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Halo 5 forge still to come; releases in late December

Halo 5 is now available on Xbox One and with a flood of positive reviews showering 343 Industries and Microsoft with praise, there’s still some more to come — especially for fans of custom games.

Forge mode is due for a December “holiday break” release and is poised to offer the most in-depth and intuitive player creation tool ever included in a contemporary triple-A game.

While 343i is dedicated to pushing out more free, developer-quality maps for use in the online multiplayer, fans will be able to make maps in a fashion more closely aligned with the developers own process.

Josh Holmes took to Halo Waypoint to describe what they were going for and how they wanted to build on Halo 4’s forge.

“The creativity of the Forge community knows no bounds and our goal was to give them more power and control than ever before. We wanted to remove as many constraints as possible so they can create high quality maps that rival the ones that we are shipping with the game.” – JoshingtonState, Halo Waypoint

Improved controls, better magnet between objects, and multi-select capabilities are among some of the improvements to the system.

Since Forge was introduced in Halo 3 creators would be given a cap on how many assets could be used with dollar values assigned to each object. That changes in Halo 5. Players will now get a greater idea of how they’re using resources with a “multi-budget system.”

Multiple budgets based on real engine systems; max object counts, memory, etc. This means when placing something like a large terrain piece, its large texture will only eat into the memory budget once, and additional same/similar pieces will only use up the object count budget because their shared texture is already loaded.”

The amount of variety now is remarkable. Simple lighting changes can drastically alter the atmosphere of maps and combined with the new Forge canvases — similar to the Halo Reach forge world — reusing the same environment still offers a great amount of diversity.

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Xbox 360 to Xbox One Backwards compatibility confirmed for November 12

What most considered was the biggest deciding factor in the winner of E3, backwards compatibility of 100+ Xbox 360 games to the Xbox One is finally nearing a full release.

While preview members have been benefited to seeing it over the last few months, the amount of games has been fairly slim, but games like Mirror’s Edge, Burnout Paradise and Halo: Reach will be some of the new titles that preview members have yet to revisit through backwards compatibility.

It was revealed by Phil Spencer at the Halo 5 launch event that November 12 would be the official day that all Xbox One gamers would get access to their old Xbox 360 games.

Xbox One 360 backwards compatibility
The current top Xbox 360 games requested for backwards compatibility on Xbox Uservoice.

The exact list of which games are coming has yet to be revealed, but Microsoft has been asking fans through their Xbox Uservoice system which games they would like most. The Xbox team simply waits for the go-ahead from developers and then ports the game through an Xbox 360 emulator.

Games like Red Dead Redemption, Skyrim, Call of Duty: Black Ops II, and more are potential titles on the way. However, Microsoft will be primarily focusing on their own first party games and IPs.

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Making sense of Microsoft’s recent controversial news

As of late Microsoft and the Xbox division have had some controversial news surrounding them.

Here’s a quick recap of what’s happened and a reasonable thought process making Microsoft’s decisions seem less crazy.

First is a major change to Xbox Live’s staff —

Eric Neustadter, one of the guys who made Xbox Live awesome serving as an architect for the platform left Microsoft.

Over his 14+ year career, most notably as Xbox Live’s main architect, Neustadter was a great asset making Xbox Live what it is today, but the online service has been running generally smoothly since the Xbox 360 and the platform has been stable enough where those around him can continue to keep the service at a high quality level without Neustadter being around.

Yeah, Microsoft has had some DDoS problems and other minor issues, but the Xbox Live service is generally reliable — plus free games are always cool, eh? (Except you Pool Nation FX.)

Next issue!

For the entire life of Xbox Microsoft has always reported and measured the success of their consoles through sales numbers and the amount of consoles shipped.

Friday it was revealed that Microsoft would be taking a different approach — using Xbox Live subscribers to measure success.

Microsoft’s decision to use Xbox Live membership rather than sales is said to be done to measure “active users.” People that have turned on their consoles and signed in within the last month are the only ones included in that metric. It’s done primarily because Xbox 360 sales are declining with the new generation in full swing and showing active users makes them look better. (The only thing gripe I have is that they could still just show Xbox One sales specifically instead of packaging it in with the 360.)

What else?

A little less than a month ago, Phil Spencer commented saying that Xbox doesn’t need to catch the PS4 to be considered a success.

This is technically true considering the Xbox has objectively been a success from Microsoft’s stand point. They make a f*** ton of money from it and it’s generally viewed positively by those that play on it. From a financial perspective it kind of makes less sense though to be okay with stagnating, but Spencer is definitely correct saying they’ll be okay if they aren’t ahead of the PS4 by the end of this console generation.

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Four great games that will be overshadowed this holiday season

The 2015 holiday season is shaping up to be one of the most exciting ever with games like Star Wars Battlefront, Halo 5, Call of Duty Black Ops 3, and Fallout 4 on the way. But this huge surge of incredible AAA games on Xbox One, PS4, and PC is making the market tough for other games to record a more than solid Q4.

The aforementioned games may very well be fantastic, but there are others coming that would be top selling games any other year. Here are just a few that gamers can’t forget about.

Just Cause 3

Avalanche Studios seems to have finally perfected the Just Cause formula over the nine years the series has existed. Just Cause 3 (which I got the change to play at NY Comic Con) takes a good look at what fans of the franchise have loved and turns them into more refined features.

The first Just Cause game was on the fringe of being a good game with solid ideas that were made infinitely better in Just Cause 2. The sequel offered better grappling hook mechanics, more destruction in the environment, and a larger world.

And this upcoming third game? It offers better grappling hook mechanics (three-way grappling hook), more destruction (fully destroyable bridges, refineries, and more), and a larger world… and a new feature to keep the gameplay fresh and evolving. A wing-suit has been introduced and in conjunction with the parachute and grappling hook players can virtually fly — pulling themself across the terrain as they glide by.

Just Cause 3 launches December 1 on Xbox One, PS4, and PC retailing at $59.99.

Assassin’s Creed Syndicate

Ubisoft has bordered on the line of oversaturating the market with Assassin’s Creed games, but the quality of them is (normally) worthy of being mentioned in this list. Syndicate brings a slightly darker feel to the excellent Assassin’s Creed engine running things.

Now set in Victorian London just as the industrial revolution changes the landscape of western society, Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate looks to have an interesting narrative taking on another setting seldom explored in gaming. Despite the enjoyment fans of the series surely will find in it, this is a prime game to miss it’s target sales numbers (especially considering gamers seem to be growing tired of the year-after-year releases of the games).

Assassin’s Creed Syndicate launches October 23 on Xbox One, PS4, and PC.

Rainbow Six: Siege

Though the recent beta has done a decent job creating some excitement for the first Rainbow Six game since Vegas 2 back in 2008, Rainbow Six: Siege is flying relatively under the radar despite it bringing back the classic realistic/intense style of the franchise to the new generation.

Rainbow Six thrives around player communication and strategy, and gamers looking for something that contrasts to the casual Call of Duty/Battlefield games. Rainbow Six is not a game in position to reach the same level as those games sales-wise simple because of the nature of the game, but any other year this game could be a top 3 game being sought after by way more gamers.

Rainbow Six: Siege is coming to Xbox One, PS4, and PC on December 1.

Rise of the Tomb Raider

Microsoft was banking on Rise of the Tomb Raider giving it an advantage in exclusives this holiday season, but with so many multi-platform titles it’ll be tough for Tomb Raider to make a significant dent in the market. There’s no question though that the quality of the game will be fantastic. Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition currently available on Xbox One offers one of the best most exciting narratives.

The adventure game has been a consistent icon in gaming — especially with it’s prevalence on the PlayStation 1, and Microsoft would have struck gold if this game was not poised to be overshadowed by other games this holiday season.

Rise of the Tomb Raider releases November 10 with timed exclusivity on Xbox One.


Which of these games are you looking forward to the most during this holiday season?

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“The truth” gets closer with new Halo 5 launch trailer

343 Industries and Microsoft have been constructing a masterful ad campaign with “Hunt The Truth” — a collection of various hints and teasers regarding the Halo 5 story leading up to the full release of the game in late October.

Now, “the truth” feels as close as it could be with the latest Halo 5 Launch trailer showing off more of the conflict between Master Chief and the people that previously heralded him as the hero of mankind. The new co-protaganist Spartan Locke and his squad will have a massive role in subduing Chief and Blue Team.

Where most Halo trailer purely stick to the iconic theme music and style that Halo has built up over it’s 14 year long life, 343i changes things up with a song in this Halo 5 trailer. The second half of the video has Muse, Knights of Cydonia playing over an assortment of gameplay clips and other badass moments from the campaign.

Halo 5 releases in two weeks — October 27 — exclusively on Xbox One. Microsoft is also launching a limited edition Xbox One bundle shipping with a 1TB Spartan Locke stylized console, controller, and a Steel Book containing a digital download of Halo 5: Guardians along with some small in-game extras.

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PlayStation 4 is finally $349

Early holiday for gamers

It was only a matter of time before Sony delivered the proverbial slice in its flagship console’s price tag from its debut price of $400 to Microsoft’s competing $349 mark.

John Koller, Vice President of Platforms Marketing for Sony Computer Entertainment America, announced the console’s first price cut Thursday on the PlayStation.Blog:

“Since the launch of PS4, we have been thrilled with the amount of gamers jumping into the world of PlayStation for the first time. If you haven’t made the jump yet, and you’re starting early on your holiday wish list, I have good news – we’re dropping the price of the PlayStation 4 system in the U.S. and Canada. Starting tomorrow, October 9, you’ll be able to pick up PS4 starting at the new price of $349.99 USD / $429.99 CAD (MSRP).”

This move is geared toward continuing Sony’s reign atop the consoles sales with a slew of interesting holidays bundles hitting shelves in November, some of which include Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection Bundle (10/9), Limited Edition Call of Duty Black Ops III 1 TB Bundle, and of course, the mecca of PS4 bundles, Star Wars Battlefront Bundle.

However, if you want to obtain the limited edition Star Wars bundle, which includes the Darth-Vader themed console and DualShock 4, you will still have to shell out $399. But let’s be honest, do you want to argue with the Sith Lord over prices?

PlayStation 4 dominance

The PS4 is simply on fire, currently holding 50 percent of the console market. It has shipped over 25 million units as of July 31 and outsold Xbox in August for the fourth consecutive month. In fact, the PS4 has sold more than the Xbox and Wii U combined.

Xbox head Phil Spencer admitted in an interview with Videogamer, he’s unsure if Xbox could ever catch the PS4.

“You know, the length of the generation… They have a huge lead and they have a good product. I love the content, the games line-up that we have.”

As of October, PS4 console sales are estimated at 25.4 million, passing the original Xbox which sold 24 million worldwide.

Last year, Microsoft marketed the Kinect-less Xbox One for the holiday season as $349 and made the price permanent in January. But although the price change boosted sales for Microsoft, it did not slow down the PS4.

Sony has sold the PS4 for $399 since its launch.

It’s also interesting to note the differences between this generation and last generation.

The Xbox 360 launched with two separate versions — Core ($299) and 20GB model ($399) as well as Sony — $20GB ($499) and 60 GB ($599) — which was a bit pricey.

Xbox proceeded to create Arcade, Pro and Elite versions, each with new price tags. Meanwhile, PlayStation 3 received its first real price cut three in a half years after its launch when Sony introduced the PlayStation 3 Slim 120 GB for $299.

Sony put all its money into its launch and it seems what looked like an interesting race two years ago has turned into a lopsided affair. With the Black Ops III beta being “the most successful beta in the history of the PS4” and an exclusive Star Wars Battlefront bundle being offered only on the PlayStation brand, you can bet PlayStation’s owner base will grow over the holidays.

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Microsoft keeps rolling out Xbox One bundles — this time with Fallout 4

Fallout 4’s upcoming release is as highly anticipated as any game, and Microsoft is looking to cash-in with a new Xbox One bundle offering a 1 TB console, Fallout 4 download code, and a Fallout 3 download code (through backwards compatibility).

Backwards compatibility is making it easier for Microsoft to offer more enticing bundles.
Backwards compatibility is making it easier for Microsoft to offer more enticing bundles.

The bundle will release the same day as Fallout 4 (November 10, 2015) and is currently available for pre-order on Amazon, Microsoft’s official store, and other retailers.

This console will likely be the last bundles to release with the original Xbox user interface. The new Xbox One experience (NXOE) will be rolling out to all Xbox One owners in November.

The Fallout 4 package deal is the latest in a recent stretch of bundle announcements from Microsoft. Right now there are eight+ varying Xbox One console choices each offering different games, storage sizes, and other peripherals. The Fallout 4 bundle joins the Halo 5, Forza 6, Gears of War Ultimate Edition, FIFA 16, Madden NFL 16, LEGO Movie, and two multiple-game-package consoles currently available at retailers.

Something to take note of is only one of these eight offers includes the kinect. Since Phil Spencer has taken charge at Microsoft the body/head tracking and microphone has rapidly been phased out as the primary advertised choice — and with the $150 difference between the cheapest kinect console and the cheapest kinect-less console it very much makes sense.

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Microsoft Studios making all paid DLC free on Project Spark

After two years under a free-to-play model, Microsoft Studios and Team Dakota have elected to switch their model for Project Spark to a completely open creation system. Project Spark has been a bastion of creativity on the Xbox One and Windows 8.1 (and up) but was stymied by paywalls that restricted the full use of much of the content that the game offered.

In the next update those paywalls will be gone and a greater variety of content will likely stream through, but it looks like the elimination of those paywalls will halt production of content from Team Dakota. Conker’s Big Reunion’s episodic style content releases will be ended. The dev team is hoping fans will step up and complete the story without their help.

“Microsoft will pivot from producing DLC and active feature development to encouraging more user generated content and opening the Project Spark experience.” – Project Spark official

While the big news of the update is the free content coming to players, there are also new assets included as well with 46 packs totaling 2000+ individual assets.

Project Spark is an open-world sandbox game with a heavy focus on user creation and content sharing. Games can vary from something extremely simple like tic-tac-toe to something incredibly complex like full-featured first-person shooters, RPGs, and other games.

The update will be rolling out October 5 to current owners.

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Xbox One’s new user interface will soon be rolling out to preview members

Microsoft’s Xbox One has long been plagued users with slow load times across the user interface, but since June those on the Xbox team have been promising big things with a redesigned user interface designed to match and beat the speed and efficiency of the Xbox 360.

At E3 Microsoft had shown off a bit of their progress and the new interface displayed a massive improvement in time spent on completing simple tasks like accessing a friends list, starting a party, sending a message, and other tasks.

Now that work is finally going to be put into practice for many Xbox One gamers as preview program members are scheduled to begin getting invites to the new UI “next week.”

The interface does away with the prominent home-screen tile system that launched on the Xbox One, and instead offers greater integration with the console’s social features linking to the game hub of whatever the last game you’re playing and listing friends currently playing.

Home_US_3P
The original Xbox One interface matching the Windows 8 tiled-layout style.

One of the hallmark features is an improved snap guide that aids in making those basic tasks as fast possible.

The snap guide is designed to rival the functionality of the Xbox 360 guide.

The Xbox division has been building up to this fall since the start of this year with a variety of high-profile titles scheduled to release — including Xbox One‘s exclusive Halo 5.

This “new Xbox experience” is just one major keynote in a second half chock full of announcements for Microsoft.

The new UI will be rolling out in small increments to preview members with the most active members in providing feedback getting the update earliest.

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Digital gaming is on the rise; up 11% in August

Digital gaming is the future — or perhaps digital gaming is the present. As the disc-based, physical model of video games continues to shrink with the new digital-heavy approach of the Xbox One and PS4 it’s no surprise to see each month the market continue to expand.

SuperData‘s recent analysis shows nearly a billion dollars (exactly $979 million) were spent on digital games in the month of August — an 11% increase from where it was just one year ago.

PC gamers have been a steady source of revenue for digital gaming for many years even before the Xbox One and PS4 consoles with online stores like Steam and Origin.

PC gamers and console gamers accounted for $250 million of the $979 million and with many major titles like Fallout 4, Halo 5, Call of Duty: Black Ops, and more on the way, it’s a fairly safe bet to make this number is only going to go up.

SuperData suggests that this could be the biggest holiday-season yet for the digital gaming industry.

The latest Apple TV also comes into play a bit, and despite the excitement some may have for the additional gaming features in the console the limitations of the platform is far too great for it to take any sizeable chunk of the market.

SuperData explains that “…mobile gamers are just that: they prefer to play on their smartphone or tablet and are ultimately much less likely to switch to a large screen in their living room.”

The expectations for the Apple TV as a gaming console should be set very low. There is a slim-to-none threat of the platform threatening even Nintendo’s WiiU console let alone the major Xbox One, PS4, or PC gaming platforms.

Overall, gaming as a whole is in a fantastic place as a medium with the launch of YouTube Gaming helping popularity stay on it’s skyrocketing pace along with twitch.tv merging the video and interactive media together.