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E3 2012: Console Updates, New Features for Wii U, Xbox

Welcome to Day 3 of E3 2012, the biggest tradeshow dedicated to the art and business of video games. In yesterday’s Day 2 report we showcased ten of the most anticipated video games of 2012 being shown this week at the L.A. Convention Center. Today let’s look at the console side of things—particularly newly announced features for two game platforms: Nintendo’s Wii U and Microsoft’s Xbox.


For Nintendo, this year’s E3 show was all about the Wii U.

Wii U: Still Connecting the Dots
For Nintendo, this E3 has been all about the Wii U, the game giant’s next-generation handheld game console. The device is built around a touchscreen controller (as with the Nintendo DS) and it supports the same motion-sensitive gaming that Nintendo’s Wii remote used to transform family dens everywhere into arm-waving, foot-pounding game salons. In addition, Wii U will enable streaming media from content providers like Netflix, YouTube, Hulu and Amazon Video. And in a nod to the social-media revolution, Nintendo has pledged that Wii U will deliver features that enhance the experience of connected gaming.

There have been changes to the Wii U controller GamePad that was shown at last year’s E3, although most of the alterations involve tweaks to make the unit more ergonomic and functional (a pro gamer controller—which looks more like an Xbox controller that was also announced). The big selling point for Wii U is the console’s second screen, which can be used to activate different game controls, trigger alternate camera views and switch perspectives. For example, during certain games, players will be able to hold the controller pad up to their television screen and scan for enemies. Similarly, a new karaoke game will utilize the second screen as a teleprompter for displaying song lyrics.


The Wii U will ship with “NintendoLand,” a mini-game sampler with a theme-park feel. 

Despite not delivering more information about the Wii U (such as its price point and its exact release date, although Nintendo assured attendees that the device will be released in time for holiday shopping), Nintendo was able to point to an initial batch of Wii U games—nearly two dozen of them—that will be ready to instantly support the new machine. Nintendo also unveiled a mini-game sampler called “NintendoLand,” which will ship with the Wii U.

Xbox: Ruling the Roost
E3 attendees hoping to get an early look at Microsoft’s much-rumored Xbox 720 (which sources say will arrive sometime during 2013) were disappointed by this year’s show, but Microsoft had plenty of news to keep gamers satisfied. Besides, Microsoft’s Xbox 360 is still currently winning the “console wars.” And that’s for a couple of reasons—one is the games, the other is Xbox Live being a superior online service. To that extent, a large majority of Microsoft’s announcements were focused around updates to the Xbox Live services:


Microsoft brought famed 49ers quarterback Joe Montana out of retirement. He was on hand to promote “Madden 13″ —while R&B star Usher opened the Microsoft press event showing off “Dance Central 3.”

  • Microsoft announced that the Xbox’s streaming media capabilities will be enhanced by the addition of new broadcast networks, such as ESPN and all of the major pro sports leagues in the U.S. Likewise, new media apps from entertainment providers (like Paramount Movies, Nickelodeon and Univision) will find a home on the console.
  • Featuring a reported 30 million tracks, Microsoft’s retooled music service will simply be called “Music” (as opposed to “Zune,” its former title). In addition to Windows 8, Music will be brought to the Xbox.
  • Possibly in response to the intense popularity of rival Nintendo’s “Wii Fit” exercise program, Microsoft announced a partnership with Nike to bring the sports company’s Nike+ training platform to Xbox Kinect. With it, users will be put through their exercise paces by a virtual trainer and will be able to receive helpful fitness reminders directly on their smartphones.
  • Microsoft also unveiled its plans for Xbox SmartGlass, a new application that will let users bridge their different electronic devices (e.g., Xbox, smartphone, tablets and TVs) and enjoy the same content across all of them. For example, via SmartGlass a user could start out watching a movie on their tablet computer, then pick up where they left off by resuming watching on their phone or Xbox.


Microsoft wowed the crowds with the eagerly awaited “Halo 4.”

See Ya Next Time!
E3 2012 will be wrapping up soon, but the news coming out of the show will be rocking gamers for months (and years) to come. Whether you’re a gamer or someone interested in learning how to design video games, check back here for more video games news.

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posted by Phill Powell in Featured and have No Comments

Biggest & Best Games of E3 2012

It’s Day 2 of E3 2012, and the L.A. Convention Center is jumping with software companies trying to one-up each other. We’ve been wowed by a few titles already and still have lots more to see, but let’s take a look at some of the titles everyone’s talking about:

“Star Wars 1313”

Publisher/Developer: LucasArts
System: PS3, Xbox 360
Release Date: 11/12

Why We Want to Play It: Star Wars 1313” is a gamers game—complete with M rating—and the first serious “Star Wars” game in a long time. (Yes, we enjoy the “LEGO Star Wars” games but we also love nail-biting action.) The game, which is primarily a shooter, takes place between the franchise’s trilogies, and is set in the Imperial capital of Coruscant (on Level 1313).

You’re a bounty hunter, fighting your way through an underworld full of criminals—both human and droid. With the environments, elements and settings “Star Wars” fans love, “Star Wars 1313” brings together talents from LucasArts, Industrial Light and Magic, Lucasfilm Animation and Skywalker Sound to produce what looks to be a truly next-generation gaming experience.

“Gears of War: Judgment”

Publisher/Developer: Microsoft/People Can Fly
System: PS3, Xbox 360
Release Date: TBD

Why We Want to Play It: If you’ve played “Gears of War,” you already understand the importance of Emergence Day—a key event in the “Gears of War” universe. That said, “Gears of War: Judgment” takes place just after Emergence Day, making the game a prequel of sorts. The developer promises new multiplayer experiences for Kilo Squad, as it engages in heavy combat with Halvo Bay hanging in the balance. Lock and load, gamers!

“Assassin’s Creed III”

Publisher/Developer: Ubisoft/Ubisoft Montreal
System: PS3, Xbox 360
Release Date: 10/30/12

Why We Want to Play It: A new hero takes the lead in “Assassin’s Creed III.” Part Native American and English, Connor fights in the war between the Assassins and Templars. This gameplay is amazing, and the overall experience more of what you expect from an already phenomenal franchise. It’s also set during the American Revolution, which makes it additionally appealing.

“The Last of Us”

Publisher/Developer: Sony Computer Entertainment/Naughty Dog Software
System: PS3
Release Date: TBD

Why We Want to Play It: From the guys that brought us “Uncharted” comes a survival game to end all survival games. Meet Joel and Ellie, a pair of mismatched traveling companions trying to make their way across the good old U.S. of A. The only problem is that America as we know it is gone, decimated by a fungus-spread plague that more-or-less creates zombies as it sows death and destruction everywhere. “The Last of Us” is one of the few shining stars Sony has at the show, so expect to see and hear a lot more about it in the months ahead.

“Call of Duty: Black Ops 2”

Publisher/Developer: Activision/Treyarch
System: PS3, Xbox 360

Release Date: 11/13/12
Why We Want to Play It: Want to see a brutal yet entirely possible vision of our near-future? Look no further than the latest “Call of Duty.” Most of the action takes place in 2025, with gamers playing as David Mason (son of Black Ops hero Alex Mason).

“ZombiU”

Publisher/Developer: Ubisoft/Ubisoft Montreal
System: Nintendo Wii U 
Release Date: TBD

Why We Want to Play It: Originally the game was going to be titled “Killer Freaks from Outer Space.” Ubisoft says that this entry into the survival-horror shooter game space will take extensive advantage of the Nintendo Wii UTM GamePad, which will contain the player’s “Bug Out Bag” (or BOB), a backpack with all the maps, tools, weapons and supplies needed to survive.

“Halo 4”

Publisher/Developer: Microsoft Game Studios/343 Industries
System: Xbox 360
Release Date: 11/6/12

Why We Want to Play It: Space Opera. Master Chief. Questions? Seriously, it’s no surprise that this game’s already generating loads of buzz, given the franchise’s enormous popularity. Master Chief is back in “Halo 4,” and this time there’s a new multiplayer mode (“Halo Infinity Multiplayer”) centered around the UNSC Infinity, a mega-starship.

“Tomb Raider”

Publisher/Developer: Square Enix/Crystal Dynamics
System: PS3, Xbox 360

Release Date: 3/5/13
Why We Want to Play It: Lara’s back and she’s ready to reveal more about her mysterious origins and how she became a tomb raider. This franchise reboot will mix origin elements (a la “Batman Begins”) with the amazing physics of “Half-Life 2” and the rich environments of “Uncharted.” In addition, video game fanatics can expect to be challenged with finding special artifacts and items that help Lara make a “core discovery.”

“Splinter Cell Blacklist”

Publisher/Developer: Ubisoft/Ubisoft Toronto
System: PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U
Release Date: Spring 2013

Why We Want to Play It: Sam Fisher returns in the third-person actioner that’s as hard as nails. Beware the Blacklist—a terrorist faction dedicated to weakening and bringing down the United States through a variety of covert attacks. That’s the enemy gamers will face in “Splinter Cell Blacklist,” the latest update to the Tom Clancy “Splinter Cell” series.

The Greatest (Video Game) Show on Earth!
E3 is the main event of the video game year and that’s why we’re devoting special editorial coverage to it this week. Check back tomorrow for more about the trends and titles that will be keeping gamers busy during the next year. Whether you’re a gamer or someone interested in learning how to make video games, we’ve got E3 covered.

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posted by Phill Powell in News Blog,Video Game Design and have No Comments

E3 2012 Announcements & Surprises

This week, the 18th annual E3 is taking place in Los Angeles. Started in 1995 (because video game companies felt lost among the massive Consumer Electronics Show, or CES) E3 has developed into a showcase for gamers and game developers alike.


Video game journalists and fans from across the globe descend on the halls of the LA Convention Center.

This week we’re covering the announcements and surprises that come out of the show – and the games you’ll be playing in the months ahead. Let’s start our coverage with a look at what trends we’re seeing coming out of the show at the end of Day One:

Trend: The Death of the Handheld
Why You Should Care: Gaming on the go will never be the same.

This E3 could be known as the “last roundup” for handheld game devices, although Nintendo will likely remain in the arena it helped build (with its Game Boy). Still, Nintendo hasn’t been able to find much support for its Nintendo DS device, just as Sony has struggled to find an audience for its PS Vita handheld. So what’s responsible for the rapid decline of this game niche? That’s right—the massive success of smartphones and tablet devices, which are now leading mobile gaming.

Trend: Xbox Becomes More Integrated with Your TV
Why You Should Care: Microsoft is light years ahead of Apple and Sony and on a track to be a full-service media provider.

Microsoft’s Xbox 360 is dominating Day One and Microsoft wants to go a step further – and dominate your living room. To that end, Microsoft is continuing to use the Xbox as a type of “Trojan horse” to gain more access to your living room. This includes new music and video services being served up by – you guessed it – the Xbox.


“Star Wars 1313″ was one of the major titles announced at E3 2012. 

Trend: Reviving and Reconnecting “Star Wars” Fans with “Star Wars 1313”
Why You Should Care: It’s the first serious gamers “Star Wars” game in years.

While fans are still taking in the recent announcement that George Lucas is retiring from filmmaking (at least from big-budget movies), the game company he inspired is gearing up for a comeback. LucasArts hasn’t introduced a new title in almost two years, so expectations are already running high for “Star Wars 1313,” in which a bounty hunter makes his way through “a ruthless criminal underground.” (Think “Mass Effect” meets “L.A. Noire.”) The big difference around this time is the targeted audience; whereas most “Star Wars” games are marketed to younger gamers, “Star Wars 1313” will aim to strike a chord with older players; the game is already touting an “M” rating.

Trend: Blockbuster Sequels/Kinect
Why You Should Care: Motion games and sequels continue to drive the industry — and that’s not necessarily a good thing…

The Kinect system keeps charging ahead, and so do new titles that support it. Games announced at E3 that support Kinect include “Madden NFL 13” and “FIFA 13.”  “Halo,” “Gears of War” and “Forza”—each of which has been a certified Xbox smash—all have sequels announced at this E3. It means more mass-market games and less indie titles, although we must confess, we’re drooling over “Halo 4,” which is slated for a November release.

Trend: Saving Sony
Why You Should Care: Gamers are a passionate bunch who don’t easily forget.

At this year’s event, Sony will be trying to soothe the tempers of gamers still fuming over network hacks and botched system launches…cough, PS Vita. Sure there are some stellar titles on PS3, but gamers haven’t been bowled over by Sony’s corporate missteps and the company needs to work hard to mend relationships with its audience.

Stay Tuned!
As industry events go, E3 has something for everybody, from those who play games to those want to learn how to make video games. Check back in with us this week, as we present special editorial coverage of E3 2012.

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posted by Phill Powell in News Blog,Video Game Design and have No Comments

E3 2011: Day 2, The Games You’ll Play Tomorrow

Years back, when the Super Nintendo and Nintendo GameCube ruled the roost, Nintendo’s president at the time, Howard Lincoln, was often quoted as saying, “The name of the game is the game.” What he meant was simply that game machines are nothing without solid games. After all, it’s great content that drives movie studios, television channels, and yes, even game machines.


The jaw-dropping trailer for the Wii U “Zelda” game.

For our second day at E3, we turned our attention toward the games. These are the games that you’ll be playing this holiday and into next year. So as we ducked into booth after booth of eye-popping graphics and sounds, we gathered a list of what we think will be the mega-hits of holidays to come. These are the games blowing the crowds away today, and soon they’ll be wowing you:

Nintendo’s All-Stars
If E3 is rolling into town, that means you can almost set your watch to the appearance of a certain plumber. That’s right; Mario’s back, and he’s bringing with him Nintendo’s stable of franchise characters, Kirby, Link, Kid Icarus…yes, that’s right, Kid Icarus flies again. As will Wii U HD versions of Zelda, Mario and your other favorites.


You can even use a stylus to draw or control a character from the Wii U pad.

Not a Nintendo fan? Discount Nintendo if you will, but Nintendo’s Wii has outsold the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in a shorter amount of time (over 50 million Wiis have been sold to date), and it’s all thanks to Nintendo’s stable of well-known all-stars. For gamers, it’s great to see these characters final enter the high-def age. A short video trailer of a new Zelda Wii U game made thumbs twitch uncontrollably.

Microsoft Sells Kinect & Hardcore Game Experiences
Motion gaming has been a pox on the games industry since the introduction of the Wii. Sure, the Wii-mote is cool… sure, it’s easy to use and even grandma loves it…but Wii games lack depth and replay value. (When was the last time you cracked open “Wii Resort”?)

Do you really want to stand up in front of your TV for hours playing “Portal 2” when you can sit down and play? We didn’t think so, but Microsoft does as they seemingly try to integrate Kinect into every game you’ll be playing on your Xbox. OK, so maybe we’re going a bit overboard, but there were a lot of Kinect games. Games such as “Kinect Disneyland Adventures,” where you can explore Disneyland without leaving the comfort of your home.


Shepard’s story will finally come to conclusion in “Mass Effect 3.”

We were more drawn to new additions to the “Halo” franchise: “Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary” a “Halo 1” remake. And even more exciting, the arrival of “Halo 4” the first game in a new trilogy. Other awesome games we’re looking forward to on the Xbox 360? “SSX” a reboot of the snowboarding classic and Bioware’s “Mass Effect 3.”

Sony’s Software and The Best of the Rest
Aside from the games for the PlayStation Vita, PS3 “Tomb Raider” fans will be excited to hear a young Laura Croft is returning to your console – this time in an open-world adventure that plays like a cross between “Just Cause 2” and “Grand Theft Auto.” Ubisoft’s “Rayman: Origins” scored major points in the “most beautiful game” category but will have to share that honor with “From Dust,” the sleeper hit of e3 2011. “Unchartered 3” and “Batman: Arkham City” just scored major cool points, but both were already on our must-buy list. Finally, there was “Bioshock Infinite,” a game that takes us high above the watery world we’ve been used to.


“Bioshock Infinite”

Don’t Just Play Video Games – Make Them
Every title being announced this week in Los Angeles represents the work of many creative professionals who come together like an army to bring your favorite game vividly to life. Each of those careers starts with expert training, like the kind students will receive this summer at Digital Media Academy.

DMA offers a wide range of one-week and two-week-long courses in the creation of video games that speak to different ages and levels of expertise. Digital Media Academy’s list of video game summer camps is extensive and comprehensive, and each program is taught by a games industry professional, like the ones at E3.


“From Dust” is a god-game that lets you create an entire world from scratch.

From great introductory courses for kids (like Adventures in 2D & 3D Video Game Creation & Game Modding) to 3D Game Creation in Level Design and Character Design, to even more advanced programs for teens (courses that teach you how to develop games for Google Android devices, how to develop games for the Internet and how to develop games for the iPhone), DMA has a video-game creation program that fits every interests. Don’t just play video games – this summer learn to make them.

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posted by Vince Matthews in News Blog and have Comment (1)