Looking good on the way to Xbox Series consoles launch, Part 3

I should say it out loud. I am a long-time Xbox gamer (and I was once a PlayStation fanboy until I started playing Halo: Combat Evolved, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and Forza Motorsport on the original Xbox console) and it is great that the next-generation Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X consoles will have backward compatibility right from the start.

Specifically, I started my Xbox journey (with an official Xbox LIVE account) in 2006 with the Xbox 360 console. I played lots of great games on that console such as Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Halo 3, Forza Motorsport 4, Lost Odyssey, Assassin’s Creed III, Grand Theft Auto V, Red Dead Redemption, Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and the Mass Effect trilogy just to name a few.

Even though the current 8th console generation was not too rosy for Xbox due to the weak 1st party game support on the part of Microsoft, I still enjoyed gaming on my Xbox One. The Outer Worlds was one of the best sci-fi RPGs I have ever played. Fallout 4 was just as engaging and as immersive Skyrim in my experience. Also I had great fun playing Red Dead Redemption 2.

That being said, I certainly do not want my past Xbox generation game collection – both physical media and digital copies – to just go to waste. This is why I really appreciate Team Xbox for implementing backward compatibility on the two Xbox Series consoles which will launch less than a month from now. I myself enjoyed replaying my favorite Xbox 360 games on my Xbox One  (a few among them were Red Dead Redemption, Lost Odyssey and the entire Mass Effect trilogy) and having the same feature for the next-generation is a very good thing!

On Xbox.com, Director of Program Management for Xbox Series X Jason Ronald explained the efforts their team made since the big breakthrough of 2015 plus other details about the tremendous addition of value backward compatibility brings to the Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X. Excerpt below:

Our compatibility journey began with the announcement of Xbox 360 Backwards Compatibility coming to Xbox One at E3 2015. I clearly remember that first magical experience of jumping into one of my favorite Xbox 360 games, Final Fantasy XIII, and instantly resuming where I had left off years before as if no time had passed at all. I was instantly transported back to that special time and all the great memories and personal connections I have made through gaming. The energy and passion from the community continues to motivate us to this day.

Through a tremendous amount of hard work, technical innovation, and partnership with the industry’s leading creators we were not only able to bring more than 500 Xbox 360 games to Xbox One, we were able to go back even further into the archives and resurrect some of your favorite franchises from the original Xbox. The very same team who created new innovative ways to preserve and enhance your existing catalog of games on Xbox One is the same team pushing the envelope again with Xbox Series X.

Maintaining compatibility presents a massive technical challenge as fundamental system and chip architectures advance across generations. Developers highly optimize their games to the unique capabilities and performance of a console to provide the best experience for their players. To make the Xbox Series X our most compatible console ever required both significant innovation in the design of the custom processor as well as the unique design of the Xbox operating system and hypervisor at the heart of our next generation platform.

With more than 100,000 hours of play testing already completed, thousands of games are already playable on Xbox Series X today, from the biggest blockbusters to cult classics and fan favorites. Many of us in Team Xbox play on the Xbox Series X daily as our primary console and switching between generations is seamless. By the time we launch this holiday, the team will have spent well over 200,000 hours ensuring your game library is ready for you to jump in immediately.

As seen in the paragraph right above, the 100,000 hours figure is very significant and it shows that no shortcuts were taken with regards to play testing and quality assurance. That figure is only rising and that is great dedication for not only Xbox fans with huge game collections but also consumers in general.

It should be noted that the more affordable Xbox Series S console will run backward compatibility a bit differently since it cannot render visuals in native 4K (it can however upscale in 4K). A September 14, 2020 update to Ronald’s article states:

the Xbox Series S runs the Xbox One S version of backward compatible games while applying improved texture filtering, higher and more consistent frame rates, faster load times and Auto HDR. As for next generation titles, Xbox Series S was designed to be the most affordable next generation console and play them at 1440P at 60fps.

The premium Xbox Series X console, unsurprisingly, has huge advantages for anyone who loves playing past games via backward compatibility. Enhanced visuals? Check! Improved frame rates? Check! Heavily reduced load times? Check! Much better performance? Check! Check out the excerpt below:

Not only should gamers be able to play all of these games from the past, but they should play better than ever before. Backwards compatible games run natively on the Xbox Series X hardware, running with the full power of the CPU, GPU and the SSD. No boost mode, no downclocking, the full power of the Xbox Series X for each and every backward compatible game. This means that all titles run at the peak performance that they were originally designed for, many times even higher performance than the games saw on their original launch platform, resulting in higher and more steady framerates and rendering at their maximum resolution and visual quality. Backwards compatible titles also see significant reductions in in-game load times from the massive leap in performance from our custom NVME SSD which powers the Xbox Velocity Architecture. As I play through my personal backlog as part of our internal testing, all of the incredible games from Xbox One and earlier play best on Xbox Series X.

The team was not content to just rely on the increased hardware performance to improve your playing experience. The team developed new platform level capabilities to ensure all of your games continue to get even better. In partnership with the Xbox Advanced Technology Group, Xbox Series X delivers a new, innovative HDR reconstruction technique which enables the platform to automatically add HDR support to games. As this technique is handled by the platform itself, it allows us to enable HDR with zero impact to the game’s performance and we can also apply it to Xbox 360 and original Xbox titles developed almost 20 years ago, well before the existence of HDR.

In addition, the new Quick Resume feature was designed to not only work with new games, but it can also be enabled for backward-compatible titles. Quick Resume enables players to resume exactly where they left off, across multiple titles, ensuring gamers can get right back to the fun in an instant.

Website Gaming Bolt recently published their own video explaining the so-called secrets of backward compatibility on Xbox Series X.

Going back to Jason Ronald’s article, it should be noted how dedicated their team is towards fans. The excerpt below:

Beginning with Xbox One X, the compatibility team developed brand new innovations that could be applied to a hand curated list of titles to enhance them even further than what was possible when they were first created. Techniques such as the Heutchy method, which enables titles to render with increased resolutions up to 4K, or applying anisotropic filtering to improve the final image quality bring these classic games up to modern standards, better than ever before.

With all of the additional power and advancements of the Xbox Series X, the compatibility team now has a veritable playground of new capabilities to innovate and push the limits of game preservation and enhancement. The compatibility team has invented brand new techniques that enable even more titles to run at higher resolutions and image quality while still respecting the artistic intent and vision of the original creators. We are also creating whole new classes of innovations including the ability to double the frame rate of a select set of titles from 30 fps to 60 fps or 60 fps to 120 fps.

The team also continues to listen to feedback from the community on additional titles you would like to see added to the compatibility program.

With the enhancements confirmed, check out Window Central Gaming’s comparative YouTube video of Monster Hunter World running on Xbox One X (currently the most powerful gaming console available) and Xbox Series X.

As of this writing, the backward compatibility feature on the Xbox Series consoles covers lots of titles of Xbox One, Xbox 360 and the original Xbox. What is expected not to be included are Kinect motion sensor games released on Xbox 360. On the side of PlayStation, PS5 is backward compatible with PS4 games only. Until now, Jim Ryan and Mark Cerny still have not figured out ways to make PS5 a compatible with the many, many games of PS1-PS2-PS3. Perhaps they never tried to do it at all, letting down their fans and consumers in general. It is weird because Sony used to be the shining example of video game backward compatibility starting with PlayStation 2 (PS2). Backward compatibility continued in the next generation with PS3 but only for the initial units. Subsequent PS3 consoles were made without the compatibility.

In ending this article, here are some more videos about Xbox Series X backward compatibility for your learning and enjoyment.

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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: COVID-19’s impact on crowded fun-oriented events should be taken seriously

For the past few weeks, the coronavirus disease COVID-19 halted much of the world’s societies and economies compelling families to stay at home as the authorities struggle to prevent infections from spreading.

Community quarantine and regional lockdown have been implemented which strongly limited people from traveling around and also negatively affected truck deliveries which really hurt manufacturing and other key economic sectors like food production (and the businesses that sell food), retailing and more.

Unsurprisingly, special events that attract a lot of people as attendees have been postponed or cancelled. In the city of Parañaque here in the Philippines, the planned 2020 cityhood anniversary celebration had to be scaled down dramatically because of COVID-19-related fear. The said celebration’s most popular events such as the Bb. Parañaque beauty pageant and the Sunduan Festival could not be organized and as of this writing, no new dates for organizing such events have been announced. Under the current quarantine procedures, mass gatherings have been prohibited.

That being said, it would be best to forget about crowded fun events for the short term and just focus on being safe at home, managing your precious funds and maintaining faith in the Lord (note: study the Holy Bible and pray in tongues to Him).

Speaking of fun events, Comic Book Resources (CBR.com) published a new article that caught my attention titled Coronavirus Could Be the Beginning of the End for Super Conventions. It caught my attention because I myself had attended several pop culture events, including the gigantic Comic-Con International in San Diego, California (AKA San Diego Comic-Con).

Let’s focus on this excerpt from Comic Book Resources:

Comic conventions long have been an integral part of fan communities. Before comic-book movies and TV shows were a multibillion-dollar enterprise, fans looked forward to these annual gatherings as a chance to be surrounded by people who shared their interests. They (were) a sacred place where fans could collectively celebrate something they were really passionate about.

And they were fun. Really fun. Fans from across the country would make the pilgrimage to get up close and personal with the writers and artists they idolized. It was a dream come true for members of what was then a tight-knit community.

Over the years, that’s all changed. The conventions that were so beloved by a small group of people have ballooned into massive undertakings, drawing thousands of people from all over the world. They’re not so much fan-driven conventions anymore as much as they are trade shows for the entertainment industry.

That’s not to say these super conventions aren’t fun in their own right; they absolutely are. They offer fans a chance to witness major announcements, take part in Q&A’s with their favorite stars and celebrate pop culture on an unprecedented level. They’ve become an annual staple for the promotion of the latest film and television franchise projects, and big names continuously turn up.

Now, however, with the justifiable closure of these conventions due to the COVID-19 outbreak, it’s unclear how much we really need these super conventions.

To put things in perspective, any convention that is focused on fun would not be possible without the strong interest of multiple fans or enthusiasts who are not only willing to make time to attend such an event but also bring a good amount of money with them and spend on their respective interests.

The San Diego Comic-Con in California, the New York Comic Con in New York, and the AsiaPop Comicon here in the Philippines all require paying a fee (for the ticket or badge) in order to enter the venue which has most entertainment events and booths that fans can go to.

When it comes to special activities, private screenings of trailers of upcoming blockbuster movies occasionally get organized as well as Q&A panel sessions with entertainers or industry professionals, press conferences and more.

However, we are now living in the age of social media, wide access to the Internet and smartphones which enable users to take pictures or videos in high-definition and upload them for people to see online. Think about it carefully.

What good is a closed-door press conference with celebrities when a fan in attendance can capture everything on video and beat the bloggers and members of the press by releasing content on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram?

What good is a private screening (which restricts attendees from taking footage) of a trailer or a short scene from a highly anticipated blockbuster movie when such content will only be released by the movie studio on YouTube, Facebook and other sites where Internet users can watch for free at the comfort of their homes?

What good is a fan convention if attendees post pictures/videos of embarrassing moments (example: someone throws a pie on the face of a movie star in front of the fans) online within minutes and become viral?

What good is buying classic comic books at the comic convention when the comic publishers themselves failed to wipe out the widespread online piracy (note: entire issues of comic books in digital form) of their comics which people can find and read for free?

One key point here is that fan conventions and other fun-oriented events that attract a lot of people are slowly losing their relevance. Convention organizers will have to come up with ways not only to stay relevant, not only to ensure exclusive stuff in their event is truly exclusive, but also innovate and raise the convention’s overall quality.

Going back to COVID-19, it is clear that the said virus is highly infectious and this alone defeats the purpose of organizing a huge event for as long as the risk of infection remains. As of this writing, local authorities are struggling to clean and disinfect places. Killing the virus is a costly and time-consuming affair.

Recently, the 2020 edition of the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) had to be canceled due to COVID-19 which was a huge blow to many video game and technology companies that had signed up for the event. Microsoft, which was supposed to showcase their upcoming Xbox Series X console at E3, promptly announced it will organize a digital event instead.

Think about those words: digital events. Digital events can be done by companies to make a special presentation of their products or services in the form of a lengthy and detailed pre-recorded video or by organizing privately their showcase event (held in a venue that the company has all to itself) live via livestreaming. With the access of the Internet and the massive reach that social media provides, digital events can make fan conventions even more unnecessary. Digital events are also very useful for companies because they not only have complete privacy but also a lot more control in terms of creativity as well as amount of information to be released. This also spares companies from the hassles of crowd control as well as rampant questioning from members of the news media.

Together, COVID-19, wide Internet access and social media are factors that make organizing crowded fun-oriented showcase events more challenging than ever before. Why bother attending a local beauty pageant live in Parañaque City when viral infection, live-streaming and even crime incidents could happen?

Even after the end of this COVID-19 crisis, the community quarantine and regional lockdown, I foresee that it will take a lot more time before life really goes back to normal.

By then, I don’t think enthusiasm for crowded fun-oriented events would be restored to high levels immediately. Sports events, in my opinion, have a better chance of resuming given the nature of sports competition which remains very important with Filipinos. Other events like food fairs and shopping bazaars are more important to people in the local communities than beauty pageants or fan conventions. What people clearly want once this current crisis is over is worshiping the Lord together at church on Sundays.

Attending church is more essential than a crowded beauty pageant or a fan convention. There is no doubt about that!


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

A Look Back At Wonder Woman #9 (1987)

Disclaimer: This is my original work with details sourced from reading the comic book and doing personal research. Anyone who wants to use this article, in part or in whole, needs to secure first my permission and agree to cite me as the source and author. Let it be known that any unauthorized use of this article will constrain the author to pursue the remedies under R.A. No. 8293, the Revised Penal Code, and/or all applicable legal actions under the laws of the Philippines.

Very recently, Warner Bros. announced that due to the ongoing coronavirus disease COVID-19 pandemic, it has decided to reschedule the release of Wonder Woman 1984 to August 2020.

While fans, geeks and moviegoers have to wait a bit longer for the much-awaited movie, we can take time out to look back to the year 1987 when DC Comics published the comic book Wonder Woman #9 written (plot) and illustrated by the legendary George Perez with scripting done by the late Len Wein.

Remember seeing Dr. Barbara Minerva (Cheetah) played by Kristen Wiig in Wonder Woman 1984? This comic book marked the debut of the post-Crisis Cheetah whose civilian personality is Dr. Barbara Minerva (her literary debut was in Wonder Woman #7). To make history short, the original Cheetah that appeared in 1943’s Wonder Woman #6 was Priscilla Rich while the second Cheetah was Deborah Domaine (Priscilla Rich’s niece). Dr. Minerva is the third and arguably the most modernized and most popular Cheetah.

With the history talk over, here we go with Wonder Woman #9!

WW9a
The cover drawn by George Perez.

Early Story

The story begins with a ritual performed by a short, old man with a knife. He cuts the skin of a naked woman and collects some of her blood. He uses the blood to feed a plant he believes to be a god (the plant-god). Afterwards he returns to the naked woman and covers her with the cloth.

The next morning, at another location, Wonder Woman flies happily in the air. Below her were publicist Myndi Mayer, Julia (Diana’s host and personal educator) and teenager Vanessa.

It turns out, Wonder Woman, who strongly values honor, was happy to have received a letter from Dr. Barbara Minerva. Julia however is not confident and based on her research, she described Minerva as “shady as your average weeping willow.”

Myndi, who is looking for the next great scoop, dismisses Julia’s concern and remains focused on accompanying Wonder Woman to meeting Minerva.

Quality

Apart from marking the first appearance of Cheetah (no longer a lady wearing a silly costume) in the post-Crisis era of DC Comics, Wonder Woman #9 is still a very compelling and fun comic book to read. Its great quality combined with a solid concept can be attributed to George Perez.

On storytelling, Perez and Wein delivered a solid balance between spectacle, characterization, plotting and mystery. The presentation of Dr. Minerva as an accomplished yet arrogant archaeologist is a clever concept of having her involved with Wonder Woman who in turn also has a personal interest in relics and evidences of established cultures and societies (given the Amazonian society Diana came from). Minerva’s transformation and first action as Cheetah is indeed excellent to read.

WW9b
Diana/Wonder Woman and Dr. Minerva/Cheetah meet for the first time ever.

Being one of the greatest comic book illustrators ever, it is no surprise that this comic book still looks great! Even though Perez used a lot of panels per page, the amount of visual details as well as the maintenance of his art style remain high.

When it comes to the first-ever battle between Cheetah and Wonder Woman, Perez pulled no punches back with the spectacle. There is a good amount of brutal action which so enjoyable to see and I can only hope that director Patty Jenkins took inspiration from the comic’s action scenes for Wonder Woman 1984 (a conflict between the Queen of Superheroes and the animalistic villainess on the big screen is inevitable).

WW9c
Brutal action between Cheetah and Wonder Woman!

On characterization, this comic book continued to deliver the good and believable development of Wonder Woman who is still adjusting to Man’s World. To put it short, it is not exclusively focused on Cheetah and Wonder Woman (whose encounters were the highlights). You will get to see how much Diana adjusted with modern society, what she thought about how modern society’s members perceived her and how close she got with Julia and Vanessa while still keeping strong with her Amazonian values.

Going back to Cheetah, the development of Dr. Minerva changing into her animalistic form is very well handled by the creators. There are enough details that explained her physical transformation and her uncanny abilities, not to mention showing her being able to give Wonder Woman a good amount of trouble. This way of modernizing the literary Cheetah is, indeed, very compelling and definitive. By reading this comic book, you will realize why this particular version of Cheetah was chosen to be part of Wonder Woman 1984.

For the collectors reading this, if you are serious on getting an existing copy of Wonder Woman #9, be aware that, as of this writing, a near-mint copy costs $77 according to MileHighComics.com

Overall, Wonder Woman #9 (1987) is highly recommended! It’s a great collector’s item too!

In ending this, watch this first official movie trailer of Wonder Woman 1984.


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

E3 2020 Cancelled!

This coming June, the usual excitement for video gaming won’t happen as the 2020 edition of the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) got officially cancelled and already its effects on the game publishers, the game developers, the City of Los Angeles and the gamers are strongly felt.

For your reference, here is the official statement at the website of the E3 Expo:

After careful consultation with our member companies regarding the health and safety of everyone in our industry – our fans, our employees, our exhibitors, and our longtime E3 partners – we have made the difficult decision to cancel E3 2020, scheduled for June 9-11 in Los Angeles.

Following increased and overwhelming concerns about the COVID-19 virus, we felt this was the best way to proceed during such an unprecedented global situation. We are very disappointed that we are unable to hold this event for our fans and supporters. But we know it’s the right decision based on the information we have today.

Our team will be reaching out directly to exhibitors and attendees with information about providing full refunds.

We are also exploring options with our members to coordinate an online experience to showcase industry announcements and news in June 2020. Updates will be shared on E3Expo.com.

We thank everyone who shared their views on reimagining E3 this year. We look forward to bringing you E3 2021 as a reimagined event that brings fans, media, and the industry together in a showcase that celebrates the global video game industry.

As you can see above, the raging coronavirus (COVID-19) negatively impacted the organizing and worldwide there are a lot of people who have gotten so scared by it their livelihood and lifestyles have been altered dramatically.

Going back to the E3, the cancellation is very unfortunate as a whole lot of game makers and publishers had previously signed up with the organizers to be part of the convention as exhibitors. All their plans to present their games and sell just vanished which will most likely affect their respective finances negatively. No amount of refunds can make up for that.

Also disappointed are the gamers who are fortunate to gain access into the event as attendees, plus the many millions of other gamers worldwide who could only view the E3 via video, blogs and website coverage. Speaking of the Internet, there are a whole lot of bloggers, YouTubers and social media personalities who won’t be able to cover the event live together this year. For Xbox-related coverage of E3 of 2019, I followed the updates from Colt Eastwood who attended the convention. Eastwood’s updates of that particular E3 were so engaging and exciting.

Speaking of Xbox, Microsoft had big plans to organize their media presentation at E3 2020 to formally showcase to the whole world their next-generation console Xbox Series X.

With the cancellation of the big event, Microsoft now has to do a digital event to show off and explain their next-generation plans. Check out Xbox head Phil Spencer’s Tweet below.

Screenshot_20200312-052710_Twitter.jpg

I myself have been anticipating the Xbox Series X not only for playing video games but also for my household’s home entertainment. I have been looking forward to not just new, cutting edge technology and special features, but also the many upcoming games that are already being produced by the many game studios that Microsoft acquired to strengthen the Xbox brand.

From this point on, in the absence of E3, those who are anticipating Xbox Series X and future games will just have to wait for new details from Microsoft as to when their planned digital event will be held, how will it be presented, how much will they be able to show, etc.

Watch out for updates right here.


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