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Reflections on E3 2018

Posted by | e3 2018, epic games, Gaming, Microsoft, Nintendo, nvidia, Sony, xbox | No Comments

After taking a year off, I returned to E3 this week. It’s always a fun show, in spite of the fact that the show floor has come to rival Comic-Con in terms of the mass of people the show’s organizers are able to cram into the aisles of the convention center floor.

We’ve been filing stories all week, but here is a very much incomplete collection of my thoughts on this year’s show.

Zombies are still very much a thing

I’d have thought we’d have hit peak zombie years ago, but here we are, zombies everywhere. That includes the LA Convention Center lobby, which was swarming with actors decked out as the undead. There’s something fundamentally disturbing about watching gamers get pictures taken with fake, bloody corpses. Or maybe it’s just the perfect allegory for our time.

Nintendo’s back

A slight adjustment in approach certainly played a role, as the company has embraced mobile gaming. But the key to Nintendo’s return was a refocus on what it does best: offering an innovative experience with familiar IP. Oh, and the GameCube controller Smash Bros. compatibility was a brilliant bit of fan service, even by Nintendo’s standards.

Quantity versus quality?

Microsoft’s event was a sort of video game blitzkrieg. The company showed off 50 titles, a list that included 15 exclusives. Sony, on the other hand, stuck to a handful, but presented them in much greater depth. Ultimately, I have to say I preferred the latter. Real game play footage feels like an extremely finite resource at these events.

Ultra violence in ultra high-def

Certainly not a new trend in gaming, but there’s something about watching someone bite off someone else’s face on the big screen that’s extra upsetting. Sony’s press conference was a strange sort of poetry, with some of the week’s most stunning imagery knee-deep in blood and gore.

Reedus ’n fetus

We saw more footage and somehow we understand the game less?

Checkmate

Indiecade is always a favorite destination at E3. It’s a nice respite from the big three’s packed booths. Interestingly, there were a lot more desktop games than I remember. You know, the real kind with physical pieces and no screens.

Death of a Tomb Raider

I played Shadow of the Tomb Raider on a PC in NVIDIA’s meeting space. It’s good, but I’m not good at it. I killed poor Lara A LOT. I can deal with that sort of thing when my character is in full Master Chief regalia or whatever, but those close-up shots of her face when I drowned her for the fifth time kind of bummed me out. Can video games help foster empathy or are we all just destined to desensitize ourselves because we have tombs to raid, damn it?

I saw the light

NVIDIA also promised me that its ray-tracing tech would be the most impressive demo I saw at E3 that day. I think they were probably right, so take that, Sonic Racing. The tech, which was first demoed at GDC, “brings real-time, cinematic-quality rendering to content creators and game developers.”

VR’s still waiting in the wings

At E3 two years ago, gaming felt like an industry on the cusp of a VR breakthrough. In 2018, however, it doesn’t feel any closer. There were a handful of compelling new VR experiences at the event, but it felt like many of the peripheral and other experiences were sitting on the fringes of the event — both literally and metaphorically — waiting for a crack at the big show.

Remote Control

Sony’s Control trailer was the highest ratio of excitement to actual information I experienced. Maybe it’s Inception the video game or the second coming of Quantum Break. I dunno, looks fun.

AR’s a thing, but not, like, an E3 thing

We saw a few interesting examples of this, including the weirdly wonderful TendAR, which requires you to make a bunch of faces so a fake fish doesn’t die. It’s kind of like version of Seaman that feeds on your own psychic energy. At the end of the day, though, E3 isn’t a mobile show.

Cross-platform

Having said that, there are some interesting examples of cross-platform potential popping up here and there. The $50 Poké Ball Plus for the Switch is a good example I’m surprised hasn’t been talked about more. Along with controlling the new Switch titles, it can be used to capture Pokémon via Pokémon GO. There’s some good brand synergy right there. And then, of course, there’s Fortnite, which is also on the Switch. The game’s battle royale mode is a great example of how cross-platform play can lead to massive success. Though by all accounts, Sony doesn’t really want to play ball.

V-Bucks

Oh, Epic Games has more money than God now.

Moebius strip

Video games are art. You knew that already, blah, blah, blah. But Sable looks like a freaking Moebius comic come to life. I worry that it will be about as playable as Dragon’s Lair, but even that trailer is a remarkable thing.

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Here’s what Sony announced at E3 2018

Posted by | e3 2018, Gaming, playstation, Sony | No Comments

Sony wanted its E3 2018 press conference to be an event. Not the “we have 50 new titles to show you” event Microsoft just put on, so much as the get up and walk around kind. 

It was kind of like one of those trendy experiential restaurants. The portions are small and you’re still hungry after the final course, but it’s kind of fun, I guess.

The Last of Us Part II

A trailer bookended with a passionate kiss showed up some extremely refined gameplay for the post-apocalyptic survival game. It was…gory. But, then, that’s kind of what we’ve come to expect from the series, and the crowd went predictably wild with each close up hack and slash on the big screen.

Ghost of Tsushima

Another stunning — and amazing gory — one on the giant display. This samurai story is set during a Mongol invasion, featuring a whole lot of sword to torso action and got its gameplay debut at the show.

Control

Not a lot to go on here, but the trailer has a real first-person shooter crossed with Inception, which is perfectly okay with us.

Resident Evil 2

A remake for the popular zombie murdering series got what may well have been the most excited crowded reaction from the bunch. Lot of reveals here, but man was that face eating shot nice and close. It’s up for preorder today and will hit retail January of next year,

Trover Saves the Universe

From one of the co-creators of Rick and Morty, the trailer was fishing for laughs, but came up short, even in a crowd full of Playstation fans. Looks colorful, though.

Death Stranding

Norman Reedus ripping off his toenail was somehow more unsettling than all of the zombie murders of the past half-hour put together. Definitely one of the most innovative trailers we’ve seen so far — beautiful landscapes, close up child birth and hey, neat future umbrella.

Marvel’s Spider-Man Game

Due out in September, we knew this one was going to get some solid face time at the event. Sony showed off a good deal of gameplay, featuring your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man battle some familiar supervillians inside the Raft super prison.

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How (and when) to watch the E3 2018 press conferences

Posted by | e3 2018, Gaming, Microsoft, Nintendo, Sony | No Comments

Sure, E3 doesn’t actually officially start until Tuesday, but the big news kicks off this weekend. Here’s a quick overview of some of the biggest new titles we expect to be shown off at press conferences from Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo, but there’s a lot more to the show than just the big three.

EA started several days of big announcements with a press conference in downtown L.A. this morning, focused on Battlefield V, Fifa 2019 and a bunch more. Microsoft, meanwhile, will be the first of the big hardware companies to hold court with an early afternoon event on Sunday, followed by Bethesda that night.

Monday is the most packed day of the week with events from Square Enix, Ubisoft and Sony. Nintendo, meanwhile, has Tuesday morning to itself, opting to again return to its pre-recorded streaming format in lieu of renting out a larger hall.

Here’s the full break down.

SUNDAY, JUNE 10

Microsoft: 1PM PT, 4PM ET

What to expect: Crackdown 3, Gears of War, Forza and (maybe?) a new Halo.

Bethesda 6:30PM PT, 9:30PM ET



What to expect: Rage 2, Fallout 76.

MONDAY, JUNE 11

Square Enix 10AM PT, 1 PM ET

Watch live video from Square Enix on www.twitch.tv

What to expect: Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Kingsom Hearts 3, Final Fantasy VII.

Ubisoft 12:30PM PT, 3:30PM ET 

What to expect: Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, new Splinter Cell.

Sony 6PM PT, 9PM ET

What to expect: Death Stranding, Last of Us Part II, Marvel’s Spider-Man

TUESDAY, JUNE 12

Nintendo 9AM PT, 12PM ET

What to expect: Super Smash Bros 

What to expect: Super Smash Bros, Pokemon and (maybe) Fortnite

 

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What to expect from Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony at E3 2018

Posted by | e3 2018, events, Gaming, Microsoft, Nintendo, Sony | No Comments

It’s June, so that means it’s time to spend some quality time in downtown Los Angeles. E3 doesn’t actually begin in earnest until next Tuesday, but much of the big news will actually drop over the weekend, during press conferences from Microsoft, EA and Bethesda.

Starting Saturday, the video game news will be arriving fast and furious. We’ll be on the ground at the Staples Center to cover all things E3, but in the meantime, here’s a breakdown of what we expect to see at one of the gaming world’s biggest events.

Microsoft

Microsoft’s press conference is the first of the big three. The bad news: The company just confirmed a recent report that Crackdown 3 has been delayed until February. Bummer. Bad news for those aching to get their hands on the open-world action-adventure, but the title will almost certainly get some love during the event, regardless. After all, Microsoft has been talking up the title since way back in 2014.

It wouldn’t be a proper Microsoft E3 event without a Halo title of some kind. Halo 6 seems like a possibility — if not a certainty. The latest rumor has the upcoming game titled Halo Infinity, which may or may not be the first direct follow-up to 2015’s lukewarmly received Halo 5: Guardians.

New Gears of War and Forza titles have also been rumored for the big show.

Microsoft’s event kicks off at 1PM PT on Sunday.

Nintendo

One thing we know for sure: A Super Smash Bros. title is coming to the Switch. Based on Nintendo’s recent habit of focusing on a key game at E3, it seems a safe bet that the beloved fighting game will get the lion’s share of the company’s attention.

Metroid Prime 4 and Yoshi seem like no-brainers for the big event, along with recently announced Pokémon titles Let’s Go, Pikachu and Let’s Go, Eevee. Oh, and did someone say Fortnite for the Switch? The rumor mill has also suggested a Star Fox racing title and even an N64 Classic Edition.

Nintendo is set to open the show at 9AM PT on Tuesday with a pre-recorded presentation.

Sony

Sony has already curbed speculation by announcing to the gaming world that there will be no hardware news at this year’s event. That said, there’s still going to be plenty of software firepower.

Hideo Kojima’s Death Stranding has been appearing at these shows since way back in 2016. Even so, the game remains something of a mystery. Expect to see a fair bit more next week, as the title becomes something of a tentpole for Sony’s presentation. Kojima has certainly been talking it up on social media, including, compellingly, a tribute to late Joy Division frontman, Ian Curtis.

After debuting it at last year’s show, Sony has confirmed that Last of Us Part II will be making another appearance at E3. The eagerly awaited sequel appears to be largely focused on Ellie’s quest for revenge.

With a slated September release, Marvel’s Spider-Man also seems like a no-brainer for some serious stage time. Peter Parker will return as the webslinger this time out, and there will be a number of notable cameos for Spider-Fans, including Miles Morales and Mary Jane Watson, who will serve as a playable character.

Sony gets started at 6PM PT on Monday.

 

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Sony shrinks its Digital Paper tablet down to a more manageable 10 inches

Posted by | E Ink, e paper, Gadgets, hardware, Sony, tablet | No Comments

I had a great time last year with Sony’s catchily named DPT-RP1, an e-paper tablet that’s perfect for reading PDFs and other big documents, but one of my main issues was simply how big the thing is. Light and thin but 13 inches across, the tablet was just unwieldy. Heeding (I assume) my advice, Sony is putting out a smaller version and I can’t wait to try it out.

At the time, I was comparing the RP1 with the reMarkable, a crowdfunded rival that offers fantastic writing ability but isn’t without its flaws. Watch this great video I made:

The 10-inch DPT-CP1 has a couple small differences from its larger sibling. The screen has a slightly lower resolution but should be the same PPI — it’s more of a cutout of the original screen than a miniaturization. And it’s considerably lighter: 240 grams to the 13-inch version’s 350. Considering the latter already felt almost alarmingly light, this one probably feels like it’ll float out of your hands and enter orbit.

More important are the software changes. There’s a new mobile app for iOS and Android that should make loading and sharing documents easier. A new screen-sharing mode sounds handy but a little cumbrous — you have to plug it into a PC and then plug the PC into a display. And PDF handling has been improved so that you can jump to pages, zoom and pan and scan through thumbnails more easily. Limited interaction (think checkboxes) is also possible.

There’s nothing that addresses my main issue with both the RP1 and the reMarkable: that it’s a pain to do anything substantial on the devices, such as edit or highlight in a document, and if you do, it’s a pain to bring that work into other environments.

So for now it looks like the Digital Paper series will remain mostly focused on consuming content rather than creating or modifying it. That’s fine — I loved reading stuff on the device, and mainly just wished it were a bit smaller. Now that Sony has granted that wish, it can get to work on the rest.

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FTC warns companies that void warranties over using third-party services

Posted by | Gadgets, Gaming, Government, hardware, hyundai, Nintendo, repairs, Sony, warranty | No Comments

The days of reading the small print to see whether a repair or new part for your ailing laptop will void its warranty may be coming to an end. The FTC has officially warned several companies that their policies of ceasing support when a user attempts “non-approved” repairs or servicing are likely illegal.

It’s the sort of thing where if you buy a device or car from a company, they inform you that unless you use approved, often internally branded parts, you’re voiding the warranty and your item will no longer be supported by the company.

The idea is that a company doesn’t want to be on the hook when a user replaces an old, perfectly good stick of RAM with a new, crappy one and then comes crying to them when the computer won’t boot. Or, in a more dire situation, replaces the brakes with some off-brand ones, which then fail and cause an accident. So there’s a reason these restrictions exist.

Unfortunately, they’ve come to encompass far more than these dangerous cases; perhaps you replace the RAM and then the power supply burns out — that’s not your fault, but because you didn’t use approved RAM the company takes no responsibility for the failure. The result is consumers end up having to buy components or servicing at inflated prices from “licensed” or “approved” dealers.

“Provisions that tie warranty coverage to the use of particular products or services harm both consumers who pay more for them as well as the small businesses who offer competing products and services,” explained Thomas Pahl, from the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, in the announcement.

The agency gave several examples of offending language in customer agreements, blanking out the names of the companies. Ars Technica was quick to connect these with the major companies they correspond to: Hyundai, Nintendo and Sony. Here are the statements the FTC didn’t like, with the company names in bold where they were blank before.

  • The use of Hyundai parts is required to keep your . . . manufacturer’s warranties and any extended warranties intact.
  • This warranty shall not apply if this product . . . is used with products not sold or licensed by Nintendo.
  • This warranty does not apply if this product . . . has had the warranty seal on the PS4 altered, defaced, or removed.

It’s one thing to say, don’t overclock your PS4 or we won’t cover it. It’s quite another to say if the warranty seal has been “defaced” then we won’t cover it.

“Such statements generally are prohibited by the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act,” the FTC announcement reads, and in addition “may be deceptive under the FTC Act.” The companies have 30 days to modify their policies.

This could be a major win for consumers: more repairs and service locations would be allowed under warranty, and modders of game consoles may be able to indulge their hobby without trying to hide it from the manufacturer. That will depend on the new phrasing of the companies’ policies, but this attention from the FTC will at the very least nudge things in the right direction.

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What to expect from Mobile World Congress 2018

Posted by | events, HTC, Mobile, mobile world congress, mwc 2018, Nokia, Samsung, smartphones, Sony, TC | No Comments

 The world’s largest phone show is set for Barcelona later this month, and it’s shaping up to be an interesting one — particularly in the wake of what amounted to an extremely lackluster CES last month. We’re still a couple of weeks out from the actual event, but the rumors have already started flying. Read More

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PS4 update lets parents control how long their kid can play

Posted by | Entertainment, Gaming, playstation, PS4, ps4 pro, Sony, TC | No Comments

 Folks worried that their kids are spending a little too much time gaming should be pleased to hear about Sony’s latest PS4 update. System software update 5.50 includes a new feature called Play Time Management, as well as changes to the Library interface, the ability to add custom wallpapers, and a supersampling mode that makes 4K games look better on 1080p TVs. Play Time Management… Read More

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Nike’s PG2 light-up sneakers are for PlayStation fanatics

Posted by | eCommerce, Gaming, Nike, paul george, playstation, Sony, Sports, TC, Wearables | No Comments

 Gamers worldwide! Nike, PlayStation and Oklahoma Thunder player Paul George have a shoe in the works that may be right up your alley. The PG2, the second generation of Paul George’s signature shoes, is themed around the PlayStation console, complete with tongues that light up. Buttons inside the tongues let the owner turn on and off those lights, shaped in the PlayStation logo and PG logo. Read More

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Google launches smart displays with JBL, Lenovo, LG and Sony

Posted by | artificial intelligence, CES 2018, Gadgets, Google, Google Assistant, Google Assistant at CES 2018, google home, hardware, JBL, lenovo, smart display, Sony, TC | No Comments

 We’ve been waiting for Google to bring its Assistant to devices with a screen. After all, voice assistants are great — until you need some visual information to go with their answers. But Google is not launching a Google Home with a screen. Instead, the company today announced it is working with JBL, Lenovo, LG and Sony to launch new smart displays later this year. Read More

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