I love sports games, but I just don’t seem to play them by myself. When there’s a group of two or more, you know you can throw in a copy of EA’s NHL or FIFA franchise and most people will have a pretty idea of what’s going on.

Last year, I only bought FIFA 12. That’s it. No basketball from 2K, no football from Madden, no hockey from those dudes in Edmonton. Hell, no tennis, rugby, or cricket either. I was pretty sold on the 2013 versions of the major franchise titles, but with Madden 13 in our rearview, and a hockey lockout on the imminent horizon, I think I’ll end up skipping them again this year.

Sunday, 8:46 pm – Gavin

Of course Nintendo will be selling additional Wii-U tablets.  Whoever told you that they wouldn’t is just flat-out lying to you.  What’s more likely, though, is that the games don’t require a second tablet to play, or that the console can only support a single tablet controller.  That’s where you’d use the Wii-U pro controller that was demonstrated during E3.

Nintendo is going to run into problems trying to match the uptake of the Wii.  Anyone who’s anyone knows that.  But don’t count them out – how many Game Boy/DS models have there been that have sold like hotcakes?  Plenty of people bought the PS1, PS2, and PS3 or Xbox and Xbox 360.  Remember that Nintendo doesn’t lose money on hardware like Sony and Microsoft do.  They relied on software sales – Nintendo doesn’t need that (to the same degree).

It’s likely that I’ll only have the one console next generation, now that I have a decent enough PC for gaming.  And since my options are Wii-U with Mario, Metroid, and Zelda, or Nextbox/PS4 without, the choice is plain and clear.  And everyone who comes over and plays it and enjoys themselves will be forced to admit that in public.  $350 may be steep at first, but wait until there’s a proper library – new consoles never have great libraries available anyway.  The launch titles for the PS3 and 360 were nothing special and they both grew to have great libraries.

As for the power of the Wii-U, I’ll wait to judge before anonymous developer inside sources sway my opinions.  The full tech specs of the system haven’t been released to the public yet, so I don’t want to hear from a developer who may have a vested interest.  I want to see benchmarks and side-by-side comparisons.

Sunday, 9:05 am – matt

and what old friend might you be alluding too dear Ricky?

fucker….

😉

and Nintendo states they wont be selling second wiiu remotes because apparently there aren’t any two player games? that doesn’t make any sense…

Saturday, 3:05 pm – Ricky

Great post on the WiiU, Gavin. I have to say, I’m still pretty underwhelmed, but I wish them success. I feel like it’s going to be a tough sell for them stateside, but I don’t think they’ll have any problems in Japan. Two words: Monster Hunter. They’ll be lining up around the block for that at launch.

I think that it comes around to the specs. Everyone is saying that it’s on par with the 360 and Ps3. Couple problems with that:

  1. Developers have had 5 or 6 years to figure out how to get the best out of the Microsoft and Sony consoles. They’re comfortable with the tech. You always see a noticeable spike from launch titles to those at the end of the console’s life. It won’t be any different: I expect the launch WiiU titles will look and run OK.
  2. The price. Not much to be done here – great chart Gavin, and it shows that tech is getting less expensive in absolute dollars (as would be expected). I still can’t pay $350 for this console, then $50 for a game, then $40 for a Wii remote, then $40 for a nunchuk, etc. etc. etc. I know there are a lot of people out there with a Wii already, so their initial investment will be less, but as a counter-point: What percentage of Wii owners are casual game players and buyers? Yes, the install base is massive, but it’s positioned as this “in every home, for every family” console. What percentage of that base falls into that category? What incentive does the casual base have to “upgrade” to the WiiU? If there is an incentive, why haven’t they already done it with an available, cheaper console like the 360 or PS3?
  3. The games. Look, I’m a zombie fan. I think Rayman looks cool. I’d never hate on Mario. The Wonderful 101 looks really cool. BUT! Am I willing to invest $350 in a console right now to have these unique experiences? No, I’m not. I’d sooner spend half that on all the amazing titles releasing over the holidays for the systems I already have.

It’s pretty clear that I’m not the target market for the WiiU. Nintendo really feels like an old friend to me – one that you still like to chat with every now and then, but whenever they tell you how things are going, you aren’t surprised to hear that they’re still pretty much the same as when you were kids. It makes me sad.

That said, I’ll be over at Gavin’s place playing the WiiU in mid-to-late 2013. I’ll probably enjoy it.

Friday, 1:18 pm – Gavin

Holy crap, it’s Gavin day. Speaking of expensive games, check out this vintage ad for SNES games and then thank your lucky stars that the price of video games hasn’t risen with inflation.

All of a sudden, I feel bad for not buying To The Moon for $8.00.

Friday, 9:37 am – Gavin

On last week’s podcast, I talked about how we didn’t have as many consoles growing up, and buying consoles and games was a big deal. Here are console prices, adjusted for inflation:

LOL Neo-Geo

Stats courtesy of Gamasutra

Friday, 8:31 am – Gavin

Dammit, I wanted to be the first to post about the Wii-U, but alas, something something work in the day, something something dentist appointment in the evening.

To piggyback on what matt said, one blogger at Engadget theorized that the lower price point was all about optics – this way, they can say that their new console “starts at under $300”, which is something that the 360 and PS3 never did, and the Nextbox and PS4 likely will not do. I do know that if I were a day-1 purchaser, I’d drop the $50 extra. For me, it’s not about the quantity of memory, as memory is pennies on the dollar these days. It would be the charging dock and NintendoLand that would seal the deal. Not that they are both absolute MUST HAVES, but they’re both things I’d be getting anyway, so why the heck not? And considering that the 32gb memory is flash, why wouldn’t I?

Some of the tech specs dropped a day before the press conference, so here’s what we know about it thus far, with some comparisons for relativity’s sake:

  • Tri-core “Espresso” CPU, built with IBM, 45nm architecture, eDRAM cache (for comparison, PS3 had a single-core 3.2GHz, originally at 90nm architecture, down to 45 in later iterations). Further specs unavailable.
  • customized AMD Radeon 7-series graphics, supports DirectX 10.1 and OpenGL 3.3 functionality. No word on GPU RAM – PS3 had a modified Nvidia GeForce 7800 with 256mb RAM). Further specs unavailable.
  • 2gb RAM – 1gb for games, 1gb for system software. For comparison, the PS3 has 256mb of RAM total.
  • Hard drives – 8gb basic, 32gb premium, all flash, expandable via SD cards and USB hard drives. Reggie Fils-Aime’s official reasoning (paraphrased): Memory is cheap, so why bundle the customer down with a fixed size that may be too much or not enough for their needs? If you need more, put on your own hard drive or SD card and go nuts, and it would cost less than us bundling it.
  • 4 USB 2.0 ports
  • HDMI 1.4, native full 1080p compatibility
  • Proprietary slot-loading disc drive. No Blu-Ray, obviously, as it’s Sony’s tech and Nintendo doesn’t make as much on games as Sony and MS do, so they need to recoup costs by way of console sales. No word on dual-layer discs, but that is very unlikely. 25gb capacity per disc.
  • Near Field Communication in the tablet (i.e. credit card purchases by placing the card on the tablet screen), stylus with the tablet (thank fuck)
  • Backwards compatibility with “nearly all” Wii titles

I was watching the Nintendo stream and it repeatedly cut out due to load, so forgive me if I missed some of the details. I didn’t have time to watch it again last night.

This was a real introduction to the Wii-U, but more on the “additional capabilities” side of things, as games were demonstrated at E3. And I have to say, despite my disappointment at not seeing more gaming, specifically more controls, I was very pleasantly surprised by the additional capabilities side of the event. A hefty amount of time was devoted to Nintendo TVii, which I was unsure about at first, but now find to be quite interesting. I suggest you watch the press conference for the full details, but the Wii-U integrates not only with VOD services like Netflix and Amazon, but also integrates with your cable or satellite TV provider. The tablet becomes a large universal remote, and the software inside the tablet essentially becomes a metacrawler across video services. They used Modern Family as an example – search for the show, and then your options for watching it appear – buy an episode on Amazon, watch through Netflix, watch live on TV (if it’s live), or watch recorded episodes through your PVR.

The real bonus was sports. Watch live sports on TV, and then when you want to see the scores of other games while not changing the channel, just use the tablet to connect directly to a sports feed, which lets you check the scores, status, and plays (they used football as an example, which obviously serves well considering the stop-and-go nature of the game).

There’s also social media integration – take screenshots of whatever you’re watching and e-mail, post to Facebook, Twitter, etc. I don’t see a ton of need for that on my end though.

We did get to see some of NintendoLand at play. The game we were shown was basically Dungeon Defenders, except the characters were Samus-based bounty hunters. It’s not a AAA title; it looks to be a collection of expanded mini-games similar to Mario Party. Fun as heck, I’m sure, but I probably wouldn’t seek out the title if it weren’t included in the bundle.

We saw some games as well. New Super Mario Bros. U, which the world already knew about through E3, was discussed, but briefly. We were also introduced to Bayonetta 2, a Wii-U exclusive. I never played the original Bayonetta, but most who did said that they loved it and that it was very slick. The graphics, which appeared to be a cutscene, looked great. Nothing desperately groundbreaking, but definitely significantly better than what the Wii is capable of putting out. Top-end PS3 stuff, but probably not for the next generation of conventional consoles. My feed cut out at this point, so I was just getting choppy video. We did see several other games announced that looked fairly mediocre on the graphics scale; better than the Wii, but arguably not as good as the 360 or PS3. Just Dance 4, a new Monster Hunter game, Pikmin U, a few titles like that. Nothing particularly groundbreaking – looks like the major first party launch title will be New Super Mario Bros. U. I’m sure it will be a blast, but I need more than that to secure a day-1 buy.

At this point, the Engadget blog was a showing a bit of disappointment in the quality of the games being released. There was a full acknowledgment that they looked significantly better than the Wii and that in some cases, they were equal to or better than the 360 or PS3, but things didn’t pick up until Activision announced CODBLOPS2. Having seen trailers and gameplay videos for CODBLOPS2, this game looked very much to be a competitor to the conventional consoles. Obviously, Activision just ported it over to the Wii-U for conventional controls, but still, the power of the Wii-U was evident.

Like I said earlier though, one area of disappointment was the lack of control demonstration. It sounds mostly like the Wii Remote and Nunchuk are not used for this generation at all and that it will all be tablet or conventional controller. I may be totally and completely wrong on that, but a bit of clarity from Nintendo would be nice. Or maybe I just can’t read.

What else to say? Two things, really: Aliens: Colonial Marines will launch in 2013, and the potential for the Wii-U is mind-blowing. The idea of using the tablet as a motion sensor à la Hudson in Aliens fills me with giddy glee. I think that that is just outstanding and sublimely creepy in a game that, from the trailers, looks to be quite engaging. Secondly, Engadget predicts that the next Zelda title will launch in Q1 2014. I wanted to be mad about that, but then I realized that the time difference between Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword was five years (there may have been a DS title in there somewhere), and Skyward Sword just came out in November 2011. Further, the difference between Link’s Adventure and Link to the Past was four years. Take your time, Nintendo EAD, if it means putting out a good quality Zelda game. Just don’t wait too long for another Metroid Prime game (or similar). It’s been five years since Prime 3: Corruption, and that’s just too long for me to wait between Metroid titles.

All in all, it was a ponderous day from Nintendo. I left with the answers to questions that I didn’t even ask, and then several unanswered questions. I want to know more about the gameplay, but as an electronic device in my living room, I was left with some outstanding impressions. I never buy first-run hardware, so I won’t be buying this when it launches on November 18th. But developers now have a powerful beast with which they can work, so based on what we’ve seen so far, bad ports to the Wii-U will likely be a sign of developer laziness, not hardware limitation.

I fully expect this to have a slow burn, rather than lightning sales like they had with the Wii. I predict that we see a price drop midway through 2013, which is likely when I’d seriously consider it. It will be like the 3DS. It will still make money, but there will be questions about it when it first launches. Some folks will love it, but not as many as did with the Wii or DS. I’ll look at sliding in somewhere around mid-end 2013 if there are more titles that I want to play. I don’t want to go in too early and then spend my days waiting for the next big title to release; I want there to be a healthy and sustainable library when I jump.

Thursday 12:15 pm – matt

Nintendo lifted the curtain behind the Wii U today, setting two models out with a small $50 price diference between the two units. Starting at $299 gamers will receive an 8 gig system in white, gamepad, and AC adaptors to charge both. Gamers opting to spend a litle more will be treated to black version with 32 gigs of memory, charging docks for controller, and a copy of a game called Nintendo Land.

With such a small difference in price between the two models i dont quite understand the logistics the big N has laid out. all thats going to happen is stock running extremely low on the black version and people having to opt for the weaker package at a slightly reduced price.

Wednesday, 7:40 pm – Albert

Deus Ex HR was one of those games that I started to play and just OD’ed on it immediately. I might have mentioned it before but I ended up getting very close to the end and I explored every vent, computer, drawer, and everything I could. You are definitely right Gavin that the drag system is great. I loved pulling bodies into vents and then just sneaking around. Using your momentum I hope to beat the game close to the time you do so we can talk about our final impressions.

I’m very excited to hear how Blands 2 is and I cannot wait to try it myself. There is already a skill tree calculator so I will be ready when I am home to play it.

On the week’s topic, I was very ready to jump back into Sports games… but i’m not so sure anymore. Even though Madden this year has a new physics engine the demo didn’t really pull my interest into it. I think I’ll pass for now. Fantasy Football is all the football simulation i’ll need this year. I know it’s hard to really reinvent a sport year after year, but I have to imagine that people are still eating sports games every year to push this business model. I really enjoyed the latest UFC because they gave it two years and it was signicantly different and innovative. Perhaps if people stop buying the new roster updates every year we can have different sports games/features. Who knows?

Tuesday, 4:15 pm – Ricky

First, great write-up about Deus Ex HR. I’m definitely looking forward to playing it… one day. For the time being, my sights are set on Borderlands. Though, I did just buy Transformers: Fall of Cybertron (finally). It’s a sickness, really.

I’ve been seeing a bit of talk about To The Moon. Along with Home and They Bleed Pixels, it’s been quite a good span for indie games on Steam. I look forward to seeing them pop up in Humble bundles and in the Holiday Steam sale so I can add them to the collection and never touch them.

Re: NHL 13. Reviews are pretty good so far at 81 overall, though the review count only stands at 8. Still not interested.

Tuesday, 8:43 am – Gavin

Has anyone heard anything about To The Moon? I’ve seen it posted on Steam, and discussed several times on Reddit. A commenter with a rather vulgar name described it thusly: “I’ve never felt any kind of emotional connection to a video game character before, but I wept like a bastard at this game”. The trailer does seem remarkably emotion-laden, so I look forward to giving it a shot.

Monday, 8:39 am – Gavin

I’ll be honest, I don’t care about NHL ‘XX either. Not that I don’t love hockey, because I absolutely do, but sports games often get a world of meh from me. If it weren’t for the updated team information, I probably couldn’t tell you the difference between NHL 13 and NHL 12 or 11 or 10. Diminishing returns and all that – they all start to run together after a while. THe last hockey game I really gave a crap about was NHL 94, the greatest EA Sports game ever made. If I want to follow along a season of sports, I’ll just watch the games it and catch the highlights from the games I missed.

As I insinuated in the Round 10 podcast, I started Deus Ex: Human Revolution last night. This is a particularly momentous occasion for me, because it marks the first time in nigh-on 10 years that I played a *new* PC game. I bought my computer in December 2011, and DE:HR came out in November, so this counts for me. I’ve had it in my Steam account for months, just waiting to start it up. This is probably the game that I have looked forward to the most in recent memory. It took a while to get it running, as it turns out there are serious driver conflict issues with HR. Thank goodness for the Internet, as I searched “DEUS EX HUMAN REVOLUTION WON’T LAUNCH IN STEAM” and found dozens of internet forums with the exact same problem. After some messing around, it turns out that it was as simple as updating my drivers.

When I loaded it up, I set the video settings to medium so as not to tax my computer, and it looked pretty poor. Lots of artifacts, lots of aliasing, and general choppiness. Notebookcheck.net says that it should run absolutely flawlessly at medium settings, so I was concerned. In a moment of pure “fuck it”-ery, I set everything to ultra just to see how badly it would run (bear in mind – HR has an internal setting that maxes out your resolution at your screen’s native resolution, so for me, 1366 x 768. Not 1080p.), and wouldn’t you know it? Runs perfectly. Like I’m getting well above 30 frames per second.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

I’ve only played the prologue mission and the intro to the second mission (spent too much time exploring the lobby, 8 hostages got killed. Oops.). So far, it’s terrific. It’s definitely got a lot of similarities to the first Deus Ex. Combat is fairly fluid and reminds me a lot of Splinter Cell at this point. Running and gunning will just get you killed, but the cover system, while not as flawless as Gears of War (primarily, I assume, because of controls), is still quite intuitive. I’ll have to kick my Gears of War habits when it comes to cover-based shooters.

The story so far is great. The prologue mission, which doesn’t last very long at all, does a GREAT job of giving you backstory and “origins”. I”m genuinely and seriously impressed and how well it sets the stage for the game.

NPC interactions are fairly straightforward. The conversation tree system is slick, and it gives you an explicit choice between “inform” and “confront”, or “reassure” and “confront”. I like that, but the original Deus Ex didn’t hold your hand like that. I’ll see how I like it 10 hours in though.

Graphically, the game is very sharp (obviously – nothing looks exceptionally bad these days). Reflections appear fairly natural, and NPC facial expressions are vivid without heading into uncanny valley territory. Voice acting is on point, though Adam Jensen (the lead character) has some serious Christian Bale as Batman issues with growling and rasp. Compare that to the previous Deus Ex, where several lead characters had respectable voice acting (JC Denton, Bob Page, Walton Simons, Jaime Reyes, Morgan Everett) and plenty of major characters were terrible (Alex Jacobson, Tracer Tong, Gunther Hermann, Anna Navarre, Joseph Manderley, Paul Denton), and the vast majority of NPCs were atrocious (with the exception of the Paris police, who were actually quite good). In that game, individual conversation strings were recorded in separate booths, and you could tell. It was sentences and phrases stitched together, and it showed. Meanwhile, HR is much, much more fluid, as you would expect a game 11 years older to be.

So far though, what has impressed me the absolute most is the attention to detail. “Drag” physics are tremendous, like when you have to move a body out of the way. There were clearly many lessons learned from Ubisoft with Splinter Cell, and Valve with Half-Life 2. Also, I’m really impressed that the developers have finally figured out a way to animate older women. In every game I have played to this point, “old” women look exactly the same as young women, only with grey hair (cough *FABLE 3* cough). The one older woman I have encountered in my travels thus far in HR has well-animated facial wrinkles and skin pigmentation, to the point that I could actually readily discern her approximate age range. It’s really well put-together.

All in all, I can’t wait to deposit dozens of hours into a game that looks to be every bit as fun as I expected and hoped it would be. HR was on most reviewers’ lists of top five for the year, and I’m really looking forward to getting deep into it.

Two more seconds of love for the title/credit sequence. After you complete the prologue mission, you get the title/credit sequence, and it’s phenomenal. Absolutely gorgeous, and you have to see it to believe it. A friend of mine runs a very interesting website called “The Art of the Title“, which is dedicated to examining and critiquing title/credit sequences in movies and television, and you see some absolutely fascinating sequences. Anyway, Deus Ex: Human Revolution is the only video game they’ve ever covered at that website. The credit sequence really is tremendous.

Monday, 8:00 am – Ricky

There’s a hockey video game releasing tomorrow and a Canadian doesn’t care. That should tell you something.

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