E3 2019: Xbox Briefing

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Jun 11, 2019

Filed under: Industry Events 112 comments

I’m not in a position to do full E3 coverage this year with videos and streaming. Instead I’m just going to do a rapid-fire analysis of what I’ve seen so far and what I think is interesting. The Xbox briefing was full of stuff to talk about, so I’m giving it a post of its own.

The Xbox Briefing

I'm John Videogames, and I'm here to tell you that video games are my favorite video games.
I'm John Videogames, and I'm here to tell you that video games are my favorite video games.

I am getting really tired of the standard briefing patter. It’s played out, we’ve heard it all before, and it’s not what we’re here for.

“Video games enable us to realize our greatest dreams by using next gen hardware to allow developers to unleash their creative vision for a shared experience that shows us the true possibilities of what our video game technology has to offer to millions of players around the world that play together and have new experiences where they can express themselves through video games by enabling them to connect with a growing world of video game adventure through the power of interactive shared experiences that show the true creative vision of some of the most passionate developers working in the industry today as they work to bring their creations to life through…”

Ugh. Over time, the information density approaches zero. Eventually you wake from your trance and realize you’ve just watched some dude talk for three minutes to express the idea that “video games are great”.

By all means, share with us why you think your new gizmo is a good idea or what your current focus is, but don’t spend time explaining to the audience of hardcore gamers that video games are good. Stop wasting my time.

All of the press events suffer from a little of this, but I think Microsoft’s show was the worst.

The Outer Worlds

But will the game have a BLUE ENDING? That's what we really want!
But will the game have a BLUE ENDING? That's what we really want!

Obsidian’s planet-hopping space adventure is looking pretty dang good. My one gripe is that the whole “evil corporation” angle feels a little too straightforward for an Obsidian title. The corporations are evidently cartoon villains, and that strikes me as a missed opportunity. I had the same gripe with Caesar’s Legion in Fallout New Vegas. It felt like the writer wasn’t making the best use of the situation they’d created. Having a simple villain is more of a BioWare thing, and I tend to expect a little more depth and nuance out of Obsidian.

Obsidian really likes to present situations where shootingOr stabbing, or casting magic spells, or punching, etc. isn’t always the best option, and that’s always more interesting when you have a villain with a few layers. If I’m just fighting cartoon space jerks then I’d just as soon kill everyone. Don’t ask me to make nuanced decisions about straightforward bad guys.

Then again, this is just a trailer, and nuance doesn’t always play well in trailer form. It’s entirely possible that the game itself will contain all sorts of interesting situations where things aren’t as simple as shooting all the dudes between you and the button to solve your current problem.

I’m looking forward to it.

Minecraft Dungeons

Ah yes. A linear fixed experience in a static environment. This is exactly what made Minecraft such a hit.
Ah yes. A linear fixed experience in a static environment. This is exactly what made Minecraft such a hit.

Wow. Microsoft has no idea how to leverage this Minecraft property, do they? They paid a billion dollars for the dang thing, and it feels like they didn’t even have a plan. The big features that drove the Minecraft Craze were creativity and moddability. So they decided to make story-based gamesTechnically Telltale made the game, but the point is that Microsoft gave them the license to do so. and combat-focused games.

It could be good, in the same way that a Gears of War Match 3 game could be good. It might be good or bad, but the property won’t be any help in terms of attracting an audience, because it doesn’t contain any of the ingredients that built the original audience in the first place.

Jedi Fallen Order

That EA logo isn't exactly reassuring.
That EA logo isn't exactly reassuring.

I’m seeing two recurring criticisms with this game:

  1. The combat doesn’t look good. Complaints vary and everyone seems to put their finger on something different, but there’s a general sense that something is off.
  2. The main character is boring. He also looks a bit like Hayden Christiansen, which I’m not even sure is deliberate.

I’ve seen the gameplay demo twice now, and I agree that something doesn’t seem right with the combat. However, maybe it’s a problem with how it was being played. The presenters made such a big deal about the fact that we were seeing an expert player engage with the full mechanics, but that expert player made a lot of odd choices. They would stop attacking sometimes, which made the combat seem less fluid. In one of the fights against the guys with electro-space-staffs, the player suddenly went all button-mashy and took a bunch of damage. I couldn’t tell what they were trying to show off. Maybe the script called for them to take damage at certain points so they could show off your little healbot? I don’t know.

The more pressing problem is that our main character is designed backwards. He doesn’t seem to have any agency in the story. He shows up and other characters give him orders and he does what he’s told. This is a very common problem in AAA games, because this is basically a direct translation of the game designer’s plan. The problem is that this makes for a flat protagonist with no drama.

This is Star Wars, and Star Wars runs on character drama. This guy should be bursting with emotions and personality quirks.

Self-doubt: The kid feels inadequate because he’s just a Padawan, but he told the rebels he’s a Jedi because he wanted them to accept him. Now he’s worried he won’t be able to live up to their expectations.

Arrogance: The kid feels like he’s above this petty bullshit the rebels are doing. He’s humoring them now, but he’s assuming he can fix everything by killing the guy in charge. His character arc will involve him coming to realize that this dumb bullshit with blowing up single bases to help small groups of people is the stuff that really matters. That’s not a distraction, that’s the goal.

Hotheadedness: The kid feels powerful because he can carve his way through stormtroopers, so that’s how he wants to solve every problem. His character arc involves discovering that his lightsaber and force powers are his weakest weapon, and real power comes from being calm and thinking things through.

Pain / vengeance: He’s afraid to open up to a new group of people and he just wants to punish the empire for killing the people he loves. His arc involves accepting these rebels as his new family and fighting for love instead of revenge.

Yes, these are all obvious tropes. I won’t pretend that any of these will make for a complex character study. But this is Star Wars. We’re here for drama, and this boring kid is basically a walking lightsaber. None of these cutscenes reveal much in the way of personality. He has no conflict or banter with the rebels and there’s no stakes or tension to any of this.

This doesn’t mean Fallen Order will be a bad game. It might be fun to play, but I predict it will also be a bit forgettable.

Cyberpunk 2077

That's really good hair. Why doesn't Lara Croft's hair look that good? She even has her own special hair technology and it still looks like a weightless plastic wig.
That's really good hair. Why doesn't Lara Croft's hair look that good? She even has her own special hair technology and it still looks like a weightless plastic wig.

I realize you’re probably sick of hearing everyone gush about this game, but I’m afraid you’re getting more of the same from me. The demo showed us a brilliant, tense, wonderfully paced drama. Then it revealed that one of your friends in the game is video game Keanu Reeves, and while the audience was still reeling from that they brought actual Keanu Reeves out on stage to talk about the game. It was a perfect moment of rising surprise and excitement.

I’m almost 50 years old now. I don’t get “giddy” very often these days. Sometimes I feel like I’ve seen it all. But then something like this happens and I remember what it was like to be 30 and giddy about a video game.

Xbox Game Pass PC

Spoiler for tomorrow's post: Game Pass isn't a lot of fun.
Spoiler for tomorrow's post: Game Pass isn't a lot of fun.

From the people who brought you Games for Windows Live, it’s…. more of the same!

My column this week is all about my experience attempting to use Microsoft’s new game pass service. It will go up at the Escapist later today, and I’ll do my usual follow-up post tomorrow. For now I’ll just sum up by saying, “I am not particularly impressed” and leave it at that.

Xbox Scarlet (The new console.)

I don't know why I'm posting pictures of this. One black monolith gaming computer looks more or less like any other.
I don't know why I'm posting pictures of this. One black monolith gaming computer looks more or less like any other.

I don’t really have much to say about it. I’m disappointed that this console generation was so short, but I’ll be okay with it if the next-gen stuff is actually backwards compatible.

They unveiled all the little details of the redesigned controller, like how you can open up the thumbstick housing and adjust the springy-ness. That seems like a cute idea, but the whole time I kept thinking, “This damn thing is going to cost a fortune!” Maybe adjusting the thumbstick tension will be fun, but if it’s all the same I’d probably rather spend $20 less and get a device that doesn’t need adjustment.

I didn’t pay attention to the specs. It was at the end of a long briefing and I was starting to suffer from Presentation Fatigue. Anyway, I’m sure the hardware is fine. There’s a lot wrong with what Microsoft is doing these days, but their problems are not hardware related.

Given how painful it is to use their PC software these days, I have to ask Xbox fans: How is the Xbox interface? Is it useful and clean, or is it cluttered up with an avalanche of spam and useless geegaws like the Windows 10 start menu?

The one thing I liked was that presenter Phil Spencer went out of his way to underscore how this was first and foremost a gaming console. Microsoft is very clearly backing off from their attempts to make the Xbox your Home Entertainment Media Center Personalized Connectivity Experience Device that also happens to play some video games.

And the Rest…

Rapid fire: Battletoads, Legend of Wright, Microsoft Flight Simulator, Age of Empires: Yet Another Edition, Psychonauts 2, Dragonball  KAKAROT, 12 Minutes, Way to the Woods, Gears of War 5 Bound by Blood, Phantasy Star Online 2, Elden Ring, Halo Stuff.

All of those can be summed up with one of two statements:

  1. Hm. That looks like it could be interesting.
  2. Eh. Not really my thing.

That’s it for the Xbox show. I’ll probably have one more post  later in the week where I sum up the most important bits from the other shows.



[1] Or stabbing, or casting magic spells, or punching, etc.

[2] Technically Telltale made the game, but the point is that Microsoft gave them the license to do so.

From The Archives:

112 thoughts on “E3 2019: Xbox Briefing

  1. Sarfa says:

    On The Outer Worlds- I think it will end up being more nuanced. But sometimes nuanced situations work best when they’re presented as simple ones and then when you’re smack dab in the middle of it you suddenly realise that what’s going on is much more complex than you thought. So I’d be surprised if it was as simplistic as it seems in the trailer.

    On the Jedi Fallen Order main character looking like Hayden Christiansen- it is a coincidence. He looks exactly like his voice actor, Cameron Monaghan. (https://www.imdb.com/name/nm1185747/?ref_=tt_cl_t1)

    1. The Rocketeer says:

      It’s possible, but I’ve been very cool on Outer Worlds since reading Game Informer’s cover story on the game.

      The writers gush at length about their vision for the world and themes, and it comes off as terribly sophomoric and played out. They really seem to think that they’re the first to use dystopian sci-fi— nay, fiction itself!— to really blow people’s minds with the stunner that capitalism and religion actually aren’t great. There’s a moment when one of them is spotballing between tokes about how business is obsessed with wealth but actually makes people poor or something, and I swear he actually closes his thought with, “Really makes you think, huh?”

      Having had no real expectations for the game beforehand, I’ll now be shocked if Outer Worlds isn’t the most insistently obnoxiously-written game since Horizon: Zero Dawn. But I gave Horizon a pass because it was really fun and great, and maybe Outer Worlds will be, too.

      Now I just need to stop getting it mixed up with Outer Wilds.

      1. The Rocketeer says:

        I wanted to be certain I wasn’t being unfair, so I looked up the quote to let you make up your own mind.

        Tim Cain: “It sounds harsh, but people with a slightly different perspective could view our society that way [as a dystopia]. ‘What do you mean you go to school, you get a job, and then you work until you’re a few years from death, and then you enjoy those very few years, usually with horrible illnesses that your insurance won’t cover? That’s your life? This is silly. There would never be a society like that. People would rise up against it!’ So, we’re holding up a mirror, to some extent.”

        “But it really is just a game,” Cain says, with a smile.

        Pass the Pepto!

        A few scant grafs later, he’s waxing philosophic about how dystopias can be created by people within them who think they’re building Utopia. I think Tim and I could have a wonderful chat on this fascinating subject.

        1. I’m pretty sure literally no one SETS OUT to build a dystopia, so that’s incredibly inane as well.

          In fact, it might be INTERESTING to play a game where the villain literally SET OUT to create a DYStopia for some reason, because that would actually be unique.

          1. The Rocketeer says:

            I think there’s an argument to be made that both of the ruling classes in the two most famous works of dystopian fiction, 1984 and Brave New World, know that their societies are dystopias and perpetuate them anyway, because while they are not perfectly good as a Utopia would be, they are perfect in their own fashion; a dystopia, like Utopia, is an unsurpassable plateu, self-perpetuating, inescapable, accounting for every little thing (the speck on the diary!), as perfectly and infinitely beyond the capacity of man to realistically design and run as any Utopia. In 1984, the Party does not seem to be under the slightest delusion that they are anything but totalitarians dominating society for the sake of domination, and the contention of “THE BOOK” is precisely that perfect control to no higher end is their sole aim. Huxley had a more intriguing take, with the World Controller explaining in plain terms that he knows that genuine happiness is impossible in their world and that the function of their pacifications and distractions is only compensation for a profound misery. But he does seem to believe that the titular brave new world is the best mankind can manage, that they have reached the end of history and that there can never be a fundamental, radical improvement upon their system, only minute and incremental technical adjustments.

  2. Liessa says:

    It’s a bit hard for me to judge Fallen Order as it’s not a genre that appeals to me, so it’s hard to distinguish between stuff I personally find boring and stuff that action-game fans would find boring. That said… yeah, it did look kind of boring. Some thoughts that crossed my mind while watching:

    – The AI seemed lacking, at best. At one point the main character was running down a corridor towards some stormtroopers, who just stood there doing absolutely nothing until he was right next to them. At other points you saw enemies standing around like lemons while the PC fought one of their buddies one-on-one.
    – This is a bit ironic, since I’ve been saying for ages that not everything has to be open-world and we need more tightly-focussed narrative games, but this looks incredibly linear. Basically a literal corridor shooter (corridor stabber?) I guess there might be other areas where the player has more freedom, but that’s what they chose to showcase for the demo.
    – The lightsaber combat was underwhelming. There was one thing the player did that looked interesting – the part where he slowed down time for a few seconds and deflected some blaster bolts back at an enemy – but otherwise, meh.
    – Like everyone else, I have to agree that the main character looks very bland. This isn’t the fault of the actor (see IMDb page linked above); somehow in the process of turning him into a videogame character, they’ve given him this incredibly generic ‘boy band’ look. As Shamus points out, Cal’s lack of personality (displayed in the demo at least) doesn’t help.

    I do like Star Wars so I’d love to see a good SW single-player game, even if I won’t play it myself, if only in hopes of seeing EA make more of them in the future. But this just doesn’t impress me much, even to look at.

    I’m a lot more positive about Cyberpunk 2077, but I don’t really care that the cutscenes look good or Keanu Reeves is in it – I want to see actual gameplay. It pisses me off that they’re refusing to upload the public demo online, though no doubt someone will do it ‘unofficially’ – with a phone camera and a blurry low-res image, naturally.

    Totally lost interest in The Outer Worlds since it was announced as an Epic exclusive. Who knows, maybe I’ll buy it at a heavy discount if it comes to GOG some day.

    1. Vinsomer says:

      Your point with the AI, it looked like the game was taking a few pointers from the souls series, especially with the parrying/targeting systems. And maybe the limited range of AI is also another thing they borrowed.

      Though the AI range is bad enough in Dark Souls, where the enemies are all insane zombies or mindless monsters. In Star Wars, where the enemies are supposedly intelligent soldiers, it’s even less forgivable.

      1. Liessa says:

        To me it looked more like it was bugged, or just unfinished. If they deliberately designed it that way, well…

        1. Vinsomer says:

          I mean, it could be super frustrating to play a souls-like game where every enemy has ranged weapons and the intelligence to use their range against you.

          If that’s the kind of game they wanted to make, then I guess that’s fine, and sometimes fixing a problem introduces an even worse problem.

      2. Karma The Alligator says:

        Ah, but they all have tunnel vision. Look at those helmets they’re wearing!

        1. Cubic says:

          “Man, my helmet is updating again.” (Elevator music.)

      3. MelTorefas says:

        Though the AI range is bad enough in Dark Souls, where the enemies are all insane zombies or mindless monsters. In Star Wars, where the enemies are supposedly intelligent soldiers, it’s even less forgivable.

        I watched a streamer play Sekiro, which also uses the Dark Souls AI, and you are spot on about this. In Dark Souls, the limited AI of the normal enemies actually adds to the atmosphere of the game. The cursed wretched undead wandering around mindlessly and aimlessly just helps set the mood of everything being fallen/lost. But watching the human enemies in Sekiro behave this way completely shattered any sense of immersion the game might have had for me.

    2. Raion says:


      Still waiting for a worthy Outcast\Academy successor.
      Bright side is, those go on sale very cheap often, for those who missed out.

      1. Hector says:

        The Dark Forces series is on GoG right now at a substantial discount during their summer sale. Jedi Outcast is also surprisingly harder than you might expect – the game makes you earn the right to call yourself a badass.

        1. Guest says:

          Outcast is maaaad. Before you get your lightsaber, and before you get heal is some of the hardest gameplay I’ve ever done. Just save scumming, trying to get perfect kills on stormtroopers to avoid taking damage.

          It’s actually frustrating, but it is worth it when you get the lightsaber. Why they can’t make a sequel to that franchise, I’ll never know. It’s perfect, a beloved series, still popular amoung a community who are still using it to make memes to this day, it’s a part of a very popular and lucrative license, and the games, while good, never had a great degree of polish. It’s absolutely begging for someone to come along and just make a nicer looking, less janky, better animated version.

          1. Canthros says:

            I don’t know why they didn’t work harder on a Jedi Academy follow-up between 2003 and 2014, but Lucasfilm relegated the series to extracanonical status shortly after the acquisition by Disney, so a direct sequel is not in the cards: the principal characters are all marooned in Legends, and there’s currently no desire on LucasFilm’s part to invest in new projects that aren’t part of the currently canon continuity.

            I wouldn’t be shocked if Fallen Order was conceived as a spiritual successor of sorts to the Dark Forces/Jedi Knight games, though I don’t see it in the trailer.

            1. Karma The Alligator says:

              Apparently Academy was badly received because it came out too soon after Outcast, so that’s why they didn’t do another (it’s explained at the end of the video Raion linked). After that, can’t say.

              1. Canthros says:

                That’s a bummer.

    3. Geebs says:

      As far as Fallen Order’s lacklustre-looking combat is concerned – it’s all about the animation, which makes up a huge amount of the “feel” in a character action game. The most pertinent example of this is Nier Automata – the combat system in that game isn’t particularly interesting by Platinum’s standards, but I challenge anybody to find a single screenshot of N:A where it doesn’t look as if the protagonists are doing something awesome.

      By comparison, the protagonist in Fallen Order looks like he’s doing a bit of dusting and not even particularly enjoying it.

      1. Guest says:


        And I think it hurts that it’s a Star Wars game about a Jedi who struggles to kill small groups of stormtroopers. He looks bored, disinterested, his attacks seem impotent, and he’s fighting a challenge that any side character with a blaster would rip through in an instant in any other piece of Star Wars media. He’s less competent, lethal, and dynamic in his animations, than Jar Jar Binks at the end of Episode 1. He’s bored and he’s bad at it. Great combo!

        The demo was a real snooze fest. I’m not actually even opposed to making the combat more souls-y, because a lot of the saber combat in these sort of games feels a bit shallow and uninvolved, but they should take their inspiration from Metal Gear Rising, from Devil May Cry, from things that make energetic combat, with flips and tricks, look good, and involves using parries, dodges, etc.

        1. Karma The Alligator says:

          Now I want to see a Star Wars game made by Platinum.

    4. Jeff says:

      Did you not see the ~40min Cyberpunk 2077 gameplay trailer from a while ago, or are you talking about wanting a new one?

      1. Liessa says:

        A new one. According to CDPR the game has changed significantly since then; I’d like to see how.

    5. Guest says:

      I think part of the problem is the blatant attempt at making things “souls-like”. Stormtroopers in groups of like 3 or 4, firing single shots occassionally, very much like Dark Souls archers. And that’s the big problem I have, I don’t want to bash someone a dozen times with a lightsaber to kill them, it makes me wonder why you made it a lightsaber. The heroes of Star Wars deal with far more mooks than this, it’s just not very exciting. The droid buddy thing is really overdone in SW games, as an excuse for one-button interacts and gamey features, and this one looks particularly ugly on our protagonist, who is both bland and unappealing.

      I really hate that traversal stuff shown too. Apparently it’s going to be a metroidvania (Doubt.), but it looked like basic climb here, press force push here, for things with only one critical path, and that’s not gameplay to me, it’s just a nuisance. It’s very much like the Uncharted sort of climbing, which at best, becomes a puzzle or a QTE, and neither of those are particularly fascinating. Dead on about the linearity, I was literally yelling at my screen when they opened the mini map. Why the hell would you choose to show us that it’s that linear? Not even linear-enclosed and corridor based. Call of Duty titles have more open environments than they showed. Maybe that’s all they had for the vertical slice in the demo, but don’t show us that.

      Really disappointing. Best Jedi game is still Jedi Academy, and it looks like they didn’t even manage to make something on par with Force Unleashed. A good sequel that updates one of those franchises would be a lot more interesting than this overly cinematic mush.

  3. Sannom says:

    That’s really good hair. Why doesn’t Lara Croft’s hair look that good? She even has her own special hair technology and it still looks like a weightless plastic wig.

    Come on Shamus, that’s pre-rendered trailer, of course the hair is going to look better!

    Obsidian’s planet-hopping space adventure is looking pretty dang good. My one gripe is that the whole “evil corporation” angle feels a little too straightforward for an Obsidian title. The corporations are evidently cartoon villains, and that strikes me as a missed opportunity. I had the same gripe with Caesar’s Legion in Fallout New Vegas. It felt like the writer wasn’t making the best use of the situation they’d created.

    There is a rather big difference between Ceasar’s Legion and these guys though, the Legion was the blackheart faction opposed to grayer factions like the NCR and House, whereas the absurdly corporatist corporations in this are in charge of everything and you’re mostly involved in competition between them.

    1. KillerAngel says:

      I feel like this take is a little simplistic. My understanding of the purpose of the Legion was to make you question the difference between means and ends. For example, the NCR and Caesar’s Legion have the same desired end: hegemonic power into enforced peace. Caesar’s argument about Hegelian Dialectics is that his means are more efficient towards achieving those ends, but many people in the NCR are at least trying to use better means to achieve their ends. The point is, do you think that ends justify means? Caesar does. Some in the NCR do as well. But you don’t have to believe that to support the NCR, you can try to live up to the democratic egalitarian dream hard as it may be.

      The problem I have both with your argument and Shamus’ argument is that you are mistaking surface detail with substance. We have no idea what substance there will be underneath the corporatist veneer of The Outer Worlds and it’s way too early to make guesses about it, and as your comments about New Vegas suggest even when it comes out its still easy to mistake surface for substance.

      1. Sannom says:

        Josh Sawyer, the game director, pretty much admitted that the Legion is a much darker faction than the others and he is very okay with that :


        They’re believable, but still evil and worse than any other faction.

      2. The Rocketeer says:

        Neither of you is using “corporatist” correctly, and in fact, the way you are applying it to the context of Outer Worlds is close to the opposite of its actual meaning.

        In fairness to you both, “corporatism” is one of the most misused words in political philosophy and is often sight-learned and reused to mean “rule by corporations” or whatever, as you are. But this is still as wrong as using “plutocracy” to refer to the open secret that we are ruled by gangly purple psychic crustacean entities from the dwarf planet usually found beyond Neptune.

  4. John says:

    My one gripe is that the whole “evil corporation” angle feels a little too straightforward for an Obsidian title. The corporations are evidently cartoon villains, and that strikes me as a missed opportunity. I had the same gripe with Caesar’s Legion in Fallout New Vegas. It felt like the writer wasn’t making the best use of the situation they’d created. Having a simple villain is more of a BioWare thing, and I tend to expect a little more depth and nuance out of Obsidian.

    Maybe it’s because my only direct experience with Obsidian is Knights of the Republic 2, but I’ve always associated Obsidian with nihilism rather than nuance. The point of that game seems to be that everyone is stupid. The villains are very much cartoon villains–which may be unavoidable, given that they’re Sith–but the ostensible good guys, the Jedi, are also stupid, and so is the player, either for being nice and helping people (helping people is futile and counter-productive) or for being a jerk and abusing people (because that’s just petty, self-indulgent, and dumb).

    1. Pax says:

      Well, that’s Chris Avellone’s hallmark, and he’s no longer with the company. The Outer Worlds team is being lead by Tim Cain and Leonard Boyarski, people behind such things as the original Fallout and Arcanum, which leads me to believe that the villain will be obviously wrong, but when you get to talk to them, you get to learn why things make sense from their perspective, and an opportunity to convince them that they’re wrong.

      1. Darren says:

        I remember reading about how in Pillars of Eternity, one of the party members Avellone wrote was going to be revealed to have raped the other. This truly awful idea–who wants to have a rapist hanging out in their party to begin with, let alone with his traumatized victim?–made it so far that it’s actually referenced in the official guidebook. That’s, I think, when I really started to question the idea of Avellone as some kind of genius of the industry.

        1. DHW says:

          There’s no possible way that such a concept could have been handled in an interesting fashion? If games are art they should be allowed to wrestle with the sort of issues you might find in your average novel.

          1. Joshua says:

            Possible, maybe. Likely? Probably not.

            I think the best exploration of a rapist being even remotely redeemable is in the Thomas Covenant series where:
            1. The man has leprosy and no feeling in his limbs for several years, and all of a sudden he enters a fantasy world where he suddenly has sensory feelings again unfortunately around the same time as meeting a young woman.
            2. He rapes her out of sheer sensory stimulation, and it’s portrayed as horrible to the reader.
            3. He doesn’t believe that the woman or world are real, so to him it’s akin to raping someone in a dream.
            4. He later strongly regrets that act and it has a number of consequences down the line, and the narrative punishes him for it.

            Even with all of these mitigating factors, a number of people have the reaction “Nope. No way. This guy needs to die in a fire.” I don’t think the average video game is likely to be able to tell a good story from rape.

        2. Sannom says:

          I don’t think rape was involved, but yes, Durance was supposed to have tortured the Grieving Mother during the Eothasian purges and she escaped him by using her cipher powers, fucking them up both.

          Not that Durance is a pleasant character as is.

    2. Vinsomer says:

      I haven’t played a lot of Obsidian games so I can see how nuanced conflicts might be something the fanbase really loves, but I can’t help but feel that sometimes the bad guys are the bad guys and that’s all there is to it.

      Especially corporations. We live in a world where corporate interests not only rapidly increased wealth inequality, but are also literally driving the world to its destruction via climate change. I’m not sure now is the time for a ‘maybe the corporations aren’t that bad’ message, and I’m not sure anyone even believes that. If anything, both sides-ism is being criticised just as much, if not more than whoever is perceived to be ‘bad’.

      What I would expect to see is the acknowledgement that a lot of the people in these corporations are just trying to survive, get by, and grind that 9 to 5 the same as everyone else. If anything, that’s where the nuance lies: in a portrayal of capitalistic systems which places the blame on the systems themselves rather than the powerless individuals who are playing the hands they’ve been dealt, sort of like how the Witcher 3 illustrates that a lot of the poor people of Novigrad are just doing the best with what they have, and it’s the machinations of rulers like Radovid and Emhyr that really are the causes of the biggest social problems those poor people face. And that’s hardly new, either. A lot of media presents the corporate bosses as venal and avarcious, and the humble blue-collar worker as virtuous in comparison.

      1. Redrock says:

        It’s not really about someone being all that bad or just partly bad. Like John mentioned, there’s also usually a bit of nihilism to Obsidian. Like, yeah, Caesar’s Legion is obviously cartoonishly bad, but the NCR and Mr House all suck in their own ways. The question is, rather, what’s the lesser evil or, perhaps, the costs and benefits of helping one faction or the other in particular circumstances. Okay, sure, say, corps are evil. But opening a corp-owned factory in a starving town to provide stable employment and bring resources and investment? Not so cut and dried, especially in a video game. Obsidian is good at that type of stuff. Tyranny is a great example. You’re working for a conquering empire, yes, but the empire is also bringing actual peace, the rule of law and prosperity, and a fair bit more equality and fairness than the conquered lands had before. Then again, the Empire is utterly ruthless and, well, conquering people is bad.

        1. Vinsomer says:

          I have Tyranny, but haven’t played much of it so I can’t say where it goes. A big part of why I haven’t played it is I felt like it was too hopeless. Like the Empire was some insurmountable evil that could never be fixed, at best you could only mitigate a few of its atrocities while being party to even more. And I just don’t think nihilistic worlds are either realistic or enjoyable. We can change the world for the better, and making those changes will feel like a triumph. I bought the game because it sounded so interesting but I guess it’s really not my thing.

          I suppose you could argue that in that case the exploitation of the corporation is perhaps a worthwhile tradeoff, but, to me, that’s a fundamentally shallow choice, because both choices are between the same thing: an economic system which creates artificial shortages or the purpose of explotation and expansion, one which values not human life but exploitable human labour, one which seeks not to invest resources but to extract them, at the cost of human life if necessary. In other words, if you’re going to make a game where the bad guys are corporations, you have to make a fundamentally anti-capitalist game (something of an oxymoron, but whatever) to have any sense of thematic consistency, because the problem is not the existence of one particularly unscrupulous businessman or a period of gold rush-like speculation and avarice, but systems which encourage and reward such things to begin with.

          I think it’s weird that Shamus made the distinction with Bioware, because decisions that aren’t morally cut-and-dried are pretty consistent among their games, especially the Dragon Age games (though even Mass Effect Andromeda had its fair share of grey vs grey choices). The difference is that those games do present some issues, factions or conflicts are black and white, because some are black and white, but there’s plenty of grey there too.

      2. Guest says:

        Sure, but bad guys have coherent motivations, and it’s even possible that you might end up a bad guy, because you can reconcile similar motivations. I agree with the point you’re making about the real world, but the thing is, those guys aren’t just “evil”, they do evil things, because they can rationalise the evil consequences of their actions, and because they’re rationally motivated. They want to make money, and they won’t be hurt by climate change, and they’s so insulated by wealth they can’t comprehend those who will be.

        They’re not moustache twirlers. I still think they’re bad people, but the reason you can judge them as bad is because they’re not just some dickish for the sake of dickish caricature, but because they’re a human being who has made evil choices.

        It also makes them more interesting from a story perspective if they have an understandable motivation for you to uncover, and so you can understand their point of view. Obsidian games tend to have a lot of choices and dialogue based choices, and it’s important there to make characters who you can have an actual argument with, not Handsome Jacks.

      3. Joe Informatico says:

        Given the obvious Western vibe this game is going for, at this point I’m guessing a FISTFUL OF DOLLARS/YOJIMBO situation. Multiple factions (i.e. the corporations) are struggling to control this settlement, but they’re all evil fucks. You start out doing jobs for this or that corporate stooge until you find the way to take them all down.

      4. Olivier FAURE says:

        What I would expect to see is the acknowledgement that a lot of the people in these corporations are just trying to survive, get by, and grind that 9 to 5 the same as everyone else. […] And that’s hardly new, either. A lot of media presents the corporate bosses as venal and avarcious, and the humble blue-collar worker as virtuous in comparison.

        I still think that’s simplistic, and a limitation of conventional 3-acts structure storytelling.

        Stories need a villain (or at least an antagonist), and so stories that try to be mature and portray social problems will need someone to represent that social problem: a corrupt bureaucrat, a greedy boss or a racist politician. This is true even when these social problems are complex and the result or structural dynamics that aren’t the fault of anybody in particular, or of many individual people independently having the same toxic behavior.

        That’s not to say that corrupt bureaucrats / CEOs / politicians don’t exist in real life, but video games have a tendency to turn into a revenge fantasy against these types of people; that revenge fantasy will be black-and-white, skewed and a little unhealthy, the same way (say) a Batman story’s portrayal of criminality might be skewed and black-and-white and emphasize “just beat these people up” more than actual social solutions.

        (this is the same reason you’re almost never going to see a realistic portrayal of cults in a video game; cults are only here to provide some mooks for you to shoot at)

      5. Kieran says:

        Eh, the whole “the system is bad, but the individuals are just trying to live” thing is almost as worn-out as “corporations are bloodsuckers” is.

        Personally, I wouldn’t mind if they showed why corporations became so powerful in the first place – because they work. The corporate model is great at efficiently developing and distributing products in a way that maximizes profit and minimizes risk, and the problems with it (corruption, abuse of power, self-centered greed) are not unique to it, but plague any sort of large, powerful organization. It’d be cool if you were able to side with the corporations with some sort of rationale like “the only people who care about maintaining this remote colony are the corps and as soon as they leave everyone will starve” and end up becoming a middle manager or something.

        1. Sannom says:

          I feel like you’re thinking of corporations in the context of nations led by government, am I wrong ? Because I would just like to remind you that the concept behind that game is that the piece of space this game is set in is entirely owned by corporations, no governing body above or beside them. It’s supposed to be a corporate utopia.

          1. Kieran says:

            Oh, I know. It’s going for the whole late 1800’s company town thing. Still doesn’t mean that an actual corporate faction a la Mr. House would be better than generic Borderlands-esque bad guys. The questline could be you navigating the rivalries among the Directors of the Board!

      6. The Rocketeer says:

        See, this is where Shamus’ rules are kind of funny. You can assert this, and it’s well within the rules. But if… someone… were to rebut this with the thoroughness and specificity with which it might be rebutted, that would be intensely political and beyond the rules. And if someone were to forego a substantive rebuttal for that reason and merely express the depth and intensity with which they disagreed, that might also be easily mistaken for an intense and bitter personal insult. There is in this paradigm quite a lot you can assert without real fear of meaningful contradiction.

        Apropos of nothing at all, has anyone ever read The Wealth of Nations or The Theory of Moral Sentiments? I dunno, just had them on my mind.

        1. Shamus says:

          Re: The Rocketeer and zair:

          I admit this is basically an exploit and I’ve never figured out a good way to handle it. I suppose you could start another completely unrelated thread, pretend you never saw this, and pull the same trick where you just casually make some loaded assertions and dare anyone to contradict you without “getting political”.

          It’s a shitty system, but it’s the best I’ve got.

          1. The Rocketeer says:

            I don’t want to seem as though I’m being hard on you, Shamus, and I’m sorry I get touchy the way I do at drive-by invective. I understand that this is not an oversight, but a trade-off. But it is woeful that this trade-off is totally successful only in the prevention of productive discussion, while the too-heavy slap on the back will always pass as a fair greeting as long as those left with sore backs don’t escalate it.

        2. Syal says:

          My recollection of The Wealth of Nations was that Adam Smith had absolute disdain for oatmeal and wrote a book to insult it.

          A lot of people have told me there’s another layer to the book, but if there was I missed it.

          1. The Rocketeer says:

            That was The Health of Nations, Smith’s magisterial work on dieting and the gourmet lifestyle. Many people wrongly assume that this work was somewhat contradicted by his (less known yet perhaps more interesting) work, The Theory of Floral Sentience, but Smith wrote both books over the same period and his now well-known, if oft-misrepresented views on various cereals and grains in the diet were clearly meant to be interpreted in the context of an understanding that many of our staple crops can be impartially observed to range from the insensate to the sagacious and from the saintly to the malevolent. Oatmeal, however, he ranked among the “loose, vague, and indeterminate,” both for its goopy texture and the ad hoc personal judgments one must make about whether it was moral to eat it, the parameters by which one might determine such a thing occupying much of two of the densest chapters.

      7. zair says:

        “We live in a world where corporate interests not only rapidly increased wealth inequality, but are also literally driving the world to its destruction via climate change.”

        It’s rude to go into a space where political arguments are supposed to be avoided and just casually throw political stink bombs in, knowing no one is going to want to disagree and… start a political argument.

    3. Matt says:

      I don’t think KotOR 2 is nihilistic. It is possible to have a good ending, with genocidal evil defeated and the galaxy saved, because of the heroism of the Exile and not because of the Jedi (the ostensible good guys). The game is skeptical of them and their claims to an institutional monopoly on righteous action. On a character level, personal victories are entirely possible as you address the trauma of your allies and they grow and become better people. Kreia does challenge your motivations and question altruism as a whole, but you don’t have to agree with her and neither does your Exile. You get dialogue options to express disagreement (which is great).

      1. John says:

        Yes, you can disagree with Kreia, but that’s all you can do. You can’t argue with her. You can’t make a positive case for your beliefs (whatever they may be). You can’t confront her with the monstrousness of her own beliefs. You have to sit there and listen to her for the entire game–even after you defeat her, she doesn’t stop talking–and the most the game will let you do is occasionally say “nuh-uh!” Meanwhile, the galaxy is a wreck, the people whose job it is to fix it are dumb, and the best you yourself can manage is to maybe–maybe!–prevent things from getting worse.

        It’s true that there’s a good ending to the game, but it comes off as a total afterthought. “Oh, yes, and, um, your good-aligned party members went out in to the galaxy and helped people or whatever. The end.” There’s no weight or substance to it and it scarcely seems credible after two-dozen hours of misery and futility. It doesn’t help that Knights of the Old Republic 2 is set after the good ending of Knights of the Old Republic, which shows you just how much good Obsidian thinks defeating the Sith is really going to do. (I am aware the Knights of the Old Republic 2 is also set after the bad ending of Knights of the Old Republic. Frankly, it makes much more sense that way, thematically at least. I’ve never understood why Obsidian tried to have it both ways.)

        1. Guest says:

          That’s the thing though, Kreia is not an authority, she’s the evil witch/wizard archetype like Palpatine. She’s telling you all this nihilistic bullcrap and will undermine moral actions with “Well, you’re doing them because of motivations so you’re not inherently good and”-shut up. She’s a villain. She’s just nitpicking you, because she’s so void of the real will to do better things, so she’s playing the naysayer. She’s that person going “Well, you’re not actually helping” or “Thanks for telling us about that good thing you did, somehow that removes any of the good outcomes of your actions”, she’s a) wrong and b) the only answer she deserves is to have someone yell “At least I’m doing something” in her stupid self-centered, self-justifying face.

          I don’t think you should argue with Kreia, nor should you argue with people like that in real life. She’s a walking case of bad faith, her beliefs are based entirely on what is most convenient for her at that moment. And that’s actually kind of interesting as a character, so I don’t resent that as an inclusion. It’s a dark character, but it’s one that’s coherent. There’s plenty of crappy people just like that around, they’ve all got great reasons for why they’re so crummy, but they’re still crummy.

          1. John says:

            Kreia is not Palpatine or like Palpatine. Palpatine is an obvious and intentional one-dimensional villain. Not even the prequels try to give him anything like depth. (I’d argue he doesn’t need any in order to serve his narrative role effectively.) Knights of the Old Republic 2 very clearly thinks more of Kreia than that. She’s set up as a mentor figure at the very beginning of the story and acts in that capacity for most of the game. Knights of the Old Republic 2 expects you take Kreia, her philosophy, and even her evil plan, such as it is, seriously even if you disagree with her.

            Talking to Kreia is futile, but you can’t not talk to her. You can’t not listen either, except in so far as you click through the conversation tree as fast as possible. Kreia is quite literally the voice of the game, and the voice of the game says that doing stuff that isn’t selfish and manipulative is for losers. You can argue that the game lets you push back against that ethos in various ways, and I’ll allow that it’s true to an extent. You can disagree with Kreia. You can help people. But the narrative of the game doesn’t recognize it when you push back and won’t let you do it in a satisfying way. You can’t win an argument with Kreia. You never stick around a planet long enough to see that your actions have made it a better place. Your intervention in the personal lives of your companions has negligible effects on the narrative.

      2. Thomas says:

        It’s nice to watch someone else have this particular discussion for once, instead of taking part in it. I guess it’s one of those eternal topics in gaming

        1. John says:

          As much as I hate Kreia and think that much of the content of the game is just all wrong for Star Wars, Knights of the Old Republic 2 and its reception by the gaming public really do fascinate me. It’s a very ambitious game in certain ways, even if it doesn’t deliver on that ambition. I also think it was the right game at the right time for a lot of people. In the immediate post-prequel world, people were primed and eager for angry, revisionist Star Wars. In a weird way, it’s very unfinished-ness seemed to work for it, because it was possible to imagine that it would have turned out to be a masterpiece if only Obsidian had better project management skills or LucasArts had been willing to give them an extension.

  5. PPX14 says:

    I’m almost 50 years old now. I don’t get “giddy” very often these days. Sometimes I feel like I’ve seen it all. But then something like this happens and I remember what it was like to be 30 and giddy about a video game.

    I never know how to feel when I see you write this sort of stuff harking back to your late 20s as a time of giddy enjoyment of games – as someone in his late 20s and thinking this way about playing video games in his teens.

    I guess an proper Thief 4, or KotOR 3, or Outer Worlds that didn’t look all “hilarious” or a Cyberpunk that was actually Star Wars 1313, or a Jedi Fallen Order that was actually Jedi Knight 4, might make me feel that way.

    1. Kathryn says:

      I assumed that line was a joke for that very reason! I’m trying to remember if I was giddy about an upcoming release of a book or movie (I have never paid much attention to upcoming releases of games) at 30. Maybe the latest Dresden Files? But it definitely didn’t approach waiting for the newest Harry Potter when I was…um…ok, so I wasn’t quite a teen anymore. *cough*

      I think I’ve just been disappointed too many times (including by Harry Potter…) to still get excited about new releases. Now I feel sad about being so cynical in my mid- to late 30s. Haha.

    2. Ancillary says:

      I’m roughly your age and feel the same way. Maybe it isn’t an age thing; maybe games just suck more now, whether you’re 15, 30, 50, or 80.

  6. Infinitron says:

    Here’s some new Outer Worlds gameplay footage: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7rNO8oa6Zws

  7. Karma The Alligator says:

    Spoiler for tomorrow’s post: Game Pass isn’t a lot of fun.

    I was hoping you’d do an article about this (partly because I already assumed it wouldn’t be fun, partly because I really like the articles you write when you’ve been under stress. Sorry).

    As for Fallen Order, what really annoyed me about the demo was how the character moved. He looked like he shat his pants or like he was an average office worker with a very out of shape body. Either way, not what I’d expect from someone who had any training to use Force powers. Also the whole thing looked like a bland Force Unleashed.

  8. Vinsomer says:

    My initial reaction to Jedi Fallen Order was… this looks a lot like the Force Unleashed. Which isn’t terrible, the Force Unleashed was alright, but I felt like the game looked very generic, the character models didn’t impress me (last time that happened was Andromeda, and, well, we know how that one ended) and I couldn’t help but think how much more interesting 1313 looked in comparison.

    Star Wars as a franchise is stuck in this weird place where all the EU has been purged, so everything has to fit between the prequels and the sequels… all these stories stuck between no more than 100 years in-world. I feel like so many of these side stories don’t have the oxygen they need to be more than footnotes in the main storyline, which makes it really hard to see them as anything but skippable.

    In any case, it’s nice to see EA making a single player game which seems to not be compromised by the games-as-service philosophy. At the very least, that gives me hope for Dragon Age 4.

  9. Ninety-Three says:

    I was annoyed by the Cyberpunk trailer because it features you getting captured in a cutscene, then you get into a fight in a cutscene, then you lose in a cutscene. Captured again, the first gameplay demo did it too. That’s annoying enough when you’re playing a preset character like Geralt, but when you play one of those “choose your gender and roleplaying options” blank slates like Cyberpunk 2077, there’s more expectation of player agency so it’s that much more bullshit when the developer puts you in cutscene shackles and messes with your character.

    Maybe I’m just looking for reasons to hate 2077 because I hated Witcher 3 despite being the kind of person who should’ve loved it, but I have not been impressed.

    1. Shamus says:

      I have similar concerns about the threat of cutscene capture plot devices. MAYBE they’re choosing to showcase capture moments because they work well in a demo with no audience agency and aren’t really representative of the overall game?

      This entire scene was powerful because it had so much dramatic irony. We could tell the protagonist was walking into a trap / betrayal. In a movie, that’s dynamite because it builds tension. In a video game it’s frustrating because we’re supposed to be controlling the protagonist but the writer won’t allow us act on our knowledge / instincts.

      1. Hector says:

        I’m not convinced this is an actual in-game cutscene at all, but more of a story trailer. As far as we’ve heard, you don’t have to get any specific piece of cyberware, so the character might not have the mantis blades, etc.

        1. Liessa says:

          I assumed it was just one possible outcome, as a result of taking a ‘guns blazing’ approach to that particular mission.

          1. Thomas says:

            Keanu Reeves appearance made me think it was the introductory section where they give you all your powers, only to have them taken away and start from the beginning again.

            The friends death and the betrayal sound like typical calls to adventure.

      2. Hector says:

        Second thought: the trailer uses cinematic techniques to foreshadow the betrayal, but obviously the *character* doesn’t benefit from that.

        And, contra Ninety-Three, V was never captured in any cut scene in the gameplay trailer. She took a risk of appearing weak to negotiate with couple tense, gun-laden groups, but she chose to do that. And the gameplay trailer clearly showed that V wasn’t helpless in either case. And the cinematic trailer was male V getting blindsided by one huge guy and then fighting and two others off.

    2. Ashen says:

      It’s not a cutscene, it’s a trailer. Much like Witcher 3 trailers, it’s super unlikely this will actually appear in game.

  10. Geebs says:

    The XBox Game Pass for PC is pretty interesting at the introductory $5 a month, and considerably less interesting at the full price of $10 per month. Microsoft doesn’t even say when the change in price is going to happen, which is pretty pathetic.

    I thought about getting it for Metro: Exodus and the Halo collection, but those Halo games are only going to be $10 apiece and I haven’t even finished Metro: Last Light yet. After that, there’s nothing worth playing – I played Gears of War 1 back on the 360, and Gears 4 is by all accounts garbage. Ori and the Blind Forest is supposed to be good but it’s only $7 to buy outright. Forza Horizon 4 and Sea of Thieves seem mildly diverting, I guess, but I would need to cultivate some new friends who actually play video games, and it doesn’t really seem worth the investment of time.

    Still, it’s better value than the UbiSoft pass. I guess.

    1. shoeboxjeddy says:

      By who’s accounts is Gears 4 garbage? It was a solidly reviewed game with an expansive multiplayer suite. If you only care about campaign, that was fun for a once over at least.

  11. Gargamel Le Noir says:

    Homework for everyone here (including my fellow non English native speakers) : Call someone or something a useless* geegaw.

    * This part can be translated

    1. Canthros says:

      My car has a few useless geegaws, like the little lights on the bumper that illuminate things slightly to the side in a turn. They’re meant to help you see things that might be in your way but outside the beam of your regular headlamps, but the effect is pretty minor. My employer has also been handing out various useless geegaws with company branding on them: I have at least three water bottles, a PopSocket, etc. Or I have a fidget spinner in my bag, and a fidget cube thingy. And a titanium thingy on my keychain with tritium vials in it.

  12. Agammamon says:

    I’m looking forward to it.

    So am I. Unfortunately not until the end of 2020 though.

    1. Wolle says:

      The Outer Worlds comes out on October 25th this year according to their web site.

      1. Axebird says:

        I assume he’s referring to when the exclusivity deal with Epic expires.

  13. Christopher says:

    I agree that the Star Wars game would be more fun if the combat was good and the character showed more personality, but I thought it looked boring because it just kinda looks like a cooki-cutter modern action adventure. Platforming that’s just climbing up climbable walls. Some whatever jokey banter. War-torn gray jungle. Little buddy along for the ride. It just doesn’t look very exciting.

    I was a bit surprised that the Star Wars fans in the crowd weren’t all enthused either, ’cause I’m not a big fan, and figured those fans would be all over a game that’s just Competent But Star Wars a this point.

    1. galacticplumber says:

      Skeptical skeptics are skeptical. You don’t just GET a free and easy crowd after feeding said crowd disappointments and outrages for ages.

    2. Guest says:

      Not when Star Wars games have been as interesting (If janky) as the Jedi Knight and Dark Forces games, as OTT as TFU.

      I really hate that sort of traversal too. Assassin’s Creed is the only one that did it well, because it’s non-linear, you make decisions, and those decisions are about how you accomplish an overall goal. In these sort of games, the traversal is about how you pad the space between combat, and getting from point a to point b, and the excitement comes from either QTEs, or external cinematic stuff happening. It’s not real gameplay.

      Plus the last Star Wars game EA released was Battlefront II, which leaves them in a position with a lot to prove. And even BFII had more interesting jedi to play than this.

  14. Darren says:

    The bulk of the argument for Caesar’s Legion was lost when they had to cut a Caesar’s Legion NPC companion who would’ve made the case for the faction. As it is, there’s little good reason to support them beyond some token comments about the order they bring.

    But there are still the NCR, Mr. House, and Yes Man endings, all of which provide plenty of shades of gray for the player. My personal favorite is Mr. House, who is an asshole but who, as the ending reveals, is actually capable of pulling off his grandiose promises.

    1. galacticplumber says:

      The nuance benefit of the Legion isn’t so much a moral argument for the faction itself, so much as the guts to acknowledge that such could very reasonably be expected to exist in the setting, then demonstrate how the world reacts around them.

      Also chances to test how much pain they’re willing to inflict on “acceptable” captured targets.

      1. Guest says:

        Yeah, but it kind of needs that justification. The current excuse is “We’re stable and organised” and it’s like, cool, so is Mr. House, so are the Brotherhood, and the NCR have beauracracy and corruption issues, but they’ve built more stable communities than the Legion has, and they’ve even kicked their asses once or twice.

        Why people would rush to join the incredibly socially regressive group who torture people to death, and may even torture them to death, because they’re that vicious, who provide social order to communities by…. preventing those communities from existing and burning preexisting ones they find because they don’t fit their social ideas is something you need to justify. Cut content means that there’s a certain lack of that. There’s a bit of it in conversation with Caesar, and at least he has an interesting view that justifies why HE believes what he believes, but it doesn’t show why anyone else would believe it.

        1. Gargamel Le Noir says:

          Even his beliefs don’t cover all the “for the evulz” aspects of the Legion and you can’t ask him about iirc, like he doesn’t seem to be some raging incel but he still wants all women enslaved which is morally indefensible and prevents at least half the population from wanting to join them.

        2. Ben Matthews says:

          Guessing you never bothered talking to Raul then, he actually makes a case for them. There should’ve been more like him in the game, but lolbudgets/loltime. It’s not a brilliant case, beyond telling you that the Legion territories are safe and secure (unlike NCR), but it shows a bit of what Obsidian clearly wanted for the Legion but couldn’t deliver in the time they had.

      2. Chad Miller says:

        That’s exactly the problem I had; I didn’t feel like they had to make the Legion something I might agree with, but I did feel like they should have done more to make me believe it was something other people would join. I actually kept looking for something like this and finding myself disappointed.

        Hm. This guy talks like Hannibal Lecter but maybe all the stuff he said about Nipton is correct. Oh, nevermind, just found evidence that he was at least partly lying.

        Man, this recording really makes these soldiers sound like they’re threatening to rape an NCR soldier, but maybe that’s just scare tactics. Nevermind, you can meet a slave in the Fort who tells you how she hopes to grow old so soldiers won’t rape her as much and if you’re a woman she’ll warn you to watch yourself because the solders are already talking about you.

        I don’t see any women in the Legion military. Maybe they have some kind of benevolent sexism/gender role thing going on? Nevermind, in addition to the rape thing all the women at The Fort are actual pack mules.

        Caesar’s apparent principles are disturbing, but maybe he really does believe all of this because of the NCR’s very real failings. Nevermind, he’s only against modern medicine when he’s not the one who’s sick.

        So the Legion is a mass of total bastards, but maybe they’re able to field an army because they use their combined might to inspire loyalty from smaller factions by offering protection in exchange for nevermind they instantly betray and assimilate all factions the instant they outlive their usefulness, yet somehow keep finding new factions willing to engage in diplomacy with them anyway!

        It’s the last one that really wrecks it for me, because it doesn’t just ruin the Legion but also every otherwise-reasonable character that doesn’t categorically shun them. Orion Moreno, Papa Khan, and just about every other Great Khan would make a lot more sense if the Legion wasn’t such cartoon villainy (the Fiends don’t bother me so much because they’re already stupid drug addicts and a good story’s allowed to have some legitimately stupid people in it)

        I mean, how cool would it be if you had to talk Papa Khan out of helping the Legion, and turns out that even if he’s wrong you’re forced to agree that he still has some valid points? Instead, I find myself thinking things like “So this Khan lady thinks she’ll have any kind of rank in the Legion military. That’s so adorable.” Or “Nation known for banning all drugs and crucifying criminals crucified a drug dealer from a tribe that survives entirely on proceeds from drugmaking. You guys are seriously surprised?”

        Boone supposedly has the drawback that he attacks all Legion characters on sight. In practice it’s not a drawback because they can all just die anyway. This part would have been a bit better if they’d fleshed out the Legion enough that I’d at least have a mechanical reason to deal with them, but they’re an invading force and so they don’t even really have useful towns or outposts. They also have almost no quests (although admittedly some of those quests are kind of cool).

        I didn’t need to be personally tempted by the Legion, but I would have appreciated it if i could believe non-idiots would be tempted by them.

        1. Sannom says:

          That’s exactly the problem I had; I didn’t feel like they had to make the Legion something I might agree with, but I did feel like they should have done more to make me believe it was something other people would join.

          To be fair, nobody joins the Legion. You’re either forced into it when your tribe is conquered or you’re born into it. It’s a slave army through and through.

          1. Chad Miller says:

            Nobody joins? There’s an entire endgame questline centered around convincing the Khans not to join.

            It’s true that maybe, if the authors didn’t want to go for the more nuanced version I wanted, they could just lean into the “they’re slaver barbarians” angle, but the problem is that the game shows a pack of slaver barbarians but is also sprinkled with characters who act like they’re not. If the Legion were wrong-but-reasonable, then characters like the Khans and Moreno could be more sympathetic, even tragic figures given they had well-justified reasons for hating the NCR. Instead we have this world where the Khans are apparently completely suicidal and Moreno has me thinking “I’m going the Wild Card route here! I shouldn’t need a speech check to say that I’ll betray the NCR the instant I’m done ousting the slaver barbarians!”

            Given the Khans get what they deserve (forced assimilation) if they do help the Legion in the end, maybe this was on purpose. But then that doesn’t agree with claims the creators have made that the Legion was supposed to be more complex but they didn’t have time to flesh it out. It also makes it weird how many characters treat them as legitimate. It’s one thing to accept that the Legion exists as a horde of slaver barbarians, but another to accept that there are people in the Mojave who don’t treat them as slaver barbarians despite their constantly and exclusively behaving like slaver barbarians.

  15. Darren says:

    Regarding the Star Wars demo: I didn’t see the presentation, just the gameplay footage, but I did wonder about the skill level of whoever was playing it. The combat itself looked fun. According to what I’ve read, humanoid enemies have a limited ability to block your attacks, but once you break down that block they are instantly killed by the light saber; that’s very similar to how Sekiro works, and that game is a blast. I assume that a Star Wars game is likely to be a lot less demanding than a From Software title.

    1. Thomas says:

      Apparently the team still haven’t nailed down how difficult they want it. Some want it to be Dark Souls, others are arguing Star Wars must be accessible.

      The fact they haven’t decided suggests how much of the game is in flux at the moment

  16. shoeboxjeddy says:

    “Given how painful it is to use their PC software these days, I have to ask Xbox fans: How is the Xbox interface? Is it useful and clean, or is it cluttered up with an avalanche of spam and useless geegaws like the Windows 10 start menu?”

    It’s actually very good imo, but you have to learn it a bit. You can set up several sequences of pinned items that will always be on the front page and avoid the other tabs like “Social” and “Store” as you please. You can pin tons of useful items to the start menu and change the order they’re displayed in. They use the screen space efficiently instead of scrolling off into infinite space on the right, like the Ps4 and Switch. The popup menu that appears when you press the Xbox button has very useful shortcuts as well, like the console settings, your messages, and quick launching for games or apps you like to use.

    Important protip: Do NOT use the “always on” option. It breaks many programs and causes all sorts of issues with app launching that will force you to do a restart. Instead, use the “low energy usage” mode, aka the “how consoles should always work” mode, where you turn it off until you’re ready to use it again, then you turn it back on. Even in low energy mode, it still will (strangely imo) turn itself on for critical updates.

  17. Geoff says:

    I’m disappointed that this console generation was so short…

    Was it, though? The Xbox released in 2001, the Xbox 360 in 2005, and the Xbox One in 2013. If Project Scarlett is releasing in 2020, that would make a 4 year lifespan for the original Xbox, 8 years for the Xbox 360 and 7 years for the Xbox One. By comparison, the PS1 was 1994, PS2 was 2000, PS3 was 2006, and PS4 was 2013. Assuming a 2020 release for the PS5, that’s 6 years, 6 years, 7 years, and 7 years respectively.

    If anything, 7 years seems to be the typical lifespan with the 8 year Xbox 360 run being an outlier. It gets a bit muddied depending on how you categorize all of the various versions that have been released since it’s debut, but at least the general specs and baseline configuration of the Xbox One and PS4 have been around as long as most of the past console generations.

    1. Shamus says:



      No. You… you did that math wrong. Or something. That can’t be true.

      It feels like the damn thing just came out.

      1. Shamus says:

        More seriously, I think that mid-generation upgrade with the Xbox One X is what’s throwing me off. I’m remembering the unveiling of a “NEW CONSOLE” just a few years ago, and that makes it all feel short.

      2. Smejki says:

        Problems I see that skew out perception:
        – it doesn’t really feel like this generation had the proper number of big hits and new IPs
        – very few if any big franchise had more than one installment (ignoring annual outliers)
        – there were some biiig delays to some games which were announced in the first or second year (Crackdown 3!)
        – the mid-generation HW upgrade causes another disruption

      3. Ander says:

        I feel the same way, but I think it’s because I only got a PS4 recently. They’re planning to continue releasing games on the thing for at least another year or two, so that makes me happy.

        1. Thomas says:

          People often forget the post-launch support. Sony said the PS3 would have a 10 year lifespan. When the PS4 was announced some people thought they were launching it early. But the PS3 did have a 10 year lifespan, it’s just three of those years were after the PS4 launched. It was similar for the PS2.

          What I miss is, these end of life times used to be great for games. You’d get the releases that totally mastered the system and pushed the hardware.

          I suspect with the standardised hardware we’ll see the opposite – a lot of cross-generation games with poor performance on the older platforms.

          At least it will still probably include loads of cheap games to snap up

          1. Geoff says:

            I do wonder how post-launch support has carried on across console generations. I have no idea how to measure that realistically though. Or if it even matters? Its certainly nice to have, but I wonder how many cross-generation game releases actually get sold on the older platform vs. people just waiting to buy them after they’re able to afford the new console.

  18. Cubic says:

    Psychonauts was fun, from what I recall, so fingers crossed for the sequel.

  19. Jabberwok says:

    This is probably just me, but I am less interested in Cyberpunk 2077 every time I see a new trailer for it. I just get this increasingly dudebro-ish vibe from it, that somehow isn’t capturing the tone for me, or anything that I used to love about the genre. I dunno, maybe it just feels too….contemporary. Like I’m about to hear some EDM while some jacked dude with an overly-manicured five o’clock shadow babbles about cybernetic implants in super slow-mo. Like cyberpunk put on makeup and stilettos to try and be popular, but I just want her to be herself…

  20. Smejki says:

    Ceasar’s Legion in New Vegas was underdeveloped because they had to scrap like 80% of Legion related content. You were meant to visit several locations under their rule where you’d get a better picture of why their system of governance works and why there’s little internal conflict.

    1. Jabberwok says:

      Personally, the Legion never felt cartoonishly evil to me. Perhaps having less content made them seem less complex, but they were always going to be the “bad guys” in some way because the values of their society are so diametrically opposed to modern democratic values. Portraying a society based on slave labor isn’t lazy or unrealistic, even if almost everyone agrees nowadays that slavery is evil.

      By comparison, what bothers me about the corporations in Outer Worlds isn’t that they’re portrayed as evil. It’s that evil corporate overlords is already a well-worn cliche. But as mentioned, that could just be the fault of the trailer. I found pretty much all of the narration in it to be irritating and panderous.

  21. Leeward says:

    Mostly unrelated, but I notice you’ve switched to “video games” from “videogames.” It seems like the kind of change that must be intentional. What prompted it?

    1. Shamus says:

      The Escapist style standards use the two-word thing, and I figured it would be easier to use the same words everywhere rather than switch back and forth.

      1. Leeward says:

        I suspected it was an Escapist thing. It’s interesting how language gets shaped.

  22. Guile says:

    … Phantasy Star Online 2? Like, again? Or is this some kinda expansion thing like Episode 2?

  23. The Outer Worlds
    “If I’m just fighting cartoon space jerks then I’d just as soon kill everyone.”
    It may not be that simple, as killing the corporation might doom the settlement (and their lifes). You could also end up with the population against you.
    It’s too early to make claims about the story and plot without knowing anything more about the plot though.

    Minecraft Dungeons
    I don’t see much issue with spinoffs here. It’s clear that Microsoft do not wish to mess wit the original and are using these spinoffs to draw new people to Minecraft (or build brand awareness).
    I doubt a Minecraft 2 would have become as popular as Minecraft.
    Microsoft isn’t into the habit of loosing money (at least not on purpose) so I’ll assume what they are doing wit the IP is profitable.

    Jedi Fallen Order
    I have to agree with you on the EA letters tacked into the game logo. In the olden days it would have been Lucas Arts instead, I think Disney screwed up majorly by allowing that to close. The strength of Lucas Arts (after they stopped making games in-house) was that they where decent at picking developer studios that wanted to work on Star Wars stuff (like Raven Software that did Jedi Outcast and Academy, or BioWare and Obsidian that did KoTOR 1 and 2 respectively).

    “The main character is boring. He also looks a bit like” exactly like the actor behind the CG.
    “there’s a general sense that something is off” I think I read that this was alpha footage, I at least hope it is. I also hope that mouse + keyboard play is more responsive than a gamepad (allowing to quickly whip around with a mouse for example).

    “maybe it’s a problem with how it was being played” I think that is a astue observation. While a “expert” was playing they probably was not a expert in “this” game; and they most likely had a checklist of stuff they had to consult on what to do for the video capture. I’ts also possible they struggled with bugs.

    “guys with electro-space-staffs” you probably mean saber locking combat? There has been so few games, but what I’ve heard is that Jedi Outcast/Jedi Academy still has some of the best saver combat of a Star Wars game (sabers would lock, just like in the movies).

    “He shows up and other characters give him orders and he does what he’s told” in the other trailer (without the long demo gameplay) you’ll see the player character hijack a AT-AT and later Saw Gerrera is surprised to find a not-imperial trooper piloting the thing (pressumably he notices the player shooting at other imperials).
    Then we jump to the player saying they are on a Jedi mission (might be a lie or not), Saw and the Player talk and plan to infiltrate the refinery , their goals align here.
    I’m also gonna guess that Kashyyyk is the second game location (the first location being the salvage one which we saw in the previous trailers).
    Also the player character is a sort of doormat in that he is a a fixed character and a good Jedi (no dark/light alignment nor RPG character design like with Jedi Academy), the game is more similar to Jedi Outcast or The Force Unleashed in that respect.

    “character drama. This guy should be bursting with emotions and personality quirks.”
    That may not be in his character, it’s possible he is very calm and collected. By the first trailers it seemed he had lived under cover for possibly years (decades?) which might explain lowkey reactions. It’s also possible he’s very ingrained with the Jedi philosophies (“there is only peace” etc.), calm, focus.

    “None of these cutscenes reveal much in the way of personality. He has no conflict or banter with the rebels and there’s no stakes or tension to any of this.”
    I doubt this reflects the game’s story and main character. I’d point blame at whomever put together the trailers. Maybe a better story trailer will appear closer to launch. My guess is that the stuff we’ve seen is only the first hour of gameplay (and two first locations).
    If however it almost all takes place on Kashyyyk the story be better damn well written (and take place over like 48 hours or something), otherwise it’ll suck. Star Wars needs planet hopping, that’s a key trope.

    Respawn Entertainment created, Titanfall 1 and 2 and Apex Legend. People seemed to love the Titan and it’s character in Titanfall 2, I’ve got no clue if the same writers are involved, but if they are then the player character in Fallen Order should be equally good. (if not then somebody screwed something up majorly over there)

    (a few moments later) The lead writer for Fallen Order is Aaaron Contreras, who did not write for Titanfall 2. But he did work on games like Far Cry 3, Bioshock Infinite, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and Mafia III. I haven’t checked what he did on those but that looks like a decent portfolio (as narrative designer, level designer, scriptwriter and more).
    There is also this: https://www.videogameschronicle.com/news/jedi-fallen-order-writer-didnt-like-last-jedis-execution/
    Apparently Chris Avellone has had his pen in the story/writing of Fallen Order? And he said he did not like Last Jedi’s execution. “portrayal of Luke Skywalker was very weak” “hey gave him a scapegoat role that wasn’t merited and didn’t fit with his character” “like the fact that they were playing around with it, but at the same time I didn’t like the execution and I thought it could have been handled a lot better or differently”
    So I’m cautiously optimistic on this (assuming EA does not fuck things up with micro-transactions and shit like that).

    Cyberpunk 2077
    I’m very optimistic on this. I liked that they this time showed the male V (while last time they showed the female V), also on Eurogamer one of the journalists talks about the 50 minute live gameplay they where shown afterwards. If this is a repeat of last year then CD Projekt RED will probably put this on their youtube channel later. And by the sound of it it shows a lot of gameplay mechanics.
    I was kinda surprised they revealed so much of the main story but I’m assuming this and last years are from very early in the game (during Chapter 1 probably), I’m assuming you return to the city, meet up with your pal, get a job (or two?) with the big dude. I wonder if your pal getting shot is a fixed point or if it can be avoided. (maybe if not shot he’ll turn out to have been paid to betray you?)
    “The dump” reveal reminded me of a scene in Detroit: Become Human. And it seems by Silverhands quips that you’ll start on a path of vengeance for the one/those that betrayed you.
    During Eurogamers playthrough-view one of the devs stated it’s possible to play through the entire game without killing anyone. So I’ll assume from that statement that the room scene we saw may happen several different ways.
    And for those saying that these scenes won’t be in the game, I’ll counter by saying they will be. Unlike the Witcher 3 these the into the main story, the CG trailers for W3 did not (though one character in one trailer is encounterd in one of the expansions).
    One telltale sign is the graphics quality, it’s “realtime” (in-engine) rather than pre-rendered trailers like W3 (which was rendered by a outside animation studio).
    I doubt we’ll see any more story reveal for Cyberpunk 2077 before it’s launch, we’ll see a long playthrough video and maybe more behind the scene/mechanics stuff but no more story stuff).

    Xbox Game Pass PC
    I think it’s still Beta. I really wish companies would stop releasing so much beta stuff. I feel like during E3 about half the stuff in all the conferences was alpha/beta something.
    The Game Pass Ultimate is nice though. 100+ XBOX and 100+ PC games for 14.99 per month + XBox Gold (I forgot what that offered). Ubisoft tried to launch it’s own thing at the exact same pricepoint and mentioned it’s also available via Stadio. Which means you’ll pay Ubisoft 1 bucks then Google Statia xx? bucks?

    The new Elite controller looks nice but I’ve heard people say it’s overpriced.

    “Phil Spencer went out of his way to underscore how this was first and foremost a gaming console”
    Not only that, he also made it clear that Microsoft/XBox wanted you to play however you want. On any platform (Xbox, PC, Playstation, Nintendo, Mobile). They just want you to get their games either via them retail partners (like GOG or Steam).
    I think this is the right way to go as exclusivity tend to ruin things for people (you’ll have to wait a half year to a year before “you” can play the game other have played for months, a major issue with story heavy games due to a years worth of spoilers on the net).

    It is interesting that your (new?) console will act as a home cloud server (sort of like a Chromecast thingy) when at home (meaning virtually no latency) and XBox Cloud when out and about. This solves a issue that Stadia will have (even if game devs uses iD Software’s new compression/streaming SDK).

    One thing I’m curious about was a statement that Project Scarlett has hardware raytracing (acceleration) ? But AFAIK the console will (just like the PS5) have a custom Navi graphics chip. Which I doubt has hardware raytracing. Unless we’re talking abut a “2nd gen” Navi (which may launch sometime next year maybe around when the console launches). This could mean the upcoming Navi stuff is not the top end cards but the mid to low end cards (similar to Nvidias RTX 2060 with raytracing and GTX 1660 without).
    Nvidias Tensor cores are FP16 units, all modern AMD cards has this, the RT cores is unique to Nvidia but they are tweaked FP16 (vectorized maybe?), I do not see a major issue with AMD doing something similar.

    It’s a shame we did not get to see/hear at which resolutions the framerate would be at. Maybe only 1080p120fps is possible. Remember the HDMI 2.1 (?) standard and it’s cable/interface bandwidth is the limitating factor of high FPS and resolution combo you can go. So while the new XBox may be able to theoretically do 8k120FPS the HDMI cable/interface can’t do it.

    I’m happy that VRR (Variable Refresh Rate) was mentioned, this means more Freesync support than previously, with current consoles it’s optional, with the new one games for Scarlett must be optimized to take advantage of it (if the display supports it).

    In AMD’s keynote some interesting SDK stuff an a reduced input latency method was mentioned, this I’m 99.99% certain will be available for Scarlett as well.

    I’ve seen mentions of the new XBox being weaker than the PS5, but this is anectdotal, and both consoles has a lot of tweaking to go until they launch. (new XBox is next fall, I have no clue when the new PS5 launches). When Digital Foundry gets their hands on the next XBox and PS boxes, that’s when we’ll really now how close (or far apart they are).

    A part of me wish that Microsoft and Sony and Nintendo and Google had joined forces and made a universal console (but with their own OSes for it obviously), that would have reduced the hardware component costs a lot (due to the very high mass production numbers), would also have made development and game optimizing better and easier. I suspect the Scarlett and PS5 boxes will cost the same as a decent gaming PC. Some people may be able to afford one of them but not both, so I guess it’s good that Microsoft are not pushing XBox exclusivity that much.

    “Microsoft Flight Simulator”
    Some of those shots “looked real” to me.

    “Psychonauts 2” I found the “we’ll do excel for you” joke a tad cringey but I’m glad they pointed out hey only wanted Double Fine to continue doing what they are doing. Microsoft feels very handsoff on their studios (unlike EA seems to be), instead just providing funding and tech/software support and marketing.

    “Halo Stuff” I really liked how they showed how heavy Master Chief is (like half a ton+). I’m not a Halo fan (never played the games, but this teaser looked nice, and showed what the engine can do (on Scarlett and a good PC?).

    I read somebody saying Square Enix had a better conferee but I found it safe and boring. I can’t even remember Ubisofts, and Bethesdas felt too safe too (and way too much mobile/free to play) was hoping for a Starfield trailer at least, they did have that geeky and cute Japanse developer chick though which was one of the highlighs of their event. But the XBox event really stole the show IMO. And I’ve no clue why Sony was absent.

  24. TLN says:

    RE: New Vegas & the Legion:

    Josh Sawyer has lamented before that they ended up having to cut some content that would have gone into more detail what reasons people might have for joining the legion/being happy to live in their territories, beyond just “yeah I’m evil what of it”.

    There’s some of it still in the game, like how some of the travelling traders mention that yeah actually the legion territories are way safer than pretty much all of NCR. Once the Legion took over they wiped out all the raiders, fiends and whatnot, so people can travel on their own across the wasteland and still feel mostly safe. They accomplished this by ruling through violence and fear, sure, but the argument then is that a cruel and violent world requires cruel and violent rules.

    Unfortunately most of this ended up not being in the game so it’s hard to get a sense for what the point is of all the things the Legion is guilty of.

    1. Ben Matthews says:

      Yup. You can get a hint of this if you know where to look. Raul’s dialogue gives you a solid idea of the Legion we never got to see, for example. It’s one of only a couple of hints, but they are there.

  25. Philadelphus says:

    I’ve been playing One Finger Death Punch 2 recently, and I feel like that’s what I’d like the feeling of a Star Wars game as a Jedi to be like. Obviously a bit more complicated due to motion and 3D and whatnot, but that sense of good art direction allowing you to disseminate information from a host of attacking enemies into a sequence of carefully-timed clicks (or key presses) that allow your character to defeat them seemingly without effort (while doing lots of cool-looking moves along the way). I dunno, maybe that’s the Arkham style of combat that Shamus likes talking about (I haven’t played any Arkham games).

  26. slipshod says:

    Added to the want list:

    1. Cyberpunk
    2. Cyberpunk
    3. Cyberpunk
    4. Cyberpunk
    5. Cyberpunk

    Also wouldn’t mind having:
    1. Elden Ring (cause GRRM LotR set in BOI land)
    2. Outer Worlds (cause Obsidian Mass Effect_Borderlands)
    3. Death Stranding (cause TWD dude & Guillermo del Toro???)

  27. Preciousgollum says:

    I feel the need to point out that a Halo game being announced as a Xbox launch title actually reeks of desperate… for historic reasons:

    … if Halo came out in 2001 and became very popular over time, why was there never a Halo promised as a launch title before in what will be a 19 year lifespan for the franchise?

    And the answer is because Halo games have famously had difficult development cycles with each iteration.

    Basically, between when the game is announced and when the date is set for release, Halo games tend to undergo radical change. The fact that a release date has been set and tied to a console launch (and now MUST be met or else Microsoft will look stupid) means that 343 are now mostly locked in place for their development – and this has usually led to some rushed, disappointing Halo games (such as Halo 4 and 5).

    Within the development of a game, any number of things can go wrong, might not work, and at times need to be scrapped to make a good product, even so late in the process. Embracing this issue gives us masterpieces like Resident Evil 4; working within the issue gives us Halo 2; Ignoring the issue entirely gives us Halo 5 and all the other disappointing games that perhaps needed more time.

    There were so many issues with Halo 2 not having basic features working mere months before that November 2004 release that it is an absolute miracle it turned out as positively as it did.

  28. Here’s more info on Jedi Fallen Order. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dLKtGewlT6g
    Seems more like Jedi Academy than Force Unleashed.
    Multiple planets that you can choose to travel to.

  29. Sleeping Dragon says:

    As always late to the party but I’d like to chip in. I’m a big fan of the first Psychonauts, it’s a very funny and smart game, and I have high hopes for the sequel. A bunch of people got worried when news about Double Fine going under Microsoft got out but I’ve seen some people make an interesting point that Microsoft could be trying to get some smaller but recognizable brands for their subscription service(s).

    It is an interesting point that, the issue of ownership of games aside, subscriptions could be the way to keep that mid-range gamedev going, For example Double Fine is known for making interesting, if often flawed, titles that generally do not become a huge success but have a strong fan following.

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