Xbox One – Jump Out?

Xbox None?

I have a history with Xbox.

The first console was my introduction to the idea of a multi-media device.  I skipped PS2, so the plucky upstart system with its hard drive, remote add-on accessible DVD playback and mp3-ripping shenanigans blew my fragile mind when I bought one.  Selling my system also helped fund my wife’s engagement ring, back in the day – I’d like to see the world-conquering Sony platform of the time claim that as a system feature.

Similarly, I was all over the Xbox 360 – which, for a time, fulfilled a special place in my wife’s gaming life as a dedicated “Burnout Paradise” platform.  That was more or less all she played for months.  Before that, her jam of choice was “Viva Pinata”, a bundled title I chose along with “Project Gotham Racing 3” as the advertised “Gears of Wars” was out of stock at our local retailer.

When I think of the time that I spent enjoying the adventures of Fenix and Delta Squad, that latter factoid can’t help but tickle me.

Why does this post seem like a fond farewell rather than a hopeful view of the Xbox’s future?  Last night’s unveiling of the new Xbox One console would appear to be the point at which I bid adieu to a gaming platform which has given me a lot of enjoyment and which no longer wants me as a customer.

Enforced use of Kinect, always-on internet connectivity, mandatory disc installation, the breathtaking arrogance of a company who don’t want you to loan a game to a friend so that they can try it out, a predictable but still infuriating effort to market exclusively towards beer-chugging American man-children – if any of these take-away nuggets of stupidity from last night’s conference prove to be wrong, by all means call me out on it, but I think we both know that Microsoft’s cards are on the table.

They’re rattled by mobile, tablet and evolving gaming sectors which didn’t exist when the 360 launched, so are retreating to an audience they know will pay a premium for Xbox One to play this year’s iteration of “Call of Duty” and “Battlefield” ad nauseum and not mind being told how they are going to use the system that they, you know, actually paid money for.

A games console which constantly monitors the living room and feeds back to God who knows back in MS HQ?  You can stick it.

Rogue Failure. Or ‘How I Stopped Worrying and Learned To Love the Paragon’

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I am not and never have been a rebel.  In life, as in gaming, I tend to follow a path of general decency and behaving unto others as I would wish for them to treat me – it isn’t cool, it rarely yields great rewards and marks you out to others in the world as being even more of a nerd than they expect you to be.  Thankless existence, unto eternity?  You said it.

I am, dear reader, a Paragon, a Paladin, a White Hat – and I’m ok with it.

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My current favourite gaming experience, the omnipresent “Kingdoms of Amalur”, gives me the chance to play as a rogue class ranged fighter and what I’ve discovered from my now 52 hours of game play is that I’m absolutely useless when given the choice to exercise bad behaviour in games.  ‘Amalur’, for example, gives your levelled-up Rogue class the chance to use your stealth ability to sneak up on adversary and ally alike and either shank them assassin style or simply pickpocket them for nifty loot.

Curiously, I find it more morally acceptable and preferable to sneak up on humanoid aggressors and slice them six ways to Sunday than to go creeping around the game world and cut purses or rifle through wallets – how’s that for a bizarre reaction to choices that a game designer provides you with?   I’d like to think that it doesn’t prove that I’m a sociopath-in-waiting but it does give you pause.

It’s this odd disconnect between real world personal conviction and the options inherent in a video game environment  which has kept me from playing sandbox gangster titles like “Saints Row”, “Mafia” and the grand-daddy of them all, “Grand Theft Auto”.  If I can’t envisage ever wanting to be the characters or inhabiting their world, there’s no way that I’m going to play the title – it’s probably a Boy Scout reaction to the criminal anti-hero archetype but there you go.

That’s not to say that I require characters in-game to be Peter Pureheart and impossibly, impractically noble as that option offers as much of a game-breaking flaw as glitch code or poor design decisions but I don’t want to play games where the protagonist’s raison etre is slaying innocent bystanders and arbitrarily causing car crashes.  It’s just not how I’m wired, folks.

I suppose the point that I’m grasping towards is that I like being offered choice about what I do in games – perhaps I should make 2013 the year that I start to take advantage of those choices and see where they take me in games?

What would you do with £148 million?

It’s not a problem which many of us will ever have to deal with, I grant you, but it’s good to see lottery winners finding creative (if jocular) ways to go large with their new windfall.

If I were a rich man…

This is the dilemma affecting newly-minted millionaires Adrian and Gillian Bayford, who this week claimed a winning EuroMillions lottery jackpot of £148 million, leading music store owner Adrian to joke that he’d like to use some of his cash to persuade the classic Guns ‘N’ Roses line-up to reform.

Putting aside the sad truth that even if you paid him handsomely  to play a private gig for you the odds are that  Axl would still show up two hours late, I got to thinking about what manner of frippery I would spend my hypothetical jackpot on.

“Uncharted” on a multiplex screen? Yes please!

I’d hire out my local multiplex’s bigger screens, hook-up a games console and blast through some action games for an evening of delirious nerdery.   Or, you know, build my own cinema addition to whichever house I bought (which would, of course, be Hagrid-friendly).  Who hasn’t gone to their local cinema and thought – “You know what ‘The Expendables 2’ needs?  To be Uncharted 3 or Dragon’s Dogma instead and have me playing it”

I’ve never been a car guy, so expensive luxury prestige marques are not for me.  What’s the point in buying something that jettisons a metric ton of value once you get the keys and sit behind the wheel for the first time?  Likewise, I don’t aspire to own a helicopter or personal jet – this kind of personal transportation is more my speed….

Should be able to get the shopping in the back of that no problem…

And if money was truly no barrier to creating things that I know would please those I love…

Now to summon the pots of cash necessary to hire Southend Interactive to make my wife a bespoke sequel…

I’d hire the developers of lovely, eccentric and desperately underrated XBox 360 platformer “Ilomilo“, Southend Interactive, to code and create a sequel to their glorious XBLA title.  Because Mrs Rolling Eyeballs would quite like that, don’t you know?

Why People Don’t Finish Video Games

Games end sequences are better now...

It’s a weird one – you wait for a game to be released for what seems like ages, follow previews on the internet and in magazines, get hyped when the pre-order bonuses are listed, perhaps even splurge on the special edition and then what happens, when you have the lovely disk in your console’s tray?

You don’t even finish the bloody thing.

I’ve been a good boy this year – the two titles that I’ve bought in 2011, “Bulletstorm” and “Hunted: The Demon’s Forge”, have been new IP’s and had compelling enough stories to make me fight my way through the final boss and get that wholly invisible badge of honour for beating the game.

As to why people don’t finish games? At lot of times, it just isn’t worth the effort to persist when you’re not enjoying the experience. Most adults have a limited percentage of leisure time to spend on entertainment and the middling quality of so many games can’t be allowed to eat into it without some kind of promise of payback.

For example, I gave up on “Final Fantasy 13” after seven hours because the promise that ‘Oh, it gets really good twenty hours in’ seemed like such absurd B.S. and a pathetic justification for the medium. Would any film director get to make ten or eleven movies in the abstract hope that he or she might hit a rich streak of inspiration? I think not. In addition, “FF13” was essentially ‘Home & Away’ with anime characters and, to be honest? Not a great loss. Traded!

Gaming culture is an odd fish, anyway – devout gamers buy a game on Friday, beat it by Sunday and trade it in the next week for the new title out that weekend. As a medium, the fan base is capable of utterly brutal, near-instant dismissal of two-three years of some developers life. Forget the on-line modes, forget another run through the game – beat the campaign, harvest the gamerscore/trophies and move directly to the next thing, because if you don’t, you’re sunk. Mrs Fluffrick is especially bemused by this – ‘Spend forty pounds on something that you only play for a weekend? Have you heard of Blockbuster?’ and I can’t help but agree in this context.

Games offer great value – but they’re expensive, of that there is no doubt. If you play “Call of Duty” multi-player and prestige 15 times, that equation probably weights itself in favour of the game offering better value than say, a novel in hardback or a first-run, opening weekend viewing of a 3D feature film. Thing is, those games are the exception and certainly not the rule.

I’m more of a fan of single-player titles, but the replay of a game is, for me, sometimes the better play through, if I am inclined to play again. Ganesha only knows, I might even complete some of “Hunted”s side-quests now that I know not to walk through doors because the game path is so super-linear…

Let MC Frontalot have the final word…

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Whatcha been playing (NeoGaf love in the house)

With props to NeoGaf, 1Up and whomever first came up with the idea – Fluffrick’s first of many “What You Been Playin’?” updates…

The Borderlands crew - I'm the dude with the goggles and the rifle...

Gearbox Software’s very splendid and very gory Role Playing Shooter, “Borderlands”.  Get in!

An ODST, bringing the hurt...

Bungie’s last(ish) sojourn into the “Halo” universe for the near future, “Halo 3: ODST”.  I love me some Master Chief ass kickery, and I’m confident this should fit the bill nicely.

Finally, for now?

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The Audi R8, as approved by Tony Stark, in Turn 10's "Forza Motorsport 3"

“Forza Motorsport 3” – Race with assists on, or try and beat the game on it’s own terms?  Decisions, decisions…

Modern Warfare 2 – “More Money Than Sense” edition

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Robert Ward from Infinity Ward – aka FourZeroTwo – debuts the collector’s editions of this autumn’s “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2” on the YouTubes.

Would like the Steelbook – but the proposed £70.00 price tag does make me wonder what Activision are smoking.