Sunday, July 9, 2017

Gears of War, XBox Controller, MSFT HZD-Like Game (Monday Musings 1)

I've decided to do a weekly post as I love the idea of Todd Mason's Sweet Freedom's Friday Forgotten Books. These posts will be mostly about video games, of course, and other musings.

My goal is to post on Sunday for Monday. I'm hoping I can keep up with the weekly pacing!

Gears of War Remastered: Masterful Pacing
One of my online gaming buddies is a huge Gears of War fan, and with purchase of XBox One, getting the Gears of War remastered (and if completed by a certain date, you get Gears of War 2 and 3 free) was a no-brainer due to value and quality. Third-person shooters are not my favorite genre, but it was nevertheless interesting to see why the Gears of War series is so insanely popular, as well as critically acclaimed.

I was impressed with the character development, plot, level design, and tight gameplay controls, but what struck me as absolutely genius is the pacing. I remember completing a section and then thinking, "oh no, I don't want to shoot anymore", thinking there's another section that I have to clear out, but the game goes to a cutscene, giving me time to relax and enjoy the story. This occurs every time without fail and makes for a smooth, brilliant game.

I really think that the game developer, Epic Games, probably hired thousands of testers to find out the ideal times to rest; it was quite uncanny. The cutscenes not only give you rest and rewards you for completing a section, but also adds to character development, camaraderie of the team, and plot. Gears of War is a masterpiece in the third-person shooter genre.

Another game along the same vein is Rise of the Tomb Raider. I remember getting tired of collecting items and exploring, but then realizing, "oh yeah, I can go on to the main mission". Once I needed more rest from the action-heavy main missions, I went back to collecting. However, Gears of War took that to the next level where they make sure you get proper rest, making the game journey effortless and soothing. 

This serves as a reminder that I still need to play 2 and 3.

Perfecting the XBox One Pro Elite Controller
XBox One Pro Elite's D-Pad
The Elite is the greatest controller made to date, and I'm quite surprised that this isn't the official controller for the upcoming, powerful, deluxe XBox One X. The X is not quite deluxe without the Pro Elite.

The D-pad of prior XBox Controllers (including the One as it has that weird un-leveled, hard indentation feel to it) is not good, but the D-Pad of the Elite is actually better than even Sony's DualShock controllers, as long as you use that weird looking gray piece--it has a better and smoother feel than even the once industry-standard D-pad design of the DS controllers.

Both of my Xbox One controllers no longer worked wired due to the micro-usb connectors (they ended up slipping off and no longer connecting), but for some reason, the XBox One Pro's micro-usb connection works perfectly with the quality braided USB connector that's included. I think the connection is more snug and better fitted with the Pro Elite than the One.

Even so, Elite can be perfected. Instead of having the faulty and broken micro-usb connection, perhaps it could have the equally universally standard mini-usb, which the DS3 controller uses. The mini-usb never falls off or breaks, so the controller can be even more durable. Or, lightning usb connection, for the same reasons.

The controller is perfectly balanced, but if they can take that perfect balance and make it as light as possible, that would be very much appreciated. It does get heavy after awhile, so it would help gamers like me who like extremely light controllers to reduce wrist strain.

Those who like more weighted controllers, however, there could be customizable weights that you can add, and given the brilliant Microsoft engineers, they will make it so that the weight is NOT lopsided when you make the controller heavier.

I noticed with the PS4 pro controller counterpart, the dreadful Nacon Revolution, that as you add the weights, it gets heavy at the bottom and considerably lighter at top, which is unpleasing. I do NOT recommend the Nacon Revolution, despite it looking like the XBox One controllers, as the ergonomics may be even worse than the original DS4 controller. Fortunately, my friend felt it was ergonomic (unless he was trolling?), so at least it's being put to good use and not going to waste.

The ideal analog stick shapes are for the left to be convex, and the right stick to be domed. It's difficult to explain why until you experience this. Unfortunately, the Elite only comes with a longer domed stick, which makes sense for FPS for more precise control with aiming. However, for RPGs, being that the stick is too long, your finger has to travel further for the more heavily used A, B, X, Y buttons. It would've been perfect if there's a domed stick that is the same height as the shortest convex-shaped stick.

Hopefully Microsoft will come out with a new version of the Elite and include those features.

Rumors: Microsoft Producing a Horizon: Zero Dawn-like Game
This actually made me sad, because Microsoft almost had a game that I think would've been even better than Guerrilla Games' HZD in PlatinumGames's now dead Scalebound. Why waste time, money and effort to hire a new team, when you could just stick with Platinum, led by Kamiya. That is, if and only if Microsoft let Kamiya, the developer, do his own thing, like Sony allowed Guerrilla Games. 

I really wondered why Scalebound looked absolutely dreadful in the E3 conferences, to the point where I thought Kamiya really lost all of his gaming genius, his genius flushed down
Scalebound, Drew and Thuban, BFFs
the toilet. I was appalled, "this is from the same director of Bayonetta?!??", to the point where I thought the B-team was making Scalebound. And, upon seeing the Sony E3 conference, I thought that the A-team was developing Nier: Automata--the boss battles were so creative, unique, dramatic and elaborate, and the gameplay so fluid, fast with tight controls (the player maneuvered 2B effortlessly), that I was surprised to find it was the opposite.

However, seeing that Microsoft forced Kamiya to make huge concessions, including the awful multi-player component shown in E3 2016, it all now makes sense. Platinum only spent a few years on the game but it seems that Microsoft felt that the team was "wasting resources". 

On the flip side, Guerrilla Games spent nearly 7 years on HZD despite Sony's dire economic problems, and was able to do whatever they wanted, creating something they are passionate about. Any time you see the team talking about this game on YouTube, passion, love and commitment oozed out of their pores. No wonder HZD became a blockbuster hit, and Microsoft is struggling to find their killer app.

If Microsoft can trust PlatinumGames to do its thing, and they surely can afford a few more years in development being so flush with cash unlike Sony during HZD's development time, they would've landed an instant masterpiece and possible system-seller (it's hard to predict what would sell), but it would be a masterpiece nevertheless.

However, the treatment of Kamiya and his team is the textbook definition of "penny-wise, pound-foolish" and short-sighted vision combined. There is no need to "force" another team to copy HZD, as it most likely won't be good being forced to do something. Rather it makes more sense to keep the already existing passionate and superb team in PlatinumGames. Indeed, Platinum is going to be superior to any team that you cobble together willy-nilly like it seems Microsoft is doing.

I'm hoping that Kamiya will take his original, boyhood dream and ideas to PC and/or Sony. and make this extremely ambitious and technical-heavy game, of course, under a different name (maybe Dragon Elite?). This will NOT go against copyright issues since his original vision is in direct opposition to Microsoft's, so he'll just need to change the title.

Imagine being able to create your own pet dragon, Thuban, whom you can ride and fight along with, changing his wings, his abilities (I'm assuming there's a perk/leveling up system), the color of his scales, claws and so forth. If I can get attached to something so un-emotional as a fully-upgraded weapon, I can only imagine how attached I'd feel with a dragon who has a personality and becomes your friend, and whom you help create and develop! You also get quests from interesting NPCs and towns.

Granted, the main character, Drew, as shown in E3 2015 and 2016 is cringe-worthy, but his characterization may have been influenced by Microsoft. Kamiya could come up with a more sympathetic and relatable character, someone more like Sora of Kingdom Hearts or Oliver from Ni No Kuni: this would prevent copyright infringement, as characters like Sora are the direct opposite to Microsoft's forced character.

Further, I'm sure you can also change Drew's stats and abilities as well, as this appears to be a proper RPG that has complex, deep customizable elements to it. He has transforming claws, so perhaps part of the customization might lead to more impressive and more dangerous claws as you level up?  Not to mention Platinum's incredibly-designed weapons. The Platinum signature gameplay will be as tight and impressive as Bayonetta and Nier: Automata, at 60fps. If this is not a masterpiece, I don't know what is.

Kamiya's vision may not necessarily lead to a blockbuster as these are difficult to gauge, but at least it would be an impressive title, a veritable masterpiece, that you can showcase in your advertisements. Microsoft needs to realize that not all games must be blockbuster hits selling 10 million copies first week, but if they're quality titles, people will see the value of your consoles.

This year, Tales of Berseria, Gravity Rush 2, Yakuza 0, Nioh, Nier: Automata and Persona 5 didn't sell nearly as much as the GTA/COD blockbuster titles, but they all became reasons to own a PS4.

In the meantime, I'm hoping that Kamiya will be able to realize his boyhood dream, a magnificent dream that we can all love and enjoy.

The How of Happiness Review

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