Final Fantasy VII Remake Will Be Episodic And Feature A Dynamic ATB Combat System

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During the Sony PSX 2015 event a new trailer for Final Fantasy VII Remake was revealed, creating quite the stir in the process. In this new footage there was quite a bit of information to digest. The members of Avalanche (Barret, Biggs, Wedge and Jesse) and Cloud Strife speak during the  trailer, giving a glimpse into the current state of the voice acting and how these characters will sound. The graphical fidelity of the footage definitely matches what was seen in the announcement trailer for this work in progress title. Some of the video shows the player as Cloud running through the streets and Mako reactor facilities of Midgar. However, the bigger reveal shows some of the battle sequences, which looks feature a real-time combat system accompanied with a small window of options and character status window. This display of action RPG game play has provoked many reactions from fans of the Final Fantasy franchise, with some embracing this new system and others longing for the familiar Active Time Battle system. Despite first perceptions, this trailer technically does feature the ATB system, but it is presented in a more dynamic way and does not telegraph itself particularly well.

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Cloud Strife takes a swing at one of the Shinra troops.

The characters have received a heavy graphical overhaul and some have been heavily redesigned. Barret specifically has seen many revisions in terms of his build and his outfit. It is nice to also see more attention given to Biggs, Wedge and Jesse of Avalanche. The environmental design of the Mako reactor and the streets of Midgar have seen some design changes, but still maintain a similar unsaturated steampunk aesthetic like its original counterpart.

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Cloud and Barret traversing the innards of the Shinra Mako reactor.

There are a few other interesting aspects of the trailer, but the visuals action oriented nature of the overall game play is what caught the most attention during its PSX presentation. After the presentation, Square-Enix issued a press release announcing that Final Fantasy VII Remake will not be presented as one game. It will be released in an episodic format and there were no details explaining how this would affect the game’s release and/or development initially. This revelation has worried critics and fans alike with speculation germinating from this known distribution method.

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Cloud crouches to squeeze through a hole in the wall.

In an interview with Dengeki Online, Square-Enix’s Yoshinori Kitase (Producer) and director Tetsuya Nomura (Director) both addressed the reason for breaking  up the remake into multiple parts. They stated that the scope of the game is ambitious and is more densely packed, which cannot be done with just one release.

The idea that a remake of Final Fantasy VII would not fit into a single release was there from the very beginning. We still can’t share more information about its multiple parts, but please look forward to future announcements…

…As you can see in the trailer, we showed Sector 1 and Sector 8, but in those areas alone, I think you can see a lot of density. When you’re remaking the entirety of the original version in that quality, it’s not possible to fit it all in one release.  ~Yoshinori Kitase (Producer, Square-Enix)

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Cloud looking forward after jumping off of the train at the reactor.

If we dedicated our time to a single release, parts of it would become condensed. We’d have to cut some parts, and additional parts would come in few, so rather than remake the game as a full volume, we decided to do multiple parts.  ~Tetsuya Nomura (Director, Square-Enix)

Even with this explanation, this announcement has been met with a mixed and heavily polarizing reception. It is far too soon to tell how this will affect the final release of Final Fantasy VII Remake. Nonetheless, many are concerned that this design choice may bode ill for this highly anticipated game.

 

For those who have yet to see the latest Final Fantasy VII Remake (PS4) game play trailer, here it is:

 

Thoughts From Rivera:

So far, I think the game looks impressive with the character redesigns offering some familiarity while making aesthetic improvements. It is also really interesting to see Cloud interacting with obstacles in the environment when trying to traverse it. The thing that has me the most intrigued is the combat system because of how fast paced it appears. It is hard to tell how much of it is action and how much of it is strategic – you can only discern so much from a few seconds of combat over which you have absolutely no agency. The whole episodic nature of the game’s eventual distribution is the only aspect of Final Fantasy VII Remake that sounds troubling to me. How is this game going be handled in a physical retail capacity? Will it simply be an digital download only release? There is still a bit of ambiguity surrounding this title and I hope that it becomes more clear in the coming months.

 

 

What do you think of these new FFVII Remake details? Let us know!

Unboxing: Sony Playstation 4 500GB Uncharted Bundle

Jon Rivera purchases a brand new Sony Playstation 4 system for coverage on the website. The particular SKU bought is the 500GB Nathan Drake collection bundle. This SKU sells at a MSRP of $349.99 ($299.99 during Black Friday/Cyber Monday). This unboxing shows all the contents in this specific console bundle.

Bundle/SKU contents:

  • x1 Playstation 4 500GB system with a black matte finish
  • x1 6″ power cord
  • x1 6″ HDMI cord
  • x1 Dual Shock 4 controller
  • x1 earbud and microphone communicator set
  • x1 Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection game

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Call of Duty: Black Ops III Gets Beta Release Date For Xbox One And PC

After much anticipation the next iteration of CoD Black Ops will be beta testing for both Xbox One and PC from August 26th- 30th. This is a few days after the conclusion of the PS4 beta which is August 19th-23rd.

Activision has decided to partner with Sony as opposed to Microsoft for this title and moving forward. Sony had built on the relationship made during the creation of Destiny. Adam Boyes, PlayStation VP of Publisher & Developer Relations, was personally invited to come preview the game by Activision. Saying:

“We fell in love instantly,” Boyes said describing the game as “transformative” for its various new features.

“As soon as I started playing it, I said, ‘This feels incredible! You can wallride!’ It’s just so smooth; it’s almost like poetic. And so obviously, we just continued talking with our partners at Activision and worked something out. And now we’ve got I think a great benefit to all the gamers.”

At this time there is no information available as to what will be available during this beta, which players will have to preorder a physical or digital copy to gain access to.

As with other Black Ops series this will include a Zombie mode called “Shadow of Evil”. The take on this, however, is very different to the past. Touted as being the deepest form yet, the star studded cast will include Jeff Goldblum, Heather Graham, Neal McDonough, Ron Perlman, and Robert Picardo. The setting is 1940s and our heroes have met under “mysterious circumstances” and wish to unravel the mysteries of the world. With other Easter Eggs have been announced to be in game, yet no details released, just to keep us guessing.

Beyond all this is something even better. Activision and and online charity donation site called Omaze have made a contest called the Call of Duty Endowment to get people to donate to help get veterans back into the work force here at home. For donations players will be drawn at random to have a chance to get their likeness in the game on some zombies as well as more chances to win prizes like a juggernaught mini fridge or even a walk-on-role on the set of a future game trailer filming if your willing to part with enough money.

The all important release date is slated for November 6th for PC, and current gen consoles. As well as PS3 and Xbox 360.

Lizard Squad Strikes Again

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After John Smedley lashed out at a Lizard Squad member for his conviction on over 50,000 counts of hacking, credit card fraud, and SWATting. Smedley’s works H1Z1 and PlanteSide 2 were seriously DDoS’d. Shortly after these events Lizard Squad made a series of posts on their Twitter account claiming responsibility and even going a bit farther.

Getting reports that the attack is affecting all Daybreak Game Company games. Hope you like our present John Smedley (the CEO). -July 9

H1Z1  -July 9

The only way we’ll forever hold our peace with John Smedley is if he travels to Krasnodar and bows down to zeekill. -July 10

John has acknowledged this issue and taken to Reddit to continue to express his disgust and disdane over the Finish Court’s ruling to give him a suspended sentence of only 2 years as well as the laundry list of acts committed against Smedley himself and his family.

“Now that he’s a convicted felon, he can’t claim first time status anymore,” Smedley said. “There’s no question he’s going to get his.”

As of writing this on J_Smedley Twitter posted that almost right after the servers went up another DDoS attack is hitting again, and not the first time today (June 10).

Solid State Romcast: The 6-20-15 Show

In this overblown Romcast, E3 happened. Jon and Matt welcome Leo from Gaming Bolt as they reflect on how crazy everything got with big reveals, known quantities and the like. There was a ton shown at this year’s trade show and the guys do their best to cover it all.

 


Solid State Romcast: 6-20-15 Show

 

 

Solid State Romcast Crew:

Jon “San Juan” Rivera – Host

Matt “Off” White – Cohost

Leonid “Leo” Melikhov from Gaming Bolt – Special Guest (video game journalist)

 

Music Credit:

Introduction Theme – Car Jack [2011 version] by Electric Children

Interlude No. 1 – Unknown Track A by ???

Interlude No. 2 – Unknown Track B by ???

Roundtable Theme – Pumped by RoccoW

Resolution Theme – Skip Sandwich DX By Electric Children

E3 2015 Sony Press Conference Analysis

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This year’s E3 has certainly been kicked off with some surprises, as well as pleasantly familiar franchise reentries. There has already been so much excitement and anticipation for what been shown so far, and the titles that Sony has presented at their press conference is no exception. The conference began with the obligatory introductory video showing clips from various titles including some not formally presented. The following is a breakdown and analysis of the Sony media briefing and everything presented therein.

 

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Starting things off with a BANG

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Shawn Layden, President and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America.

Following the introduction reel, Shawn Layden came out on stage as the main presenter and most certainly started the show with a show stopper. After some talk of how developers are crafting titles that push the envelope, he stuns the audience with an in-game look at The Last Guardian. This title, developed by Ico/Shadow of the Colossus directer Fumito Ueda at Studio Japan, has been in development for years and many had thought for a time that this entry would never see the light of day. However, this suspicion has been finally laid to rest after a vertical slice of game play was shown.

Exactly like the trailers for the title, the preview demo of The Last Guardian features a young boy and large creature that appears to be a cross between a large bird and K9. The environment is an old stone structure that looks to be abandoned, with pant life beginning to overtake this creation of man. The boy and the creature seem to have a very close relationship and this is conveyed through the game play, as the boy is seen calling out commands to said creature that yields interesting responses. The animal has a large roll in providing platforming avenues for the boy to progress through the environment. There is a mechanical emphasis placed on grabbing hold of the creature’s feathers and maintaining one’s grip like in Shadow of the colossus on top of maintaining balance when traversing thin beam-like platforms alla Ico.

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The creature desperately climbs a flimsy scaffold as the boy pushes a log forward in order to help it.

In terms of the visuals, The Last Guardian looks gorgeous. There appears to be the use of key frame animation for the sake of fluidity and can be seen at various moments during this build. Physics abound in a way that translate to complementing the look and feel of the game. This is mostly seen with the creature itself, as the dynamic wind makes its feathers sway back and forth. The game play is a small cluster of bare bones mechanics, much like those of both Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. The soundtrack, from what was played in the game, is very much in line with Ueda’s second game in the series. The Last guardian looks very interesting. Quite a bold move on Sony’s part to start the press conference in such a way, this was a bold tone to set for the rest of the show. The Last Guardian will launch in 2016.

 

New intellectual properties from storied developers

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Herman Hulst of Guerrilla Games, creator of the Killzone series, then announced and showed off an in-game glimpse of their brand new IP known as Horizon: Zero Dawn. The world of Horizon presents a post apocalyptic world where humans have reverted back to the tribal and/or nomadic ways of the past when hunting and gathering was a matter of necessity. The main protagonist speaks of a time long past when humans where at the apex of their potential, only to have it snuffed out by the machines. The world is in a state of decay or a state of rebirth.

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The main protagonist, a huntress and fighter, battles a large bipedal machine.

Horizon’s game play demo began after that cinematic introduction and then dove into a scenario where the main character is hunting a herd of machines that take the appearance of wild beasts like bipedal dinosaurs. This title has third person action/shooter mechanical trappings, with the freely rotating camera just behind the character’s back. There are some elements of stealth action as well, with the character seen crouching while maneuvering through a growth of fern like plants. She even uses this to engage in a stealth kill, which incapacitates one of the lesser smaller machines. This title is a fascinating one, but it is not without its problems. Something that is noticeable is some polygonal collision gaffes that occur when the protagonist is sneaking through shrubbery. Some of the growth will get caught on the model and then snap back like a rubber band. This may be intentional, as getting caught on certain types of foliage happens in reality, but the snap back to its original position in-game is too elastic. Also, There is a tonal inconsistency across the whole demonstration and this is mostly because of the voiced dialogue from the main heroin. The introduction is spoken in such a forlorn fashion that, when coupled with the music, forges a somber tone. It is a shame that this tone is almost completely undone by the dialogue in the playable demo, which features a myriad of tongue-in-cheek outbursts clash that with said established tone. This is very suspect because the in-game voicing is not attached to the character, as her lips never move when the dialogue ensues. Perhaps this was a late inclusion, but it may have been a poorly conceived one. For what it does to destroy the initial tone of Horizon, it does seem to serve as a form of player aid, telling him or her through the voice of the leading lady what to do, where to go, or where an enemy’s weak spots are. There was no official release date given for Horizon: Zero Dawn.

no mans sky

Sean Murray from Hello Games also came on stage to present No Man’s Sky. This game is a space flight combat simulator that focuses on exploration and pure discovery. This marks the first time at the E3 show where a live game play demo of this experimental science fiction title has been shown. This is also the first time that Murray has shown in real time just how large the universe truly is.

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A still from the E3 demonstration showing how the player can travel from one distant planet to the next.

The scope of this title is absolutely staggering. Hundreds upon hundreds of stars means there are quintillions upon quintillions of planets to explore. With all honesty, the demonstration was a bit dry, but the things that were shown answered quite a few important questions of how the game will play in  practice. It will feature trading, exploring, fighting and survival according to Murray. He stressed that there will be a more concrete release date given, but not at this time. All that is known is that No Man’s Sky will launch at some point in 2015.

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Alex Evans from Media Molecule unveiled their latest work known as Dreams. Dreams is a game creation suite that affords the user with many tools to create games, machinima and anything else the user desires. These experiences, interactive or not, will be interconnected with other ‘dream’ creations. This possibly could lend itself to online connectivity features that augment the offline experience in a dynamic and meaningful way. This is the next logical leap in progression for the creators of the Little Big Planet. There is no confirmed release for Media Molecule’s latest Dreams at this time.

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Just one of the many set pieces possible with Media Molecule’s Dreams.

Teaser trailers and big reveals also abound

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Agent 47 is back.

Asad Qizilbash took the stage and presented a few teasers to some franchise familiars and a new intellectual property. His first reveal was the Hitman remake/reboot by IO Interactive, which will feature exotic new locations and boasts a live and ever expanding world. It will see release on PS4 and PC and is going to be punctuated by a digital release. Gamers will have an exclusive beta on PS4 upon preordering the game. On top of this, Hitman will also have 6 extra missions exclusive to the PS4 version, which will roll out as DLC.

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Asad Qizilbash, Sony Computer Entertainment.

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Birdie is seen here posing with a pepper… Why??

Street Fighter 5 was also announced with a trailer showing veteran characters like M. Bison, Chun Li Cammy, Charlie and Ryu. There is a brand new character called Birdie who looks like the member of a biker gang, wearing a black leather jacket and rocking a blonde Mohawk. He uses long chain as a weapon. A playable beta will be available for those who preorder and it will launch on July 23. No exact release date has been given at this time.

Adam Boyes Hamming it up on stage!

Adam Boyes, previously of Capcom and currently of Sony Computer Entertainment of America, was handed the torch and tasked with dropping some more heavy hitting game announcements. One of them in particular was quite the bombshell. Firstly, Boyes announced what was and still is a forgone conclusion. Destiny will continue on with a brand new expansion. This upcoming addition is known as The Taken King.

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This new package comes with an all new mission campaign taking place interesting new locales. A feature seen in the trailer shows the new ability to bind weapons like what has been seen in some of the Elder Scrolls games. Also, infantry characters will now be able to fight airborne by using jet packs as seen in the later Halo: Reach. Destiny: The Taken king will launch for the PS4 on September 15, 2015. According to Boyes, it will have brand new gear, a multiplayer map and a “bad ass co-op strike.”

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Firewatch looks to be a very intriguing game.

There was surprise teaser trailer for an interesting game called Firewatch by Campo Santo. It is a first person title that features some odd pseudo cel shaded graphics with a heavily saturated color palette, giving an aesthetic akin to Far Cry 3 or Team Fortress 2. There are not many details on what the game’s story is, but it appears as though the player assumes the role of a park ranger of sorts. Also, the game seems to have some mystery and adventure elements. It features a strange yet interesting relationship between the lady on the radio and the main protagonist. Firewatch and will debut on PS4 first, but does not currently have a release date, though on the FAQ page for the official website the Campo Santo team would like for it to come out this year.

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You can play as both siblings in this upcoming Assassin’s Creed.

Also announced was Assassins Creed Syndicate, which features two playable characters from the outset, both being brother and sister. This new outing takes place in 19th century London. The trailer shows Evie taking on a group of men in what appears to be a warehouse or factory. The game places an emphasis on solving murder mysteries based on the writings of the great detective stories of the 1800s. The ps4 version will have an exclusive DLC package with added missions dubbed The Dreadful Crimes.

Absolutely adorable.

On the Square Enix front, there are two new projects being developed in Final Fantasy franchise. The first is called World of Final Fantasy. This is a cute and charming nostalgia trip of a Final Fantasy game that takes all of the characters, monsters and locations of games past and throws them into a blender, with adorable chibi super deformed depictions of all of the above for good measure. World of Final Fantasy will launch for PS4 and PS Vita at some point in 2016.

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Square Enix is finally remaking Final Fantasy VII!

The other Final Fantasy title announced was a bombshell of a reveal. It has been one biggest things that fans of the franchise new and old have begged for, but have never received. That is going to change, as Adam Boyes presented the trailer that had a familiar tune and logo. After some narration, some shots of a new Midgar, the reveal of Barret’s Gatling gun arm and Cloud’s Buster sword it became clear. Final Fantasy VII is officially being remade for the PS4. This is only a trailer with no game play, but it looks stunning from all vantage points. Considering what Square Enix has been achieving with Final Fantasy XV, the prospect of FFVII looks very promising. As the trailer stated, the promise has been made. Final Fantasy VII the remake will be available first on PS4, which may mean that it could be a timed exclusive. No release date for this title has been specified.

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This game looks like Hotline Miami in beat ’em up form!!

Changing gears, Boyes showed off some teasers of indie titles being developed through Devolver Digital. These titles include Ronin, which is a pulp style side scrolling action game. Another title known as Eitr is a pixel art rendered action RPG experience that looks as if it has the same mechanical trappings of the original Diablo. Mother Russia Bleeds is an over-the-top jingoistic beat ’em up that does not pull punches when it comes to its display of graphic violence. Crossing Souls is an action arcade style beat ’em up the appears to have a late 80s or early 90s aesthetic with its inclusion of intentionally poorly pigmented cartoon animated cutscenes. No release dates for these Devolver Digital titles have been specified as of yet.

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Yes, everyone… Shenmue 3 is coming.

This Devolver announcement, though interesting, served mostly as a breather between the heavyweight reveals. What was announced next was an even bigger surprise than the Final Fantasy VII remake. That much is not said lightly. When a video began to play with the song  called Sedge Tree, every true fan of the franchise it belongs to most certainly cried. For years, gamers from all over have waited to finish Ryo Hazuki’s quest to avenge the death of his father. Perhaps we all will have that chance. Yu Suzuki went on stage to announce that he intends to make Shenmue 3 and finish the sixteen chapter story of Ryo. He has started a Kickstarter campaign in order to raise the funds he needs in order to make this vision a reality. Only a day and a half has passed and the Kickstarter has already reached its funding goal. Shenmue 3 is coming, but there is no release date announced.

Project Morpheus and software support

Andrew House, President and Global CEO, Sony Computer Entertainment Inc.

Andrew House, President and Global CEO, Sony Computer Entertainment Inc.

Adam Boyes took his leave and handed the torch over to Andrew House (President and Global CEO, Sony Computer Entertainment Inc.), Who immediately got onto Project Morpheus. While talking about the developer support for this new device, a myriad of video clips were displayed to show how much support Sony has in store for Morpheus. House also announced a new IP called RIGS: Mechanized Combat League made by Guerrilla Cambridge. This is a shooter title with high stakes competitive play, supposedly taking full advantage of what Project Morpheus has to offer. Sony is poised to make this a legitimate MLG title, as seen with the overall presentation of the game thus far.

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RIGS: Mechanized Combat League showing off some slick visuals that will hopefully use the feature set of the Project Morpheus.

House also announced a new partnership with the one of the largest music distribution services, Spotify. Also Playstation Vue, The PS4’s streaming video and television service, is launching in San Francisco and Los Angeles as well.

Returning Franchises

Call of Duty: Black Ops III was also announced for the Playstation 4 and presents a revamped offline single player campaign that can be tackled by one’s lonesome or with up to three other friends through Playstation Network. This next COD installment also allows the player to customize his or her weapon load out before the next mission ensues, allowing for the player choose a preferable play style.

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Surprisingly enough, Activision is putting out another Call of Duty.

In terms of graphical style, this title is going to take place in the near future and is lending itself similarly to Advanced Warfare, as where troops will have to utilize fictional high powered weapons and will have to face off against large mechs in an urban combat theater. On top of this futuristic aesthetic, the game play allows for limited platforming mechanics that resemble those of Brink for the Xbox 360 with its SMARTS system.

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An interesting way to debut the new mission pack for Batman: Arkham Knight.

Other mentions include the Batman: Arkham Knight Scarecrow Nightmare Missions, which launch next week exclusively for the PS4 on June 23. The Star Wars brand will be joining the Disney Infinity subplatform with a new slew of missions along with new Infinity figures based off the Star Wars franchise of characters. Boba Fett will be available only through the special limited edition PS4 Star Wars Disney Infinity Edition 3.0 starter pack when it launches.

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Battlefront looks great and smooth.

After the Disney Infinity announcement, Patrick Bach of DICE took the floor and went on to introduce a quick look at the upcoming Star Wars Battlefront. The vertical slice demonstration shown this E3 looks very impressive graphically. The game play looks airtight and fluent as well. However, the battle did not feel quite as chaotic as what one would experience playing Battlefront 2. However, this is simply a display of the game in action. Also, it looks like the team at DICE a taking few liberties by equipping the rebels with jet packs, but if it elevates the play style possibilities then it will be a moot complaint. The music and sound design is more than appropriate for a Star Wars licensed title and you can tell that the Frostbite 3 engine is being muscled for all its worth.

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For the graphical splendor of Uncharted 4, no one can forget this technical snafu.

The last real demonstration show at this year’s E3 Sony press conference was Naughty Dog’s Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. It is unfortunate that it began with a false start. Nobody knows what happened, but after the introduction passed and control was given to the performer Nathan stood idle for two minutes before the demo restarted abruptly. It was an odd technical gaffe and it is assumed that the controller being used ran out of power, or something to that effect. Regardless, the issue was resolved and the demo started once again and it was rife with action joyride set pieces. Not only does this title look absolutely gorgeous, but there is also a heavy emphasis on the use of physics, which just adds to the believability of this game. As Nathan gets shot at and traverses the environment filled with all sorts of props and relevant objects, they fly, collide and fall with the utmost realism. There is a driving section that exposes the lack of realistic car specific physics, but also shows the presence of multiple paths that do not necessarily funnel to the same end goal. It is quite impressive and the way that the non-playable character Sully banters with Drake is delightfully organic. Despite the rocky start, this Uncharted 4 demonstration impressed in the end.

Final thoughts and impressions

The sheer amount of content in the various areas of live demos, trailers and large reveals shown at this media briefing was simply staggering. Professionally and personally speaking, expectations were not particularly high for this press conference simply because Sony had stated that the lineup for this year was going to be sparse. While this much can be debated, Sony clearly conserved its ammunition to blow members of the press and retail away Resident Evil style. It was solid enough to see more of the titles made by the smaller development studios like Hello Games, Media Molecule and Campo Santo. However, the fact that Guerrilla is taking risks with Horizon: Zero Dawn is quite intriguing and the same goes for RIGS: Mechanized Combat League.

No Man’s Sky Still impresses with its massive scope and is still quite awe inspiring to see in action. However, seeing The Last Guardian, the Final Fantasy VII remake and Shenmue 3 blew me away. Starting with Fumito Ueda’s title was incredibly bold and shows just how intent Sony is on attaining and maintaining their foothold in the industry. It is good to see the company trying to keep the PS4’s software identity as interesting as possible. Just looking at how this media briefing panned out, 2015 and 2016 are looking great for Sony. This year could possibly be a solid retort to the amazing year in gaming that was 1998.

Hardware Analysis: PlayStation 4

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Foreword

The Launch of a new generation of consoles is always an exciting time. Executives will give presentations at E3 showing off the feature set, hardware power and launch titles in an attempt to talk up their console as the undisputed victor of the new generation. The gaming industry has been around long enough with its eight generations for us to have seen everything. There was a point in time, years ago now, where consoles were individually unique and each had their own advantages and quirks which would not only make the purchasing decision a difficult one for consumers but would also seemingly endow the systems with their own personalities.

Today that’s not so true. Of the three one could only argue that the WiiU has it’s own personality and niche. While it’s sales haven’t been stellar there is something to be said for going your own way popular trends be damned. As for the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One the lines become more blurred. I’m not sure when exactly the homogenization of consoles became a thing but I think it had its roots in the Dreamcast, the first really modern console and especially the first Xbox with its use of modified off the shelf consumer hardware.

 

PlayStation 4

Sony’s 4th console release builds on a the same set of core design themes that have carried all PlayStations to commercial success. The biggest of which is a focus on multimedia functionality and making the PlayStation more than just a console.

Background

Sony’s 4th console is less of a revolution like it’s ancestor and more of what we saw with the PS2 and PS3, a deliberate evolution and refinement over previous models with the goal of keeping what made the PlayStation great and just improving on that. To continue accomplish this goal we see the return of a lot of core features such as the familiar Dual Shock type controller and an emphasis on not just being a gaming console but being an all around entertainment device for the living room.

Sony began development of the PS4 only two years after the release of the PS3 in 2008 in order to prevent the delays that plagued the PS3 from afflicting the PS4. By 2012 early  dev units were being sent out to developers and the console was officially announced at E3 2013 with the first markets releasing units that November.

During the development phase Sony worked closely with AMD to develop an x86 based APU to power the PS4 in order to improve the ease of game development. Something the PS3 suffered from early on due to its complicated cell architecture. Sony also worked with Bungie to work on updates to the dual shock controller family to make it better suited to FPS titles, another area that the PS3 had been weak in compared to the Xbox 360.

The end result gave Sony a much cheaper platform to manufacture with a straightforward architecture, much like the original PlayStation, that avoids many of the mistakes of the PS3.

Design

Sony’s console design approach has always been a consistent effort to make the PlayStation resemble its intended use as a multimedia device. From the very beginning, the PlayStation has resembled contemporary home theater appliances while also having a distinct and modern look. The PlayStation 4 continues this theme with a hybrid gloss/matte black finish and sharp angled lines. I think it Looks nice.

It's hard to deny the PS4 looks good

It’s hard to deny the PS4 looks good

 

Hardware

While the PS4’s industrial design is consistent with it’s lineage, under the hood is a different matter entirely. Gone is the expensive and complicated PowerPC Cell processor of the PS3. Now we have a much more conservative and conventional approach using an AMD sourced APU (Accelerated Processing Unit).

CPU

At the heart of the APU is an AMD Jaguar architecture CPU, or rather two of them. Jaguar is AMD’s current low-end/low-power architecture and has been on sale since mid-2013. Jaguar processors are at the most quad core devices and here Sony has taken the design a step further, instead of one quad core processor we have two arranged in a similar fashion to Intel’s early Core 2 Quad desktop CPUs with two separate cores on the same processor die.

APUs provide a distinct advantage to earlier solutions that involve discrete physical processors and chips. By taking these seperate components and placing them on the same die you can greatly reduce heat and power consumption but also connect the elements on their own internal bus that frees up the main system bus for other duties and reduces overall system latency.

A diagram of a single Jaguar compute unit (CU)

A diagram of a single Jaguar compute unit (CU)

Each Quad core processor is broken into a “compute unit” (CU) which consists of the individual cores as well as the L2 cache and interface. The 4 cores share a 2MiB level 2 cache and each have 32KiB of instruction cache and 32KiB of data cache. Jaguar cores, like all modern processors are full superscalar, feature out-of-order and speculative execution in order to increase parallelization and improve overall performance.

Jaguar features many improvements over AMD's previous Bulldozer architecture

Jaguar features many improvements over AMD’s previous Bulldozer architecture

Both CU’s run at a base 1.6Ghz and can throttle to an undisclosed higher clockspeed although there has been speculation it goes up as high as 2.5Ghz and as low as 1.9Ghz.

 

GPU

The GPU is as expected based on the Radeon GCN architecture that is found in consumer Jaguar APUs. Codenammed Liverpool, the GPU features 1152 Unified Shaders at a clock speed of 800Mhz. Being based on the GCN family Liverpool shares many features with AMD’s current 2xx line of consumer GPUs such as the HSA “zero-copy” Unified memory plan and support for AMD’s Mantle API.

Specs Shortlist:

  • 1152 Unified Shaders
  • 72 Texture Mapping Units
  • 32 Render Output Units
  • 800Mhz Core Clock Speed
  • 1.84 TeraFLOPS peak theoretical power
  • 25.6 GP/s maximum pixel fillrate
  • 57.6 GT/s maximum texture fillrate
  • 256bit wide GDDR5 bus with 176 GB/s bandwidth*
*note the PS4 uses a unified 8GiB of GDDR5 for both the CPU and GPU

In terms of overall performance Liverpool compares closest to the AMD 265 which is an updated Radeon 7850. The 265 also has a peak processing power of 1.84 TeraFLOPS and has similar texture and pixel fillrate as well as 179.s GB/s memory bandwidth.

 Conclusion

The PS4 is form Sony’s perspective a great improvement over the PS3. It’s cheaper to manufacture, didn’t have hardware delays, is easy to develop for and naturally continues the theme of newer consoles being more powerful and having more features but that doesn’t tell the whole story. it actually took me awhile to finish this article. Not because information was hard to find or anything like that, but because it was hard to motivate myself to write about such a boring topic. The Ps4’s spec sheet reads more like a cheap pc build on PcPartPicker.com then a dedicated  gaming machine. Both the PS4 and Xbox One suffer from this, they just aren’t interesting to talk about. Not to mention that relative to when they came out they aren’t nearly as impressive as the previous consoles were. The Ps3 and 360 were actually fairly powerful even by PC standards when they came out, I can not say the same for this generation. But the biggest problem by far, and this is outside the scope of this article and not just limited to the PS4, is there aren’t enough good games available for these consoles. 2014 was a parade of over hyped games that either didn’t deliver (Destiny) or games that didn’t work at all (Watchdogs, Assassin’s Creed Unity).

 

Solid State Romcast: The 4-23-15

While the Romcast crew shed a tear over what has happened to Star Wars Battlefront made by EA DICE. After that, Jon beams about No Man’s Sky and how it could cement the notion of a space flight combat sim genre’s revival. Matt obsesses over the indie real time tactics game Kaiju A-Go-Go and Jon laughes at the theme song and the presence of Jet Jaguar. The guys close it out with a talk about micro transactions and how they have been abused in games. Enjoy!


Solid State Romcast: The 4-23-15 Show

Solid State Romcast Crew:

Jon “San Juan” Rivera – Host

Matt “Off” White – Cohost

Music Credit:

Introduction Theme – Car Jack [2011 version] by Electric Children

Interlude No. 1 – Unknown Track A by ???

Interlude No. 2 – Unknown Track B by ???

Roundtable Theme – Pumped by RoccoW

Resolution Theme – Skip Sandwich DX By Electric Children

No Man’s Sky Exact Release Date Still In Question, Sony Employee Reassures And Teases The Masses

no mans sky

With Hello Games’ upcoming title No Man’s Sky slated for launch sometime this year (2015), There has been very little new information pertaining to this timed exclusive for Playstation 4. The game’s development is headed by Sean Murray who used to work at Criterion of Burnout fame. After having already created a few games in the Joe Danger franchise, Hello Games has been laboring on the title for more than two years now, with the first glimpse of it being shown at the VGX award show hosted by Geoff Keighley in 2013.

For anyone who is not familiar with this game, No Man’s Sky is mechanically a 3D space flight combat game that has an intense emphasis on exploration and discovery that characterizes most adventure games. While most games in the genre have established universes and lore, NMS procedurally generates everything within the universe from the locations of celestial bodies to the geographic properties of every planetary system. The gaming community has seen game with procedural generation of entities, but nothing that has been on this scale.

Fleet

A still of the space faring nature of No Man’s Sky.

Despite the lack of a pinpointed release date or any more information on the various features in NMS, the Sony employee Shahid Kamal Ahmad has been dropping posts on Twitter talking about how incredible he thinks the title is thus far.

“Whenever I think of ‘No Man’s Sky,’ whenever I see it, whenever I hear about it, one word comes to mind every time: WOAH!”  ~Shahid Kamal Ahmad (Sony Computer Entertainment America)

It is highly suspect whether or not he knows the exact day in which No Man’s Sky will launch. However, his tweets do insinuate that he may know the date. Someone on Twitter who asked about the release date received this in respones:

“You know full well I will not answer that.”  ~Shahid Kamal Ahmad (Sony Computer Entertainment America)

Diplo

One glimpse of a procedurally generated planet that supports organic life.

With gamers looking for the valiant return of the 3D space flight combat simulation in the AAA stratosphere, the community is ever eager to know when this new title will see the light of day. Unfortunately, the masses will have to wait for now.

Weekly Mailbag: 3-28-15 Edition

In this SSG mailbag installment I have found some pretty cheap deals on some PS2, SMS and NES titles:

-Zone of the Enders [PS2]
-Shadow of the Colossus [PS2]
-Teddy Boy [SMS]
-Journey to Silius [NES]

 

 

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