Microsoft Said Some Things!

Microsoft were first to show their hands at Germany’s Gamescom convention, with a brief presentation Tuesday. In their continuing bid to win back mindshare in the independent development space, and following on from MS’ announcement that self publishing would be possible on XBox One, Phil Harrison revealed that in the interim period before retail machines can become development kits in themselves, Microsoft will be providing free dev kits to ‘experienced developers’ (PS4 dev kits currently cost devs $1000). There were also mild assurances that indie games would not be lost on the marketplace, which for the next generation will do away with Indie Games and XBLA replacing them with a unified games tab. While details are sketchy for the time being, at least it is an issue being thought about.

fable legends

Fable Legends wasn’t quite the Fable MMO most were expecting from Lionhead, but is poised to be a fun connected Fable game, with a structure that allows up to five players play as either villains or heroes, and a tablet armed participant play dungeon master directing the experience their friends are playing through. It seems a smart use of the second screen that may well become cliched over the next year, harkening back to more traditional pen and paper RPGs but with a modern feel. In theory, at least.

If Fable Legends showed promise, Ubisoft’s Kinect driven Fighter Within was a much stranger choice of title to tease during a conference keynote, looking like the kind of early shovelware trash that plagues most launch window lineups (and is mostly provided by Ubisoft, come to think of it). The Division looked rather stronger in trailer and demo form, as one might expect, and while only time will tell whether the tactical support second screen provides will give players enough of an incentive to dig their tablets or phones out to join a multiplayer session rather than waiting until they’re comfortable enough on the couch to pick up the controller, the actual game looks undeniably impressive.

cobalt

Microsoft’s showing was a pendulum of the intriguing and indifferent. The next downswing was a mention of Minecraft For XBox One, a game whose popularity can’t be denied, but still raises the question of whether a next gen edition is really necessary, let alone something to be excited about. Still, this gave way to a brief showing of Mojang’s second title, platform shooter Cobalt, which will appear on both 360 and XB1. Then, back to disinterest, with Call of Duty Ghosts being the chunk of any Microsoft public showing that we’re all obligated to watch, yet find impossible to care much about. New multiplayer footage was shown, but looked positively dowdy compared to the potential of Battlefield 4 and Titanfall.

Kinect Sports Rivals will have difficulty converting the jaded masses tired of sports minigame collections, new face scanning character creation or not, but timed exclusivity for Peggle 2 and Plants Versus Zombies Garden Warfare might have some pull for casual gamers. The bigger crowd winner from EA for Europe was the annoucnement that Fifa 14 will be bundled with XBox Ones at launch, and Microsoft will be packaging different titles in with hardware for launch in different territories.

Speaking of launches, Microsoft announced the games ‘tier 1’ territories can expect to be playing when the system comes out in November. That list in full:

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (Ubisoft)

Battlefield 4 (Electronic Arts)

Call of Duty: Ghosts (Activision)

Crimson Dragon (Microsoft Studios)

Dead Rising 3 (Capcom)

FIFA 14 (Electronic Arts)

Fighter Within (Ubisoft)

Forza Motorsport 5 (Microsoft Studios)

Just Dance 2014 (Ubisoft)

Killer Instinct (Microsoft Studios)

LEGO Marvel Super Heroes (Warner Bros. Interactive)

Lococycle (Microsoft Studios)

Madden NFL 25 (Electronic Arts)

NBA 2K14 (2K Sports)

NBA LIVE 14 (Electronic Arts)

Need for Speed: Rivals (Electronic Arts)

Peggle 2 (Electronic Arts)

Powerstar Golf (Microsoft Studios)

Ryse: Son of Rome (Microsoft Studios)

Skylanders: Swap Force (Activision)

So Did Sony!

ps4ui

Microsoft’s official Gamescom presentation lacked punch, but was quick and to the point, being a half hour show to those gathered around the live crowd, with no official stream. Sony meanwhile, opted for the full blown E3 approach, with a 90 minuter live stream and a lavish setup; the question would be whether they’d use these resources to present anything particularly new. That first new item was a look through the PS4 UI, and while the peek, and indeed the entire presentation was marred by dreadful production that seemed more concerned with grabbing artistic shots of people watching the giant screen, rather than, say, what was actually happening on the giant screen, it did look smooth and slick, offering quick switching into and out of content, shared videos and streams, as well as a couple of nods to the XMB we all know and at least tolerate.

Yet, as with E3, there was the slight issue of PS3 games still coming out to get through, some of which being hugely popular in Europe. This meant a Gran Turismo 6 video package, which looks promising, but many were anticipating a more forward looking show, after MS’ focussed offering.Moderately more interesting was the news that Little Big Planet was going free to play in the form of LBP Hub, a sensible move for the franchise, but as ever with FTP, something many will regard with distrust when it launches on PS3 later in the year.

murasaki baby

More GTA 5 and the announcement of a new PS3 bundle out the way and it was onto the real meat of things. The Vita! Oh. New hardware and software packs joined confirmation of the same price cut in the West that Japanese gamers have been enjoying for a while. A Vita version of Borderlands 2 was announced, drawing cheers from the crowds, but new games from triple A developers are still missing. Still, the Vita’s status as a destination for smaller, niche projects continues to grow, and fans of that kind of thing (we are) were catered to by a trailer for gorgeous looking 2D puzzle adventure game Murasaki Baby. Big Fest seems more cynical, a free to play music management ttle that combines microtransactions with free buzz marketing for the unsigned bands appearing within, but take off the cynics hat and it becomes a fun social new music discovery app with a management game attached. Forgive me, I’ve just finished playing Plants Vs Zombies 2.

rime

Finally, a third of the way into proceedings, it was time to start PS4 talk with the ever lovable Mark Cerny. Just like Microsoft, a good few minutes were spent on wooing indie developers, and Cerny’s portion of the presentation made the PS4 sound like the Vita: an indie machine with some triple A in there too, rather than Microsoft’s mix of both. Rogue Legacy, Binding of Isaac Rebirth, N++ (now with a distinct Sound Shapes vibe),  Mike Bithell’s Thomas Was Alone follow up Volume, Guns of Icarus Online, Wasteland Kings and Hotline Miami 2 will all be console exclusives on Playstation platforms, but while this undoubtedly adds appeal to people like us at WDGP, and probably you reading it, the fans of big budget experiences may have felt a little bit left out in the cold at this point in proceedings. The Chinese Room’s Cry Engine 3 powered Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture may strike a balance between graphical flash and intellectual sensibilities, a post apocalyptic first person adventure set around the height of Cold War paranoia, while Tequila Works’ Rime evokes Journey and Ico in its exploration of a long collapsed civilisation.

RESOGUN---PS4---0142

There are the occasional small studio projects that crack the mainstream though. Housemarque were able to create just such a title with their resurrection of Stardust on PS3, and now Resogun looks to do for Defender what that game did for Asteroids, a gorgeous side scroller which should hopefully lead to some compeitive score chasing when it launches alongside the PS4, especially given that it will be part of the PS Plus Instant Game Collection on day 1. Arguably less exciting is the dredging up of old Psygnosis property Shadow of the Beast, the original champion of style over substance when it was used to sell the Amiga 500, and unlikely to make much of a mark on PS4.

If few take a punt on SOTB, everyone will be able to try The Playroom, a tech demo suite that will be pre installed on PS4. Still, as reliant as it is on AR using the Playstation Eye camera, it seems an odd inclusion, given that the camera is an optional extra. It was used to segue into the bigger budget titles that were missing from the first hour of the presser though, as Infamous Second Son got a new trailer and Killzone: Shadow Fall got a multiplayer focussed video package, showing off some likely fun gameplay, but lacking the punch of Battlefield 4 or Titanfall.

From third parties, Assassin’s Creed 4 was demoed alongside news that the third game will appear on Plus for European subscribers in September. Ubisoft continued to pander to all manufacturers equally, as just hours removed from Microsoft trumpeting their exclusively pally relationship with the French publishing giant, we saw news of Watch Dogs appearing with exclusive content on PS4.

One problem with the transition to the next gen will be the cross generation multiformat releases that launch before the new hardware does, especially when it comes to multiplayer favourites like Call of Duty or Battlefield. Sony announced an upgrade plan that will see players buying those games on PS3 receive a ‘significant discount’ on the digital versions of the souped up new console iterations; it wouldn’t be surprising at all for Microsoft to follow suit. When will all this happen? In Japan it’s still not clear, as we await an announcement on the 9th of September, but America will get the system on November 15th with Europe getting their PS4s two weeks later, with the following titles to choose from:


NBA 2K 14 (2K)

Call of Duty: Ghosts (Activision)

Skylanders Swap Force (Activision)

Need for Speed: Rivals (EA)

Battlefield 4  (EA)

Madden 25 (EA)

FIFA 14 (EA)

NBA Live 14 (EA)

Killzone: Shadow Fall (SCE)

Driveclub (SCE)

Knack (SCE)

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (Ubisoft)

Watch Dogs (Ubisoft)

Just Dance 2014 (Ubisoft)

Lego Marvel Superheroes (Traveller’s Tales)

Basement Crawl (Bloober Team)

Pool Nation Extreme (Cherrypop)

Contrast (SCE)

Warframe (Digital Extremes)

Pinball Arcade (FarSight)

War Thunder (Gaijin)

N++ (Metanet)

Minecraft (Mojang)

DC Universe (SOE)

Planetside 2 (SOE)

ResoGun (Housemarque)

Flower (Thatgamecompany)

Doki-Doki Universe (Human Nature)

Hohokum (Honeyslug)

Tiny Brains (Spearhead)

Super Motherload (XGen)

Blacklight (Perfectworld)

And The Rest!

titanfall4

EA also had a lavish stage production and live stream, showing, mostly focussing on titles already highlighted during the MS and Sony briefings, albeit with more detail on the stunning looking Titanfall and UFC. Sims 4 was also shown in the typical soulless cheery guitar riff trailer, though the potential for emergent fun is obviously still present. Just skip through the promotional material. A stage demo for the now free to play Command and Conquer was similarly cringe inducing, and there’ll be big question marks over how the FTP elements will be implemented. Dragon Age Inquisition looks less cynical, but it’s hard to tell much at this super early stage.

As for other titles, there’s too much to see on a show floor to recap, especially when you aren’t there yourself, but stay tuned to our Youtube channel over  the next few days as we look at the more impressive or interesting offerings from the show and give our own commentary.