Why should I believe you 343 Industries?

This morning I woke up earlier than usual and I started to scroll through my YouTube subscription feed. I saw that the official Halo channel had uploaded a new video titled “Halo Infinite | Update september 2022“. Initially I was excited but that turned quickly to disappointment at the end of the video, hell even throughout it; but what was I expecting from a game studio that has consistently over promised, under delivers and underwhelms in what they produce in nearly everything put out. Not only that, I read their news blog post to find out a little more detail (where I could) and was equally disappointed from what I read (and lack of details).

If you go to any website that covers technology and/or video games then you will find headlines like this today:

and the list goes on. The two common themes in all the articles I read were delayed, and cancelled. Those two things are what 343 love to do with Halo Infinite.

First I will get something out of the way. I am not actively playing Halo Infinite anymore due to the lack of content, the abysmal network code causing massive desync issues and a poor multiplayer experience for me, and all of the people I did play with have left the game and don’t want to return at all. I will only be returning to the events that I have not completed but other than that I am out. I’ll be finishing my season 2 battle pass and that is it for me. No season 3 and I will be watching from the sidelines for a while until I find there is some meaningful changes to the game and hopefully at 343. I will also say that I am not entitled to anything from 343. I never bought the game, I have spent money on 2 battle passes. I am just a massive Halo fan that wants to best out of the game and franchise I love so much.

A new roadmap from 343 with a massive caveat (as per usual for the company)

“Subject to change” is another way 343 can weasel their way out of adhering and committing to any deadline or ensuring that they met some obligation to completing. Just like their old road map everything is up in the air including the plans that get announced by the team. By saying “subject to change” they can chop and change as they see fit with no real repercussion because they told us that the roadmap is “subject to change”. It leaves them with an out and a way that they are not held accountable for missing anything. If you don’t know you can meet the deadline, don’t commit to including it in your roadmap.

In what world should I believe that this new road map will stick either? You have lied on numerous occasions in the past, you have continued to give false hope to Halo fans, and you have continued to break promises that you should not be breaking. I can also imagine that you are impacting the stock price of Microsoft so you are also affecting shareholders of Microsoft here. I have little to no hope that by the end of the 2022 that we will have a stable network co-op experience. The Forge mode that you are putting out is a beta and not even the final or polished version of the mode; so expect that to also have a large number of bugs and glitches. I have not played it and have not been following what insiders have been saying about the mode. If you question any of those problems that you experience though, 343 can chirp back that it is still “in beta”, so there is another excuse. The new maps that are coming in the winter update (if I read/heard correctly) are also going to be made in Forge so the quality will not even be as high as the other maps that are currently available for Halo Infinite. Cheap and quick maps to please the fans instead of actually putting in the work and creating maps from the ground up with heart and soul. Nothing in this new road map is good news.

Now onto seasons. 343 seems to not understand what a season is. They can say Halo Infinite is a live service game and want to get to a 4 season per year state but I just don’t see this happening. They can continue to say what they want out of a season until they are blue in the face but until they actually produce something of a meaningful season that is expected then I don’t believe a word they say. There is absolutely no excuse season 2 should last 10 months. How in the world has the studio gotten into such a state where they cannot even produce and provide a new season in 3 month increments? How bad is the management or project planning that there needs to be this much under the hood changes to accommodate seasons and being a live service game? Didn’t 343 already know the product was going to be a live service? What in the hell were the teams over at 343 doing for the last 5 years to have Halo Infinite in such a poor state? Also remember the game was supposed to be released a year earlier. Imagine if that did happen. This game needed to be in development for another 2 years minimum. There is no excuse from the teams working on this that they need at least 9 years (current development time and the time it still needed) to produce a quality Halo game.

Where is the apology from the heads at 343? Where is the apology from Phil Spencer on the shit show that is Halo Infinite? Neither care about Halo or the Halo community. If they did they would put their hands up and put out a video looking the fans directly in the face and beg for forgiveness, open and start a dialogue where they transparently say what has gone wrong and the steps that have been taken so that future Halo titles are not going to be affected in the same way. Someone with real leadership working on the title needs to step up and actually do this and reassure the fans because the quality of the posts and videos right now are not doing anything to stop the uproar of fans. I love Halo. I want Halo to be the best first person shooter it can be and to see it in such a state is a shot in the heart and makes me weep. The people writing the Halo blog posts on Halo Waypoint and appearing in the videos are all saying “that the team feels and understands the fans frustrations and the game is not where it should be” but all those words ring hollow right now (to me anyway).

As someone once said “Don’t make a girl a promise, if you know you can’t keep it”. 343 should listen to this and have it plastered all over the walls at offices because right now all we get a broken promises.

Microsoft AU Store: Where are the games in the catalogue?

Today I was feeling generous, so I thought to buy my brother an Xbox game and gift it to him. He had been talking about a couple of games recently, so I wanted to look and see what the Xbox store had. I was already on my PC, and I didn’t want to go over and turn my Xbox Series X on just to gift him a game. I hopped over to the Xbox AU store page to browse their catalogue of games to see what a good game to gift would be, and that is when I noticed something very odd.

This is the page that was presented to me.

I was sort of confused. Maybe the filter was broken or there was something wrong with the options on the left-hand side that had been selected. I checked all of them out and everything seemed to be fine with those filters and options. I went into incognito mode and tried the page again with the same result. Last resort now and that is to try another browser; both Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge showed the same broken web page. I have seen my fair share of broken web pages working in the software industry but this one is a big oof to me. I can only hope that it is a security setting or privacy setting I have enabled that is causing this; but if that is the case then I am a little more concerned about what information Microsoft is needing from the user just to show the games on the page.

Microsoft, if you want people to purchase and look through your catalogue of games you have available on your Xbox platform through a web browser then you need to have this functionality. Again, I hope that this is just something on my end and others are also not experiencing anything like this but if they are then it is not a good look when a core component of your website is not functioning as intended.

On the plus side, I did gift my brother a game, Cult of the Lamb. He has been talking about it for a little while now so searching for that specific game and buying it as a gift was a smooth and easy process. Searching the catalogue of games though is not.

Regretting buying the Halo Infinite Season 2 Battle Pass

Oh man do I regret buying the Halo Infinite Season 2 Battle Pass. I knew going in that the state of the game was (is) bad but I did not realize (or want to believe) how bad the game has gotten for me and others after reading thread posts after thread posts on Halo Waypoint and even the Halo subreddit.

I’ll start with the amount of lag and desync that I experience; this is the biggest gripe I have right now and is my major pain as playing the game can be like pulling teeth. The past week I have played a couple of hours, I can count on one hand how many games I played where I had ping less than 20ms. The average ping that I was experiencing, no matter the time of day, was (is) 170ms. On top of the high ping I experience at a minimum:

  • rubber banding and dying around corners
  • grenades causing no damage and bullets causing no damage even though there is hit markers (allegedly)
  • melee trades when they should not happen or melee hits not registering at all

For a PvP arena shooter having these issues is inexcusable. I have played online games for a long time and I have not seen servers and network behavior this bad for a long time. Halo Infinite should have launched with the ability to disable cross platform play (sorry PC cheaters) and a server selection. I remember clearly the launch of Battlefield 4 and the Halo Master Chief Collection which were also abysmal in regard to their online experience.

Before purchasing the season 2 battle pass I looked over the rewards and did like a good portion of what they were offering. I knew how annoying the weekly challenges can be but thought that I could easily complete them. But I do not know if there has been a backend or server side change where the challenges have been changed to be more frustrating to complete. Why are there challenges for game modes that I cannot specifically choose from a playlist? This just causes lop sided games where people quit when they do not get the game mode they want. It makes games worse with an already horrible online experience. Not to mention tracking for the challenges doesn’t work. Kill with the skewer, check. Finish the match and the challenge is not complete, um what.

If I could go back in time I would not have given 343 Industries any more money after the season 1 battle pass. From everything they have shown in Halo 4, Halo 5, Halo Master Chief Collection and now Halo Infinite, they are not the developers for the franchise, there have been too many missteps and issues that could have easily been avoided. I’ll finish the season 2 battle pass (through gritted teeth) but come season 3 there is no way I will be giving 343 Industries any more money even if they fix the game. I know I could buy the season 3 battle pass for free if I complete the season 2 battle pass but I will most likely skip it purely because the game is so bad to play. I’d rather spend the money on another product where the developers actually care about the product they are working on. Developer health is important but when self inflicted wounds cause the game to be in such a horrible state due to constant internal missteps and foolish decisions, why should any player care or play the game? Take all the time off and avoid any form of crunch to keep the health of the team high but don’t be surprised when no one is playing your broken game.

The Inexcusable State of Halo Infinite

It has been a good while since I had done my initial impressions on Halo Infinite. Now I have completed the campaign (which I enjoyed for the most part) and have played a very good portion of multiplayer (I played daily for about 3 hours each day at a minimum). The taste of potential and fun has been completely washed away by the taste of disgust and disappointment. The entire leadership team at 343 Industries needs to have a real good look in the mirror and ask themselves “can we provide the Halo community with a game the fans actually want to play and can we lead the team to deliver it”. Right now, no one at 343 Industries should be happy with the state of Halo Infinite and someone at Microsoft should really be looking at the quality of the team there because it is not up to the standard for a franchise like Halo. This pains me so much to write too because I love Halo so much.

Halo Infinite is supposedly called a “live service” game. Nothing shown by 343 Industries has shown the game to be “live service”. Having cosmetic events every other week that is recycled or offering minor cosmetics is not a “live service” IMO. I have been extremely patient with 343 Industries and Microsoft too. The last patch however to address the issues with being matched into lobbies with high ping and desync has made the game worse for me. I have not played Halo Infinite after I completed the last event and got all the items. Right now, I have absolutely no plans on returning to the game unless there is an event on and when I have all the event gear, I am not playing it anymore. There is no content to work towards as I have done the season pass, the game is not in a playable state here in Australia with the poor selection of player pool. The game is essentially dead to me.

Before I progress any further, let me back up a little. During December, the Big Team Battle playlist was completely broken, and you were still being assigned challenges. I understand completely the team needed to have some time off and spend quality time with the family. I would not want the entire team working on the game to not have a break and want them to enjoy their holiday. However, in saying that, in what way is it smart at any capacity to launch a brand-new game (knowing that there will be bugs and issues all over the shop) during the holiday period without some form of skeleton crew that has the capacity to deploy hotfixes for bugs that will arise? That was the very first red flag. I may be completely wrong in my assumption here, and they did have a team, but what did they do for over 4 weeks while the issue was not fixed? I completely understand how difficult it is to troubleshoot software issues but at the very least they could have removed the BTB challenges from the list. Not only that, once the patch was deployed it fixed nothing and BTB was still broken (a second patch was needed to address BTB).

The second red flag was the deflection, “multiplayer networking code is hard” and “it is not us” posts we got from the team working on the game to address desync and networking issues. I have never (ever) experienced this type of poor matchmaking, lag, desync, and other networking problems in previous Halo games nor in any game where I have a ping less than 20. I do not understand how even in LAN games there are disconnects and desync issues. To me that speaks volumes of the quality of the game’s net code and that there is a serious underlying issue somewhere. If the team at 343 Industries are not sure how to resolve the issue or figure out what the problem is, then they should hire someone or a team that can fix the issues. To deflect and say that the problem will always exist and there is nothing they can really do about it while also saying that geo-filtering is the main culprit is poor on their behalf. Do not treat the community like idiots or ignorant fools and expect us to accept whatever you say as the absolute truth and correct.

The final red flag was the delay of the roadmap. I am completely baffled how the roadmap could be delayed. The team clearly then from the outside looking in has no goals or objectives that they are working towards. If there was some goals or objectives, then share this information with the players. I feel by holding this information back you are saying to the community that “we have nothing to share in the future and you will not be looking at any new content”. We know season 2 got delayed and as such so did co-op campaign and forge mode. I am okay with the delay (if) the features are not complete and would be half baked. Knowing the quality that 343 pump out in their games I feel that they should probably be delayed again because they will not work when they are released. I’m sorry but I have little to no faith in the features working as expected when they are released.

Here is a couple of easy steps 343 Industries can make to better rectify the disappointment and loss of trust from the Halo fans:

  1. Apologize for the current state of the game. Mention the expensive microtransactions and Halo store which seems to be the only thing that is functioning as expected (weird right), the cosmetic gear that is poorly delivered like Jorge’s untextured shoulder pad and the misaligned helmet effects (come on really), the diabolical armour coating system, and the networking of the game. There is probably more they should be apologizing for but that is a start. It needs to also not be a blog post but a video where they look right into the camera and say it to the fans. We need to see if there is actual disappointment in what they have shipped or if they are just giving us crocodile tears.
  2. Make available a public bug tracking system that the entire Halo community can see, follow, and contribute to. Let us have some visibility into the bugs that the team is addressing and help us to help you resolve the issues. We want to play a game that runs and plays smoothly with little issue, and this can go a long way to not only help with this but create better visibility. Let us upload our clips showing the issues. Let us create tickets that express what isn’t working correctly or as expected.
  3. Get the PR and community team to post meaningful content about what is actively being worked on or even do the live streams again. The bug tracking system would help here, but let us know what features are coming, what maps or weapons may be added, etc. Give us something to get excited about. If we hear radio silence, then we can safely assume that nothing outside co-op campaign and forge mode is being worked on (and that is what it feels like right now).
  4. Give us a data center selection option. I find it completely baffling that in 2022 you would provide a multiplayer game without being able to select the closest data center to you to provide the best online gaming experience. Most multiplayer games have an option to select which server you will connect to, I am unsure why Halo Infinite does not have one.

Like I said, right now I have no plans on coming back to Halo unless it is for the few events that have cosmetics that I can earn. Other than that, there is nothing that is bringing me to play the game. When it came out, I was having fun playing the multiplayer as it was a pleasant experience. Now the issues I have with lag and desync, I just want to completely avoid playing it. Why should I play a multiplayer game where I get put into a lobby 9/10 with ping greater than 100ms? So please 343 Industries, I really want to like Halo Infinite, I would like to go back to playing it consistently but the number of issues I have with it makes it very difficult. If someone asks me if they should try it out, I will say no. Even with it being free to play, the game is not a fun experience. Maybe season 2 will change all this but I doubt it very much 😦

Halo Infinite Initial Impressions

The Halo series has been my favourite first person shooter game by far. From the griping stories that are told to the extremely fun gameplay, it has always been a series that has kept me hooked. It is also one of the only game series where I have a number of the novels and comics.

Halo: Combat Evolved is a masterpiece; Halo 2 had revolutionary multiplayer; Halo 3 was the complete story and multiplayer package where I spent hours playing games with my friends and was really the first time where I was going to LAN parties playing Halo non-stop for hours on end; Halo 3: ODST was such a departure in my eyes that it changed the way I looked at the series, and introduced Firefight; Halo: Reach was a gem that had one of the best soundtracks and knowing what happened to Reach even before I played the game made it feel that much more emotional to play plus was my first experience with Xbox Live; Halo 4 had a story that was adequate but nothing special with a multiplayer that was lacking and changed way too much being very close to Call of Duty; Halo 5: Guardians had an abysmal story that I cared absolutely little for but had a really tight, focused and competitive multiplayer that I loved.

Now with Halo Infinite being out for a little bit of time I have some initial thoughts about the multiplayer. I have well over 500 matches and have played over 120 hours of just multiplayer. I have not started or played the single player campaign yet as I’m saving that for my annual leave during the Christmas and New Year period. I have been thankful that I haven’t seen or read any spoilers and none of my friends have spoiled anything too (thanks for that guys).

So where to start with the Halo Infinite multiplayer? What 343 Industries have crafted is a fine tuned and well-oiled machine regarding gameplay. The grenade, shoot and melee combo is nearly perfect. Adding in the new equipment to the combo spices things up just enough to keep encounters interesting. You must position yourself better on the map because if you’re too close to the edge you may be repelled off but can be saved if you have a grapplehook. I can’t recall how many times I’ve grapplejacked a banshee or have been grapplejacked only to be close to the edge and have the enemy Spartan fall off the map.

The maps that are currently available are not too bad either. Some maps are definitively better than others. Behemoth and Launch Site are my least favourite and should not be on the rotation for Tactical Slayer aka SWAT due to how the site lines are and how easy it is to spawn and get killed instantly which happens way too often. Streets, Bazaar and Aquarius are my three favourite maps because they flow so well and have the best balance IMO. A map that I was not a fan of during the beta was Recharge, but it is starting to grow on me especially in Oddball and Tactical Slayer.

Now on to the areas where 343 can improve on and what they must address before gamers start to move away to other games. Here is a small list of improvements and recommendations that I think would make the game even better:

  • The playlist needs to be expanded; there needs to be a Team Objective playlist. We have a Team Slayer playlist, so it only makes sense to have a Team Object one. I know this will take time to fill in all the missing playlists like Infection, etc. but when you have challenges tied to certain game modes you should be able to queue for that game mode.
  • The 18m radar just does not work plain and simple. I don’t think 343 knows what 18m really looks like. I have several videos of a Spartan running and sliding around the corner and the radar does not even pick them up or they are above a ledge. I can see that the radar “looks” to pulse but even then, it does not match with the enemy Spartan movement. Either make the distance larger to 25m or remove the radar entirely as it just a false indicator that has gotten me killed too many times because it has given me false information. What is the point of a radar if it does not give accurate information to the player?
  • There needs to be some way to earn the Halo premium currency in game. Other games like Apex Legends provides ways to earn their premium currency even at a very slow rate. I am not going to comment on the store in particular or the premium currency too much as I am not going to participate in it other than the battlepass and if there is actually something I feel is absolutely worth it (cat ears is not one of them, sorry).
  • The entire amour coating system does not feel right. Why should an armour coating only be available for the Mark V Spartan but not the Mark VII? I have absolutely no plan on buying any amour coating in the store unless it is available to all current and future Spartan models. I am a little more forgiving for weapon and vehicle skins though, but it would be a nice to have that the same sniper skin is available for the assault rifle or commando.
  • There needs to be a way to completely turn off cross play between console and PC players. I have recorded and reported several people who are on PC that either have aim bots or wallhacks enabled. The way they snap to enemy Spartan’s heads or track them through walls perfectly is infuriating to see. Thankfully all of this is visible in Theatre mode. The reason why I no longer play competitive or PvP games on PC is because of the sheer number of hackers running rampant in games. 343 needs to fix this ASAP otherwise people will get frustrated and leave the game.
  • Server selection. I have very good internet download and upload speeds for Australia. Some games I get 4ms ping while other games I get 200ms ping. For the last week, the majority of games have been 120ms ping or higher. I am not alone in this either as others I play with or know who play in Australia also experience this issue (no matter the time of day either). This is completely unacceptable for SWAT or ranked games. When you are around a corner and are still getting shot or die is rage inducing. I am more than willing to wait several minutes to look for a match that has under 20ms ping than be thrown into a match in less than 15 seconds with 170ms ping. Is the game dead in Australia? Does 343 not have adequate servers available in the region? Is 343 prioritizing for skill over ping? This information needs to be made available to the player so that I know what the issue is.

Overall, I think 343 has a solid game on their hands. I applaud the hard work and effort the team has done to date and encourage them to keep at it. Keep refining and polishing this diamond as if they do that it will only get better. Provide the updates like you have been doing so far and keep the community informed of where you plan to take the game. If you keep communicating to the community about what your plans are then hopefully some constructive feedback and ideas can be brought forward. After Halo 5: Guardians I had little hope in 343 delivering something that is worthy of being a Halo title but so far I have been pursuaded.

The team deserve the break they are having now, but when they get back, they absolutely must address the cheating issues going on and the server issues (be it the high ping, being unable to squad up with a number of people and get into a Big Team Battle, or the random disconnects and crashes). Soon I will be playing the campaign and be enjoying that too 🙂

Thank you to everyone at 343 Industries and Microsoft for so far delivering a Halo experience that right now to me is on par with the original trilogy.

[Updated: 03/29/20] Experiencing slow Microsoft Store game downloads and updates

Update 03/29/20: It has been about 2 weeks and after changing my Xbox One X and my gaming PC’s DNS settings I can safely say that my game download and update speeds have been consistently faster. With the whole COVID-19 pandemic happening at the moment some services are slowing down their customer’s downloads speeds or reducing their bitrates, see here. Your mileage during this time may vary if you were having download/update issues from either the Xbox Store or the Microsoft Store.

Update 03/15/20: I have been playing around with the DNS settings on my Xbox One X after doing some reading, and found this page and this page. After making some changes to my DNS I can confirm that I am getting significantly better download speeds.

Instead of the several Mbps I was getting, I am now getting speeds in the high 80s. Whatever CDN I am connecting to is allowing me to download the games and patches much faster 😀

On Saturday (03/14/20) I tried to contact TPG support to see what is going on but after waiting for over 30 minutes just to talk to someone I gave up. As of right now I am not recommending anyone to use TPG as their Australian ISP and look at another provider (perhaps Aussie Broadband – seem to fairly good reviews, Australian customer support, and do not suffer from this issue). I will be checking back again in a week or so to see if this change solves my problem, and if it does then bye bye TPG.

Original: I pay for a 100Mbps download and 40Mbps upload internet connection through TPG. Generally when I do a speed test I achieve download speeds in the area of the high 80s and low 90s which is fantastic (even during peak times). But when I am trying to download an Xbox One game or update an Xbox One game I get speeds in the very low 10Mbs but mostly fall under 2Mbps. It is even worse if I try to download a Windows game through the Xbox app on my PC, where I get speeds less than 1Mbs on average. Just this morning I wanted to download Halo Combat Evolved Anniversary on PC, but was getting speeds under 1Mbps and just cancelled the download in disappointment.

What is really odd is that this has only been happening recently, I would say in the last two months. My home network configuration has not changed at all, the same devices are connected and there have been no intrusions in my network (so I know there are no unknown devices taking up my bandwidth). I am a little perplexed.

Some of my troubleshooting steps I have taken are:

  1. Restart my modem and my router (multiple times)
  2. Restart my Xbox One X console (both hard shutdown and restarting)
  3. Restart my PC (full shutdown and restart)
  4. Restart the Xbox app
  5. Cancel my game download or game update
  6. Restart my game download or game update
  7. Change from a wired connection to a wireless connection for my Xbox One X (and then back to a wired connection to a wireless connection)
  8. Change the DNS that I am connecting to for my Xbox One X (from my ISP provided DNS to Google, and then back)

None of the above troubleshooting steps have seemed to have solved or identifiy the problem 😦 What is really odd, when I check my network connection status and results on my Xbox One X I see download speeds of 90Mbps, upload speeds of 20Mbps, Open NAT, and ping of 100ms. If I try and stream video content in 4K I have no issue. Watching YouTube videos in HD I have no problem. Even downloading games and game updates on other platforms like Steam and EA Origin seem to be downloading at speeds I would expect for what I am paying for. I verified that on Steam I achieved speeds of 79Mbps when downloading Vermintide 2 the same morning as I tried downloading Halo CEA.

Navigating to the Xbox Support site is in my opinion pointless. To actually get in contact with an actual person that works at Microsoft is near impossible, which is a shame. I do not want to talk to another Xbox gamer, I do not want to post in the forums and hope for a response (looking at the support forums, much of the posts are unresolved and unanswered). The customer support AI that they have looked promising. The steps asked by the AI to help narrow down the problem are what I have performed, but in the end it could not fix the problem and asked if I wanted to talk to a real person; but that person would not be a Microsoft employee but an Xbox gamer.

I’ll be keeping this post updated with any new information that I find or experience. Hopefully this is not going to be a long term issue, because I download all my games as I have gone in all digital and there are a number of games coming out that I will be picking up soon like Resident Evil 3 and Doom Eternal. If you have experienced this problem, are having this issue, or have recently resolved the problem then please do leave a comment below.

E3 2019: The Sims 4 and Battlefield V Stream Impressions

Originally I was going to have two separate blog posts for The Sims 4 and Battlefield V streams, but after watching the streams I felt that from what both announced it would be better to have a single write up. There was absolutely no way that I would be able to write up two meaningful blog posts.

The Sims 4

It will be 20 years of The Sims franchise this year. I cannot believe it has been that long, and I have been there from the start. So congratulations are in order for the franchise that keeps on giving; thanks EA and Maxis on such a fun franchise to play.

Just a very brief breakdown of what is coming this year:

  • The Sims 4 Island Living (new expansion pack)
    • Will be releasing at the end of June.
    • Brand new island world with an active volcano.
    • Plenty of new Create-A-Sim (CAS) and Build/Buy items that are inspired by real world Polynesian cultures.
    • Mermaids – something that looked interesting.
    • Dolphins – great to see some more animals in the game with interactions included.
    • New island interactions – from using aqua zips to snorkeling.
    • New Conservationist career.
    • New small odd jobs including being a lifeguard, diving instructor, etc.
    • Plus much more.
  • The Sims 4 Realm of Magic (new game pack)
    • Will be released in the Fall of 2019 (unless it is delayed and pushed out)
    • More information about this pack will be detailed later on in the year 😦
  • The Sims 4 Moschino (new stuff pack)
    • Will be released later in the year.
    • New Freelance Fashion Photographer career.
    • Primarily a CAS focused pack with new items to make your sims look fashionable.

If there was one thing that I could say about this particular stream; there was not many announcements but within each announcement there were a number of new items that needed mentioning. The brand new expansion pack alone has so many new items it would be crazy to list them all. I am super excited for this one though. Some of the features that I am looking forward to include the new world that has an active volcano (that can shoot lava bombs into the world – perhaps there will be a new death method in the game?), all the new interactions with the world including entering and exiting the world’s water (great addition to make the world feel more lifelike and real), and all the new interactions that can happen with the world and the items such as sunbathing, snorkeling, etc.

So I think what Maxis has done is give what every Sim fan out there wants. There is a little bit of everything for everyone; from the individuals who want to create some amazing worlds and buildings, to the individuals who want to craft interesting and fun stories with all the new world and item interactions. Good job here, I was super satisfied with what they showcased.

You can check out the stream using this link.

Battlefield V

I knew going in that it would be a map reveal, but I was very disappointed in what maps got revealed. As someone who was an avid Battlefield player, I think DICE really have missed the mark with Battlefield V. What did get announced was for the next two chapters in the game, chapters 4 and 5 (coming in the next several months).

There is a new map set in Greece and that does not look like it is going to be a fun map to play on. It looks absolutely gorgeous but as they showcased the map it looked like it was going to be one with many choke points and be a pain in the ass to take capture points. The focus of that map looked primarily infantry as well (something I am not a fan of in Battlefield especially with the majority playing the recon/sniper class).

There is a new North Africa map that also got announced. This to me felt like an absolute cop out of a new map as it was taken from the war stories mode and reworked for multiplayer. All the Africa maps that have been in any recently developed Battlefield game have been absolutely trash and are by far the worst maps on the rotation. The only positive from this is that there is a good focus on vehicle combat due to the scale of the map.

Along with these two maps there are a number of close quarter combat style maps which are designed for squad conquest coming out in August; again something that I don’t think Battlefield V really needs at the moment. I like squad conquest but there are more important issues to resolve. Operation Underground which is a “re-imagining” of Operation Metro and coming out in October; again this looked a little lazy to me.

DICE are also going to increase the maximum level cap to 500 from 50. I don’t see the point in doing this. Why have a level cap at all? The rewards that you get from reaching certain milestones after level 50 include company coins, new dog tags, icons, etc. To me it would make sense to remove the level cap completely and let people just continue to get rewards. In September they will also finally be having the ability to have private servers through private games; this should have been there from the start.

The only redeeming announcement was that in chapter 5 you will be able to play as the USA and Japan while fighting in the Pacific. Along with this will come new weapons and vehicles. Looking forward to that the most, unless DICE somehow mess that up too. Maybe the next Battlefield game will be worthwhile playing long term.

You can check out the stream using this link.

E3 2019: Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order Stream Impressions

I would not consider myself a die hard Star Wars fan, but I would consider myself a fan of Star Wars. I’ve watched most of the main Star Wars movies, played most of the Star Wars games and have read some Star Wars novels. So I would say that this game would be right up my alley.

I didn’t watch this stream live because I really didn’t want to disrupt my sleeping schedule just for E3 so it was one of the first streams I watched when I woke up. I am going to say the 15 minute or so gameplay footage they showed did not disappoint and if I did stay up to watch the stream I would have been okay with it overall. As the stream progressed I noted down some of the positive elements that stood out to me which include:

  • Single player action game only
    • This is good news to me (and probably other gamers out there too). Most of the Star Wars games that I have enjoyed playing have been single player only games such as Knights of the Old Republic, Jedi Outcast, etc.
  • Thoughtful” combat
    • It was mentioned that the combat was designed in a thoughtful way and it showed. From the enemy variety and placement, choice of using your lightsaber and force powers; it really was designed to have you think while fighting the enemy with many ways to go about completing the encounter.
    • The transitions between using your lightsaber and force powers looked fluid and smooth. Actually the entire gameplay was fluid and smooth.
    • At times there were “cinematic” moments while you were in combat such as when you were in the process of finishing off an enemy. The camera would pan around slightly, now I don’t know if this was done using one of the analog sticks or part of the game however.
  • Buttery Smooth Movement
    • As smooth as the combat was, so was the traversing and movement around the environment.
    • You can tell that this game took inspiration from Titanfall in regard to the wall running, clambering and climbing; it was made by the same developers.

You have a companion droid which looks to provide you with health when you are low (limited supply and you need to prompt for it, leaving you vulnerable) and it can unlock paths, provide you with Star Wars lore, and generally help you out to progress to the next area. Being an action game I know the focus will be on the combat and moment to moment set pieces, but I also really do hope that there are some puzzles in the game to break up the pace a little. We did not get any further information about the skill points and how they will be used or spent other than they can be used for force abilities. I would have liked to see that; will it be a skill tree? Or will it just be a “pick an ability” option?

If I was to be fairly critical of the game I noticed that it did not look the best or something coming out late 2019. I don’t know if it was the stream, but I was watching it at 1080P at 60 fps and for a 2019 game, graphically I had seen better looking games. It did not look bad but I would have expected some of the models and textures to look a little better. Some of the fire and smoke effects were also not the best I have seen. Lighting, shadows and the foliage were generally okay however. Having this quality shown is far better than having something look amazing and then when the game is released have it significantly downgraded, so kudos to Respawn here on that.

Maybe it was just me but the facial animations at the beginning of the gameplay along with how the character’s face was sitting looked a little off too. Now it was nowhere near as bad as Mass Effect Andromeda’s facial animations but it just did not look right. Being focused as a Jedi story I knew going in that you will not be choosing a force side, ie. light or dark. I don’t know why Greg would ask them this question. As someone who prefers the force abilities on the dark side and generally plays a Sith or dark Jedi I am a little disappointed but it is not a deal breaker. Perhaps I can choose to wield some of the dark side force abilities?

Overall from what I have seen so far of the game it looks like it is going to do well. There will be more shown at the Microsoft E3 2019 event which will be great and I will have a blog post about that whole event separately. Being a single player only game and because I buy all my games digitally now, it will be a game that I buy when it is on sale for at least 40% off; I don’t see it having much replay value (I could be surprised). If you want to check out the official Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order stream then use this link (I have timestamped it so that you don’t have to wait for the actual stream to start). Enjoy 🙂

Bethesda Press Conference E3 2018 Impressions

E3 started off with a whimper. EA had a horrible showing, they probably should not have done a press event this year. In stark contrast, the next day press conferences, Microsoft and Bethesda, were fantastic and there are way too many games that I am interested in coming out in 2018 and 2019. My bank account is not going to like me and I probably won’t have time to play them all either unfortunately.

Bethesda showcased a number of games that I was interested in and also talked about games that I have little interest in playing. To quickly run down some of those games that I am not interested in:

  1. Elder Scrolls Legends: I really forgot that this game was even out. I don’t really play any of the digital card games that are available. I have occasionally played Hearthstone but never bought the expansions, and I have only played Gwent in the Witcher 3. Nothing will get me to play Legends unfortunately.
  2. Elder Scrolls Online: Here is another game where I never got into at the start and there have been a number of expansions released now. So jumping in right now I feel would be a little daunting. The only MMO games that I really do play are WoW and GW2. There is only so many MMOs out there that one person can play.
  3. Quake Champions: I do miss the days of hardcore arena shooters. Halo 5 Guardians is very close to this and scratches my arena shooter itch. I still remember the days playing Quake 3 Arena, but again Quake Champions I have little interest in playing. Plus I doubt the support in early access/beta (whatever they are calling it in its current state) will have servers in Australia and I don’t fancy playing an online arena shooter with at least 300 ms ping. Maybe when the game officially comes out and there are dedicated servers here in Australia I will pick it up.
  4. All the VR titles: I am not sold on VR for a number of reasons which I will not go into detail here, I much prefer AR and mixed reality. I don’t have a VR headset and I don’t plan on getting one anytime soon. So as cool as the VR titles Pete Hines talked about, I will not be playing them.
  5. All the mobile games: Fallout Shelter (now out on more platforms) and the new Elder Scrolls Blades are two mobile games which I don’t plan on playing. As was stated in my EA impressions post, my mobile is a tool so that I can be more productive. And if I do have a tablet, PC or console to play games on, a mobile game is not one that I would be playing unfortunately.

Now with all the items that really didn’t do anything for me, time to cover what did. And boy there was a number at this press conference. First off there was Rage 2. It was the title that started the press conference off and everything that they showed was great. Before I go into more detail about what I liked, I would just like to say that could we please not have any more musical numbers at E3. It was awkward to watch the live music but it appears that the fans watching live really seemed uninterested in what was playing. Other than that, my takeaways from Rage 2 were:

  • The game looks beautiful. From the landscape to the character and gun models. The explosions and fire also look really good.
  • The gameplay looks significantly different from the original game which I don’t know how to feel about. I really thought that id nailed the gunplay in the original, it just got a little too repetitive. This one looks like you have more options and various ways to neutralise the enemies which is always good, but it seems to play so different to the first.
  • The driving and driving combat also looks improved. Driving in the original game felt tact on, but this one feels like it is part of the experience exploring the large dystopian, post apocalyptic open world.
  • Overall it looks like it is going to be a fun game which is what I am after.

“If you can see it, you can drive it” – Rage 2

From one fast paced shooter to another. Doom Eternal. They should have just called this Doom 2. The remake of Doom was down right near perfect as first person shooters go. The story was minimal (that was fine for me, the original and sequel didn’t have much of a story either and I am not talking about Doom 3) but the gameplay was fast paced, brutal and extremely addicting. The CGI trailer they showed looked like Hell on Earth and the sound track matched it perfectly. To make a Doom sequel you need the following checked:

  1. Doom slayer more powerful than the previous game?
  2. More badass demons?
  3. Hell on Earth?

And all three of these were checked. We will have to wait until Quakecon in August to see more about the game, but this was a perfect tease.

Prey was a fantastic reboot. With free updates and new content coming it was a pleasure to hear this news. I look forward to playing Mooncrash with the near infinite replayability, and Typhon Hunter (which I feel is a derivative of Prop Hunt from Gmod). If there is one type of enemy that I enjoy killing more than the aliens, mutants, and monsters, it is the Nazi. Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus was another perfect sequel to a a near perfect FPS game. Wolfenstein Youngblood puts you in the shoes of BJ’s twin daughters and best of all you can play the game in co-op. Now you can kill Nazi scum with your best friend, as BJ’s twin daughters. The mayhem will continue on.

The real reason why most if not all the people tuned into the press conference was for Fallout 76. And boy did it not disappoint. I have to give it to Mr Howard, he is a true showman. He knows how to excite the crowd, make them laugh and keep them interested. The main points that I got from the reveal through the trailers and clips shown (I absolutely love those Vault Tec videos) are:

  • Prequel to the other Fallout games.
  • 4 times the size of Fallout 4 (hopefully 4x as detailed and populated, there is no point in having a larger world with less content).
  • Set in West Virginia with a number of distinct regions and home to creatures based on actual West Virginian folklore (great way to incorporate the history and location).
  • New lighting and rendering techniques making the world 16 times more detailed.
  • Completely online (some people are hesitant about this, but I have no real problem with it).
  • The game can be played solo but it is easier to group up with friends and tackle the wasteland together.
  •  There will be no server options and your characters will move with you whenever you play (I take it that it behaves very similar to DayZ where there is an official hive that allows character persistence no matter what official server you are on).
  • Building is now not limited to several locations and can be taken nearly anywhere with the new C.A.M.P. toolbox.
  • Scattered across the wasteland there are nuclear missile sites where the players once they have the necessary codes can activate the nuclear missile causing havoc on the environment where hit.
  •  Coming out October 27, 2018 (really did not see this coming).

“There is no ‘i’ in nuclear wasteland” – Fallout 76

Closing the event, two trailers for what appear to be next generation games were shown. Starfield a brand new IP from Bethesda. Interested and want to learn more. And The Elder Scrolls 6. Loved Oblivion and Skyrim, so another ES game that is not an MMO is always a lovely addition. Overall I think Bethesda done a fantastic job showcasing games that interested me and continued the solid performance after Microsoft’s press event.

You can see the Bethesda event here.

EA Play 2018 Press Conference Impressions

I woke up at 4am AEST to watch the EA Play 2018 Press Conference and then again before I left to watch UFC 225. During the second watching I wrote down some notes about what interested me, what got my attention and what I am looking forward to that is coming in 2018 and in 2019. Unfortunately there does not seem to be much on that list so this post may be a little small and light on content. Before I go into that list I am going to highlight games, etc. that were announced but I am not interested in playing or I felt the announcement did little to excite me:

  1. FIFA 19: I have not bought a FIFA game in a really long time. I have EA Access and am more than happy to wait for the title to come into The Vault.
  2. Star Wars: Battlefront 2: I enjoy the Star Wars games that get released but with the mess that was SWBF2 at launch, I stayed away from this title. No improvements made by DICE will get me to buy this game or play it anytime soon.
  3. Unravel Two: I never played Unravel and I am not really into platformer games. I can appreciate what the developers have done but it is just not up my alley.
  4. Sea of Solitude: Another title that did little to excite or interest me. I hope the developers find a market for their game though, and good luck to them in finding success.
  5. NBA Live 19: Basketball is not a sport that I follow so I completely ignored this title.
  6. Madden 19 and Young Kiv: NFL is one of the leagues I do watch as a New York Giants fan, but like the FIFA games I don’t buy them. Also the eSports personality of Young Kiv did not do anything but get me to say “who is this and why should I care”.
  7. Command and Conquer Rivals: What I would do for a C&C game that is for the PC. A mobile game is an automatic turn off. My smartphone is primarily a tool for me to be more productive and communicate with people, not play games.

With those items out of the way, the only remaining announcements are the ones that managed to interest me or were different enough that they got my attention.

Battlefield V

So there was barely anything revealed and talked about. More will be shown at the Microsoft Xbox E3 2018 Press Conference which is good. But my takeaways from what did get revealed and talked about which interest me were:

  1. Superior mobility (dive and smash through windows).
  2. Stationary turrets are now moveable.
  3.  Even more destruction. Could we be going back to the days of Bad Company 2? I hope so.
  4. Plenty of customization. From the guns to the tanks.
  5. No more loot boxes and no premium pass. Thank God. Nothing worse than fracturing the community and having people buy gameplay advancements.
  6. War Stories. Unfortunately will have to wait until the Microsoft Xbox E3 2018 Press Event to learn more about the first one.

Some elements that made me roll my eyes and say “really” include:

  1. Battlefield Battle Royale mode. Not every game needs to copy the success of Fortnight, even if they try to put their own spin on it.
  2. Again no proper in-game, live, actual footage from a real match. I don’t want to see in-engine footage trailers. I want to see how the game actually plays.

Cloud and Subscriptions

When Andrew Wilson (CEO of EA) came out I knew there would be some new business practices and plans revealed. A cloud streaming service from EA will be coming in the future and an early version of it is playable at the event. I don’t see this taking off anytime soon, especially if it uses EA servers but I can appreciate the technology behind it.

There was the mention of EA Origin Premier as well. I was really hoping that they would allow people who have EA Access and EA Origin Access to have a single subscription to play EA games on both Xbox and PC. But no, instead it is a way to play (it would seem) brand new EA published titles without purchasing the game through EA Origin Access, much like Xbox Game Pass and Microsoft published titles. I cannot see myself buying this subscription service however.

Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order

This got me interested because I generally like Star Wars games and I really enjoyed Titanfall. Vince Zampella teased a new Star Wars game set between Star Wars Episodes 3 and 4, where the Jedi are hunted. Unfortunately the game will be released in 2019, if it does not get delayed or pushed out. Not much else was said about the title.

Anthem

To start the Anthem portion of the event there was a fast paced, intense trailer which did not look too bad. Some of the information that we did get from the panel of BioWare employees that were on stage include:

  1. It is not an MMO. This is good for me because I can really only have one active MMO in my life and that is World of Warcraft.
  2. Major focus on characters for the story and player choices. This is good because if the characters are dull and boring then everything else is dull and boring.
  3. Much of the single player experience will be experienced in bases and the multiplayer experience will be in the open world portions of the game.
  4. BioWare is already preparing Anthem to be DLC ready in terms of story. They did not say DLC specifically but they did say Anthem is built to have story added at any time. What better way to get people to pay for DLC than with story content.
  5. Promises of ongoing and long term meaningful content. Hopefully it will be better than the original The Division content and the content that Bungie has been pumping out slowly for Destiny 2.
  6. Real world purchasable items will be there but will be only cosmetic and there would be no loot boxes or randomness when buying content.
  7. The game if not delayed or pushed back will coming out 22 February 2019.

So there you have it folks. I will also be doing a Microsoft and Bethesda recap so stay tuned for those.

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