24 February 2013

My Leviathyn Posts February 18 - 24

Apologies for the PlayStation centered nature of the posts this time, forgivable given the week that was in it I think. Regardless there should be a bit more diversity next week:

Why Sony Didn't Show off the PlayStation 4 [link]
Opinion: Sony did Exactly what they Needed to Last Night [link]
Mass Effect 3's Citadel DLC Revealed [link]
Battlefield 4 Coming to Next Gen, "Nothing Short of Spectacular" [link]
Rumour: Xbox 720 Could be Revealed at Special April Event [link]
Sony: Future Console Cycles May be Shorter [link]

21 February 2013

Sony did Exactly What They Needed to Last Night

Sony's conference to reveal the PlayStation 4 was, largely, flat and yet it showed a company that appears to have transformed beyond the wildest expectations of many into a platform maker both optimistic and well placed to capitalise on shifting realities within the industry.

Granted the actual console was a no show. This, contrary to the hysteria on many parts of the internet, is not an especially big deal even if it is a novel way to unveil a console, something Sony's chief rival was more than happy to point out.

However as Shuhei Yoshida noted a console "is just a box", the purpose of last night's event was twofold. Firstly Sony needed to espouse the PlayStation 4's philosophy, a device eminently more suited to the needs of developers as well as gamers than its predecessor.

Updates will download in the background, the option to self publish games will be available and with the aid of Gaikai they hope to transform PlayStation Network on PS4 into "the fastest and most secure" games platform on the planet. All of these are ambitious goals, and not all of them may be realised yet what the PS4 purports to do is make for an easier and more enjoyable gaming experience. Sony have, to some degree at least, learnt from their mistakes with the PS3.

More importantly the PlayStation 4 looks set to be infinitely easier to develop for. With nearly 170 developers confirmed to be working on titles for the console it appears there should be no software drought similar to what the PS3 suffered in the early period and while some of the games shown off last night are cross generational it's important to note that before the console launches we'll have E3, gamescom, TGS and more.

In other words there's every reason to suspect Sony had plenty more up its sleeve, we know, for example, that The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt will be developed for the platform, the first game in the series to arrive on a Sony console. While there was no shortage of developers heaping praise on the platform, Double Fine's Tim Schafer, Ninja Theory's Tameemi Antoniades, and Gearbox's Randy Pitchford (let's hope his studio a next-gen Aliens: Colonial Marines debacle).

Industry group TIGA also declared their love of the system with the organisation's CEO Dr. Richard Wilson stating: "there is much potential for innovation with the PS4. It's certainly great for developers.

"Developers will be able [to] foster close communities around their games, gain loyalty, and benefit from and benefit from word-of-mouth promotion."

EPIC Games Mark Rein hailed the console's technical specifications saying: "I am really excited. 8GB of super-fast RAM - holy cow!"

Does that mean we'll finally see Gears of War on PlayStation? Who knows (Microsoft do not in face own the IP, EPIC does) but there was a demonstration of the company's Unreal Engine 4 suggesting that at the very least EPIC are committed to the PS4 to some degree. Of course the Engine is likely to make its way to all platforms but the fact it was shown off yesterday may hint at bigger things in store.

Regardless the scale of the system's memory was a surprise to many (pre-conference speculation had put it at 4GB).

It seems then, that Sony have taken to heart the interests of developers and fully rectified the mistakes they made when designing the PS3 and how games for that platform were, and are, developed.

Sony also demonstrated impressive partnerships with Activision, firstly Blizzard announced a special partnership that would see both the PS3 and PS4 receiving Diablo III. This was followed by the revelation that Bungie's Destiny will come with exclusive content for Sony's platforms, pretty impressive coming from a studio that was formerly part of Microsoft.

Will these deals with Activision rival the significance of Xbox's DLC bonuses for Call of Duty this generation? Only time will tell, nevertheless you can't fault Sony for trying. Ultimately we should expect more partnerships at E3 and the other industry events throughout the year.

The important thing last night was not to reveal too much. This applies most to the console (deciding to withhold the system may benefit Sony in the long term by giving gamers something to be excited for at E3), the software - keeping in mind there are 170 studios working on the system - and specifics regarding the release date and price.

By outing a tentative Holiday 2013 date Sony can change the launch schedule more easily if they need to while it would likely have done more harm than good to reveal the price, that is, if they've even decided on it yet. Revealing a price tag of $500 dollars so far ahead of the system's launch could harm momentum and the decision to withhold that information will allow them more time to asses the market and see what strategy Microsoft select.

Last night Sony outed the PlayStation 4's philosophy of enhanced inter-connectivity and social interaction - while maintaining the possibility of opting out of these features - and giving developers the freedom to make games richer and more immersive than they've ever been on PlayStation.

Not everything Sony did during their conference worked, particularly repeating a nine month old tech demo from E3 last year, but they did what they needed to even without showing off the system and it will be fascinating to see how Microsoft combat it with their eventual reveal of the Xbox 720.

19 February 2013

The Games we Should See at the PlayStation 4's Reveal

Killzone 4

Keeping in mind that Killzone 2 was infamously shown off during the PS3's reveal at E3 in 2005 there's a precedent for Netherlands based developer Guerrilla to be present at these events.

One of Videogamer.com's 'sources' has stated Killzone 4 is coming this year and it will be for PS4. If true it'll be interesting to see how they progress the IP given Killzone 3's rather abrupt ending. Also notable is that Killzone: Mercenary is due for release on PlayStation Vita on September 17th (the date was announced a day before Rockstar revealed that Grand Theft Auto 5's would be launching on the day).

Presuming the PS4 comes in October there may well be some integration between the titles. How that might work and how PlayStation Cloud may feature is obviously not yet known.  

Guerrilla is also working on a new IP, so there's always a chance that will be there instead, or maybe even both.


Every PlayStation platform launches with a Wipeout title. This time there's a difference in that the studio behind the franchise, Studio Liverpool, is no more. Yet the IP continues to exist.

While it's unclear who Sony might entrust with one of their longest running series there's still a decent chance we'll see more of the anti-grav racer on PS4 and possibly at the console's reveal.

Something from Quantic Dream

Quantic Dream are set to release Beyond: Two Souls but they're also developing several new IPs and they're in New York, or at least the CEO is and there's a more than decent chance he's there for Sony's event.

Also worth nothing is that Sony re-uploaded Quantic Dream's Kara tech demo video from GDC last year on the 18th of February, just two days before their event. It could be a means of throwing people off or it could relate to Singularity, a project they're understood to be developing.

The title Singularity also seems to correlate with Kara's sic-fi tropes. At any rate we can hope Qunatic Dream will have something to show at the event.

One aspect of this project is that the game's registered web domain is SingularityPS4.com, which either tells us Sony aren't breaking from the norm in naming their new system Orbis, or anything else, or that they're again trying to throw people off their intentions.

The Last Guardian 

Yes, we know what you're thinking but apparently it does continue to exist. Despite a tumultuous development the game's creator recently wrote that gamers should:

"Keep an eye out" for an official announcement from Sony. Fumito Ueda went on to say that "as some of you may have heard, I left Sony Computer Entertainment Japan Studio some time ago to pursue my creative passions.

"Nevertheless, I continue working on The Last Guardian as a freelance contributor.

"While it's been a long time coming. The Last Guardian remains under my creative supervision and is still in development by an incredibly talented team.

"I should also mention that details regarding The Last Guardian's release is solely decided by Sony Computer Entertainment, not myself. Please keep an eye out for their official announcement."

While it's nothing concrete it's good to know the title is still being worked on and it's not too much of a leap to believe it will be moved onto PS4.   

Gran Turismo 6

Another racer but also quite likely to make an appearance Gran Turismo 6's "framework" is under development. While there may be hints as to what to expect from GT6 in its predecessor.

Polyphony can take quite some time to roll out a new title and if the PS4 is released in October and Gran Turismo 6 with it there would be a gap of 35 months between it and GT5 or exactly three years should the system emerge in November which is the latest rumour concerning the console's launch date.

The Rest

The above are the games we're likely to see at the PlayStation 4's unveiling but of course Sony have many studios as well as second and third party partners. Any of them could be attending.

Within their own stable Naughty Dog tend to work on a new IP each generation (though The Last of Us is somewhat bucking this trend by being a second franchise developed in cohesion with Uncharted). Even so Nathan Drake's adventures are undoubtedly the studio's greatest success to date so it's reasonable to assume they'll keep developing Uncharted for some time to come.

On the other hand there wouldn't be many who'd oppose the developer crafting an entirely new experience either and the venerable Jak and Daxter series still has many fans ( sadly unless Activision decide to give up the IP we're not going to see Naughty Dog and Crash Bandicoot together again).

SuckerPunch are a another studio which could offer some tantalising new games. Having given development of Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time and the Sly Cooper Collection before that to Sanzaru Games in order to work on InFAMOUS the studio may well follow in Naughty Dog's footsteps and unleash a whole new IP for PlayStation 4 or return to Cole's universe. Anyone's who has played InFAMOUS 2 will no doubt be aware of the two radically different endings making the prospect of a third game very interesting indeed.

Then there's British based Media Molecule, the creators of LittleBigPlanet, a series they've left for others to work on new projects of their own. What those might be remains a mystery, perhaps Vita title Tearaway will get a big console companion, but whatever it is it ought to be interesting.

Of course these are only three of their studios not to mention the many others as well as outside developers. What do you hope to see? What are your hopes for the PS4's launch titles?

16 February 2013

Before the PS4 Here Are 10 PS3 Exclusives You Must Play

On the 20th of this month Sony has promised to show gamers the 'future of PlayStation'. There are many indications that they will use this event to reveal the PlayStation 4 to the world but it will be some months before the console hits retailers so if you're looking for the best of what the PlayStation 3 has to offer in the meantime here's a list of some of that consoles finest exclusives.

10: God of War 3

A blood soaked violent rampage through ancient Greece as the Ghost of Sparta sets out Hades-bent on revenge, in other words a normal day in the life of Kratos. But where God of War III excelled was in its powerhouse graphics and monumental scale, it's still hard to find games that can rival some of the foes Kratos took down in God of War III.  

Granted the series never exactly progressed storytelling in gaming - the plot largely consists of Kratos yelling at Hellenic deities who have slighted him somehow or other - but it's still proffers excellent combat and sound (if aging) mechanics. While God of War: Ascension doesn't seem to be innovating massively either, with the exception of multiplayer's addition to the series for the first time, it still looks set to enhance the solid gameplay established in God of War and refined in God of War III

9: Demon Souls

If you've heard of Dark Souls, or played its followup Demon's Souls, then you'll probably know this is one of that hardest games in a very long time. You will die. And die. And, yes, die.

While that may make it seem like an unattractive prospect playing Dark Souls rewards you infinitely if you put the effort in and you rarely feel your deaths were undeserved. Even the tiniest mistake can see you killed, there's no hand holding here, but if you're up for a challenge there's no game on this list that will challenge you quite as much as this entry from Korea.

8: Killzone 2

Not a game for those who dislike 'brown' shooters Killzone 2 is nonetheless a terse, gritty FPS that continues to look stunning. There are few games that can match the detail and intricacy of Killzone 2's war ravaged Helghan.

Ultimately yes, the Killzone series boils down to space-marines versus space-nazis (though if you actually look at the history of the Killzone universe it's entirely reasonable to argue that the space-marines are, in fact, the 'bad' guys) but Scholar Visari and the Orwellian empire he rules over make for iconic backdrops and enemies even if soldiers with glowing orange eyes isn't exactly sensible on a battlefield.

Perhaps not as diverse as Killzone 3 the second installment in the series nevertheless remains the definitive entry in the series. 

7: Ratchet and Clank: Tools of Destruction

The first entry in the Future Series and (probably) Insomniac's best effort on PS3 to date Tools of Destruction is just what the doctor ordered for those of you worn out by Killzone 2's drab environments. Tools of Destruction may lack some of the more adventurous aspects of A Crack in Time, namely Clank's ability to manipulate time, the game makes up for it with dynamic gameplay and some of the wittiest dialogue on PS3. 

And unlike A Crack in Time Ratchet and his small robot, or zoni for those of you who have played the series, pal are together for most of the game. 

6: inFAMOUS 2

inFAMOUS 2 offers a more diverse and larger map with New Marais than the first inFAMOUS ever gave with Empire City. Cole is more powerful as well and there is a more clearly defined set of consequences to the choices you make. 

The game also offers a host of user generated content to encourage you to play on after the credits roll and two markedly different endings to make you ponder how Sucker Punch can bind them together if, and when, there's a third installment. For full enjoyment you might want to look at playing both inFAMOUS and it's successor but the sequel is the better game and with the exception of the Batman: Arkham titles quite possible the best superhero game of this generation. 

5: Resistance 3

Resistance never achieved the status many hoped for and never became Sony's Halo. In part because the second game sullied the franchise by stripping away much of what made the series great and diluted the experience with overblown set pieces.  

But Resistance 3 is one of the most atmospheric and worthwhile shooters of this generation. Telling a far more personal story than its predecessors the game offers some incredibly tense action sequences - a particular point of note is a boat ride early in the game that's worth experiencing for all shooter fans. Be warned however that Resistance 3 is a more tactical shooter than many, especially on harder difficulties, unusually health does not regenerate but must instead be picked up from packs. 

One of Resistance 3's core assets is the dual function of it's weapons making it clear that this came from the same studio as Ratchet and Clank, and yes, there are ridiculously giant aliens.

4: Heavy Rain

Heavy Rain has a unique control scheme and is imperfect in several respects, plot holes for one thing. Yet it also does more than most titles to forward storytelling and provides for multiple playthroughs with myriad different outcomes. 

It's often a bleak and depressing game but it's exciting too as the chase to catch the Origami Killer reaches its climax. Heavy Rain set many benchmarks with its plot and one would that lineage passes to Quantic Dream's Beyond: Two Souls.  

3: LittleBigPlanet

On the surface LittleBigPlanet is a platformer but that's the joy of LBP. It can be almost anything. The game that fostered Sony's Play. Create. Share. mantra LittleBigPlanet gives players the chance to make their own levels and while the second game offers far deeper options in this regard the original is perhaps better suited to newbies as there's slightly less to get used to.

The game ships with a significant campaign by itself and of course there's no requirement for players to make their own levels, it's perfectly acceptable to do nothing but delve into the creations' of others. The game is also the most family friendly one here and is perfect for designing levels and gaming with kids.

2: Metal Gear Solid 4

An older Snake shows he still has the moves in Metal Gear Solid 4. The plot may be bonkers and the cutscences the length of mini-movies MGS4 offers the best of Kojima and tactical espionage action. The game is also worth playing to see cyborg-Raiden in action, very much removed from his character in MGS2, and doing so will provide context for the upcoming Rising.

The gameplay remains tight even now while Kojima's eye for detail shines through. You owe it to yourself to play Metal Gear Solid 4.

1: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

Nathan Drake, the undisputed champion of PlayStation this generation, and a lovable rogue who has had many awesome moments from the World War II German base of Drake's Fortune to the imploding cruise liner of Drake's Deception but neither game quite lives up to the lofty peak that is Among Thieves. 

From the very earliest moments it's clear that Drake's second adventure is going to be a stellar gaming experience and one that every PlayStation owner should experience. Among Thieves isn't perfect, a certain moving train based boss fight springs to mind, but it's bloody close.

Really you should play the entire trilogy, plus Golden Abyss if you have a Vita, but if you have to choose one game to play in the franchise, or indeed, from this list, make it Among Thieves

06 February 2013

Why the Next Xbox (Probably) Won't Block Your Used Games

GameStop's shares fell six percent on rumours from EDGE that the Xbox 720 (or whatever it's ultimately called) will block used games. This isn't the first time this has happened, a similar rumour surfaced sometime ago about the PlayStation 4 which is likely to be revealed later this month.

As I argued in relation to that round of speculation - and at this point everything you read about next generation consoles remains purely that -  there is little reason to suspect that this feature exist in on either Sony or Microsoft's next system.

History plays a role here, all the way back in 2005 it was suspected that the PlayStation 3 would not allow users to play second hand games. We all know that didn't happen. Sony went so far as to patent a block on used games but they never implemented it and there's reason to Microsoft would either. The market would destroy either company that did.

The only likely scenario in which a block on used games comes into effect on next generation consoles is if it happens on both of them. If either Sony or Microsoft are naive enough to implement such a feature on their own they will simply drive customers into the arms of their competitors. If they are 'evil'enough to do it together then they risk players turning (most likely) to PC.

Of course PC and Steam gaming have had their own mechanisms for preventing the playing of used games for many years yet piracy remains a viable (if questionable) proposition. The extent to which piracy is an issue can be highlighted by the fact that sales of The Witcher series would stand at 9.5 million units rather than 5 million were it not for illegal downloads or least somewhere in between.

There is also the law to consider. Last year the Court of Justice of the European Union (Europe's highest judicial body) ruled that consumers cannot be prevented from selling their used media, including digital media. In fact Valve are being sued in Germany right now for preventing people from reselling their games.

The ruling, and its impact, will take many years to be implemented and realised yet it is hard to imagine a situation in which console owners are banned from reselling their content in North America (or elsewhere) but permitted to do so in Europe.

The practicalities of such a dual system would be difficult to implement, not to mention deeply unfair.

There's also the very obvious fact that it would be terrible PR for whichever company (or both of them) that decides to implement such a block. This may seem obvious yet the potential ramifications could be massive, it would be difficult to convince gamers to come back your system after denying them the right to play secondhand titles.

Would this be enough to force one (or both) firms out of the console race? It's impossible to say, yet the potential damage to their balance sheet would be severe. Keep in mind that consoles are incredibly expensive to develop and usually sell for a loss, at least initially.

Console manufacturers want to get people to buy their systems and purchase software to make a good enough turnover until economies of scale and more efficient designs are achieved allowing for a lower console entry fee. It's notable that the bulk of the PlayStation 2's sales came after that system dropped below $200, a ban on used games in the PlayStation 4 could do a great deal to extend the life of the PS3 (similarly with the Xbox 720 and the 360).

So it seems for now at least that we shouldn't expect either the PS4 or the Xbox 720 to carry a block on used games. That doesn't mean such a feature is beyond the realms of possibility but it is unlikely. We should know more come February 20th when Sony are (likely) to give the world a glimpse of next gen however.