Conventions

SDCC 2013 – Xbox on the Floor

SDCC 2013 – Xbox on the Floor

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During San Diego Comic Con, we got a taste of what Xbox had to offer for the upcoming seasons in the Xbox Comic-Con Media Showcase. Titles for both the Xbox One and the 360 were on the floor to either view or play. Some titles are still in Alpha, but the majority (if not all) are slated to release by the end of the year. These titles included Battlefield 4, Project Spark, Fantasia, Ryse: Son of Rome and Killer Instinct. Let’s take a walk-thru some of the titles on the floor that are expected to make a splash in the next few quarters…

Battlefield-4-Logo Battlefield 4

A presentation of the game was on the floor where EA reps played through the “Angry Sea” stage of the campaign. The game is sporting the Frostbite 3 Engine and promises 60 frames per second on consoles – something you’d hope to see on our next-gen consoles. In the campaign demo, we got to see the yet-again-enhanced destruction in the game as a large ship, which the player was playing through, split in half beautifully. Additionally, there is a new cover system in which a player can press “Aim” while facing a short wall to sort of pop over it to fire upon enemies whilst in cover. As expected with a new BF release, we were shown one of the new promised vehicles, a high-speed sea assault vehicle with a mounted automatic machine gun and a homing-missile launcher.

Along with more weapons and more vehicles, there will also be more approaches to the main campaign. The idea is to make the player more immersed in the story as before. The story is meant to move you, you feel attached to your in-game comrades, and as if you were in the moment, you are to find your own unique way of dealing with your enemies. In the now, distraught cruiser, the player dislodged the anchors for planes to have them roll and crash into his enemies. The campaign mode demo was coupled with the big multi-player statement that 64 players online will now be supported on the console releases of the game. That is definitely a leap in bringing the differing online experiences of most first-person shooters closer together between PC’s and consoles. This personally-anticipated release is scheduled for October 29, 2013 on all next-gen platforms and PC.

 

Project Spark

Microsoft’s Team Dakota presented their Microsoft-based cross platform game-creation engine. They saw the power of user-generated content and produced a user-friendly approach to creation. A user can start their creations on an XBox 360 or Xbox One, save their work, and continue the very same project on a Windows 8 tablet. On the Xbox, we saw this paint-your-world mentality as one can simply hold RB, move the analog stick, and create mountains of custom length with ease. Or choose the terrain tool and paint grass where-ever one likes. Even that is scaleable as the demonstrator set the “grass-like” terrain to large and started simply dropping trees all over. Surely, one can hand pick and drop each unique world element one-by-one, but the engine is made to appeal to creators of varying skill or intent. You can use automated tools or be meticulous or direct. Objects that are dropped in the worlds blend smoothly into walls and other objects allowing seemingly limitless possibilities.

And each object dropped into the world can be “programmed” individually with a “When – Do” wizard tool. This is method dictates the different circumstances (the “when”) and the desired reaction (“do”) when that circumstance is met. It could be something as simple as, when the player presses A, have the character jump. Or is could be something more unique as “when a player comes close to this rock” make the rock turn green and bounce after the player. The When-Do choices available follow a logical hierarchy depending on what the player is selecting in the menus. Want to see the immediate results of the tunnel you created? At any time you can drop a playable character into the 3D world that you’re in the middle of making and check if your creation has the feel that you are aiming for up to that point.

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Perhaps you are playing around with another user’s world, playing their game, and you think to yourself, “I really wish this could be a little more like…”. Well then, nothing is stopping you from taking their creation and tweaking it for your specifics. It is the true snowballing affect of user-generated content. We also got to see and hear of several possibilities of creations, ones that you may not have immediately think of by simply looking at a set of tools. Examples included a turn-based RPG, a side-scrolling adventure, a playable piano with recording and tuning tools made from wood, a survival gauntlet game, and sort of black jack card game where a mischievous character suggests moves that are meant to make you lose. The possibilities are endless as demonstrated by the handful of  unique samples we saw. Power to the gamer indeed.

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Fantasia: Music Evolved

Harmonix showed their new Kinect-based music game where one uses screen-directed gestures to play the notes of the song. At many parts of the song, players can jump to other instruments or components of the song and continue to play the music while emphasizing that component. Like the drums more than the vocals at a specific part of your favorite song? Then gesture towards the drum set and start directing and honing in on the sounds of percussion. There are also breaks within a song that let you customize the output or remix of the instrument at the time and have it play over in the background of the standard gameplay of the song. This adds to that customizable mid-song experience that makes you enjoy the song the way you want to enjoy it. Such a concept is tricky to explain in words and seeing is believing.

So instead of seeing my very uncoordinated fly-swatting, here’s a demo played for us by someone with a bit more dancing talent.

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Ryse: Son of Rome

We got our hands on a demo of this new XBox One title as we played as Marius Titus, a soldier seeking vengeance on the barbarian horde. The cut scenes and visuals right off-the-bat were stunning and realistic. You felt as if you were watching your favorite war scene of *insert-Rome-themed-movie-here*. The fighting is gritty and brutal as you would expect from the era: limbs removed, necks stabbed, and torsos speared. The game play followed a counter and attack rhythm seen in games such as Assassin’s Creed or Sleeping Dogs. But opponents don’t just fall after consistent slaps, a “Press B” icon floats over the heads of weakened enemies, triggering quicktime events for each one to be killed in fancy ways. In some cases of the demo, two enemies were weakened and were killed off in the same initiated kill sequence. In one case, an enemy was weakened by an edge, allowing for the infamous “THIS. IS. SPARTA!”- kick.

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I personally enjoyed controlling the famous Roman shield formations where you timed your squads advance upon arrow-toting barbarians. You order your troops to shield up and hold to perfectly block the arrow barrage and once you’re close enough, coordinate a spear counter-assault of your own. Being a fan of Roman-esque fighting and story-telling, I did enjoy how the game makes almost every action cinematic without disrupting the in-the-moment gameplay. And that is gameplay with advertised 100 plus on-screen characters each with their own AI. You will be able to command your in-game troops with voice commands via Kinect and play along side a friend in the colosseum  in cooperative gameplay. Care to see exactly what people got to play on the floor at Comic Con? See for yourself…

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Killer Instinct

 

Even the SNES then Nintendo 64 fighting game cult classic is being rebooted and had a playable demo on the floor. Only 3 characters (Jago, Glacius, and Sabrewulf) where playable but each of the three were highly detailed and capable of the ridiculously high combo hit count that was iconic in the original in its time. Microsoft was sure to take people back to the arcades by ensuring that each demo station had only arcade sticks to play with. As for controls, the game utilizes a fighting game standard of 3 punch buttons and 3 kicks, with each alternating in ferocity. The mechanics are close to original with the dual “life” bars that need to be depleted in order to defeat an opponent (as opposed to round-based health bar resets).

 

There is also a sort of a super energy bar on the lower corners that fill up as attacks land and is used up as the more special attacks are used.Of course, there was no one around that new how to accomplish a “finisher” (like a Mortal Kombat’s fatality), but one would have to assume that they will stay on track with the franchise and keep finishers in the game. Characters such as Fulgore, Spinal, Cinder and Chief Thunder have also been announced. And going by the screenshots below, one can expect those characters to look just as gorgeous as the three in the playable demo.
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