. As far as load outs for the Titan core go you have Damage Core and Survivor. With the damage core when your titan blows up it creates a nuclear explosion and takes out any titans and pilots in it’s proximity. Survivor gives you extra time and your health drops at a slower rate when your titan is doomed. Another load out is auto eject, and Regen Booster. Auto eject ejects your pilot when the titan is doomed, Regen Booster regenerates the titans shields at a faster.

This was a fun online experience for me. There was no noticeable network lag and the game play was smooth. A lot of people out there are praising the network capability of the game, I say be careful and take the Titanfall beta with a grain of salt. Remember BF4 beta was also smooth and without network faults, but the finished product was a different story. Having said that I hope this is not the case with Titanfall as it can make or brake the game. See you on March 11th.

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Xbox One: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

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Image belongs to Justin Reed. (http://goo.gl/mV9M2U)

The Good:

The ability to perform voice commands is by far the best feature on the Xbox one. When you walk into my room and say “Xbox on!” it turns itself on, and can turn the TV and Receiver on as well. Then the Kinect recognizes your face and signs you into your account. When using the “Xbox select..” command, you can navigate the xbox menus without the use of the controller or hand gestures. When playing a game you have the ability to snap applications such as party chat with a simple voice command. With the same feature you are able to add people to the party chat, remove them, and mute the chat, etc. As per the voice commands, if you swear at the ref in FIFA 14, you will be reprimanded by your club. Also keep your potty mouth to yourself when on the field, or the red cards will come flying at you. NBA 2K14 has similar features, BF4 allows you to call in support with voice commands. As for the controller it is a slight improvement over the 360 controller. The analog sticks are comfortable and the redesign is most welcome. Bumpers and triggers are solid, and over all the build quality of the controller is superb. The Operating System interface is really easy to navigate, the layout is basic and makes a lot of sense. It is very hard to get lost in the menus. When signing in to the console by way of Kinect facial recognition it will recognize you in a completely dark room lit up only by the ambient light of the TV screen. The ventilation on the xbox this generation is a huge improvement over last, it runs really cool even when placed in an AV cabinet with front doors. Overall The hardware doesn’t really heat up much. I guess Microsoft learned something from the previous generation. The application snap feature is handy, having two applications side by side really works on this console, and it doesn’t distract or pull your attention from the gaming or watching a movie. This is especially useful when trying to start a Party Chat while in game. Xbox SmartGlass is a companion app for both the Xbox 360 and Xbox One. It is completely free and works on Windows, iOS, and Android devices. You can use your smartphone or tablet to type in the text fields, when sending text based messages to your friends or entering your credit card information to make purchases. Most of us have smartphones and tablets so this naturally makes sense. This app is also a companion to some games such as Dead Rising 3, it enables extra features and in game content. It’s an extension to the users video game experience and adds another level of interaction with the software, in some cases it is easier to type with the smartphone than using the on screen keyboard. Something no one is talking about, perhaps because they don’t understand it, is the “server farm” Microsoft has stashed away for it’s developers. I’m not talking about the Xbox Live military grade servers, I’m talking about the server that can offload some of the XBOs processing to the cloud. All of the rendering and computing does not need to be done locally anymore, and any non critical computing can be done on the servers and sent back to the system. In my opinion this has a lot of potential, and the systems processing power is no longer limited to the local hardware specs.

The Bad:

The Xbox One is not DLNA certified, unlike it’s predecessor. This took me by surprise and is kind of anti next-gen for a device that wants to be the media centre hub of the living room and that calls itself next-gen. DLNA streaming is important to me, especially for my music library. One of the crowning features of the 360 was the ability to listen to your music library while playing games. Also, at the moment the games are not there, Dead Rising 3 looks like a 360 game. Forza 5 is full of micro transactions, $59.99 for a game and micro transactions on top of that seems a little excessive. It will take the developers a longer time to get familiar with the XBO dev kits than the PS4 dev kits. The XBO has specialized hardware, like the Kinect, the ESRAM, and the render server farm, whereas the PS4 is esentially an underpowered PC. Xbox 360 users and Xbox One users can not communicate properly over Xbox Live. If you’re on the Xbox One you can not receive voice messages as the XBO does not have this feature. Party Chat is not possible with 360 and XBO users either. The camera is unable to identify my face sometimes and as such it does not sign me in automatically into the system. I particularly noticed this when reclining in a bean bag chair on the floor. Perhaps the Kinect has a hard time recognizing the skeletal structure when in a reclined position. The lack of proper CEC integration is also surprising. The Xbox One uses some form of CEC an IR blaster to control the television and receiver, however this is not CEC as one can not use the receivers or televisions remote to navigate the xbox menus.

The Ugly:

The gesture based navigation needs a lot of work. It is one of the worst features to use on the XBO. I’d say it works properly 50% of the time. The audio is another problem, it cuts out in certain menus and even though the XBO set to PCM 5.1, sometimes the XBO decides to output DTS. Other times the XBO boost the volume by itself and then decides later that it is too loud and turns the volume down. There is no Bitstream option for the audio output either, and only Stereo, 5.1 PCM, 7.1 PCM, and DTS sound output options are available.This does not work, I would like the option to have the receiver do the audio decoding, specifically DTS HD MA or Dolby TrueHD. My home cinema would appreciate that. No 3D Blu-ray support yet either, for a system that is trying to take over the living room this is unacceptable. Despite the critics ramblings about 3D, it is here to stay, and consumers are slowly adopting said technology. There are other small glitches and hiccups when switching between menus and screens too. Sometimes the xbox goes all Ghost in the Machine on me, and starts launching applications and navigating software on it’s own… Rise of the machines?

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In conclusion..

…there is more good, than bad or ugly, however this next-gen console launch was very underwhelming. The underwhelming part is mostly due to the fact that both Microsoft and Sony released beta products into the wild. But if I were to decide between the new Xbox or the new PlayStation, I’d pick the Xbox. Voice commands, gesture based browsing, a stunning 1080p camera, SmartGlass, server farm, skype and other app within app integration, superior controller, and system that shows promise providing the software comes out of Beta soon. There are a lot of bugs in the software, and a lot of features that need tweaking and revision, this is true for both Sony and Microsoft alike. But if the 360 was an indication of how MS functions, is that they listen to their community, and that their gaming system and it’s software will evolve over time.

Winter is coming! …the next gen consoles have arrived.

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If you haven’t seen the two part Southpark episode which merges the console wars and Game of Thrones, I suggest you do so right now.

The only console I picked up this generation was the Wii U… why you may ask, because there really aren’t any games that are interesting enough on the new consoles at the moment that would prompt me to buy either a PS4 or Xbox One.

And this….

2350457-grand_group_artwork_-_super_mario_3d_world… I love Mario games. Mario 64 was my and many other peoples favourite. Super Mario 3D World looks like it might deliver that experience again. Mario Sunshine and the Mario Galaxy franchises didn’t really do it for me, they felt like cheap imitations of Mario 64. This and the Zelda series are what interests me.

As for the PS4 and Xbox One, all these exclusives they have can be replaced and are replicated on the PC just fine. Killzone is essentially Crysis, Forza is any other racing game you can find for half the cost on Steam or Origin, and anything that does interest me will be coming out on the PC. Titanfall and Tom Clancy’s The Division are scheduled to make an appearance on the PC as well. With the PC versions I will get superior controls (mouse, keyboard), if I wanted to do some gaming on the couch with a controller I could also do that, graphics will be better, frame rates will be higher, and more that likely I’ll pay $20 less for the game on the PC than the console. After all the consoles are slimmed down and less powerful versions of a PC. So buying these games on the PC is a no brainer.

The PS4 is a gaming device, that’s it, to be honest there isn’t really anything next gen about it. All SONY did was update the CPU, GPU, and RAM, and voila you got yourself a PS3.5. It’s a bit underwhelming really. As far as the graphic differences between the PS4, 360, PS3, and Wii U. They aren’t that much of a big deal as you would think. Distance and screen size make a big difference in this metric as well. IGN recently did a comparison of these systems graphical capabilities, I took a couple screen caps from that video. Have a look…

Out of the 4 systems the PS3 has the worst graphical capability, the Wii U and 360 are right on par with each other, where the PS4 has the sharpest graphics of all of them. Look at the screen with the Assassin perched on the tower, on the PS4 the foliage and water ripples really stand out in this scene. Yes the PS4 has graphical superiority, but I’ll tell you this, I play this game on a Wii U and a 55″ TV screen about 12 feet away. It looks really good on this system as well. Like I said the PS4 next gen is a little underwhelming.

If you troll the internet you will hear about the superior graphical power of the PS4, in numbers the hardware looks better for the PS4 than the Xbox One. I agree. However the PS fanboy train is forgetting a few things here about the Xbox One, I wouldn’t rule it out just yet. The Xbox One has it’s CPU and GPU clocked higher, it has esram which brings it’s RAM data throughput closer to the PS4, also GDDR5 runs at higher frequencies, but it also has higher access latencies. And finally Miscrosoft has a cloud render cluster which can offload some of the processing that the Xbox One has to do to servers which the developers can utilize. The RAM is really a non issue in my opinion, in the days past of PC gaming a Radeon HD 5870 with 1 GB of GDDR5 RAM highest achievable graphical setting was high. Unless of course you had 8GB+ of DDR3 system RAM, only then you could achieve ultra graphical settings. This means that the GDDR5 and DDR3 RAM worked together to achieve this feat. So stop the fanboy train, because the PS4 and Xbox One are graphically closer than you think. Also let me remind you of the superior hardware the PS3 had compared to the Xbox 360, yet the 360 pulled ahead in most games of the PS3. One thing to note is that the PS4 has better developer tools this time around, apparently they are closer to PC dev tools than the tools of previous PlayStation versions. This is where the Xbox One is lagging right now, and this is why you see Dead Rising at 20-30 frames per second, why COD Ghosts and BF4 run at 720p. Give it some time and the gap will disappear.

Personally if I were to go with the PS4 or the Xbox One, I would pickup the Xbox One just for the features alone. Price is not an issue, I’m adult with an adult job which comensates me just fine for the work I do. The controller is more comfortable, the integration of Kinect 2 and voice commands is more next gen than just a GPU, CPU, and RAM upgrade. As a home theatre enthusiast the whole media centre idea appeals to me more. Xbox live has proven to be a superior online gaming platform to PSN, however we’ll see how the new PSN integration fairs. Finally the future game lineup with the Xbox One is a little more interesting.

Today I will be picking up Super Mario 3D World. I’m going to be like a fat kid in candy store, essentially in a euphoric bliss.

This is one mans opinion, like it or hate it, that’s my $0.02.

Microsoft does not understand it’s audience anymore.

Gamer’s a fickle bunch, strike that PC Gamer’s are a fickle bunch. Add to that a dash of Xbox One and a pinch of Windows 8.1 and you have yourself a perfect recipe for disaster.

Perhaps I’m exaggerating a bit, a behemoth like Microsoft would be and is really hard to take down. You have to give them credit where credit is due if anything but they are persistent.

Let’s look at windows 8 for a second, when it came out there was an outcry about the Start button. I think the cries where a little muffled by the time they got to Redmond though. I don’t think it was as much as the lack of a start button but more of the lack of desktop and the fact that the start menu would take up the entire screen. This lead to the slow adoption of the operating system. Don’t get me wrong, for tablet and a touch interface windows 8 is great, and that OS is very deserving of the form factor.

Queue Windows 8.1, I hopped on MSDN and I grabbed the early version available to subscribers. I grabbed the ISO and installed the OS via flash drive. After install I changed a few settings and rebooted. Awesome, it now boots into the desktop environment, start button is there but as soon as you press it, BAM! full screen persistent start menu. What we have now is desktop/tablet hybrid OS. I was so disappointed that I could not change the size of the menu, and that it eats up all my screen real estate, that it prevented me migrating from Windows 7 to 8. I feel like the start menu is way too intrusive in the desktop environment, and yes it is has more customization, but it is not the start menu I like and find convenient. It’s supposed to be a sub menu for the OS not a fully fledged application like interface. I guess the only option left for users of Win 7 that wish to migrate to Win 8 is Start8. As a gamer and heavy desktop user, this irks me a little.

This brings me to Xbox One, when I watched the unveiling I was slightly impressed with the features. However I noticed two things. One the lack of hardware specifications, and two the complete lack of game focus. Instead MS decided to focus on the media capabilities of the device what it can do for sports, and Television, etc. I thought to myself I’m a gamer, I don’t watch sports I only play them. I don’t even have cable television let alone any television subscription except for Netflix. No longer is the Xbox a gamecentric device. I get this, it is supposed to appeal to the whole family not just the gamer in the house, but what if the gamer in the house is the whole family? Either way it looks like an interesting multimedia device, if it is able to play MKVs it would be a winner in my living room for sure.

At the moment all the media is giving MS flack for not having as good hardware specs as the competition, saying it’s 50% less powerful than the rival. I kind of laugh at this because as someone with a Computer Engineering background I know that hardware specs don’t necessarily mean better experience or performance. Prior to the 360 being released 7 or 8 years ago I worked for a company that designed the testing hardware, we worked closely with Microsoft and the drivers for the 360 weren’t finished until a week prior to it being released. Not only that, but driver optimization is a powerful thing, and if Microsoft knows something it is software, perhaps not their audience but definitively software.

Look at Nvidia and AMD they optimize their GPU drivers heavily sometimes yielding 33% performance gains and that’s in an open system such as a PC, imagine the optimization that can take place in a closed system such as an Xbox One. So all the naysayers are probably still working with Alpha drivers complaining about performance, let’s see what November 22nd brings. Either way someone from MS should step out and say something to that effect, because all the dirty console peasants are up in a roar pitchforks and shovels in hand.