No Man’s Sky: One man’s lonely journey into oblivion

From the moment I saw Sean Murray on stage at Sony’s 2014 E3 press conference I have wanted to play No Man’s Sky. Watching them walk amongst the strange fauna of a foreign world before seamlessly entering a space ship to ascend through the planet’s atmosphere into space, zooming around a giant tanker all in one uninterrupted sequence, it was just mind blowing. It had me hooked. It had everyone hooked! Sony had plucked a seemingly unheard of indie studio in Hello Games from thin air and rocketed them and their feature title straight to the front of the hype machine. Everyone wanted a piece of No Man’s Sky for the next two years. The problem is, no one, right up to the point of its release, could really tell you why because no one really knew what you did in the game. Continue reading

E3 2016: EA Play media briefing

EA have gone it on their own this year. Choosing to not take their iconic position in the LA Convention Center South EA decided to “skip” E3 and instead set up next door to run their own event called “EA Play”.

As a part of the event EA held their media briefing simultaneously in LA and London with CEO Andrew Wilson presenting in State-side and COO Peter Moore in the across the pond. Another interesting experiment with EA throwing sheets to the wind this year the setup left the crowd (and presents) mostly weirded out as it crossed to the other feed and left people standing on stage not really knowing if they were supposed to get off or not.

The event was kicked off with Respawn CEO Vince Zampella introducing Titanfall 2 along with it’s hours-before-leaked single player campaign trailer. The game looks to be an exciting extension of the formula we came to love but this time will also be coming to PS4 as well as XB1 & PC October 28.

EA Sports was of course given ample screen time too. Madden 17 for the US and then FIFA 17 from the Brits. The exciting element being that FIFA 17 will include a new mode called “Journey”. Essentially a single player campaign mode that puts you in the shoes of up and comer footballer “Alex Hunter” as he goes pro and learns to deal with the realities of pro-footballer life. Beyond that both titles are improvements on last year, which is the same thing everyone writes about every year and unless you’re deeply involved in them can’t exactly define them very well so I’m not going to bother.

Most anticipated title “Mass Effect: Andromeda” was introduced to much applaud but lacked any real depth. A behind the scenes trailer was shown (see above) that highlighted the team behind the game and gave us very small glimpses into actual gameplay. The story for the game was revealed however with the basic premise being a humanity search for a new home and the reiteration that it would involve all new characters and stories. Nawww, no Shep.

EA’s Star Wars showcase was shown off by Jade Raymond telling us all about titles we already have and more importantly what’s to come. Similar to the Mass Effect dev trailer the Star Wars reel showed even less but did offer some interesting little tid bits including developers wearing PlayStation VR headsets closely followed by 3D models of the Death Star from the famous trench run.

Amy Hennig, of former Naughty Dog fame, talked about her new home at Visceral and their known upcoming Star Wars title for 2018 but with little detail. It was also announced that Titanfall creators Respawn would have their highly anticipated title out after Visceral’s with no further information so expect a fast paced Star Wars based shooter come 2019. Maybe.

Beyond just the games front EA announced an interesting and philanthropic venture in donating proceeds from things such as micro-transactions to charitable causes in what they’re calling EA Play to give.

They also announced “EA Originals”. A collaboration between EA and “three or four” smaller developers a year to bring their games to market. EA said they want to put every cent of profit back into the hands of the developers for them to continue making great titles and are there to support the developers bring their dreams to reality. Something they’ve done with the first EA Originals title “Fe”.

Fe is developed by Zoink, a small euro development house of twenty people who have created a game that to me looks to be a cross between Limbo and Ori and the blind forest. Whilst I applaud the initiative I’m not excited by the game but will reserve final judgement until a hands on.

Lastly the show concluded with a new Battlefront 1 trailer along with a series of awkward celebrity cameos. Non more so than Jamie Foxx and Zac Efron who when asked if they were psyched about the game responded with blank faces and a weird “Uhhhhhhh… yeah bro”.

The game itself looks like a Battlefield and whilst you can use a shovel as a weapon from all the gameplay seen and had no one really does. The maps are affected by weather, which is new and interesting, the vehicles are some of the largest ever in the Battlefield franchise and I’m sure it will have a lot of Battlefield fans excited. My hands on impressions: it’s Battlefield alright.

2014: A gaming retrospective

It would be remiss for a tech-based site in this day and age to not have at least one article that looked back on the year past. On Reckoner, that job has fallen upon me. thus, our contribution arrives in the form of gaming.

As the human race celebrates another rousing job well done navigating the Earth’s orbit around the sun, we do so with alcohol, parties and a virtual overflowing bin containing “[insert topic name] of the year” posts. It’s a discussion we could have, it’s what the major gaming sites do (PolygonGiant BombKotaku), but it would just be my opinion.

Plus, I didn’t play every game that came out in 2014. In fact, I didn’t play half of them! You’d just be angry that “Mr Twinkles Kitten Mansion 3” wasn’t my number 1 when Destiny is. Oops, I’ve told you my game of the year (GOTY): it’s Destiny. Now you can all hate on me and not read the rest of this article.

You’ve gotten to the next paragraph, so I’m assuming Destiny is your GOTY too! Either that, or, you’re not 8, don’t comment on YouTube videos and are genuinely interested. Hoorah! So, instead of going down the aforementioned path, I wanted to take a look back at some of the gaming going-ONs for 2014 and what the going-TOs may be because of it.


Oculus @ PAX Aus 2014

VR grew some balls

Chalk this one up to Facebook buying Oculus for a cool $2bn, along with Sony coming to the party via Project Morpheus. You’ll quickly see that VR is getting an almighty push down the road to general consumerism.

The tech is incredible — the experience of using one of these is fun, but the very real problem still exists of how to get to make them a true “Ma & Pa” consumer product. It’s a huge shift in how we’ve been viewing and interacting with content, and it’s one that -for the time being- is relegated to nerd culture.

Then again, so was “torrenting.” Now I’m pretty sure the 70 year old in the apartment next door does that now too.

Samsung Gear VR

We can see the process beginning now though. Samsung introduced their “at home” VR solution, the Samsung Gear VR (powered by Oculus), a light-weight, cordless VR headset. It makes use of the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 to power your experience.

So far, it’s been coveted as the most comfortable and accessible VR experience available, and an important step to mass market of what’s to come.

Google too has jumped on board in a much (much) lower entry-to-market product in Google Cardboard. In what could’ve easily been written off as a prank Cardboard is a rich, true, VR experience and shows off just how low the barrier to entry can be for this exciting next step in entertainment.

Microsoft too, has jumped onboard the VR train with their recently announced HoloLens. That means the only big name left in the game without a product seems to be Apple. You can be sure they have something buried beneath that Spaceship they’re building too.


Driveclub

Broken games

Sadly, it seems that Sim City’s dismal failure in 2013 somehow encouraged developers to release more broken titles. In 2014 we saw big-name titles, one after the other, required zero-day patches or continual care to even remotely resemble a playable game.

DriveClub, Halo: The Master Chief Collection and arguably the biggest, and most shameful of all: Assassins Creed: Unity. All of these games have been plagued with problems and while some have come to rise above them, others, *cough DriveClub cough*, have seemingly just given up.

Master Chief Collection broken

Why is it happening? Unrealistic annual releases of iterative titles, publisher pressure, market demand. There are more reasons than I care to count and appropriate in-depth analysis of them, but it’s a trend that needs to stop.

We’ve come to expect there will be issues in our games and that’s just not OK. You wouldn’t accept a washing machine that washed your clothes on every 3rd cycle, but somehow a downloadable firmware patch a week later that might fix a problem with your game is fine?

As a gamer, there’s little more than we can do but vote with our dollars. Campaigns driven by social media calling for refunds and reform have been met with some small success. Some games have had refunds issued with extreme caveats or downloadable content provided at no cost. At the end of the day, it does little to instill confidence in purchasing on launch day in the future.

In what sounds like an oxymoron, it’s actually been nice to see upcoming titles delayed. CD Projekt Red’s upcoming Witcher 3 has been delayed a further five months to ensure that a number of “small errors” were attended to. This is definitely a tactic Ubisoft & other publishers could learn from in the titles to come.


The Last of Us: Remastered

Next-gen re-releases

In a sub-title and now opening sentence that has too many hyphens than I care for, a continued trend is the up-rezing and up-polygoning of previous-generation console titles.

It’s an unfortunate by-product of any new generation, and a way for developers and publishers to make bank on hits of old, but 2014 was also the year we expected big things to come of these new gaming workhorses.

I can’t really complain about this though. I bought “The Last of Us: Remastered” so really? I’m just an enabler. I did manage to show some restraint when it came to GTA V, but then again, that could’ve been because I couldn’t buy it from Target more than anything else (idiots).


GamerGate douchery

I have to be a little bit careful about this one. While it was all going on and the likes of Adam Baldwin (best known as “that guy from Firefly”) was busy tweeting their thumbs away, I honestly couldn’t make sense of it all. Had it not been for a “Pointless” episode I recently listened to where Nilay Patel from The Verge and host Kevin Pereira discussed the wild extremes of the “movement”? I’d still be none the wiser.

What began as a lengthy public outpouring of allegations and vitriol from a scorned ex-boyfriend, quickly spiraled out of control to become a series of personal attacks against women. In some cases, these women were forced to move from their homes for fear of personal harm.

Simultaneously, a separate series of attacks began against gaming journalists and sites for alleged pay-for-coverage tactics used to promote gaming titles. This too, spawned from the same originating post, which highlighted a relationship between the writer’s now ex-girlfriend and a gaming journalist.

Today “GamerGate” is largely a horrid nightmare of the past, ”[It] has since swelled into an unwieldy movement with no apparent leaders, mission statement, or aims…” states England’s Telegraph. In its wake, the gaming community is left scarred. Already a media scapegoat, gamers definitely did not need the further compounded bad press GamerGate provided.


What’s to come

2014 was, by popular opinion, not gaming’s shining year. That said, we were able to enjoy a variety of fantastic titles. Titanfall, Destiny, Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor, Mario Kart 8, Hearthstone & more. All incredible experiences that were polished pieces of entertainment that I enjoyed immensely.

the-order-1886-listing-thumb-ps4-us-09un14

For 2015, the first quarter has more titles that I’m excited about than most of last year. Bloodborne, The Order: 1886 & Evolve all out before the end of March but to name a few.

I’m hopeful the next-gen consoles truly come into their own this year. With Xbox getting back to gaming in a big way, Sony continuing to power on with their current dominance and Nintendo to make a showing with their new title updates, it’s shaping up to be a very good year for gamers indeed.

For me, I’m probably hitting it a little late, but PC gaming has triggered my interest more. With the Oculus being so close to a consumer release I want to be there with it, and graphically the PC has been doing what next-gen is just hitting now for the past few years.

What really seals the deal for me though, watching the Star Citizen presentation at PAX Australia this year.

Mind blowing.

* Mr Twinkles Kitten Mansion 3 is not a real game. Not to the best of my knowledge anyway.