Wednesday, June 19, 2013

E3 2013, Sony PS4 Conference,

Continuing my impressions of E3 2013, I'm focusing this time on:

The Sony PS4 Conference

From the very beginning, Sony emphasized again the focus on making a system that game  developers would want to make games for. In creating the new console, Sony sought the input of some of the world's most popular game development studios. This gives the strong impression that the next generation of games will best be experienced on the PS4.

"Beyond: Two Souls". A cinematic-style game starring Ellen Paige and Willem Defoe, that will be exclusive to Playstation. I'm certainly intrigued, but even a year after the game first debuted at E3 2012 I still have no idea what this game is going to be.

Both demos I saw of this game make it look very story-driven, maybe to a fault. I almost wonder if it will be a turn in the direction of the classic arcade game "Dragon's Lair", in which you basically watch a cartoon and every now and then hit a button at the right time to advance the plot instead of dying. I don't honestly think "Beyond: Two Souls" will end up anything like that, but it strikes me as potentially being more of a passive game that emphasizes story to the point of de-emphasizing fun game play.

"Gran Turismo 6". The next installment of the long-running racing series was displayed onstage, with plans to release it for the PS3. The graphics looked as good as the new Forza game coming out on Xbox One. Which indicates either immense quality on the part of Gran Turismo 6 or low quality on the part of the Xbox One.

"Infamous: Second Son". Exclusive to the Playstation, this sequel to the PS3 game has my attention. The original Infamous was about a normal guy who gains superpower and... that's about all I know. But I'm a sucker for a superhero game and the game play looked cool. And  since "Prototype" (the alternative for Xbox 360 owners) was a let down, this series represents one more reason I might be interested in a PS4.

"Dark Sorcerer" was a VERY impressive tech demo, but alas, just a tech demo. Actual game execution never seems as impressive as the promises made by tech demos. So this one was neat, but quickly forgotten. Show me an actual game like this, Sony, and then we'll talk.

"Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag". Wow. A HUGELY glitched demo that repeatedly froze and sucked any potential good impression the game might have left me with. The poor guy holding the controller onstage just kept shaking his head and eventually shrugging as if to say, "there's nothing I can do." And apparently there wasn't. Soon after, the screen and stage simply faded to black and they moved on to showcasing the next game.

"Destiny". A game that has been getting a lot of buzz, with its mysterious logo peppering the internet and pre-order displays already up at Best Buy. Made by Bungie and Activision, it certainly has the right people behind it to make for an awesome game. But it's a shooter. Looks cool, but I'm not a shooter guy.

Shooters seem to flood the market more than any other genre and that has never been more obvious than at this year's E3. Maybe first-person shooters come in wonderful varieties that I have no appreciation for, but they all look the same to me. I'd love to see a new type of action game take the spotlight for a few years.

The word "exclusive" was thrown around a lot by those on the Sony stage, but used in a somewhat limited or misleading manner. Even so, the Xbox One conference used the term far less, which gives the impression that more (or at least more APPEALING) exclusive games are coming to the PS4 than the Xbox One.

Jack Trent (the big wig at Playstation) made a strong point of saying that PS4 will not in any way restrict the use of used games. (A controversial issue with Xbox One, even as Microsoft has clarified a bit to reduce damage.) This statement was met with a roar of applause and shouts from the audience. A huge dig into Microsoft.

Trent also said that PS4 discs do not need to be connected online to play, adding that if you enjoy playing single player games offline, the PS4 will not require you to check in online periodically. No authentication of any kind.

By contrast, Xbox One will require you to authenticate ownership of your disc by connecting online. (Used games will be permitted on Xbox One without paying any fees, but the new owner must log in online to establish the transfer of ownership or the game will not play.)

PS4 is going to a paid subscription model for online play. The cost will be $5 per month, although it was not clear if this can be paid monthly or if it must be paid 12 months at a time, as Microsoft requires to get the same rate.

It was interesting that I didn't see any games using the motion control wands from the PS3 and heard no mention of these wands carrying over to the PS4. The PS4 includes a touch pad as an additional interface option, but I don't remember seeing it used in any of the demos.

The Sony Cloud Network will allow consumers (for a fee?) to access games from the history of Playstation's consoles. Only games for the PS3 were mentioned specifically in this regard, but the Sony conference in February mentioned PS1-PS4 games being playable on PS4. This will be made possible via streaming games from the Sony Cloud Network, but with "console quality". (Whatever that means.)

The PS4 launches in the 2013 Holiday season for $399. This was another announcement met with wild cheering. Not only is it nearly half the cost of the PS3 launch price, but it is a full $100 less than the Xbox One.

I wasn't blown away by anything I saw at the Sony Conference. But when compared to Xbox One, the choice for me is clear. PS4 will be my next-gen console and I'm guessing that will be the case for the majority of gamers.

Microsoft? You guys are hosed. Good luck selling your 15 pound iphone.

On Friday I'll give my impressions of what Nintendo and the various game studios showcased at E3! Some pretty cool stuff around the corner!

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