Xbox Mini?

Nostalgia for past consoles appear to be at an all time high with Nintendo’s licence to print money: the SNES Classic. Coming a year after the NES Classic, the recently released 16 bit bundle of goodness has flown off shelves. A like minded Gameboy Classic or PlayStation Classic should be expected over the next few years; but what about Xbox?

Entering the console space near the start of the millennium, Microsoft doesn’t quite have the rich history its competitors do. What they do have though is the roadmap for what the next generation of consoles will look like. The iterative Xbox One X will either be the true beginning of the end of distinctive console generations akin to mobile phone updates or it will be the Xbox One 32X: repeating SEGA’s expensive mistake it the 90s. What Microsoft do offer – to a greater extent than Sony or Nintendo – is choice: the vanilla Xbox One, Xbox One S and the X. With production of the original console ending, a new third pillar should be expected. Could this be Microsoft’s answer to a ‘classic’ or ‘mini’ console? Let me explain…

Since the 360 days, there have been rumblings of a discless Xbox. This may finally be a reality. Imagine if you will, a smaller, streamlined Xbox One: HD – no 4k, 500gb hard drive and packaged with some classic games. The Xbox One will soon be compatible with the full lineage of Xbox games from the original Xbox 1 to the modern Xbox One. This would enable the One family to be its own retro machine – if you want it to be. One of the biggest criticisms of the Nintendo classics has been the lack of expansion: further downloadable titles would have been another money maker for Nintendo. 

Xbox One C? Xbox One Mini? Xbox One TV? Whatever it would be called, a cheaper (£150?) Xbox One might just be the best of both worlds. For now, Sony and Microsoft are ignoring the home/handheld hybrid market (don’t quite believe that…) but the mini market may just be about to explode. We can expect at least one more retro console from Nintendo; time will tell if Microsoft can exploit their unique position and marry the past, present and future together. 

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Destiny 2: Trials of Parenting

Listening to the Kinda Funny crew this week, they discussed an interesting topic: an article about Destiny 2 and parenting. The full article from Kotaku’s Keza MacDonald can be found here: Kotaku. So here’s our take on this hot topic…

Firstly, parenting is a wonderful, dreadful challenge which subconsciously and consciously challenges you for the rest of your life. Every decision you make is influenced by the fact you are now a parent revealing a new layer of feeling under your existing psyche and mentality.

Point in reference: the death of the Wayne’s in Batman. I’ve watched this hundreds of times pre-children but it was watching it again in Batman Begins when my nerve failed to hold. I could feel my eyes welling up and my mind wandered; what would my children do if a Joe Chill was lurking outside the local cinema? How would this impact their lives beyond the obvious? So, with all this in mind, let’s return to Destiny. 

Andrea Rene made a great observation at Kinda Funny: the distinction between being a ‘new’ parent and being a parent. It does get easier over time as you learn to deal with another human’s day to day problems as well as your own but all stops on the parenting timeline offer unique opportunities to experience games and I’d like to share some.

A month after my first born arrived, I bought a PlayStation 4. This was in 2014. A sleep deprived wreck, I quickly realised something in between the 2am and 6am feeds: warming a bottle, waking our daughter and feeding took roughly the same amount of time as a game of FIFA. Cue Vince McMahon excitement meme. When she settled into a more regular routine, our daughter slept for about two hours each morning and afternoon as well as 12 hours at night. This allowed me to settle back into more regular gaming patterns. This coincided with the release of Destiny 1. Over the next months, Destiny became comfort food – like FIFA – jumping into a strike for 15 minutes. I didn’t need to think or try to remember where I left off; it was just there waiting for me. This is what excites me now for Destiny 2.

Within a week of launch, Destiny 2’s campaign was over and I’m steadily climbing the light ladder. My fireteam – who are not yet parents – are Raid-ready and are deeper into the end game content like the Nightfall Strikes. However, when I jump on, we still find common ground. There is always something the we can do which is productive in pushing those stats up. If I do get chance to do the raid, like any extended event in my life, I’ll have to consider the kids first. If you want to do it there’s always a way. Like Keza though, I’ll always be one step behind my responsibility-free guardian friends. At least for now, but this may change.

My kids are three and one and we have a great thing at the moment: playing games together. We play games like Yooka-Laylee and they pretend to be the titular characters; sometimes it’s one of the LEGO games or – a great game for anyone – Slime Rancher. It’s still a bit early to put them into Destiny but I’m looking forward to the day we can. Take IGN general manager Peer Schneider’s examples of hooking four PlayStation 4 consoles up to play multiplayer together or roaming the battles of Splatoon 2 as a family. Parenthood closes one chapter on our gaming lives; I’ll probably never spend 14 hours straight playing Fallout 3 like I did in 2009 but parenthood also opens another door: one which is perhaps most of us thirty-somethings can relate to.

If – like me – you were brought up with Nintendo and SEGA viewed as ‘kids toys’ which would inevitably end up at a car boot sale with He-Man and Thundercats, we now have the opportunity to usher in a new age for computer games. The shift to popular culture and an acceptable pastime began with the PlayStation in 1994 but now the way we interact with our children and games births the opportunity to fully realise this. For the time being, playing great games and sharing thirty years of wonderful experiences – both digital and real life – with my kids is amazing. At the end of a hard day, I know a cheeky half an hour on Destiny 2 is a great way to pass the time. 

Royale Revolution?

Which games should have Battle Royale modes?

The newest in-thing in games is the ‘Battle Royale’ genre; is it a game mode or a feature which should be exclusive to PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG)? The premise is a 100 player death match on an island with an increasingly shrinking playing area – a bit like a digital Hunger Games. Fortnite has been one of the first ‘fast followers’ to the Battle Royale party and has been met with friction from PUBG. The term is here to stay – like Metroidvania or Roguelike – as Alanah Pearce wrote for IGN recently (http://m.uk.ign.com/articles/2017/09/22/pubg-publicly-shaming-fortnite-is-a-terrible-pr-move). But which other games would make for awesome Battle Royals modes?

Destiny 2: Trials Royale

Could you imagine this? The carnage would be incredible: especially if you could drop in as a fireteam. The weapon collecting system from PUBG would be redundant to a certain extent though placing vehicles and/or limited use weapons could make it even more interesting. Destiny 2’s open world style world maps would be ideal for a 100 player fight to the death mode. 

The Legend of Zelda: Battle of the Wild

Unlikely yet simultaneously logical. Drop 100 Links on a region of the map with nothing Eventide Island style and procure weapons on site. Throw a few Lynels in for good measure too. No, wait – let one person be the Lynel…No amiibo!

Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain of Battling Royale 

This game has sat on my shelf for two years now since completion; the mechanically-perfect masterpiece is perhaps the most likely candidate for a Battle Royale shooter. Clearly the blend of stealth and bombastic, Bay-esque firepower would be an excellent template to unleash 100 Infants Terrible upon each other. 

Pokemon: Battlemon Tournament

Hear me out. Choose a starting Pokemon and acquire 5 Pokeballs. Drop 100 Pokemon trainers onto an open, full world map such as Kanto and slowly narrow the map area. Aside from your starter, all Pokemon are caught in the game world and there are no Pokemon Centres. Revives and Potions etc are procedurally dropped around the world. This is the best bit: just like in the core-game RPGs, any trainers making eye contact must battle. Once all Pokemon in your party faint, it’s game over. Only the very best – like no one ever was – will win! 

Mario Kart 8: Royale Dash

100 drivers. 3 balloons each.  Wuhu Island. Done. 

Banjo-Kazooie: Nutz N Battlez

Banjo and Kazooie’s last outing – nearly 10 years ago – suffered from not being what their fan base wanted. The construction tools in this game are simple to understand yet have amazing depth. Drop bear and bird into the battlefield and scour for new parts. Don’t be caught in the menu screens though; budding engineers need to assemble new parts quickly and efficiently. The other 99 players are made up of Banjo’s supporting cast like Bottles as well as long forgotten platform heros like Cool Spot, Zool and Earthworm Jim. Last 90s mascot standing wins. Yooka and Laylee available as paid dlc. 

Which games do you think should take inspiration from PUBG? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter @pennilessdads

Destiny’s Halo?

Destiny 2: the new benchmark for games-as-service, is here. Now, seems a funny time to discuss this but a convergence of events in the last week have brought me to a simple conclusion about life, light and the preservation of games such as this. The fact of the matter is simple; Destiny 1 will inevitably be shut down soon. 

Back in 2014, always online was a strange new concept for many. Now it is almost mandatory. Destiny for all its faults was amazing (note the past tense). Over the last three years I’ve had an on/off romance with it which is rekindled with Destiny 2. Always online brings with it unavoidable problems. The other night – after a long day at work – I booted up D2 only to be met with a disappointing ‘network down’ message as Bungie delivered (planned) maintenance. No Destiny porn for me then. This began the mind-wander towards a depressing question; how much of D1 will be playable when the plug is pulled? 

Logic dictates the obvious; none of it. Likeminded online focused games have drifted off to that digital farm all of our virtual pets were sent to and Destiny will probably be no different. Except – what if there were a workaround?

Always online enabled all Destiny players to exist within the various worlds alongside others. There really was nothing like jumping into a Strike playlist; finding two random, silent Guardians then carrying out your mission with surgical precision. However, the primary purpose of all our Destiny saves – for both games – is to avoid cheats and exploits. No one can manipulate game saves etc when we don’t physically have them on our hard drives. Should this still apply to D1 though? The hardcore have jumped sparrow to D2, leaving the original Tower et al conspicuously lonely. Having just clocked D2’s great campaign, a return play through of D1 – which I haven’t done since 2014 and the vanilla days – might not be a bad idea. It is currently a vague memory wrapped up in subsequent dlc and never ending grinding. I wouldn’t be doing it for engrams or gear or shards but for something more: enjoyment. This led me to my conclusion.

If Bungie – against all form and precedent – switched D1 to local saves, allowing the player to play solo (offline), a renaissance of D1 could be upon us. The core game would be preserved; you could even patch in bots for the raid. This offers up a tantalising prospect; Destiny could work on Nintendo Switch. Destiny 2, with its complex infrastructure, may be too much but a local based Destiny 1 would surely not. Three Guardians playing in handheld mode locally. It sounds logical doesn’t it? For all the improvements D2 has brought, wouldn’t it be great to take the original with you anywhere? It’s just a thought; a wish upon a star. One day, the original Destiny will be in darkness. Perhaps we can find a way of leaving the light on…

Destiny 2 Review

Version: Xbox One

MILD SPOILERS AHEAD

Update 1: Without blitzing the campaign, I’ve been taking my time to do what many Destiny players forget: enjoy the game. After about ten hours, my battle-hardened Guardian has maxed out to level 20 and the familiar end game is upon him. It feels as though Destiny 1 was one huge Beta test in preparation for the sequel. The journey to level 20 and the subsequent push to raise my ‘Power’ feels much like the original’s in 2014. D1 learnt that endless grinding of materials was a fruitless labour with the vanilla original quickly being updated to a modified progression system. When the focus drifts to raising stats Destiny becomes addictive yet some of the fun is drawn out. Playing the campaign reminded me how much enjoyment I had in 2014 – in the opening weeks of release – before raids and expansions. 

Destiny 2’s campaign is entertaining; giving you more of fan favourite characters like Cayde 6.The Destiny team at Bungie clearly know their sci-fi with the casting of Firefly alums Gina Torres and Nathan Fillion. In a later campaign mission, the developers show their sense of humour with the ensemble cast. I was tasked with destroying a Cabal spaceship, preventing its escape by destroying shield generators a la Empire Strikes Back. Any notion of happy coincidences are swashed when immediately after you seal the deal by sending a missile along the fuel pipes just like a certain rebel pilot did in 1977. Destiny 2 is filled with memorable writing and set pieces which will provide many water cooler conversation opportunities over the coming weeks and years. It truly stands out compared to competent shooters such as Titanfall 2; it excels at amusing in amongst the gunplay.

Above all, Destiny 2 is the pinnacle of shooting mechanics. Everything is perfectly balanced and – at the risk of sounding like Goldilocks – feels just right. D2, which is still less than a week old, is the new benchmark for shooters: the way the enemy heads pop in an explosion of numbers; sliding into a band of alien scum before face-palming them into the void or seamlessly switching between your arsenal of oddly named weaponry. Shooting is better in Destiny than any other game. At £42 delivered, this purchase is recommended and leaves me with a lingering question…

Will D2 tire by October 27th and Super Mario Odyssey? Or is Nintendo’s flagship character destined (shnarff!) to be ignored. At the moment, it is difficult to see how any other game could come close to distracting from Destiny 2 in the months ahead. More than recommend. 

Original: So far, so good. Destiny 2 – as we have known for some time – smacks the reset button before the end of the 1st mission. With your light removed lost along with all hope, it is up to you to salvage the remains of everything which was built in the original. Eyes up guardian! Or perhaps that should be ‘boots on the ground’ as the initial missions remove even the most basic of guardian powers such as double jumping. Either way it’s good to be home.

Whilst keeping the original as a template: social hub; interstellar adventures and loot hunting all present, Destiny 2 expands the final build of its predecessor. Immediately, it feels like Destiny’s Rise of Iron. Menus and gear harp back to the final days of OG Destiny albeit with some significant improvements. 
Firstly, missions take a more open world, fluid structure; no more jumping to orbit to launch into games. Destiny 2’s initial offering of story and new ‘Adventure’ missions offer plenty of early content. Each world has a friendly vendor who act similarly to the likes of factions such as Dead Orbit et al. Obviously the dash to be raid ready is important for some players but we enjoyed the fleshing out of Destiny 2’s campaign, steadily climbing the light ladder. On the note of content – in stark contrast with the previous game – in each world we found ourselves falling over Public Events. They’re everywhere! Added to this, a map system allowing missions/events/vendors to be tagged made traversing the level to find them much, much more intuitive. The usual Bungie epic-ness is present and correct during the campaign along with some witty dialogue between Ghost and the new and existing characters. 
Later on in the campaign, a wider range of game modes are unlocked including Strikes before fully opening up the end-game. Much like the original (again) the first 15 hours or so see you cycling through gear and weapons almost every mission to push your stats up before slowing towards the end. There are so many similarities to the first game but this is no criticism. This should be exactly the game fans of Destiny 1 wanted. 
So far, since launch it has been a daily dip in to forge through the campaign. 2017 will be remembered as a tale of two games: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, in the first half; Destiny 2 in the latter. Whatever comes next for Bungie and Activision’s behemoth shooter – and despite what problems and controversies it will surely face – based on what we’ve seen so far this is an essential game. Considering the value D1 offered pound for pound we’re excited for what the next 500 hours will bring. 

Destiny 2 Review in Progress (Spoiler free)

Version: Xbox One

So far, so good. Destiny 2 – as we have known for some time – smacks the reset button before the end of the 1st mission. With your light removed lost along with all hope, it is up to you to salvage the remains of everything which was built in the original. Eyes up guardian! Or perhaps that should be ‘boots on the ground’ as the initial missions remove even the most basic of guardian powers such as double jumping. Either way it’s good to be home.

Whilst keeping the original as a template: social hub; interstellar adventures and loot hunting all present, Destiny 2 expands the final build of its predecessor. Immediately, it feels like Destiny’s Rise of Iron. Menus and gear harp back to the final days of OG Destiny albeit with some significant improvements. 

Firstly, missions take a more open world, fluid structure; no more jumping to orbit to launch into games. Destiny 2’s initial offering of story and new ‘Adventure’ missions offer plenty of early content. Each world has a friendly vendor who act similarly to the likes of factions such as Dead Orbit et al. Obviously the dash to be raid ready is important for some players but we enjoyed the fleshing out of Destiny 2’s campaign, steadily climbing the light ladder. On the note of content – in stark contrast with the previous game – in each world we found ourselves falling over Public Events. They’re everywhere! Added to this, a map system allowing missions/events/vendors to be tagged made traversing the level to find them much, much more intuitive. The usual Bungie epic-ness is present and correct during the campaign along with some witty dialogue between Ghost and the new and existing characters. 

Later on in the campaign, a wider range of game modes are unlocked including Strikes before fully opening up the end-game. Much like the original (again) the first 15 hours or so see you cycling through gear and weapons almost every mission to push your stats up before slowing towards the end. There are so many similarities to the first game but this is no criticism. This should be exactly the game fans of Destiny 1 wanted. 

So far, since launch it has been a daily dip in to forge through the campaign. 2017 will be remembered as a tale of two games: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, in the first half; Destiny 2 in the latter. Whatever comes next for Bungie and Activision’s behemoth shooter – and despite what problems and controversies it will surely face – based on what we’ve seen so far this is an essential game. Considering the value D1 offered pound for pound we’re excited for what the next 500 hours will bring. 

Xbox Three

Unless the Switch does something remarkable, PlayStation 4 will be the best selling console of this ‘generation’ (a term which may become archaic if we get another iteration beyond the Pro/S/X). Microsoft however, need to be worried. The Switch has sold nearly 5 million consoles in little over a quarter whereas lifetime sales of Xbox One are around the 30 million mark – having had a three year head start at market. Undoubtedly part of PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch’s success has been down to a renewed focus on games. Wii U tried to invade TV (TVii) and social media which detracted from a modest yet critically acclaimed lineup. Microsoft’s initial focus on Xbox being the all-in-one box of tricks lost the generation before it had begun. The ship is still coming around but what can Microsoft possibly do to prevent finishing 3rd in the current console wars?

Firstly, Microsoft has already done a great job of reversing the PR nightmare which was Xbox One’s launch. Backward’s compatibility, Games with Gold and Xbox Games Pass have all been pro-consumer moves which have caught some ground with Sony. The Xbox One is a great console with some solid – yet un-unique – features. Unfortunately, the single most important asset missing from ‘the world’s most powerful games console’ are games. So, we decided to explore what we’d like to see to save Xbox from finishing below Nintendo.

Sony’s games-centric focus came to a head with the ‘year of dreams’ announcements like Shenmue 3, Last Guardian and the Final Fantasy 7 remake. There aren’t many of these left to go to – except Half-life 3. This phantom game – seemingly on permanent hiatus – is one of the only franchises which could be classified as on par with the above games. Microsoft would have to move heaven and earth to make Valve play nice but desperate times call for desperate measures. Other than Half-life, it is difficult to see any other series which would make the same impact from returning.

On the original Xbox – released in the wake of SEGA’s exit from manufacturing consoles – became an interesting breeding ground for what should have been the Dreamcast’s final wave of software. Games such as SEGA GT, Panzer Dragoon Orta and Spikeout were joined by ports like Shenmue 2 and Jet Set Radio. Although not defining series on the Xbox, they complimented the likes of Halo, KOTOR and Project Gotham (itself a spiritual successor to Dreamcast’s Metropolis Street Racer). SEGA appears to be open to resurrecting forgotten franchises which could be an opportunity for Microsoft to create a mutually beneficial partnership. Streets of Rage, Decap Attack and Kid Chameleon have all been dormant since the 16 bit era. Then there are series – although more recently reimagined – like Shinobi, Golden Axe and Phantasy Star which are ready for a reboot. Generating modern, innovative titles like these which carry names dripping with nostalgia would help Xbox rival a certain home/handheld console hybrid in terms of software. If Ultra Street Fighter 2 can sell near 500,000 units then imagine what Microsoft could achieve with some of SEGA’s long forgotten franchises!

Among Sony’s 1st party line-up are two types of games which are near – if not at – the pinnacle of their divisions. Firstly, in the ‘story driven’ adventure category, Sony has the likes of The Last of Us, God of War and Uncharted 4. The second are the ‘souls’ games. Sony has leant into their popularity with Bloodborne and Nioh. They read the tea leaves correctly with this type of game. However with Dark Souls now on its 3rd iteration, Sony has had plenty of time to get its ducks in order. Microsoft needs to play catch up and get engaging narrative driven games and tough-as-nails ‘souls’ games out in the wild. This means either directing 1st/2nd party studios or seeking timed exclusivity agreements by studios such as Platinum. 

In order to hit the short time frame Xbox One X has to work in, Microsoft would have needed to establish these deals around the time ‘Project Scorpio’ was announced. It is entirely possible PlayStation 5 could be announced in 2018 and an updated Switch SKU (Lite/XL/’new’) is expected by 2019. That gives Xbox One X around 18 months to catch up. 

Xbox veterans like Gears of War and Halo are no longer as relevant as they were in previous generations though both were forged in the fires of Microsoft’s push to be seated at the console war table. However, it is this kind of creativity Microsoft needs to seek out, nurture and capitalise on. Otherwise, it may be time for Xbox Gone.