Sony’s PS4 Conference

In an extremely anticipated event on February 20th, Sony finally revealed the PlayStation 4 to the public, along with some upcoming games for the system. The system is coming out for the 2013 holiday season, and sports impressive technical specifications and a modified DualShock 4 controller with extra features like a touchpad and a built-in speaker.

PS4 Logo

As I did for last year’s E3 conferences, I have prepared a comfortable bullet-point summary of the major announcements during the conference, in order of appearance.

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Barkley: Shut Up and Jam Gaiden 2 Kickstarter

Barkley Shut Up and Jam Gaiden

In the recent days, I was extremely excited to find out that Tales of Game’s, the creators of the magnificent PC RPG Barkley: Shut Up and Jam Gaiden, Chapter 1 of the Hoopz Barkley SaGa wanted to work on a sequel. For this purpose, they set up a Kickstarter page, and it’s not only underway, but it exceeded its initial goal of $35,000 in under a day! I must shamefully admit that I haven’t even beaten the first game… I’ve played like an hour of it and postponed it until later times that are apparently yet to come. But it is such a fun concept, the story setting is absolutely brilliant, and it stars the likes of Barkley and Jordan in a cyberpunk world! I highly recommend it, furthermore, it’s free! Visit the above link to download it.

And, if you’ve got some money to support the Kickstarter for the sequel, please do so. It has reached its initial goal, but the developers said that the more money they raise, the more time they’ll put into the project and the more ideas they’ll be able to realise. I’m sure that even just reading the Kickstarter page will assure you that we’re talking guys with very good sense of humour here. ūüôā

Barkley: Shut Up and Jam Gaiden 2 Kickstarter page: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/talesofgames/barkley-2-an-rpg-sequel-to-barkley-shut-up-and-jam

Magnificent Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes trailer

I know I am almost 2 weeks late with my comments on this, but it only became available to the public after I had gone on vacation. On the event celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the best series in gaming – the Metal Gear series, Kojima showed a breath-taking trailer of the new and upcoming game in the saga – Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes. In the off-chance that you haven’t seen it, here it is:

The most important story bits, with my short comments:

  • Cipher references, Paz and Chico have been captured – this means the ties with Peace Walker will be strong
  • Big Boss is aging – the game will most likely take place some 8-10 years after Peace Walker
  • Young kid in a cage shown – might be Chico, but, considering the game takes place a while after Peace Walker, Chico must’ve grown up! So it must be little Solid Snake! There has been very strong evidence that child Solid Snake will be in the next Metal Gear chapter
  • “From FOX, two phantoms were born”, FOX vs. XOF – Big Boss has the FOX logo on his shoulder, while the seemingly bad guys have XOF emblems on their equipment and machinery, in an opposing colour scheme (the fox is also facing right instead of left). Could the quote be referring to The Boss’ legacy, and Big Boss and Zero’s respective takes on it?
  • Mysterious man with a burned face, wearing a fedora shown as the likely villain of the game (leader of the XOF guys) – who could it be? Maybe Zero, considering the above thoughts? Or maybe just someone working for him?
  • “Army without a nation” still mentioned – Big Boss is probably still working towards his grand mission, even if he is part of FOX (could also be using FOX for his purposes)

Other details:

  • Uses the FOX engine – the new engine Kojima has been talking about for a while now
  • Runs on PC with specs comparable to PS3/360 – considering the dated hardware, it looks very impressive – the rain, the visual details, the character models (especially Big Boss)
  • PS3 and 360 logos appear at the end – seems like the game will come out on PS3/360, probably as one of the last big titles on those systems. Still, I’m having a hard time buying it – with PS4/720 reportedly launching around the holiday season of 2013, it would make much more sense to develop such a massive game on the new platforms.

As a whole, I am impressed… Very impressed, and very excited. I’d like to learn more about Big Boss, about his motives, about how Outer Heaven came to be. This game seems like it will offer a lot, maybe all those details. I am also pleased that Kojima is keeping his word regarding Metal Gear Solid 4 being the end of the saga, chronologically. That way, Metal Gear is keeping its artistic integrity, while still releasing games filling the gap between Solid 3 and the original Metal Gear.

The new Final Fantasy VII PC version is out!

Square Enix have finally put the new Final Fantasy VII PC version up for sale. Sadly, the rumour that it would be up on Steam didn’t hold true. What we do know is that this new version has improved graphics and music compared to the original PC release, though, naturally, it’s far from the full-blown modern-technology remake fans want so much. For a limited time, the game costs just 10 Euros to download, so I highly recommend it to anyone that has not played this masterpiece yet!

Final Fantasy VII Cloud

Official website: http://finalfantasyviipc.com/

OUYA – a new, open, Android-powered console is coming

OUYA Controller

A most interesting news appeared today on Twitter, and it’s already shaking the video game world. A new, cheap console named OUYA is being planned. It will be powered by Android, it will cost just $99 and it will be open for hackers to do as they please. Being an Android platform, it will support everything Android devices support today (gaming, web browsing, video streaming, photos, etc.). It will, of course, have a controller, so gaming will not be limited to the mostly touch screen-reliant Android games of today. Developers will have a lot of freedom.

Here are the specifications:

  • Tegra3 quad-core processor
  • 1GB RAM
  • 8GB of internal flash storage
  • HDMI connection to the TV, with support for up to 1080p HD
  • WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
  • Bluetooth LE 4.0
  • USB 2.0 (one)
  • Wireless controller with standard controls (two analog sticks, d-pad, eight action buttons, a system button), a touchpad
  • Android 4.0

Source: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/ouya/ouya-a-new-kind-of-video-game-console

The Kickstarter funding has already reached 25% of the $950,000 goal within a couple of hours… We can safely say the project will be funded.

Provided it is implemented, can OUYA shake the very foundations of the console industry? Could Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft suddenly face a dangerous competitor? It seems unlikely, but I am certainly excited about the possibilities. The latest trends in gaming clearly indicate that an “open” model is the way to go.

Phantasy Star Online 2 gets a Western release in 2013

Phantasy Star Online 2 Start Screen

SEGA have announced that the release of the highly anticipated Phantasy Star Online 2 in Europe and North America will happen in 2013.

The game is already out in Japan and is accessible to everyone, including people living in the rest of the world, but those of us who do not want to bother with translation guides will have to wait a while for the English release Nevertheless, I am happy that the game was confirmed for the West at all, as there were some rumours floating around that it would remain Japanese-only.

As discussed earlier on “Between Life and Games”, unlike Phantasy Star Online: Blue Burst, the second installment of the PSO series will be free-to-play!

Some of the Phantasy Star Online 2 features:

  • Deep sci-fi fantasy universe filled with lush landscapes, extraordinary creatures, and epic adventures
  • Revolutionary real-time combat and third-person action with devastating combos and counters to master
  • Flexible, class-based leveling system that lets players define their own play-style with distinctive melee, ranged, and magic weapon types
  • Randomized maps and unexpected mid-quest encounters that ensure each quest is different for each player
  • Deep character creation system with a nearly limitless number of potential appearances
  • Three degrees of humanity to experience across three unique races: the versatile Humans, spiritually-powered Newmen, and artificial CAST

Source: http://www.sega.com/news/?n=5722

I am happy with this news and cannot wait to recreate my FOnewearl and start her new adventure in PSO2!

E3 2012 Summary

This year’s E3 was spectacularly mediocre, what with many people expecting PS4/Xbox 720 to be unveiled, and they weren’t. Not even Nintendo managed to hype its upcoming Wii U console that well. Nevertheless, a lot of stuff still happened, many new games were shown, and a lot of new information regarding already announced games was revealed. Even if it didn’t meet our expectations, it was still E3… If you’re a gamer, it’s bound to excite you at least a little bit.

E3 Logo

Here’s a summary of the happenings at the five major conferences (Microsoft, EA, Ubisoft, Sony, Nintendo), along with my comments. The items in bold are the biggest announcements each company made in the respective conference.

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Interesting revelations regarding Final Fantasy VII’s development

Final Fantasy VII Cloud Midgar

Some very interesting facts regarding Final Fantasy VII’s development process came up recently in the Japanese Weekly Famitsu magazine, as part of Final Fantasy VII’s 15th anniversary feature. Here’s the gist (beware of spoilers):

  • There was a discussion about whether to use sprites or polygons for the character models. Sprites was the more popular option, but polygons were eventually chosen so that character movement could be expressed better.
  • SD (Super Deformed) style for character models outside of battle were chosen by Hironobu Sakaguchi, who thought they were necessary to show character’s expressions better
  • Sakaguchi put effort into the battle system and came up with the Materia system
  • Tetsuya Nomura, aside from working on the characters’ designs, also contributed to gameplay, he was the one who came up with the Limit system
  • Zack was added near the end of the development, after the other main characters had been fleshed out
  • Nomura suggested that either Tifa or Aerith die
  • Aerith was to be the sole heroine, Tifa was added later
  • Cloud’s hair was originally slicked back to reduce polygon usage
  • Originally, Sephiroth and Aerith were to be brother and sister
  • Afterwards, Sephiroth was to be Aerith’s first love (eventually, that idea led to the creation of Zack)

Source: http://andriasang.com/con11g/ffvii15/

These are all quite interesting. The sprites vs. polygons argument is visible in what Xenogears, the other big Square game developed¬† in the same period, eventually became – visually, the opposite of FFVII – with sprites for the characters and 3D polygonal environments, as opposed to the polygonal characters in pre-rendered 2D environments seen in FFVII. Square obviously wanted to try the different styles and see which came out better. I’d say both were quite impressive in their own way.

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Diablo III open beta this weekend!

Diablo III

An open beta of the highly anticipated third part of the Diablo series is coming up this weekend. People will be able to play with each of the five classes, with a level cap of 13. All you need for playing is a Battle.net account, and you can already download the client ahead of time here: https://us.battle.net/account/download/index.xml. The open beta will last From Friday, April 20th, at 21:01 CEST, until Monday, April 23rd, at 19:00 CEST.

Source: http://eu.battle.net/d3/en/blog/4105609/Diablo_III_Open_Beta_Weekend_-20_04_2012

I will probably give it a try, even though Saturday happens to be a workday here. It’s nice of Blizzard to give everyone a taste of the game before release. I had a reasonable amount of fun with Diablo II (though I never really got into the multiplayer), so I’m looking forward to the third installment.

Phantasy Star Online 2 to be free-to-play!

Phantasy Star Online 2

SEGA has announced that the sequel to one of the finest online RPGs and a pioneer of the genre, Phantasy Star Online, will be free-to-download and free-to-play. The game model will be based on microtransactions with items and other benefits costing money. However, it will not be required to buy anything in order to progress and there will not be a level cap or any other restrictions for non-paying customers.

PSO2 had already been announced for PC and PlayStation Vita, and now we know that a third version is being developed – one for Android and iOS devices. This version will share character data with the main PC/Vita versions, but will be more simplistic and will not offer cross-platform play.

The PC version is scheduled for a summer 2012 release in Japan, the smart phone version follows in the winter, and the Vita version is to be released in early 2013. The PC version’s second alpha test for the game was recently completed and reached a scale of 50,000 users. A closed beta for the PC version will start in April, with a scale set to 100,000 players.

Source: http://www.gamespot.com/news/phantasy-star-online-2-will-be-free-to-play-6368061

I am really happy with this news. Since I would not be able to put in more than 10-20 hours of play a month, I was never going to get the game if it had monthly fees. Now it is a definite for me. If it has even half of PSO’s magic, I will enjoy it greatly. I have a total of about 200 hours logged into Phantasy Star Online: Blue Burst for the PC (138 on my currently existing character), and I still play it occasionally on Schthack’s server.