The Team Behind “Thief 4″ Give a Small Preview of What the DualShock 4 Can Do

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Sony is a company with a checkered history of controller innovation. Sure they hit a sweet spot with the basic original PS1 controller which just felt right in your hands, but the biggest tech additions to that model (analog sticks and vibration) were lifted from the successful innovations of the N64. Even then they were so unsure regarding the whole “Analog” thing, that the original model of that controller had a button that allowed you to disable it, and the first game to require the sticks didn’t come to the PS1 until 1999.

Also, as the SixAxis proved, when it comes to home brewed innovations the folks at Sony lag behind. It would seem they are really vested in changing that image with the PS4 controller, which may maintain the timeless structure of the Dual Shock model, but introduces a miniature touch area, a share button of somewhat ambiguous specific functionality, and LED lights on top similar to those on the PS Move.

While the true test of these features won’t really be applicable until developers have had a year or so to play around with it and explore their full benefits, the folks behind “Thief 4” have provided a small preview of what we can expect from this new controller, specifically as it relates to the LED bar which in the case of “Thief” will remain dark when your character is hidden, and light gradually as you become more and more exposed. They’ve also noted that the touchpad will be used for enhanced menu navigation, and the more accurate motion sensors allow them to incorporate bow aiming mechanics into it, as well as a motion controlled dash option.

They also spoke of incorporating a mechanic that would allow you to blow onto a controller to blow out candles, but that it might be removed if it is “too gimmicky.”

Granted this isn’t game changing stuff, but it does remind me of the first time I played “Tiger Woods” on the PS2, and noticed how the enhanced graphics actually allowed me to better read the course at a glance, thus improving the gameplay through a cosmetic upgrade. It’s a little touch to be sure, but its an interesting first step towards what appears to be a new day for Sony controller integration and innovation.

The Xbox One’s Underwhelming Debut Leaves Far too Many Questions

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The last several years of gaming have taught us that there are quite a few ways to make a gaming announcement.

For instance, you can bring out a bunch of awkward presenters who sound like they’ve only seen a video game as a word atop an earnings report, you can hire a bunch of celebrities to shamefully shill your product, you can insert enough cheap jokes and crowd pop attempts to make pro wrestling blush, and of course you can overspend on the presentation to compensate for your drastic under planning on the actual execution.

In unveiling their new console today, Microsoft pulled out all of these, and more. Of course, we should have anticipated this as soon as we heard the name of that console, the Xbox One, which displays as much creativity as any of those mentioned techniques.

Putting aside the fact that Microsoft is comfortable naming their console of the future after a term used when people are specifying the original Xbox in conversation, the actual hour long unveiling that would follow was a jumble of ideas that probably didn’t leave the punch in the gut impression that Microsoft had intended.

Now granted, there were a few moments of inspiration during the presentation, but most of them were centered around the initial demonstration of the Xbox One’s voice operated multimedia capabilities which, even though it was more of an extended demo of the new Kinect, was exactly the kind of thing that you expect  from the next generation of gaming system.

From there though, things moved downhill. While aspects like the console’s bland looks, terrible, terrible name, and dull presentation style are ultimately trivial, what isn’t is the general impression that Microsoft is more interested in creating a multi-media device than they are a gaming system. This is evident in the lack of sufficient game announcements, dearth of in-game footage, choice to treat EA annual games like a big deal, and larger emphasis on getting RGIII and Steven Spielberg to cut promos over providing gamers with details like a price point (on Live and the console) or a solid release date.

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If you need any further proof of this dramatic shift in philosophy, look no further than the dodgy and haunting answers to the controversial issues of used game compatibility and always online features, which do nothing to quell the concerns of gamers.

Then again, the point is that the Xbox One doesn’t appear to be a gaming console as we’ve known it. While that could be a good thing in doses, and it’s obviously financially beneficial for Microsoft to focus on a multimedia device, if you’re a real gamer you’re probably still left shivering from that hour long cold shoulder.

Of course, realistically it is still too early to draw long term conclusions on the Xbox One, but the fact remains you only get one first impression, and the Xbox One’s first impression was not that of a confident  gaming system. You could argue that Microsoft is saving all of that “game stuff” for E3, but as mentioned, that is a bloated and archaic institution, whereas this was the moment that Microsoft was supposed to have all to themselves.

It’s quite possible that what we’ve just seen is the inevitable future of the business of video games. If it really is all about figures and market shares though, then Microsoft will do well to take notice of the rise in Sony’s stock shortly following the Xbox One announcement not as an apparition, but as a clear message of the dangers, and benefits, of first impressions and that this is a true make or break system for the Redmond institution that shows they cannot afford to rest on their laurels, and come out with many more major whiffs, as they did today.

Sources Say to Look for “Killzone 4″ at the Playstation 4′s Launch…But is it Enough?

If so called anonymous sources are to be believed, you can expect “Killzone 4” to be releasing alongside the Playsation 4 later this year. Those same source goes on to say the unveiling of the game could coincide with the assumed Playstation 4 reveal that Sony has planned for February 20th.

Sony has no official response to the claim.

Though the development of the “Killzone” franchise is handled by Guerilla Games, and is nearly their sole project, the “Killzone” franchise was originally intended as Sony’s sponsored “Halo killer,” in a time when all other companies were looking for such a thing. The original installment was generally well received, though no one was confusing it with Microsoft’s flagship shooter, and the reaction was almost universally more of a whimper.

It was “Killzone 2” and it’s “is it live or Memorex?” trailer that brought the series into real prominence and, since that installment, the franchise has both evolved into a much superior shooter, and is often referred to as one of the premier Playstation exclusives, along with a title that, much like “Mario,” is often associated with the launch of new Sony hardware (though the PS3 had to settle for “Resistance”).

For all of its improvements though, the franchise is still not a world stopping launch title.

“Killzone” is a fun game to be sure, but it never managed to reach the heights of the “Halo” series, or truly separate itself in the over-saturated FPS market (despite a rabid fanbase). This puts Sony in an awkward position, as a lot of other big name franchises they have available either have a game most likely still releasing on the Playstation 3 (“God of War,” Quantic Dream’s “Beyond Two Souls,” “Demon’s Souls”) or have no assumed plans for a new installment (“Little Big Planet,” “Uncharted,” a true new “Metal Gear Solid”)

It looks like “Killzone 4” is set to be the premier launch game for the PS4 then and, unless Sony has some serious hardware lined up, or a real surprise title in store, all parties concerned should be taking that position very seriously as the franchise is going to have to be the one thing it never was before for this to work, and that is a true killer app.

As Details Emerge About the Next Playstation, I say Goodbye to the DualShock Controller

There has been a recent flood of information leaking the technical aspects of the new Playstation (and Xbox), that suddenly has everyone realizing that the official unveiling of Sony’s new system is indeed imminent. While we’ve learned a lot more about that new Playstation in the last week thanks to those leaks, there is still a great deal of the unknown as gamers eagerly await to see what Sony’s next gen system will bring them.

One thing that is becoming clear though is that the classic DualShock controller will not be part of that unveiling, as several sites, citing internal sources, are now reporting that Sony will be ditching their tried and true DualShock controller design and coming up with a fresh model. While it is unknown if the new Playstation controller will maintain basic elements of that old controller, already there are rumors of new features like a built-in touch LCD screen, and biometric sensors in the controller that would allow for readings of player’s certain physical properties such as sweat and nerves that could affect things like the character’s aim.

Obviously with Nintendo going bonkers with the Wii U remote (and redefining what a controller meant to a system with the Wii) every other company was going to have to step up their designs, and so this announcement is a bittersweet one, due in large part to the DualShock controller being the greatest video game controller of all time.

Even if you ignore the most basic features of the controller like it’s smart layout and curvy features that just naturally felt right in your hands, it’s the dual analog sticks and vibration ability that secures that lofty title for the DualShock. It’s easy to forget that the re-design from the original Playststion was a response to the analog stick on the N64, as it became quickly evident that the traditional four direction D Pad was not going to be enough to properly handle a new generation of 3D gaming. Humorously though, with the original dual analog controller re-design (minus the rumble feature) Sony still included a little button that would turn the analog feature on and off so gamers wouldn’t feel overwhelmed or burdened by the new technology. They in fact wouldn’t make a game that fully required its use until the brilliant “Ape Escape” which made considerable beneficiary use of the new design.

Slowly though, the gainful advantages of the dual stick design became immediately evident as it allowed for an unimpeded 360 degree movement system that was still as precise as any single direction direct input. Just imagine trying to play a modern FPS on a console without the dual stick layout, or a third person action or platform game without the freedom of movement and camera control at the same time. As for the built in rumble feature, you just need to recall “Metal Gear Solid“, and that moment where “Psycho Mantis” moves your controller by activating the rumble at a high capacity. It was an all time classic moment in video games that wouldn’t have been possible without the feature, and is just an example of the new level of interaction that the device was capable of providing.

It all came together to form the perfect gaming controller. When you look back at certain controllers, they’re often too simple, too cluttered, or too specifically remembered for their value in certain titles (the N64 and “Goldeneye” or the original Xbox controller and “Halo” for instance). Games always found a way to smartly use just about every button on the DualShock, and it worked for every style of game, not making itself noteworthy for one title above any other. It’s why Sony felt there was no need to change the design for the Playstation 2 or Playstation 3 (slight modifications and wireless functionality aside), and truthfully if they wanted to, it could still hold up for the next generation some 15 + years after the original design’s retail release.

It’s hard to fault Sony for reconsidering the controller for their next system, but even if they don’t maintain the design of the DualShock, we can only hope they remember the spirit of it, and engineer a controller that doesn’t strive to change gaming, but instead accounts for the natural evolution of the medium and inadvertently does so in the process.

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