Category Archives: Microsoft

Ryan Payton Leaves Microsoft To Start Own Studio

Source – Kotaku

Ryan Payton was the creative director at 343 Industries, a subsidiary of Microsoft Studio, working on the next Halo game. He left the company altogether citing the lack of passion for the project and the desire to create a game that he wanted to make. In his CEDEC talk he straight out says the reason he is leaving Microsoft is that the direction of Halo 4 was not going the way he idealised (although he still thinks it turn out to be good game). Not a big deal as there are plenty of passionate people at 343 Industries but it is a blow hearing that Microsoft were not willing to make a creative gamble with this pivotal game for the Halo franchise, the first not made by original developers Bungie Studios.

Now this is a guy who started as a former writer at EGM that got a job in Japan working as an assistant producer on MGS 4 at Kojima Productions. Working directly with Kojima he was responsible for introducing western game design sensibilities to the Metal Gear series which made MGS 4 much more accessible to a global audience while keeping the stealth option. I started to follow his work when he did the the Kojima Production Report, a podcast about all things going on at the company.

After reading the article my admiration for the guy has skyrocketed, this is a guy with great integrity. I learned things I never knew about him and all the terrible things that he has gone through in his personal life. You just have to admire a guy who is creatively motivated and wants to make crazy ambitious games that advance the industry. I look forward to what he does at his new company Camouflaj.


Completed Games – Halo 3: ODST

Developer – Bungie

Publisher – Microsoft Game Studios

Release Date – September 22 2009

Halo 3: ODST was originally conceived as an expansion to Halo 3 before being expanded to a full retail release and comes with a separate disk including Halo 3 multiplayer and a new multiplayer mode, Firefight. I was surprised by this game as it now my favourite Halo game so far in terms of a single player experience. It changes up the standard Halo formula by making you play not as Master Chief or even a Spartan, you play as an ODST (Orbital Drop Shock Trooper).With this you have to play the game differently from past Halo games, you have to play more strategically and keep a closer eye on health, and in general be more stealthy because of you deficiencies when compared to the single army of Master Chief.

What I like most about the game is the desolate open city environment that you can roam around looking for weapons and encountering the occasional covenant patrol. Your drop on New Mombasa goes wrong and your team is spread out all over the city, but when you wake up most of the fight has been done and you piece back the events through flashbacks. It’s not just the same mission after mission, you are given time to explore.

The story for me was also more interesting, it isn’t a grand universe spanning tale but instead focuses on one mission from different perspectives. There is also a side story which is told through terminals which play back pieces of an audio recording of the plight of Sadie in the midst of the covenant invasion of New Mombasa. It is relatively short experience (around 5-6 hours) but I like how self contained it is. Music is also a change in pace with a more jazzy sound instead of the usual orchestral fare. It fits with the graphics which is filtered differently because the game is mostly played at night and you have to turn on a filter which makes the game look very cyber punk.

I’m playing Halo Reach now and I don’t think I’m going to change my position of ODST being my favourite Halo game. Definitely pick it up even if you don’t like Halo games, perfect for anyone who is discouraged by the standard Halo games.

Traditionally Controlled Games Are Becoming a Thing of The Past

One thing that I have notice from all the games shown at E3 this year is that the traditional control method (twin sticks, 4 face buttons, d-pad and triggers) is being replaced or augmented by a range of new control paradigms. Last year’s E3 saw the introduction of the MS Kinect and PS Move, and this year both companies reaffirmed their commitment to the future of how we will control games.

Now I’m not saying traditional controlled games will be obsolete (they will still be ever present), but I do think developers are thinking of ways to allow people to more easily interact with games in new ways. Seeing the way voice commands are being used in Mass Effect 3 utilizing Kinect, or hearing Bioshock lead developer Ken Levine talk about the ways he will use PS Move in Bioshock Infinite, I see a definite trend of developers taking up the challenge of advancing the way we control games. It is no longer just a gimmick, it is the future of video games.

And I haven’t even mentioned Nintendo yet, with their next console they will continue the path of motion controlled games and will add the next big thing, tablet touch pad controls. They are taking the success of their portable systems and mobiles devices like the iPad/iPhone to create a system that will encourage developers to think of new innovative ways to design games. These new methods of control allow a wider range of people to pick up and instantly understand how to play certain games. It also makes gaming a more involved and fun looking endeavor which is necessary to continue growing the industry.

Nintendo had a true hit with the Wii by innovating the way games are played but their approach had it’s flaws. Nintendo looks like they have learned not to abandon the core gamers by creating a system that developers are excited to work on with powerful processing and graphics capabilities. Hopefully this would lead to more games being released on the Wii U than the Wii and I’m excited to see how games like Assassin’s Creed play on the Wii U.

Also I hope more developers take advantage of the capabilities of the Kinect and PS Move as we are at a point where the technology is there but we just need the games. The key is finding the right mix and making control decisions that make sense, enhancing the gaming experience rather than making it seem gimmicky. From what I’ve seen at E3 this year I feel confident that the industry is moving in the right direction.

P.S. 3D gaming is also here to stay and video games are the perfect medium to get the most out of it. The technology is improving each year and developers are doing a better job of implementing it in their games. It’s time to stop grousing about 3D in video games, if you don’t like it you can still play your games in regular 2D.

E3 2011 Video Roundup

Nintendo Official Videos

Electronic Arts Official Videos

Ubisoft Official Videos

Playstation Blog

 Other Videos

E3 2011 Microsoft Announcements Round-Up – Halo 4, Ryse and Lots of Kinect Supported Games

Here is a list of notable announcements and details of Xbox 360 games and features announced today at Microsoft’s Press Conference for E3 2011 (plus a couple features revealed later on Major Nelson’s Blog).

  • Already announced games featured Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3, Tomb Raider, Mass Effect 3 (Kinect voice support, dialogue and squad commands), Ghost Recon Future Soldier (Kinect support for all future Tom Clancy games), Gears of War 3, Forza 4, Star Wars Kinect
  • EA sports games to get Kinect Support – Tiger Woods PGA Tour, Madden, Fifa and one other.
  • New Game AnnouncementRyse for Crytek, a Kinect game set during the Roman Empire era.
  • New Halo games announcedHalo 1 remake 10 year anniversary and Halo 4.
  • New Game Announcement – Fable: The Journey, on rail magic shooter just for Kinect.
  • Other New Games Announced – Kinect Sports Season 2, Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster, Disneyland Adventures, and Dance Central 2.
  • New Dashboard with graphical and functional improvements. Search support with universal Bing search capability, youtube, live TV (i.e. UFC) capabilities, more Kinect support, Beacon feature (more streamlined game invite system) and the big one cloud support for game saves and profiles.

5 Games We Will Learn More About at E3

The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) opens on the 7th June, just over a week away and here’s 5 games I’m looking forward to learning more about. All of them will be released at the end of the year around November and all are the 3rd game in a franchise.

Assassin’s Creed Revelations continues Ubisoft’s tradition of a new AC game every year and this one is the third in the Ezio trilogy starting with AC2 followed by AC Brotherhood. Ezio will be much older in this game and will be climbing around this time in Constantinople. Multiplayer will also return hoping to expand on the innovative experience that debuted in the last game.

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 continues the Modern Warfare offshoot, this time going global with recognisable landmarks and cityscapes. Preview impressions of the single player side of the game are already up at many gaming websites, but most people are waiting to hear how multiplayer has changed.

My most anticipated game of the year Uncharted 3 will be shown and will probably show off more of the graphical innovations from their desert setting. I looking forward to hearing more about the story and what historical/mythical legend is being pursued by Nathan Drake and his buddies.

Resistance is back with Resistance 3 after a 3 year development cycle hoping to bring more excitement and polish that was lacking in Resistance 2. The unique 8-player co-op mode from Resistance 2 is dropped, and more focus is put on the competitive multiplayer and the story mode.

Battlefield 3 is the the long awaited sequel to the main Battlefield series instantly garnering attention with its gorgeous visuals. Looking forward to hearing about what new gameplay and multiplayer features are being introduced.

Completed Games – Halo 3

Developer – Bungie

Publisher – Microsoft

Release Date – September 25 2007

This is the first Halo game I played on consoles, I didn’t own an original Xbox, but I did played through the first Halo and partway through the second on the PC. I remember really enjoying the first Halo because of the dynamic combat and enemy AI but it wasn’t enough for me to pick up an Xbox. Now even though I’ve had an XBOX 360 for years I didn’t really consider picking Halo 3 up until now. It is a testament to the quality of the game that it holds up pretty well now over 3 years later.

I had a lot of fun playing through the single player campaign twice, once co-op and one time by myself, as it so much different and unique from other FPS games that have become so popular nowadays. I have to say I prefer the futuristic weaponry and the more gamey style when compared to the more realistic setting of COD and Battlefield. I don’t know why it took so long to get back into Halo but I’m now excited to play through the two other Halo games that have come out since, ODST and Reach. I’m even more excited to hear about what Bungie are going to do with their next new IP they are developing which is being published by Activision.

The pacing and interweaving of story and gameplay is what I liked the most along with the variety of strategies you could employ in each firefight. It’s great being an ultimate super soldier instead of just being a normal soldier and I like how it justifies the use of advanced weaponry and armor in the game.

I am slightly disappointed with how you can’t have a single player campaign going on at the same time as a co-op campaign without overwriting the current in mission save. Other than that I think co-op is one the great strengths of Halo that has become so important in other games since then. I haven’t tried multiplayer and probably won’t until I pick up Halo Reach as I could imagine the type of the people who are still play Halo 3 absolutely destroying me.

Assassin’s Creed 2 Review (XBOX 360)

Developer – Ubisoft Montreal

Publisher – Ubisoft

Release Date – November 17 2009

Unlike other media, video games tend to improve with sequels because they already have the tech in place to build on. They can then divert resources into other areas such as story, game play and graphics. The original Assassin’s Creed was an ambitious game with flaws but the base concept was such a good idea that it sold extremely well (with the help of excellent marketing). A sequel could be made with all the resources in the world and this is why the second game in the series is excellent with an amount of polish and detail that very few games achieve.

Ubisoft improved everything they could’ve done with Assassin’s Creed 2. Gone were the small range of mission and large open spaces. It no longer feels like I’m doing the same thing over and over again. There are more RPG aspects with weapons and armor and you also have a dedicated home base which you can upgrade to earn you money. This sort of customisation is something that was missing in the first game and should be present in all open world games.

The graphics are great with impressive production values in terms of art direction and player models. Ubisoft did a realistic job of recreating Florence, Tuscany, and Venice where it was clear the spent a lot of time researching the period. It is even more impressive if you have actually been to those place and recognise the landmarks. It is also just a nice world to be in unlike most other games, I enjoyed just traversing through the cities and looking for collectables.

Assassin’s Creed 2 continues the fluid traversal and platforming in the first game. It is by far the best way to move around in any game I’ve played as it gives you complete freedom to go anywhere. The combat is improved with the increased variety of weapons but fundamentally it is similar to the first relying on counterattacking. I would’ve liked Ubisoft to go more deep with the combat with combos but I understand their decision to keep it simple to appeal to a mass audience. I really liked how Leonardo Da Vinci is involved in the game as he is your go to guy for upgrading you assassin blade. It makes a lot of sense and a much better way of dealing with ability upgrades than just arbitrarily giving you a new ability as you gain levels.

The game does start slow as it teaches you how to play the game by doing errands but the pace picks up and keeps on going. It is a long game (at least 20 hours) with a lot of things to do and I am looking forward to play the direct continuation, Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood, which came out at the end of last year. The story ends on a crazy note and is one of the reasons why I enjoy the series so much,  a historical time travel sci-fi tale is something that hasn’t been told in such an entertaining manner in any form of entertainment or media.

Splinter Cell Conviction Review (XBOX 360)

Developer – Ubisoft Montreal

Publisher – Ubisoft

Release Date – 13th April 2010

Stealth Action Masterpiece

Splinter Cell Conviction is a supremely impressive game that seems to be forgotten in the mass of games released in 2010. It is a complete game filled with content all done with excellent production value. The most impressive feature of the game is Ubisoft’s approach to story telling where they try to make it as seamless as possible and do things that work well in video games. Ubisoft really tried to innovate how you can convey a plot and they should definitely be commended for doing it successfully. The way the game does this is through projecting videos and objectives on the environment. This makes the story unobtrusive and as interactive as possible which is in sharp contrast to the other big stealth action game Metal Gear Solid 4 or every other RPG game which still rely on dialogue and cutscenes. Ubisoft should also be commended for making a game that is most of the time black and white as this is the way they decided to show that you were hidden in the shadows. It was a bold move graphically and really makes this game unique.

Underneath all the gloss of story and graphics is the polished game play making me forget how complicated previous Splinter Cell games have been in comparison. Fundamentally it is a stealth game but the shooter mechanics are good enough that the game could also be considered a shooter. It has also taken cue from shooters with the adoption of context sensitive actions which greatly simplify the game and lets you focus on avoiding or taking out the enemies. The great thing about stealth gameplay is that it provides variety and choice in how you approach the game even though the game may be linear. It’s a challenge to try and sneak around but it is not frustrating because if you are spotted you have plenty of offensive options to take care of yourself. My way of playing was to take out every enemy quietly either with a silenced pistol or a sneak takedown attack. I enjoyed coming up with a strategy in how I approached each new area as the game gives you multiple options such as going above via pipes or outside via windows & ledges or drawing attention by shooting out lights.

Now that it is the end of the year and all these end of years awards are starting to pop up on websites I found it strange that very few are mentioning Splinter Cell Conviction. I had to double check that it was even released this year. It certainly wasn’t a low key release, Ubisoft went to great lengths to make sure they put out a game they were happy with. The only reasons I could think of would be the sheer amount of other good games that came out this year. Splinter Cell Conviction is a well though out package with lots to do in single player, co-op missions, challenges (which give you points to upgrade weapons) and different single/multi player modes. Its lack of recognition may be due to the critic not having the time to get into all the game modes which is just as lengthy as the core single player missions. Splinter Cell Conviction should be up there as game of the year along with Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood, Red Dead Redemption, Mass Effect 2, Halo Reach and COD Black Ops.

Completed Games: The Darkness (Xbox 360)

Developer – Starbreeze Studios

Publisher – 2k Games

Release Date – June 25 2007

The Darkness is based on a comic book series of the same name from Top Cow Productions (known for Witchblade) and developed by Starbreeze Studios, their first on the Xbox 360 and PS3 platforms after critical success with The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay. The story of The Darkness surrounds Jackie Estacado a NY mob hitman who on his 21st birthday has powers awaken within him. He is from a family who have been inhabited by an evil entity named The Darkness and Jackie is the latest to be possessed.

The game is a story driven first person shooter with horror/adventure elements. The story and open world elements are what makes this game playable but over 3 years since release all other aspects are outdated and very hard to enjoy. The FPS controls of the game are no fun at all and not too much has progressed with the shooting mechanics from their previous game. There is heavy unnatural aim assist, you die way too easily and have to rely on your powers which also are hard to control. The good aspects of the gameplay are that enemies don’t respawn and once you clear an area they don’t come back. This is important because the game is not linear and you travel around via the subway to complete missions.

I decided to pick this game up because of the good reviews it got when released but playing it now I don’t see a reason why it was so highly rated. Don’t pick it up unless you are really looking for a strong story driven FPS and can forgive the outdated poor controls which in my opinion is essential for any game to be fun.