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Last night was the annual Game Awards show. I was cautiously excited for it, not because I care about the awards but because it is always full of game trailers and I enjoy seeing what is headed our way.

Of course I say I don’t care about the awards but I did vote a few times. I don’t think any of the games I voted for won. Game of the Year went to Zelda: Breath of the Wild, of course. I did not like Zelda much at all. Last year Overwatch won Game of the Year. I HATED Overwatch. I mean with Zelda, I can at least get why so many people love it…it’s just not my thing. But Overwatch? ::shudder::

I get into a LOT of arguments about games, mostly in comment sections of posts. Sometimes just in my own head, by which I mean that I write the dissenting comment then delete it because who needs the hassle? No one ever changed anyone’s mind on the Internet. (I’m pulling out my Hyperbole License for that one.)

The Game Awards are a good reality check for me. A good reminder that everyone likes different things and I tend to like the stuff out on the fringe. That’s why I’m always butting heads. I don’t like the stuff that is popular with the majority, and I do like stuff that most other people don’t.

That, and the fact that I get my nose out of joint when people make statements that are either demonstrably false or state assumptions as facts. Example: In a discussion on micro-transactions the other day someone said (paraphrasing) “I wouldn’t mind these micro-transactions if the money went back into the game, but it just lines the pockets of the greedy publishers.” This comment was made in a discussion about a game that has on-going support (meaning regular new content drops) and no season pass or anything. The comment was getting voted up like mad and I was like “WTF? Where do you think the money to pay for this new content is coming from?” So of course I waded in and got down-voted into oblivion.

I think Truth is important, and it is important not to assume things are true. Question EVERYTHING. Otherwise, as a theoretical example, a reality TV star with a huge number of followers on Twitter could lie through his ass and get himself elected president, then continue to lie on a regular basis and the ignorant masses would just accept his lies rather than question whether he was fit to run a hot dog stand, let alone a country. No offense intended towards hot dog stand owners, and anyway I’m just speaking hypothetically.

Ahem, how about a brain-palate-cleanser:

But back to the Game Awards. I enjoyed them. They weren’t perfect but there was a minimum of cringe-inducing moments and some of the award winners were legitimately moved, which is always nice to see. Of course I compare the show (in my mind) to back when we had the Spike TV Game Awards, which were so god-awful they were embarrassing to watch, let alone be a part of. Still I think the show gets better every year.

This year they added a live orchestra to play some game themes, which was a nice touch. And of course they had to have a musical guest, but they went with a band called Phoenix (who I, being old, have never heard of) who worked some video game synth stuff into their sound, so they felt like they had a connection to the world. There were celebs there, but they weren’t the focus of the show…the focus was definitely on the games and the game makers.

Looking forward to next year, when my personal game-of-the-year once again won’t win!

Has this been a great gaming season or what? I’ve been trying to juggle so many games that honestly I really should let some of them slide so I can make progress somewhere.

Today I just wanted to jot down a quick list of everything I’m playing just to see if anyone out there is enjoying any of the same titles.

Nintendo Switch
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 — This just came out last Friday so it is early days, but so far I’m enjoying it. Finally a Switch game I can get excited about. Hopefully this one sticks. Scopique at Levelcapped has a great post on it, btw.

Playstation 4 Pro
Star Wars Battlefront 2 — I play this a little bit every day. Sometimes online MP, sometimes “Arcade Mode” and sometimes a little nibble of the campaign, which I’m trying to stretch out until the next chunk drops this month.

Horizon Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds — I’ve finished the story of this expansion but there’s still more to do and the combat is SO fun for me that I’m happy to stick around to chase collectibles and put poor Aloy in harm’s way. HZD is my personal Game of the Year.

.hack GU Last Recode — Dabbling in this one mostly for the nostalgia. I have issues with the main character (he’s such a dick) but enjoy the kind of low-intensity grindy-combat when I’m feeling less than energetic. There are 4 games in this bundle…not sure I’ll get through them all

Xbox One X
Newest console so spending lots of time here. *deep breath*

Assassin’s Creed Origins — I love the AC games and ACO is no exception. And OMG is it ever pretty. The only thing missing, for me, is that Forest Gump-ish vibe I got from the older games when my character would get stuck into the midst of some historic event I was familiar with. ACO feels a lot more ‘fantasy’ than earlier games. Still, enjoying it a lot.

Middle Earth: Shadow of War — I loved Shadow of Mordor and I’m loving Shadow of War. Orcs are a great bad guy, the nemesis system is cool, and I’m even OK how they changed the lore. My one tiny gripe is that you get no exp from killing regular grunt orcs which centers the game almost entirely on the boss fights. I still cut through swathes of grunt orcs because it is fun as hell, but it’d be even more fun if I was getting a bit of XP from it.

Agents of Mayhem — I picked this up for $20 during a Black Friday sale and I’m happy with it. It wasn’t received well when it came out and most of the complaints were legit, but it is a spectacle of a game and is something fun to boot up for a quick couple of missions. Don’t play it for more than an hour or two at a time, though, or it’ll get too boring.

Call of Duty: World War 2 — Don’t even ask me how/why I bought a COD game at full price so near launch, but I did. As soon as I pulled the trigger I regretted it. Then it d/led, I started playing, and those regrets vanished. I am REALLY enjoying the campaign, which looks stunning on the XBX, but even more surprising is that I’ve been enjoying the online stuff too. I guess it’s the era… things are maybe a little slower or something? But I don’t get nearly as frustrated as I usually do in MP FPS.

Forza 7 — I swore I’d never buy another Forza game because I find them kind of ‘dry’ but I snagged this just as a way to show off the power of the XBX. And y’know, I’m enjoying it as long as I stick to shorter sessions. I do 2-3 races and that’s enough. And man, is it ever pretty! [Sadly transitioning 4K HDR screenshots from the console to a non-HDR, low res copy on the blog loses a lot of the ‘wow’ factor.]

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands — This was another sale. I own this on PS4 but re-bought it on XBX to get the better visuals. I’m that one weirdo who actually enjoys playing this solo. Not that I wouldn’t play it with friends but I don’t have any friends who play it.

So yeah. Juggling 10 games. Am I insane or what? The good news is that I don’t get bored. The bad news is that I don’t make much progress in any one of them. But the good news is also that I don’t feel any need to spend more money on games for a good long while. I make a point of not letting any of them languish for too long so I don’t forget how to play.

I might let go of .hack and Agents of Mayhem, the former because XC2 on the Switch is itching that JRPG itch, the latter because it just isn’t as good as the rest of these games. We’ll see. For now I’m managing to juggle ’em all, though!

There’s a blog post from Raph Koster making the rounds. It’s worth a read, in my opinion:
Some current game economics

It’s pretty obvious that Koster knows more about game development economics than I do, given that it’s his profession, so I was feeling kind of validated when I read what he has to say about pay2win Pay4Power and to a lesser extent, loot crates in general.

On the former he says this, which is exactly the point I tried to make recently:

Pretty much every physical sport uses pay to win. You buy a better tennis racket, better sneakers, better racecar, better golf clubs, because you think it will get you an advantage. We just don’t like it in videogames because digital in theory frees us of that unfairness. Though of course, we cheerfully buy Alienware computers and Razer gaming keyboards… ahem.

And what I said (in the comments of Final SWBF2 drama llama post (for now))

For that matter, on PC the person who can afford the rig to run at the best frame rate and has the fastest internet connection has paid to win over the person who has a modest PC and lives somewhere that broadband is still very slow. There’s dozens of ways one player has an advantage over another.

On the loot crate/gacha systems Koster made this point (he’s talking about potential legislation around them):

But we have to be careful there too, because after all games use random loot drops of various sorts all over the place. Any policies, regulations, or laws will have to be careful to draw that line in such a way that they don’t inadvertently ban Diablo or coin-op Tetris — which also features random drops on a small repeated transaction basis, as do most arcade games actually!

And me, once again from the comments, this time comments to SW Battlefront II drama llama, stage 2:

To me, putting in time to unlock new things is just a natural part of gaming, as is dealing with RNG to see if you get what you want. In a lot of ways what drops from a boss battle and a “loot crate” are pretty similar in that you don’t know if you’re going to get something you want/need or something you’re going to crush for components. I mean clearly HOW you get them is different.

Sorry if I sound like I’m tooting my own horn here. I guess I am. But sometimes when you feel alone in a crowd, finding someone with some expertise who shares at least some of your opinions is really gratifying.

By the way, I still play Star Wars Battlefront II every day. Last night I was at something like 29,000 credits so I unlocked Luke Skywalker for 15,000 “just because” though honestly I prefer playing gun-toting characters to the heroes. My only gripe with the game so far is that the servers have been laggy recently, which is a big issue but has nothing to do with Paying4Power or loot crates.

While most of my US dwelling friends are getting ready for a big ‘ol turkey dinner to celebrate Thanksgiving, I’m sitting down to a big plate of crow.

For a LONG time I scoffed at Xbox One’s backwards compatibility. To me it was a smoke-screen: something Microsoft could talk about since it had a system that was less powerful than Sony, few exclusive games and was losing the console war. I couldn’t imagine that anyone was playing old 360 games, particularly since the few times I tried it I ran into all kinds of issues with crashes and poor frame rates.

Now, I have to give Microsoft credit. They’ve stuck with this idea and games are running better and better. That is especially true now that the Xbox One X has arrived. A handful of Xbox 360 games have even been “XBX Enhanced” and look way better than they ever did on the Xbox 360, and many unaltered 360 games still run better on the XBX than they ever did on the 360.

But don’t take my word for it, listen to the game performance pros at Digital Foundry talk about it:

So yeah, I was wrong. Backwards compatibility on the Xbox One isn’t just a smokescreen, it’s a pretty cool feature and I assume that if and when Microsoft introduces the Xbox Two (and honestly all signs point to them just enhancing the current Xbox over introducing a radical new system) they’ll make sure to bring BC along for the ride.

I think one of my projects for this long weekend will be to dig out the crate of Xbox 360 disks I have in the back of a closet somewhere and see how many of them are supported in the BC system.

All this talk recently has me thinking a lot about “Pay2Win” systems and whether there’s a way to make them more acceptable to some gamers. (I fully acknowledge that there’s a segment of gamers for whom there is no wiggle room on the topic. This post isn’t for them.)

The first thing I would do is give these systems a more accurate name. “Pay2Win” is deliberately antagonistic and not accurate. Just because you spend money in one of these games, it doesn’t guarantee you’re going to win. What it does is make your character more powerful. So let’s call it what it is: “Pay4Power” (and if we want to get really cute we can call cosmetic-only systems “Pay4Pretty”).

“Pay4Power” more accurately represents what these systems are. A way to make your character more powerful through spending money.

So now that we have that done, let’s come up with a rating system for our hypothetical game. Start with a system like Gear Score, but add to it a figure based on the level of the character and ideally, a figure based on the age of the account. My thinking here is that a level 1 character played by someone who has put 200 hours into the game is going to be more powerful than a level 1 character played by someone who just started. I don’t mean the character itself, but that character’s influence on the match based on player skill + gear + any character stats.

(I realize such a system would be easy to exploit via multiple accounts…I don’t have all the answers.)

So now there is a rating assigned to essentially the combination of you the player’s skill and your character’s stats. Let’s use THAT for matchmaking. That feels like a better way to get ‘fair’ matches to me. And it doesn’t matter how you got the gear, but it does reflect that the player who spent 50 hours playing to earn the gear is going to be a better player than the dude who has played for a day but spent $200 in the cash shop in order to get the same gear.

Next step is dangerous: segment the audience. In my hypothetical game there are three leagues that you can choose to play in.

The e-Sports League — If you play in this league, everyone uses standard gear and characters, leaving the outcome of every game 100% to player skill. The rating system is not used in the e-Sports league (it might have it’s own rating system based on win/loss ratio for matchmaking).

The Purity League — This league is closed to any character that has purchased gear. If you went to the cash shop and got a great weapon, tough. You can’t use that weapon if you’re playing in the Purity League. Matchmaking based on rating is in effect for the Purity League

The Casual League — This is where most of the audience will probably be. This is the “I play for fun” league and it doesn’t matter if you got your gear from grinding or from buying stuff from the cash shop. You can play here. Matchmaking based on rating is in effect for the Casual League.

And that is pretty much it. We rename the system to remove some of the stigma from it (and to more accurately reflect what it is) and we give those opposed to cash shops a couple of leagues to play in that aren’t ‘polluted’ by cash shop purchases. By coming up with a rating system that attempts to factor in player skill, we get more even matches in both the Purity and Casual Leagues, the idea being that win or lose, a close match is generally more fun.

And the publishers still get their income from the “whales” who, presumably, will be happy to play around in the Casual League since it pretty much represents the norm in the games we have now. That means that I (in the end, it’s all about ME) don’t have to pay for DLC and Season Passes.

Next up, I solve world hunger and end all wars…

I just wanted to wrap up this series with a few last thoughts.

As mentioned earlier, I’m not playing Star Wars Battlefront 2 heavily yet since I have so many other gaming irons in the fire. I’ve been doing 1-3 matches each night and a match takes maybe 10-15 minutes. Last night I had enough credits to unlock one of the two most expensive hero units (Vader and Luke Skywalker are both 15,000 credits while Leia is only 10K –where’s the outrage over that? Why are the men more valuable!?). Now it turns out I did splash out for the “Deluxe” edition and when I first started playing I wasn’t paying much attention to what crates I was given. Maybe, I thought, I had a huge jump on other players because of the Deluxe edition.

The good news is that over on the Xbox, I have EA Access, which offers a free trial of new games, including Star Wars Battlefront 2. So I decided to start over. This was the standard edition. I got 3 loot boxes on first login. One was the Daily Loot Box (they give you a free one every day though in truth the rewards inside are pretty minor). Another was apparently for signing up for a newsletter? It was called something like “The Newsletter Crate” anyway. No idea why I got that. And the third was a “Founder’s Crate” and I have no idea why I got that one either.

I played one match of the MP dogfighting mode. I had zero unlocks for my ship so I was flying completely “vanilla” and, here’s a shocker, I still had a blast playing. The dogfighting in this game is challenging but SO fun. When I was done I had something like 3500 credits. That was from the crates I got at first log in, credits from playing the match (something like 300 for that) and credits for various “rewards” I got for playing (you unlock a lot of rewards at first because you get rewarded for stuff like “Playing your first match” or “Winning your first match” and my side had won the match).

In retrospect I think the Deluxe version did give me a boost of a couple thousand credits, so without having gone Deluxe I might have to play another night before I could unlock Vader (that or play more than just a few matches each night). It still is nowhere near what the haters are saying (somehow “40 hours to unlock a hero” has become an accepted fact even though it is objectively very much false).

My last point is this. I wonder about gamers who have spouses, young kids and demanding jobs and who can maybe only squeeze in an hour of play a couple times a week, but who LOVE Star Wars so want to play. These people probably aren’t parked on Reddit spewing outrage. I wonder if they might have LIKED the idea of skipping Starbucks on their ‘gaming day’ so they could spend a few bucks and open some crates, just to speed up the unlock process. Conversely I wonder how the “no pay to win!” set would react to a mode of the game where everyone uses identical gear. In other words, the person who plays an hour a day has the same gear as the person who spends 50 hours a week playing. I suspect some of them would be outraged about that. Being at an advantage because you have more free time to play seems OK (remember, you don’t have to be skilled to earn credits, you just have to show up – you could go AFK and still earn credits), but being at an advantage because you’re gainfully employed and can spend a few bucks here and there is not.

OK I’m done. If I write anything else about this game, it’ll be about the game, not the outrage. I still haven’t started the campaign because Aloy needs me to guide her through The Frozen Wilds. The MP stuff has been a complete blast, though, for me. I’m coming at it from a Star Wars nerd point of view, though. If you want to know if it is a great shooter you should ask someone who plays a lot of competitive shooters.

The story so far.

Star Wars Battlefront came out a few years ago and got pretty mediocre reviews. Complaints were mostly that it lacked a single player campaign and in general there wasn’t enough content to justify a price. The developers released additional content over the next year or so, but you had to either buy a Season Pass or buy the DLC as it came out. Few consumers seemed to do so.

As someone who did buy the Season Pass, I regretted it. By the time the new content came out the player base had shrunk to the point where it was hard to get a game together if you wanted to play in the new content, since so few people purchased.

In the meantime, EA put THREE development teams on Star Wars Battlefront 2. DICE was handling the ground based stuff and was the ‘main’ dev, Criterion was working on space combat, and newly formed Motive was working on the single player campaign. In spite of the fact that so many resources were being devoted to the game, it would of course launch at $60, same as it would have 15 years ago.

At some point EA announced that there would be no Season Pass, but they would be continuing to support the game with new maps and modes well past launch. In lieu of a Season Pass they would generate revenue via micro-transactions. At the time, this decision was APPLAUDED since no one likes Season Passes.

Then the Great Loot Crate Riots of 2017 began. Really it started with Middle Earth: Shadow of War. “OMG loot crates in a single player game, the world is ending.” That was a big deal right up until launch when folks starting playing, having fun, and found that buying loot crates with real money was truly optional. (Curiously Assassin’s Creed has had stuff you could buy with real money in its games for the past few iterations but no one really cared. Not sure what Shadow of War did to draw all this ire.) Today, a few weeks after launch, no one seems to be too fussed about Shadow of War having loot crates. It’s a great game. Great enough that I bought it on both PS4 and Xbox One X.

In the meantime the horde had turned on Star Wars Battlefront 2 with its “pay to win” system (which really is a “pay to slightly up/side-grade your character but if you suck you’re still going to lose” system). There was a lot of drama, gamers were livid and again, the world was going to end.

Someone came up with a system that determined it would take thousands of dollars or thousands of hours to “unlock everything.” Of course every gaming blog jumped on that to create more hysteria and ad-revenue. I don’t really believe those numbers, but what I found really fascinating is that people were acting as if the game wouldn’t be fun until everything was unlocked. It’s a ridiculous concept. Think about a game like World of Warcraft. Imagine if there were complaints about how long it would take to collect every piece of gear in that game. Pretty much the same thing here.

People also act as if the gear in SW BF2 is like the gear in Destiny. As if you spawn with a rifle that does 20 damage but you can pay to get a rifle that does 50 damage. But that’s not really how it works. It’s more like you have a rifle that does a lot of damage but has a low rate of fire and you can pay to get a rifle that does less damage but has a higher rate of fire. For the most part weapons are balanced (or intended to be). There are definitely cards and mods that will give you a slight advantage, but it’s not as egregious as the horde would have you believe.

Meanwhile, the game launched early for some players. It was hard to hear but if you could make your way through the loot crate anger you’d find people saying they were having fun playing. You had to be quick because anything you say positive about the game gets quickly downvoted into oblivion on Reddit or comment threads. In today’s toxic online world, you need to be on message with the horde or your opinion doesn’t count.

EA held an AMA on Reddit and tried to respond calmly to the horde but even then, their answers got downvoted to the point you had to really hunt for them. Gamers didn’t want a dialog, they wanted to be pissed.

Thursday night, on the evening of official launch, EA caved. They announced that at launch they would be turning off the ability to buy crystals, the currency you use for making real money transactions. The horde hated pay to win, and so EA shut that system down. At launch no one can say the game is pay-to-win. The voice of the horde was heard and acted on. They won.

The response? Did you think the horde would be happy? You don’t know gamers. Rather than acknowledge that EA is trying to make things right, gamers immediately started pointing at this line: “The ability to purchase crystals in-game will become available at a later date, only after we’ve made changes to the game.” The on-message horde response to the EA announcement is that this is a BS move that they are making for launch and that they’re just going to turn it all back on again once the anger subsides. The hardcore tin-foil hat sect thinks this was all orchestrated from the start. That EA wanted to make gamers pissed so they could make this change at the last minute and seem like good guys. Yeah, right.

This is why we can’t have nice things. We gamers just have so much hate in our hearts that we’re never willing to give a big publisher the benefit of the doubt. We scream at them for doing things wrong but when they try to make things right, we just scream more. There is no winning once the horde has turned against you.

Maybe 2 weeks from now EA will just re-enable things as they are and you can all tell me what a jerk I am and how wrong I was. I don’t think they will. Prior to launch they’d already drastically reduced the cost of heroes based on feedback from the beta. That indicates to me they’re willing to make real changes. I’m not saying EA is an altruistic company. I’m saying they’re a company that wants customers to stick around and wants ‘long tail’ sales. If they just turn the same system back on, they’ll just have angry customers again and people will walk away from the game.

I think they’ll do exactly what they’ve said they would do. That they “… will now spend more time listening, adjusting, balancing and tuning.” before turning real money transactions back on. And of COURSE they’re going to turn them back on at some point. They’re not going to develop and give away additional content for free without any kind of revenue stream.

I just think its sad that the gamer horde seems determined to stay mad even when they ‘win’. I’m not sure what a company can do to disperse the horde, honestly. I’m glad I’m not in the game development business, that’s for sure.

I got early access to Star Wars Battlefront 2 via pre-ordering (I guess?) so I played a bit of it last night. I enjoyed it. I know I’m not supposed to say that and I’m supposed to be outraged about loot crates but meh, life is too short.

Loot boxes are going to be with us for a while, at least when it comes to games from the giant publicly-traded publishers like EA, Activision and Ubisoft. It’s just part of the cycle of game publishing. First it was DLC, then it was Season Passes, now it’s Loot Crates. Would I prefer they not be there? Sure. That said, I prefer loot crates to having to shell out for a Season Pass. In a perfect world we’d spend $60 and the company would supply new maps and modes for free for a couple of years, but is that a realistic thing to hope for, particularly in this age of aggressive sales on games? The only people who are going to pay $60 for Battlefront 2 are the ones buying it at launch. Wait a month and it’ll be $50, wait a couple months and it’ll be $30, but you’ll still be able to benefit by the post-launch extra content. Revenue to pay for that content has to come from somewhere.

For SW Battlefront 1 I did buy the Season Pass and hardly used it since the it fragmented the player base. It took so long to get a game on one of the Season Pass maps that I rarely bothered, and over time I got bored with just playing the maps that shipped with the game and drifted away. So for me personally, I’ll take loot crates and knowing everyone has the same selection of maps to play on.

Then specifically there is the “But these loot boxes are pay to win!!” arguments. Again, don’t really care. Someone is always going to have more stuff unlocked than me. If I’m facing 2 opponents with more unlocks and one of them got them by spending an extra $100 and the other one got them by playing the game 12 hours a day because he lives in his parent’s basement and has no job, does it really matter to me? Yes it does matter in one crucial way. The dude spending an extra $100 is the dude making it possible for EA to do away with Season Passes in favor of loot crates.

I mean, I think EA could have side-stepped a LOT of controversy if they’d gone the “cosmetics only” path for these loot crates, and I get why people would have preferred that, but for me personally the pay to win aspect isn’t going to have much impact on me so I can’t work up much outrage over it.

The one issue I can sympathize with are the folks that are pissed that some of the heroes need to be unlocked. When you first get the game, you can’t play as the more iconic heroes (or villains) and you have to spend in-game credits to unlock them. Prior to launch EA at least reduced the price of them, they’re now anywhere from 5000 to 15000 credits. If you got the game because you really want to play as Darth Vader and then you learn that you have to play for a couple of nights to earn that 15K (or spend additional cash to buy credits) I can understand why that would be upsetting. After my first night of play I had a little over 6000 credits but I did get some loot crates free from playing the beta and some of them had credits.

Personally, I kind of enjoy having a goal to work towards so for me even this doesn’t bother me much but I do think it’s a valid thing to be upset about. Plus, weirdly, I don’t even like playing the heros/villains. I kind of prefer being a regular Clone Trooper or a Rebel or whatever.

There are things I don’t like about SW BF 2, though. I don’t like that they added the scoreboard back (in the beta there was no post-match scoreboard which I thought was a good thing for a Star Wars game that is going to pull in a lot of casual players). I don’t like the loading times, which are pretty awful. I don’t like that the Clone War era droids are so skinny I can’t spot them as easily as I’d like. I don’t like that there doesn’t seem to be a space battle single player mission (though you have to unlock the single player missions as you go — these are separate from the single player campaign — so I could be wrong) because I need a LOT of practice flying these ships.

And that’s about it, really. So far no regrets, but anyway I really bought the game because I wanted to see what EA Motive has done with the single player campaign. I didn’t even start that yet since I’m already juggling so many games (Horizon Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds, Assassin’s Creed Origins, Middle Earth, Shadow of War, Forza 7, and .hack//GU Final Recode) but I’m optimistic about it.

So while other parts of the Internet are occupied with sending death threats to Battlefront 2’s community manager and calling for a boycott of the game, I’m just over here playing it and having fun. Sorry Internet, I’m just not that into you any more. In a time when Hawaii is taking steps to prepare for having a nuclear bomb drop on them, I just have to pick my battles when it comes to what to be stressed out about. Loot crates are WAY down on that list.

…and I feel like I should write a big long tech-jargon filled blog post about it, but I’m kind of tired of arguing about it in various places. I just want to enjoy the console.

So far, I’m really happy with it. “Enhanced” games look amazing, of course. Folks who do things like pixel counting (aka Digital Foundry) are finding that just about every game looks better on XBX than on PS4 Pro, the one exception seeming to be Titanfall 2, but that might be due to a bug. Learn more here:

Aside from the whole “Woo 4K” aspect, the XBX loads games quicker, makes many un-enhanced games look better (either via better frame rates or dynamic scaling systems that can stay at higher resolutions longer) and it is SO BLISSFULLY quiet. I love it.

Look I’m a self-identified Sony fanboy, but Microsoft has done good with the XBX. Maybe being the underdog has been a good thing for them. Lots of games are getting patches (something I was worried about until recently) and Microsoft makes it easy to identify games that take advantage of the X (in both the store and in your game library you can filter by “Xbox One X Enhanced.”). They just seem to be doing more to make it easy for us customers than Sony did with the PS4 Pro (which, remember, didn’t even have Boost Mode at launch).

So should you buy one? Probably not. The problem with the Xbox One X (in my opinion) is that it caters to a very narrow segment of the gaming market:

1) If you’re a PC gamer that wants a console too, pick a PS4 Pro or, I guess, a Switch. Virtually everything you can play on the Xbox One is also available on PC.

2) If you’re a PS4 gamer who is curious, as nice as the system is, it probably doesn’t justify a new library of games. The games don’t look THAT much better than on a PS4 Pro

3) If you’re an Xbox gamer without a PC, then the Xbox One X is for you. Even if you don’t have a 4K TV yet, the better frame rates, loading times and ‘super sampling’ make it worth the upgrade, in my opinion (and assuming you’re a reasonably serious gamer).

The biggest struggle with a system like this is demonstrating it. I can take a screenshot like this one:

But the original of this was a 22 meg PNG so I had to compress it to make it a reasonable size, and even then the 22 meg version didn’t have the HDR effect. In the game on an HDR TV, that sun was so bright it was almost hard to look at.

Same with this video clip. It’s pretty, but not nearly as pretty as on-screen. The sun shining through the trees was stunning enough in-game that it prompted me to save this clip. Looking at it in a browser you’re probably thinking “What’s the point of this clip?” By the time you reduce the resolution to 1080P, strip the HDR and add in compression artifacts, it just doesn’t hold up.

I guess the only real way to experience the XBX is to go to a Microsoft Store or a Best Buy or something and see it in person.

Anyway, zero regrets here. So far I love the Xbox One X.

We’re less than a week away from the launch of the Xbox One X, but I’ve slowly been drifting from excited to concerned, mostly due to the lack of info about the new console.

There’ve been a skillion Xbox One X “unboxing” videos on YouTube, but no video of the thing running. Turns out there’s an embargo. Now the glass-half-empty people see this as a warning. Maybe there’s something Microsoft doesn’t want us to know, lest we cancel our pre-orders. The glass-half-full people have another angle. I guess the ‘official word’ is that they put an embargo in place so the various outlets would have time to put together quality content rather than throwing some shit together in an effort to be first. Think of lifting the embargo like waving the green flag at the start of the race. Everyone can be prepared for when it starts.

I flip-flop between the two glass halves, personally.

Another concern is this list of Xbox One X Enhanced Games (scroll down to find the textual list). It’s a nice big list, sure, but look at the “availability” column. Very few of these enhanced titles are ready. Most are “In Development” or “Coming Soon.” Even new games like Middle Earth: Shadow of War and Assassin’s Creed Origins are listed as coming soon.

If like me you’ve been holding off on these games in order to play them on the Xbox One X, it looks like your wait is going to be longer than expected. It’s possible that all of a sudden on Tuesday all these “coming soon” titles will flop over to “available” but I’m a little worried. We were also told we could d/l 4K assets ahead of the Xbox One launch if we’re using an external drive, then swap that drive to the Xbox One X and start playing on Tuesday, so there is a reason why we’d want the enhanced versions ahead of launch.

Even 2nd party titles like Forza Horizon 3 and Forza 7 aren’t available yet. When the embargo lifts I expect we’re going to see a lot of Gears of War 4 gameplay (since that’s one of the few titles ready for Xbox One X).

I’ve had the PS4 Pro for a year now and support has been pretty hit or miss. I was hoping that with two ‘enhanced’ consoles on the market developers would step up their game, but maybe I’m being too optimistic. I will give Microsoft this much: at least they are being transparent about what is available. On PlayStation you have to turn to googling to find out if a game supports the Pro.