Looking good on the way to Xbox Series consoles launch, Part 5

The past few weeks, I’ve been discussing the launch games lineup and future games for Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X, the significance of backward compatibility the new consoles have and the tremendous impact of the Xbox-Bethesda deal on the games industry as a whole.

Today, I saw Zalker 87’s YouTube video focused on the fact that Team Xbox hired several game developers from Sony to beef up the growing roster of very experienced game makers in The Initiative, the one Xbox Games Studios team that Microsoft established in 2018 to create great, big-budget games for the Xbox ecosystem. To say the least, the future for Xbox fans and gamers in general is looking very promising, and the fun will start with the launch of Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X on November 10, 2020. Watch the video below…

A lot really has been going on at the side of Team Xbox. Apart from the many developments that resulted from the Xbox-Bethesda deal, Microsoft continues to pour in more funds into the many game projects under production from the many game studios under the Xbox Game Studios umbrella, and hire more people to work on their projects. Clearly Obsidian Entertainment, Ninja Theory, inXile, The Coalition, 343 Industries, Playground Games, Turn 10 and other 1st party studios of Team Xbox are all busy making their respective games right now!

To put things in perspective, Sony and its first-party PlayStation teams have a solid track record of producing high-quality, fun-loaded, story driven 3rd person action-adventure games which went on to receive huge acclaim from the game critics and sold a lot. Such games are what are sorely lacking on the side of Team Xbox and it only made sense for Microsoft to use its massive resources to hire the great game makers from Sony’s 1st party studios and put them in The Initiative.

The logo of the all-star team The Initiative.

More on The Initiative, the studio recently hired more talents from Sony’s acclaimed studio Naughty Dog: Lee Davis who worked previously as the head of melee animation and Lauren Garcia who was the character shading technical director. Under The Initiative, Davis is the lead gameplay animator while Garcia is the senior shading technologies executive. The two former Naughty Dog experts were involved in the production of Sony’s The Last of Us: Part 2. In a Twitter post, Garcia expressed happiness about joining The Initiative calling it an incredible team. He thanked Xbox chief Phil Spencer as well.

Before hiring the two former Naughty Dog experts, Microsoft also hired Christian Cantamessa whose best known work was writing (as lead writer) Red Dead Redemption for Rockstar Games, Brian Westergaard (the lead producer on God of War), Remi Lacoste (director of Marvel’s Avengers and Shadow of The Tomb Raider), Christine Thompson (the lead writer for Destiny 2) plus many others which The Initiative studio head Darrell Gallagher confirmed.

As you can see, The Initiative is literally an all-star team of very experienced and high achieving game makers who were previously involved in blockbuster games as well as other ambitious projects. Their first project still has not been revealed so far, although it has been alleged that it could be related to the Perfect Dark franchise which Microsoft owns. Whatever story concept it will have, whatever game design it will come with (note: I personally expect a 3rd person action-adventure in design with a cinematic feel and highly advanced animation for immersion) and whatever new characters it will introduce, you can bet that The Initiative’s expected first game will catch a lot of attention once Team Xbox makes the official unveiling of it. When and where? We don’t know and only Phil Spencer knows.

Ultimately, The Initiative is contributing to Xbox Game Studio’s upcoming wave of high-quality, 1st party video games that will be released for each of the next five years through the Xbox ecosystem (targeting users of Xbox Series S, Xbox Series X, Windows 10 PC and mobile phones supported by Project xCloud). In other words, Sony and its PlayStation division have serious competition coming.

In ending this, posted below are assorted gaming-related videos for your learning and excitement for the next-generation! Do not forget that Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X will launch on November 10, 2020!

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Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

For more Xbox-related stuff, check out the Xbox Series Philippines Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/XboxOnePH

Looking good on the way to Xbox Series consoles launch

Things are looking really good for Microsoft’s Team Xbox as far as launching their next-generation machines Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X is concerned. The two upcoming consoles will launch officially on November 10, 2020 in America and some other parts of the world. Xbox Series S in America is priced at $299 and while the premium Xbox Series X (which has a 4K Blu-ray disc drive) is priced at $499.

At this stage, the last thing any company wants to go through is a pre-launch blunder or controversy that would discourage consumers from buying the new products. While the final lineup of launch games for Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X has yet to be declared, there are notable developments that are already delighting Xbox fans and casual gamers. No, it’s not about the megaton Xbox – Bethesda deal that gamers are still talking about. Something else, really.

Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X.

Firstly, there is really good news that the promised backward compatibility feature on Xbox Series X is not only working but also enhanced the games tested. Screen Rant wrote: Games that are locked at 30 frames per second on Xbox One are able to easily hold a locked 60 frames per second on the Xbox Series X, even with upgrades in resolution. They also added: The ability of the Xbox Series X to play older games may end up being a bigger deal now than Microsoft expected. The game industry has been hit with lots of delays this year, mostly as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning both next-gen consoles will have lighter than expected launch lineups.

Den of Geek meanwhile reported that Rise of the Tomb Raider, Sekiro, Hitman 2 and even the 12-year-old Grand Theft Auto IV all ran better on Xbox Series X than they ever did in their respective original consoles of release. More on GTA4 (first released on Xbox 360), Den of Geek wrote: Even some older titles are “rescued” by the power of the Xbox Series X. The report highlights Grand Theft Auto 4 as a game that not only infamously struggled on the Xbox 360 (where it was borderline unplayable at times) but even burdened the mighty Xbox One X. On Xbox Series X, though, Rockstar’s sometimes controversial classic hits that fabled 60 FPS benchmark and even does so while offering enhanced visuals and improved load times.

Take note that Den of Geek and Screen Rant took references from Digital Foundry’s video that highlighted their testing of backward compatibility on Xbox Series X which you can watch right below…

Secondly, the load times related to the backward compatibility all showed clear improvements on Xbox Series X. Remember how long it took your Xbox One console to load up Red Dead Redemption 2? Remember what you did during all the times your Xbox 360 or Xbox One console struggled to load up the game? Those times are history!

According to The Verge, massive changes to the load times were the most significant improvements. They wrote: Games like Sea of Thieves, Warframe, and Destiny 2 have their load times cut by up to a minute or more on the Series X. In Destiny 2, for example, I can now load into a planet in the game in around 30 seconds, compared to over a minute later on an Xbox One X and nearly two minutes in total on a standard Xbox One. These improved load times are identical to my custom-built PC that includes a fast NVMe SSD, and they genuinely transform how you play the game — you can get more quests and tasks done instead of sitting and looking at a planet loading.

Warframe and Sea of Thieves are equally impressive with their load times now. I can now open Warframe and the game is ready to play just 25 seconds later. That same load takes literally a minute longer on my Xbox One X. Sea of Thieves now loads to menu screens in around 20 seconds, with another 28 seconds to load into a session. On my Xbox One X, it takes a minute and 21 seconds to even load the game initially, and then another minute and 12 seconds to get into a game session.

None of these games have been fully optimized for the Xbox Series X either. This is simply Microsoft’s backward compatibility support in action.

Thirdly, there is also the issue of game performance. To be specific, it’s about frame rates and consistency related to Destiny 2, Warframe and Sea of Thieves. The Verge wrote: Destiny 2 is a great example of a game that was held back by the weaker CPU and slow HDD in the Xbox One X. It’s a title that hit native 4K previously, but the 6 teraflops of GPU performance in the One X was bottlenecked by a laptop-like CPU and an old spinning hard disk. This meant the game was stuck on 30fps.

While Bungie has committed to enhancing Destiny 2 for the Xbox Series X and PS5 with 60fps support, it already feels faster without the patch. I would regularly notice frame rate drops in Destiny 2 on the Xbox One X when things got a little hectic on screen during a public event or in a raid with mobs of enemies coming at you. I haven’t seen a single stutter running Destiny 2 on the Xbox Series X.

This console has also improved other parts of Destiny 2 that were slow on the Xbox One. Loading into the character menu sometimes takes a few seconds on the Xbox One X, but on the Series X it feels like I’m playing on my PC as it’s near instant.

On the other two games, they wrote: I’ve noticed similar improvements across Warframe and Sea of Thieves, where games just seem to automatically benefit from the CPU, SSD, and GPU improvements to run more smoothly.

When it comes to multiplayer performance and compatibility, The Verge wrote: The other benefit to the Xbox Series X and this next generation is that games aren’t separated out like they were in the shift from Xbox 360 to Xbox One. Back then, you could only match Xbox One players in a lot of games, leaving out friends who still played on the Xbox 360. In every multiplayer game I’ve tested on Series X, I was able to join friends who were using an Xbox One and match against other Xbox One players.

See? Things are really looking good in the run up to November 10 launch of Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X. Backward compatibility ensures that your huge collection of games played (as recorded in your Xbox LIVE account) in previous generations’ Xbox consoles will NOT go to waste and, at the same time, the said feature is a great way of preserving video games from the past. I personally am happy about this not simply because I am nostalgic but because there are some great games from the past that need playing such as Lost Odyssey (Xbox 360), Halo 3 (Xbox 360), Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (Xbox 360), Fallout New Vegas (Xbox 360) and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (original Xbox).

In addition, the tests showed that previous generation games are not only playable on the next-generation Xbox but they also perform better, load much faster and will have varying visual enhancements. And then there is also cross-play for multiplayer. Just imagine how that would impact online multiplayer as we know it.

In ending this, posted below are Xbox-related videos for your learning and excitement for the next-generation! Be confident, fellow Xbox fans! This coming new generation of console gaming will be much more fun than the current one! Team Xbox truly cares about us gamers, much more so than Sony’s PlayStation team!

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Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

For more Xbox-related stuff, check out the Xbox Series Philippines Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/XboxOnePH

My Observations: Xbox Games Showcase

It has finally happened. Microsoft organized this past Thursday the much-awaited digital event Xbox Games Showcase. Let me cut to the chase that, for the most part, I actually enjoyed watching. It’s not a perfect showcase of games for Xbox fans and other gamers, but it sure is a major improvement over the disappointing 3rd party games showcase of last May.

For one thing, Xbox head Phil Spencer himself confirmed that less than ten of the fifteen Xbox game studios had prepared for the showcase. This is not surprising because it takes a lot of time and work to make video games nowadays and it is a fact that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic had forced game developers (as well as countless other surviving businesses) to adapt the work-at-home model which tremendously slowed down production. Regardless, the showcase included unveilings of five new first-party games.

“What you’ll see today is how Xbox game studios are harnessing their passions to bring their dreams to life,” Phil Spencer said in his welcome message to viewers.

With those words declared, here is what I think about the games that I personally find the most interesting or the most notable (note: not all games discussed below are exclusive to Xbox Series X), and what it all means for the upcoming launch of the next-generation Xbox Series X console and the remaining life of the Xbox One.

The showcased games

Halo Infinite

Two long years since I first saw the original unveiling of Halo Infinite, the gameplay demonstration of the game (note: it actually ran on a PC, NOT the Xbox Series X itself) was actually worth the long wait even though there were some imperfections. What made it compelling to watch was the presentation of the ring world’s environment which recaptured the wonder and beauty of the original landscape first seen in 2001’s Halo: Combat Evolved (note: I’m talking about the landscape where Master Chief first crash-landed). Apart from the in-game environment, the gameplay rocked with the classic Halo formula of shooting (fast-paced and intense) which got shook up with the implementation of the grapple plus a few new animation sequences and moves seen on the Covenant. It’s classic Halo but also modernized in terms of look and gameplay.

What caught my attention was the freedom for gamers to explore an entire Halo ring confirmed by 343 Industries’ Studio Head of Halo Chris Lee. Even though the term open-world was not stated, this confirms that Halo Infinite will have a much bigger in-game environment and locations for gamers to discover. Hopefully, this also means that there will be a wide variety of activities to do on the locations very much like other open-world games. The game demonstration is only a taste of what is to come. Not only that, Lee also confirmed that the game will run at 60 frames-per-second (60FPS) which for me is the sweet spot for playing in the modern age.

When it comes to imperfections, I saw some pop-in during some sequences of the demo and there also seemed to be some slight dips in the frame rate during the most intense sequences. Right now, 343 Industries still has months left to optimize the game not only for Xbox Series X but also the aging Xbox One. Now I wonder how the developers will be able to get good enough performance from the basic Xbox One (which I own) and the slightly upgraded Xbox One S to play Halo Infinite. One last thing…I should express my disappointment over the revelation that the demo did NOT run on the Xbox Series X hardware itself.

To Microsoft and 343 Industries, please, please make the best you can with Halo Infinite using real Xbox Series X hardware! Also, please at least try to include ray tracing at launch, not after launch. Disappointments aside, I know you guys can do better and I still am looking forward to this game. The ball of time is on your side of the court, Microsoft and 343 Industries. You still have time!

Everwild

Everwild is a brand, new game developed by Rare (Sea of Thieves, Perfect Dark games) mainly for Xbox Series X and Windows 10 PCs. First unveiled months ago, the new video of the game at the Xbox Games Showcase showed a lot more of the game with what looks like a wide-open world to explore with lots of wildlife and creatures that are out of this world. The animation also looks great. My only problem here is that the new trailer had scenes done in a cinematic fashion and left no clear sign as to HOW THE GAME WILL PLAY. Will it be a single-player game or an online-multiplayer game? Will it have a good combat system? What is the story if any? Please, Microsoft and Rare, do explain if Everwild will be fun to play. Enough with the beauty and take time to really define the game. Thanks.

As Dusk Falls

This new game by Int./Night and Microsoft is easily the most intriguing of the Xbox Games Showcase. It’s described as an interactive drama that will follow and explore the lives of two families across thirty years starting with a robbery in Arizona. Players will determine the fate of the characters by making choices (kinda like the Choose Your Own Adventure pocket books in concept). At least in this game’s trailer, there is a clever mix of 3D polygons with 2D art. If I were you gamers, don’t just ignore this game. If you are already an Xbox Game Pass subscriber, As Dusk Falls will launch on Day One on the said service.

Avowed

The rumors turned out to be true and I’m very happy to say that the RPG specialists Obsidian Entertainment is working on a brand new, fantasy role-playing game (RPG) titled Avowed. Set in the fantasy world of Eora, Avowed is a first-person view RPG. Having played Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and Elders Scrolls V: Skyrim on Xbox 360 long ago plus last year’s The Outer Worlds (by Obsidian) on Xbox One, I really am looking forward to this new game and I have full trust in Obsidian’s, dedication, legacy and specialty on making RPGs that are fun and compelling.

To say the least, Avowed will mark the beginning of a new fantasy RPG property (soon to be a franchise…) for the Xbox ecosystem as a whole adding variety for Xbox fans who love fantasy RPGs alongside the already established Fable.

Speaking of Fable…

Fable

The long-time rumor is also true! Fable is being revived and the new game is being produced by Playground Games, the very same studio behind the best-selling and highly acclaimed Forza Horizon series! While the above trailer is purely cinematic and carried nothing to suggest gameplay, at the very least the Fable franchise is on its way back after years of being dormant. What I hope to see next time is real-time gameplay complete with how the Playground employees can present the fantasy world in this new generation of console gaming. I personally enjoyed playing the original Fable and still managed to get some fun from the disappointing Fable III. For the future of Fable, things are looking promising.

Forza Motorsport

While this one is too short and lacked gameplay sequences, the Forza Motorsport official video composed of real-time graphics (note the Footage Captured In-Engine posted on the lower-left corner of the video) is very impressive and the future of next-generation simulation racing looks very bright. I know the experts of Turn 10 are working hard with the new Xbox Series X technology as I write this and in terms of presentation of the Xbox Games Showcase, this extremely short look of things to come from the Forza Motorsport franchise is ironically one of the best (and most transparent) presentations from Microsoft. Too bad Halo Infinite was used with a PC and lacked transparency on its presentation which Microsoft knew. More on the game, I wonder if Forza Motorsport will be the definitive title of the next-generation sim race from Turn 10 following 2017’s Forza Motorsport 7. Gamers expected Forza Motorsport 8 as the title. The video presentation’s shortness is a missed opportunity for Microsoft and the developers to show a lot more of what simulation would look and feel like on Xbox Series X. An additional sixty seconds of in-game footage with some gameplay sequences (like driver’s seat view with steering wheel) would have made the Forza Motorsport video even greater and more engaging. Now that the Xbox Games Showcase is over, we can only wait as to what MS and Turn 10 can update us with. Right now, I am passionate with simulation racing thanks to the Forza Motorsport franchise and I am confident that the next entry coming out on Xbox Series X will be worth the wait.

Tell Me Why

Here’s another new Microsoft-published game that surprised me. Tell Me Why is developed by DONTNOD, the same team behind Capcom’s Remember Me and Square Enix’s Life is Strange. Given the French game developer’s dedication on making original, narrative-driven games, Tell Me Why follows twins Alyson and Tyler and players will get to use their unique bond to unravel mysteries in their lives. Visually, it does not have the next-generation look as the game itself was made specifically for Xbox One and Windows 10. How it will look on Xbox Series X remains to be seen. This should attract the attention of gamers who enjoyed Life is Strange games.

Psychonauts 2

This multi-platform game made by Double Fine will be released sometime next year and I should say that what was shown during the Xbox Games Showcase made me confident about it. For the newcomers reading this, Psychonauts 2 is the sequel to the award-winning 2005 game Psychonauts (then published by Majesco Entertainment) and as a platforming game this one could stand out in the modern age for its artistry, creativity and promised fun gameplay. Microsoft promised that the game will be optimized for Xbox Series X.

Honorable mentions

The Outer Worlds: Peril on Gorgon

I love Obsidian Entertainment’s work in The Outer World which is easily one of the best RPGs I’ve ever played in this current console generation. As such, the revelation of the previously announced story downloadable content (DLC) is something I find very delighting and it sure gives me another reason to replay The Outer Worlds on my Xbox One. The Peril on Gorgon DLC’s description is as follows: A severed arm and a mysterious message lead the crew of the Unreliable to the Gorgon Asteroid, formerly the site of one of Halcyon’s most ambitious and disastrous scientific undertakings – now a lawless den of monsters and marauders. Wealthy recluse Minnie Ambrose tasks the crew with finding answers about Dr. Olivia Ambrose, her mother and the doomed project’s disgraced director, but they are soon ensnared in an intrigue that will change the colony forever.

The Outer Worlds: Peril on Gorgon will be released on September 9, 2020.

Destiny 2: Beyond Light

It’s kinda weird to see Destiny 2: Beyond Light part of Xbox Games Showcase, the same event highlighted by Halo Infinite. This is because Bungie created Halo on its own before they got involved with Microsoft and played a major role in the respective success of the original Xbox and Xbox 360 consoles with several acclaimed Halo games that sold a lot. Now that it is no longer involved with Activision, Bungie is now a standalone developer and publisher, and the Destiny games franchise is what they are carrying now. The above video presentation looks good and energetic.

Conclusion

Overall, the Xbox Games Showcase was good, not great. The efforts to showcase the 1st party games and the potential of next-generation gaming Xbox Series X were made but felt uneven here and there. Halo Infinite had a good presentation but there were shortcomings that prevented it from being great which is too bad because the game was supposed to highlight Xbox Series X and prove that there is a promising future of fun and engagement with the Halo franchise. Ironically, the very solid but short video presentations of Forza Motorsport and Avowed proved to be better efforts on selling Xbox Series X than Halo Infinite. When it comes to disappointments, I should point to the complete lack of new stuff regarding Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II.

While imperfect, the Xbox Games Showcase still had nice surprises that kept me interested enough to finish it. At the very least, Xbox Games Showcase was a big improvement over the disappointing showcase of 3rd party games last May.

Now that the Xbox Games Showcase is over, Microsoft and its Xbox teams still have time left to improve their efforts to sell their games and prove that Xbox Series X will be worth buying for the next several years of home entertainment. They also still have time to emphasize how the optimization of games on Xbox Series X and how the Smart Delivery can be beneficial to gamers.

In ending this, watch Colteastwood’s interview with Xbox’s Major Nelson.


Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com