Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Hello, Xbone.

You aren't the coolest kid in school, are you?

It's ok.  That'll change soon enough.
Not to say you will be the hands down coolest kid, but you will have plenty of friends.

Microsoft is just taking blows left and right with this thing, and understandably so.  These "improvements" are more hindrances and and brick walls than anything else.  Bricked gaming console if it doesn't connect to the internet once every 24 hours; you can only lend a game to a friend once; this sketchy shit about used games and how they may or may not exist...  Come on man, you are basically telling gamers that they can't be gamers anymore.  You are forcing people to follow a new set of rules that no one else is that don't need to be enforced in the first place.

If you look at all the information that is out there, in the various news articles circulating around and from the Xbox websites (page one, two, and three), you see Microsoft vehemently maintaining their stance and using really ambiguous and disconcerting responses.  The overall tone of their responses, that actually have direct and focused responses, is "The future is connected, and if you want to be in the future, you better get connected."  Essentially putting the blame on you why you wont be able to use their new console.  But they want you to be aware that if you aren't connect, you can buy and use a pretty expensive Blu-Ray/DVD player.  If it did laser disc as well, I wouldn't even think twice about buying it.

The rest of their answers come down to this:  "We arent restricting you from buying used games or selling old ones; that is a publisher decision.  But under our system you can only trade games once.  And you have to authenticate it."  Which is basically saying without outright saying that their system is designed to limit used games.  They are leaving it in the hands of the publishers, who have to work around the built in functionality of the console (which includes the lockouts, the restrictions, and the prevention), to determine what you can do with your used games.  And you have to pay de-licensing fees to free up the license to the game that you bought so that you might be able to trade it in so someone else can buy it.

If you aren't quite sure what I'm saying, here is a breakdown:

  • You can buy your games, but you only have access to them in 24 hour increments.
  • You can let your friend borrow a game, but then no one else you know can ever borrow the game again, ever.
  • You can "maybe" trade in your games, if the publishers want to allow it.
  • Microsoft isn't making the above point themselves, but publishers do have to take into account the validation and any possible lending.
  • If you want to trade your game in, and if the publisher allows it, you have to pay a fee to revoke your license to the game so that someone else can relicense the game.
That last one basically means that if you trade in a game at GameStop or wherever, or try to, because who knows if you will be able to, TO be able to do so, you will have to pay a fee to allow it, which will probably be dependent on how new the game is, which means you may only now get 5 dollars of credit to go towards a new purchase.

Which is why they are pushing the connectivity side of things.  Cause, you know, if you are going to the store, all you are doing is paying for an instant download/rapid install rather than an 8 hour download and 30 minute install.

The point they are making without making is that the Xbone is rendering the physical envelop irrelevant.  The disc is no longer necessary.  For start-up or playback.  All playback will be done via emulation (the cloud) or straight from the hard drive.  They are phasing out -- trying to, anyway -- the physical portion because it makes it easier for Microsoft and other developers/publishers to maintain ownership of the product.

To put it in a blunt term:  a game box will basically now hold a redeem code inside of it instead of a game disc.  This is where Microsoft is trying to push the market.

The other big thing they are touting is the connectivity, and the power of the cloud, and offsite computing and the possibilities it creates.

Anyone who is not an idiot knows they are trying to sell the benefits of dedicated servers and features that have been present for 15+ years in the realms of games like EverQuest, World of Warcraft, EVE, Rift, Tera, etc.  The Xbone is designed to be an MMO gateway.  Take that how you will.

Nothing about this marketing point of the system is as grand as anyone is trying to make it out to be.  All it means, as anyone who has played PC-based MMOs know, is there will be patching downtime, there will be maintenance downtime, and there will be server outages.  It is inevitable and unavoidable.  It also means there will be a fuck ton of bugs in any game.  Or that games will eventually go stagnant and turn into exactly what they are today, so why not just skip the middle man and maintain the system that works?

Everywhere you look, you keep seeing "it's always online, it's always connected, it's always updating so you don't have to wait."  Bullshit, man.  at some point, those servers will have to come down, you will have to log off, and you will have to be disconnected and locked out, because sometimes you can't always do a live patch, and if you do, you can't modify currently in use files so there will always be a level of disconnect in play.

It is a bold-faced marketing lie, and I don't know why they are pushing the lie.

But I digress.  I realize this is coming across as a Microsoft bashing, and it is to a degree.  But I am intrigued by the system, and I want to watch it grow and evolve and hopefully live up to these highly unrealistic promises.  So, let's talk about some of the good things.  Or the cool things, as it were.

Regarding this always online requirement.  For me:  non-issue.  I am a connected person, living in a connected world, and I want the products I am investing in to make use of those facts.  Score for Microsoft (requirement is stupid, because you can do the exact same thing with an optional connection, but, you know, see above.).

What does that mean?  Well, a big thing they are pushing is that, since the Xbone has its nifty little HDMI in port, it means you can use it as a through-fare for something else while maintaining the connected benefits of the Xbone.  Something they pointed out is that while you are watching TV, you can get Xbox Live game invites, messages, the whole shebang.  This is a great feature.  It is an exciting feature.  This is something that programs like Steam already do, and it is part of what drives Steam as a gamer's platform.  Big thumbs up Microsoft.

Next there is this whole cloud thing (make no mistake though, its a sham).   Bullshit marketing aside, persistent world games are a lot of fun.  Instanced games (this is the technology games like Call of Duty, League of Legend, Guild Wars, like that, run on) are great for controlling latency, but persistent worlds are where it is at for fostering community.  They also make it really easy to go off an do your own thing without making it so that doing your own things means you can't do anything. 

This entices me, because it makes me wonder how much better a game like Borderlands would have been if there were always 20 or 30 other people playing at the same time.

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