Category: Xbox

Microsoft Studios – Current projects list (July 2015)

July 2015 Edition

Please note with Microsoft’s Gamescom conference in early August (likely Tuesday 4th, but don’t hold me to that), I will be holding off on the August Edition until after that show

First-party studios:

  • 343 Industries – Halo 5: Guardians (Xbox One) / Halo: The Master Chief Collection updates (Xbox One)
  • Big Park – Entertainment and sports apps (Xbox One)
  • Decisive Games – Unannounced strategy game
  • [Fun]ction Studios – Hololens development
  • Good Science Studio – Hololens development
  • Lift London – Touch Devices Project / 3 unknown projects
  • Lionhead Studios – Fable Legends (Xbox One/PC) / New IP
  • LXP – Hololens development
  • Mojang – Minecraft (PC/Mobile/Hololens)
  • Press Play – Unannounced new project
  • Rare –  Sea of Thieves (Xbox One/PC) / RareReplay (Xbox One)
  • Team Dakota – Project Spark (Xbox One/PC)
  • The Coalition – Gears of War 4 (Xbox One) / Gears of War Ultimate Edition (Xbox One/PC)
  • Twisted Pixel – “AAA” game
  • Turn10 – Forza Motorsport 6 (Xbox One)

Second party studios (publishing relationships or contract work): (more…)

“The best line-up in Xbox history”

Microsoft have rather boldly stated that their 2015 line-up represents the best in Xbox history, PR should be taken as it is and they’re always likely to say that but I wanted to look into their statement and see how it competes to what I consider to be the best time in Xbox history which was the same time in the Xbox 360s life-cycle, the second full year after launch: 2007, huge year for gaming and Xbox in general.

Here is 2015 in full:

  • Screamride (Frontier Developments) 06/03
  • Ori and the Blind Forest (Moon Studios) – 11/03
  • State of Decay: Year One Survival Edition (Undead Labs) – 28/04
  • Halo 3: ODST (343 Industries/Ruffian Games) – 30/05 [Halo MCC DLC]
  • Rare Replay (Rare) – 04/08
  • Gigantic (Motiga) – August
  • Gears of War Ultimate Edition (The Coalition/Splash Damage) – 25/08
  • Forza Motorsport 6 (Turn10 Studios) – 15/09
  • Halo 5 Guardians (343 Industries) – 27/10
  • Rise of the Tomb Raider (Crystal Dynamics) – 10/11
  • Fable Legends (Lionhead Studios) – “Holiday 2015”

The year started off a bit slow for them despite 3 launches around March/April, Ori and the Blind Forest is a fantastic game which will take some competing with to be their best game of the year but never the less, it was well supported by the mid-tier Screamride and remaster of their 2013 hit State of Decay.

From early August though Microsoft have thrown gaming budgets out of the window with some great remasters in Rare Replay and Gears of War Ultimate Edition along with 5 entirely new games which focus around all of their big franchises with a side helping of Gigantic and Tomb Raider, a new (timed) exclusive to the stable.

I think this line-up is certainly great if you like Xbox, perhaps it could have done with being spread out a bit better during the year but games need to be given the right amount of time in the oven to fulfil their potential and I think it will do big numbers for them this holiday. The only thing I think is missing is a new AAA IP, Ori, Screamride and Gigantic are new but not in that AAA space so much. Quantum Break was originally intended to be that game in the line-up but has been moved to early 2016 to give it a bit of room to breathe and for that game it’s definitely the right choice. The biggest game for Microsoft is undoubtedly Halo 5 Guardians in October and that will be a huge release for them but overall its a great line-up.

But how does it compare to 2007? Looking at the line-ups, Microsoft include Tomb Raider, a third-party exclusive in their line-up so I think Lost Planet and Bioshock should be included too, given they were the same sort of deals:

  • Lost Planet (Capcom) – January [Western Release]
  • Fusion Frenzy 2 (Hudson Soft) – January
  • Crackdown (Realtime Worlds) – February
  • Forza Motorsport (Turn10 Studios) – May
  • Shadowrun (FASA Interactive) – May
  • Bioshock (Irrational Games) – August
  • Blue Dragon (Mistwalker/Artoon) – August [Western release]
  • Halo 3 (Bungie) – September
  • Project Gotham Racing 4 (Bizarre Creations) – October
  • Viva Piñata Party Animals (Krome Studios) – October
  • Scene It? Lights Camera Action (Screenlife/WXP) – November
  • Mass Effect (Bioware Corp) – November

A massive line-up of 12 titles, even if you were to take away the third-party exclusives it’s still a massive line-up with something for everyone, new IPs, reboots, sequels and spin-offs, it had literally everything and would be very difficult to top but Microsoft are certainly trying.

For me 2007 does come out in front, it was such a huge year and looking at the sort of franchises that were birthed or brought great sequels to the table in that year it was one of the biggest in gaming for releases ever.

2015 might not quite be able to top 2007 which was an insane year but it’s certainly not far off and just goes to show the incredible line-ups Xbox consoles have had in the past and have to look forward to as well. The Xbox 360s early years, whether through exclusives by default due to the late launching PS3 or Microsoft’s own line-up was a fantastic console.

Both Xbox 360 and One had a large amount of exclusives at launch and had slightly less from Microsoft before the next holiday in between but I’m going to go on record and say I think 2016 may be the year that will topple 2007 from the summit of Xbox history, we know quite a few things that are intending to release there already and much like 2007 brings new IPs galore to the platform with some sequels as well:

2016:

  • Quantum Break (Remedy Entertainment) – Early 2016
  • ReCore (Armature Studios/Comcept) – Spring 2016
  • Scalebound (Platinum Games) – 2016
  • Sea of Thieves (Rare) – Holiday 2016
  • Gears of War 4 (The Coalition) – Holiday 2016
  • Crackdown (Cloudgine) – TBC

Phil Spencer has hinted at some releases before E3 2016 along with what we know of ReCore’s announcement at E3 being for “Spring 2016 and I think Scalebound will join ReCore and Quantum Break in the first half of 2016 with Crackdown joining Sea of Thieves and Gears of War 4 in the latter half of the year. Rare creative director Sim Woodroffe was retweeting and responding to articles on his twitter which mentioned a Holiday 2016 launch for Sea of Thieves so I think at this time it’s certainly a possibility.

With Gamescom aimed to show off Microsoft’s 2016 titles there are also a few other titles that could end up launching next year from internal developers or other partnerships they have going, Forza is a franchise that releases a game every year and we know Undead Labs have signed on for more State of Decay and given its been two years since it originally launched in June 2013 I think it’s a possibility:

  • Twisted Pixel – Unannounced project
  • Press Play – Unannounced project
  • Forza 2016 – New Forza entry from Playground Games?
  • State of Decay – The next title as part of their multi-title multi-year partnership with Microsoft

Even if as I said 2015 doesn’t match 2007 I think next year is going to be a huge year for Xbox and by far their biggest. They said they have their best line-up ever and I think in general with some huge partnerships and exciting properties in development both new IPs and entries in established franchises, they are right, this is the best overall line-up they’ve ever had, we’ve never had it better and things are only going to continue to move forwards from here.

Roll on Gamescom (and Rare Replay!) in early August.

Microsoft Studios – Current projects list (E3 2015 Super Mega Turbo Edition)

E3 2015 Edition

First-party studios:

  • 343 Industries – Halo 5: Guardians (Xbox One) / Halo: The Master Chief Collection updates (Xbox One)
  • Big Park – Entertainment and sports apps (Xbox One)
  • Decisive Games – Unannounced strategy game
  • [Fun]ction Studios – Hololens development
  • Good Science Studio – Hololens development
  • Lift London – Touch Devices Project / 3 unknown projects
  • Lionhead Studios – Fable Legends (Xbox One/PC) / New IP
  • LXP – Hololens development
  • Mojang – Minecraft (PC/Mobile/Hololens) / Scrolls (PC/Mobile)
  • Press Play – Kalimba (Xbox One/PC)
  • Rare –  Sea of Thieves (Xbox One/PC) / RareReplay (Xbox One)
  • Team Dakota – Project Spark (Xbox One/PC)
  • The Coalition – Gears of War 4 (Xbox One) / Gears of War Ultimate Edition (Xbox One/PC)
  • Twisted Pixel – “AAA” game
  • Turn10 – Forza Motorsport 6 (Xbox One)

Second party studios (publishing relationships or contract work): (more…)

Microsoft 2015 E3 Conference Review

A very interesting show for Microsoft that focused mainly on their 2015 releases and the same for their 3rd party partners with a few exceptions. Xbox has by far the best first party line-up for the latter part of the year and this showed in their conference, where it was light was in showing their 2016 line-up with the exception of Gears of Wars 4 and ReCore.

GearsUE

For me the conference was pretty good but a tale of two sections really, Microsoft had a fantastic start with new gameplay for Halo 5 Guardians, a new IP in ReCore and then two big announcements in Backwards Compatibility and the Elite controller then moved on to 3rd party and indie games, and then back to first party games, Hololens and the Gears of War finale. The first half an hour was always going to be hard to match but the second hour didn’t quite get going as much for me although there were some definite highlights.

In terms of actual new announcements of first-party games I was a bit disappointed, we got two brand new games both of which are new IPs: ReCore (Comcept/Armature) and Sea of Thieves (Rare), ReCore was my favourite game of the show so far, the concept is interesting and I’m all about new IPs so it hit the spot perfectly for me I can’t wait to see more which will almost assuredly be Gamescom as its due out in Spring 2016 and the developers said to IGN that we would see more in the next couple of months. (more…)

Bethesda E3 Conference review

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Bethesda’s first E3 conference to me was an interesting test for them to see what worked and what didn’t, it wasn’t full of new announcements but it was a very solid show that didn’t hide too much behind curtains, there were five pillars to the show:

  • Doom
  • Battlecry
  • Elder Scrolls (Online/Legends)
  • Dishonored (II and Definitive Edition)
  • Fallout (4/Shelter)

They showed a ton of Doom like they need to, id have a lot to prove after various cancelled versions and reboots before finally coming to this idea and they made sure to let everyone know about all of it, two decent sized campaign demos, multiplayer trailer, SnapMap which looked cool then there was another trailer in the post show with Adam Sessler and Morgan Webb, its due for release in Spring 2016. (more…)

Ratings Boards #2: More games coming to Xbox One

Round 2 of my compilation of newest games rated by PEGI (EU), USK (Germany) and ESRB (US)

Magnetic: Cage Closed

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  • Developer/Publisher: Guru games/Gambitious Digital Entertainment
  • Rated: PEGI
  • Visit: Website – Steam page

“First person puzzle game where the player manipulates magnetic forces to accomplish their goals. The mechanics are focused around a single tool: The Magnet Gun which allows you to create electromagnetic fields with either positive or negative charges.”

FORCED (more…)

Microsoft are making the right moves in the PC market, so far

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In their early console days both the Original Xbox generation and early Xbox 360 years a key pillar of Microsoft’s content and support was from getting generally PC only developers/publishers over to their console, these games weren’t at the time necessarily “megatons” or massive additions to the library but they were generally high quality titles that fit in well to their line-up.

The platforms benefitted from console exclusive partnerships with companies like Valve (Half Life 2 – Xbox, Left 4 Dead 1/2), Bethesda (Morrowind, Oblivion), id Software (Doom 3),  Lucasarts (Armed and Dangerous, Star Wars KOTOR 1/2, Republic Commando) and Ion Storm (Deus Ex Invisible War/Thief Deadly Shadows). On the other side of the coin they also got PC developers to make exclusives for them like DICE (Rallisport Challenge/Midtown Madness), Epic (Gears of War/Shadow Complex), Crytek (Ryse), Bioware (Jade Empire/Mass Effect) and Lionhead (Fable and the cancelled BC before acquiring them in 2006) as well as others.

I believe this was always been a cornerstone of how Microsoft ran their Xbox division, yes the console was the focus but they didn’t discriminate from PC releases or getting PC developers on their platform and not on Playstation. (more…)

Beach Buggy Racing Review

RulezPlay Screenshot 2015-06-14 04-52-17

From Riptide GP2 developer Vector Unit comes Beach Buggy Racing a free-to-play mobile game brought to consoles as a premium product, stripping out all the free-to-play aspects, rebalancing the game, adding more content and other features such as split-screen multiplayer for $10 on Xbox One and Playstation 4.

My only concerns were how its economy would transition to console and I’m very pleased to report that Vector Unit have done a fine job on that aspect, the economy is fair with players needing to complete levels to earn money and upgrade their buggies, you can’t really see its mobile roots at all, that is how well its been handled [I should note here there are no micro transactions here at all]. Racing, namely winning races earns decent payouts over a large career mode consisting of 9 events across different HP engines which requires you to upgrade your vehicles to keep progressing has no excessive grinding or anything else to get the best out of it. (more…)

Black Tusk Studios cancelled new IP: new information and studio timeline

BT

This post has been difficult for me to come up with a suitable title for so I hope the one I have chosen isn’t misleading. I stumbled upon this information and with what I found I have used it to collate a background on The Coalition from start to the most recent announcement of their second name change along with some questioning of Phil Spencer’s statements of what the project was back when the Gears of War acquisition was announced.

Game Designer Alexander Rohn has Black Tusk’s cancelled new IP listed on his website under professional projects, he worked on the game back in at least 2013 but possibly before too given he refers to them as Microsoft Vancouver. There is nothing to specific like plot and gameplay mechanics but it does mention a few things that given us a small clue about the work Black Tusk did on the now cancelled project.

Quite a coincidence to find this information the same week (via a retweet on twitter) as Black Tusk announce a name change to The Coalition and with Rod’s comment on twitter ending pretty much any possibility that they would be working on non-Gears of War projects, if that wasn’t obvious enough already. (more…)

The Swapper Review

RulezPlay Screenshot 2015-06-04 23-13-56

The Swapper by Finnish developer Facepalm Games is an atmospheric puzzle game set deep in space, originally released in May 2013 on Steam, in August 2014 on Playstation 4, Playstation 3 and PSVita and now in June 2015 it finally comes to Xbox One!

As you land on a seemingly abandoned space station you soon find a mysterious device called “The Swapper” which allows the user to create clones of themselves (up to 4) and swap themselves between these clones and by using both of these different types of abilities you can fully explore the station. Game progress comes in the form of orbs, you get to certain doors and it will tell you how many orbs you need to collect to pass through.

RulezPlay Screenshot 2015-06-04 23-16-50 (more…)

Sparkle Unleashed Review

RulezPlay Screenshot 2015-06-03 04-26-59

Sparkle Unleashed by Finnish developer 10tons brings the classic match 3 orb game as seen in other titles such as Zuma and Luxor to Xbox One and Playstation 4 with a 108 level campaign mode, multiple difficulties and a survival mode too.

The campaign as I mentioned has 108 levels and the difficulty increases as you go through with the first bunch containing just regular orbs and as you progress it adds up to two layers of chains to some orbs, more colours (black/purple) and also the rock orbs which require breaking other orbs around them to destroy.

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As well as the differences in orbs the levels also scale up in difficulty by increasing the speed of the orbs as they go around the track, adding in a second track which means you keep an eye on both and more twisting levels which are more difficult to fire at. There is some repetition in the levels but I thought the many ways in which the gameplay was mixed up meant that levels were rarely same even if the background itself was so its not a problem. (more…)

Twisted Pixel working on a “AAA game”

TwistedPixel_logo

Some pre-E3 info I’ve noticed from a relatively new employee on Linkedin is that their next game, by one person at least, is being referred to as a “AAA” game.

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Screen Shot 2015-06-01 at 23.08.57

(Via Linkedin)

This is quite interesting, especially given the studio is only at 26 people according to Linkedin and even if that number was slightly wrong I doubt they are very far north of 30-35, I also like the enthusiasm of “amazing up coming AAA title” and “some super duper cool AAA game”, at least he is positive about the project being worked on!

So what does AAA mean? Well, AAA is often a budget/scope/resources indicator I’ve always thought, how much is the publisher spending on the game? Is it a big budget game for the studio? And this is where I think I understand what is meant in context here. (more…)

Microsoft trademarked “Xbox Sports” in late 2012, Joe Montana NFL 16 link/rumours and E3 unveil

See the update at the bottom for more information

There have been some rumours recently that Microsoft creating an NFL game under the name of “Joe Montana NFL Football 16” with the following details making up the rumour, I’ve cut the details down a lot and there is much more definitely worth reading at the link itself (skip over it if you have seen the details before)

  • Xbox One and PC only with Microsoft Studios as the publisher. They’re taking early advantage of the Windows 10 cross-plat tech and the game will be out as part of 10’s 3-month launch cycle in the middle of this year, releasing in mid-late July
  • The game is called Joe Montana NFL Football 16. First-party stipulations that the NFL has always left open & the NFL’s exclusive relationship with Microsoft allows for Microsoft to have an NFL game.
  • The game was demoed and it went well. Actually, “well” is an understatement. People went crazy. NDA’s were and still are in place for them. That’s why you haven’t heard anyone saying anything, but a lot of people are having a very hard time because what they seen was unbelievable and it’s been impossible to go back to Madden or even take Madden seriously after that. It’s like, how you felt when you had an NES and you saw Sega Genesis for the first time. The step up in quality is THAT big.
  • 2K is involved. Should be obvious from some tweets/re-tweets and comments both Joe Montana and Damon Grow have made. Some tech and manpower was purchased from 2K and is deeply incorporated into this game.
  • The franchise mode will be able to be managed on mobile devices and it’s really deep.
  • The iMFL app was never meant to be released. Its entire production was a prototyping run for its franchise mode and management system with the intent of using it in Joe Montana NFL Football 16. Even the TechCrunch interview was part of the staging.
  • There are a few important modes. One is a story mode and it’s pretty cool. Think NBA 2K My Player. That’s what you’re getting.
  • The graphics, animations and AI are all obscenely good and modern. It looks like a game that was built for this new generation, not just a port over from last generation with a ton of sloppy tweaks. The animations are easily the most crisp of any sports game ever made. Comparing the animations to Madden, it’s going make Madden look like a PS1 game by comparison. (Via Operation Sports.com)

(more…)