Project xCloud E3 Demo – First Impressions and New Details

We got a chance to go hands-on with Xbox’s upcoming game streaming service, Project xCloud, at the Xbox booth at E3. We were also able to ask a few questions to one of the developers on the project.

Here are our impressions:

The games we demoed were Gears of War and Resident Evil 7 on an Android smartphone tethered to an Xbox One controller.

While playing Resident Evil 7, the game was very responsive. I always do the “menu-test” while judging latency, and the menu selection seemed instant as I moved the d-pad between selections. Gears of War controlled nicely too, though I could judge a small amount of latency when moving the camera around. It remained very playable, though, and was impressive being on WiFi.

As for quality, the visual quality looked great. The video was very clear and had no visible artifacts. I was told it was running at 720p.

When asked if 4K will come down the road for bigger screens besides mobile devices, he said, “Eventually we will get there. 720p doesn’t look good blown up on bigger screens, so when we launch on bigger screens we will get there.”

When I asked if the hardware being used is comparable to an Xbox One S or X console, I was told that it isn’t comparable to either. The service is using a custom hardware in Azure data centers that isn’t directly comparable. It sounds like it can be upgraded as time goes on to fulfill higher resolutions and more powerful hardware.

As for the gameplay experience, it was smooth enough to be playable. However, there was some noticable stuttering throughout my demo. But I can’t say it will be like this in the consumer version, because it could be the interference with many people in the Xbox booth interfering with the signal. Even so, it was a remarkably playable and nearly lag-free experience, and I came away impressed.

The demo ran on 5Ghz WiFi at their E3 booth. When asked if the 5Ghz made a difference compared to the 2.4Ghz band, I was told it will run well on 2.4G WiFi too. According to the developer, in their solution, the difference between 2.4G WiFi and 5G WiFi is the least important factor in the latency equation for xCloud.

The app we used was a custom app built just for the E3 demo, but when asked, the developer said they don’t yet know what format they will end up packaging xCloud in when it launches and that’s something they still need to figure out. It could be in the Xbox app or have its own standalone app.

Some other details I was told:

The service will launch on mobile first in October, and needs around 10-15mb download speed to run well.

While playing, the phone sees it as just a streaming video, so as long as it the phone can stream video, it will work well.

Final Thoughts

Overall, it appears it is still early days for xCloud, as some of the details have yet to be fleshed out, and it will launch as a mobile experience first. At launch, it has a very different target from other streaming services like Google Stadia.

But what I played at E3 was very promising, and with the fact that the service will be leveraged by potentially thousands of games, and be upgraded down the line to be playable on more devices with higher resolutions, it could end up being the top dog of game streaming in the future. It’s too early to tell at the moment, as all of the tech is still being developed, but I can say with confidence that game streaming services like xCloud will certainly become a viable way to play games in the future.

For more exclusive gaming news, stay tuned to the site and follow Gamer Splash on Twitter:

Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order E3 Game Preview – New Details

EA and Respawn held an extended gameplay demo for Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order Wednesday at the Xbox E3 stage. A producer on the game was there to share a 45 min gameplay demo and discussion on the game, where we learned new details.

The demo starts about 10 mins before the 15-min demo shown off on the EA Play livestream, and explains more about how the game’s main protagonist, Cal, finds himself in the land of Kasshyk. He starts off in a forest-like area and we get to see more interactions with the different characters, an epic sequence where Cal takes control of (and then crashes) an AT-AT, and see a brief glimpse of force freeze powers and how skill trees will work in the game. For a detailed write-up on the demo, visit Eurogamer’s story.

In addition to the demo, a short Q&A session was held by the producer after the gameplay session.

Some other details shared with us by the producer follow:

First off, the E3 demo starts approximately 3 hours into the game.

He elaborates that this demo shows off a side mission, not core to the main story of the game, because the team didn’t want to spoil the story so far before release. Because the game is still in alpha development stage, he stated that there is still a lot of work left to do before the game releases.

On the story, he explains that the team crafted the story hand in hand with LucasFilm, and the story will be part of the main canon.

He also said there will be no “BioWare-style” story progression, meaning your actions won’t change the story too much. Therefore, there will not be any “dark side vs light side” choices to affect the story, and no cliffhanger ending.

On the main character, Cal, his story goes like this:

He has just survived the purge of order 66, and goes through what it means to trust again throughout the game.

He is a padawan in training with lots of learning to do, and throughout the game, he learns on the job. The producer explains that Cal takes on a hero’s journey to become a Jedi knight, restore Jedi order

As for the actor who plays Cal, the team wanted someone who was like a young Clint Eastwood. Cameron (the actor) ended up in the “other” folder in their auditions folder, but the lead writer went through and picked him back up from the pile.

As for the gameplay difficulty seen in the demo, the lead producer, Blair, played on 200th plus his playthrough, and the settings were tuned to show off gameplay. However, besides the tweaks, the host told us that the game was set to about normal difficulty.

The control scheme is designed so that the player decides how they want to play. The game is designed so that as the player levels up, you as a player level up at same time by getting better with the game.

On the subject of how long the game will be, the producer told us that the game takes on a metroidvania style design, where if you want to 100% the game, you will need to retraverse previously visited areas.

You will also have many upgrades throughout the game. For example, You can upgrade your Droid, BD1, with a new capacitor to short circuit construction panlea, and throughout the game, you will unlock new abilities to interact with the world.

As another example. Abilities like force push can knock over obstacles to unlock previously unreachable areas.

The game will have at least 7 planets.

Lastly, as for what the demo is running on, we were told the gameplay demo is being played on a development PC with an Xbox controller plugged in.

The team is still exploring PC features like raytracing and optimizing, but he said it should support 4K on Xbox One X.

That’s all the details we have for now.

Stay tuned to Gamer Splash for further coverage on Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order and more exclusive gaming news.

Follow Gamer Splash on Twitter:

https://twitter.com/gamersplashtv

Mega Man 30th Anniversary Panel at Comic Con 2018 – Exclusive

The producers of the Mega Man series hosted a panel on all things Mega Man at San Diego Comic-Con this past weekend. Get an exclusive look at concept art, new gameplay, and a behind-the-scenes look at the making of Mega Man X Legacy Collection 1 & 2, as well as Mega Man 11.

 

For more on Mega Man, Comic-Con, and everything gaming, be sure to follow Gamer Splash.

-Noah Sanchez, Gamer Splash

Resident Evil 2 Panel Recording – Comic Con 2018 Exclusive

Gamer Splash was on hand to record a large portion of the Resident Evil 2 panel at this past weekend’s San Diego Comic-Con. Check out a behind-the-scenes look at the making of Resident Evil 2 remake, including never-before-seen concept art.

Check out the full clip below:

Follow Gamer Splash for more exclusives from Comic-Con and future gaming events.

-Noah Sanchez, Gamer Splash

Spyro Reignited Trilogy – Exclusive New Details, Footage, and Concept Art

This past weekend at Comic-Con 2018, the developers of the original Spyro game, Insomniac Games, Toys For Bob, the developers of the Reignited Trilogy, Tom Kenny, the voice of Spyro, and Stewart Copeland, Spyro’s original composer, held a panel to discuss the development of the original Spyro and how it was redesigned for modern audiences.

Several interesting details, photos, and video clips were shared showing a behind-the-scenes look at the development of the original games and the changes made for the Reignited Trilogy.

Check out the details below:

Here is a look behind the scenes at how the levels and art were designed for the original game and re-designed for the Reignited Trilogy:

Check out some of the concept art behind the original game and Spyro’s design.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A short clip of Spyro’s animation:

Tom Kenny re-enacting some lines from the game:

A cutscene from the original Spyro game showing Tom Kenny’s performance as Spyro:

An exclusive look at a new cutscene from the game:

Last is a full discussion of the original music behind Spyro and how it was brought to life for the Reignited Trilogy, with original composer Stewart Copeland and music remixer Stephan Vankov:

Some photos of Stewart and Stephan meeting in Stewart’s studio:

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Members of the audience were also treated to a special poster:

IMG_20180719_151341

For a recap of more highlights and details from the panel, including changes in gameplay and menu design, check out VTNVIVI’s recap video:

Follow Gamer Splash for more exclusives from Comic-Con and future gaming events.

-Noah Sanchez, Gamer Splash

thatgamecompany Panel at WonderCon 2018

I was excited to be able to attend a panel featuring one of the great developers that continues to inspires me and countless others with their beautiful games. This company brought games like Journey to life, which touched many people across the world. I knew this panel would be special, so I decided to record it.

You know them from Flow, Flower, and Journey. You saw their upcoming game, Sky, at Apple’s iPhone press conference 2017.

Now go behind the curtain and learn the inside stories on how thatgamecompany came to be and crafted some of your favorite indie games of the generation!

I also got to chat with the developers after, and learned that Sky may come to more platforms after iOS. They were also willing to give me career advice and share some of their own story, which was very helpful for me.

Watch their presentation below!

All in all, it was a great experience, and just a slice of my WonderCon experience. Stay tuned to the blog for more content coming soon!

Redout ‘Taking Longer Than Expected,’ Still On Track for Nintendo Switch

When the Nintendo Switch was announced, gaming fans the world over were promised a great proposition, being able to take a home console anywhere, playing full-quality console games on the go. Developing games for the system has been tough for some third parties, however, with games like RiME, WWE 2K18, and Yooka-Laylee being delayed due to optimization issues, and some still suffering performance issues upon release.

Redout, a fast-paced futuristic racer inspired by F-Zero, was initially teased to appear on the Switch with a snazzy one-minute trailer back at Nintendo’s Switch Presentation in January 2017, with a release window of Spring 2017. However, the Spring window passed, and the game did not show up. It was moved to Summer, and then October. Now, Amazon lists the game as releasing March 30, 2018, a full year after the initially proposed timeframe. The publisher of the game for Switch, Nicalis, still has 2017 as the release date for the game. However, this prospect is becoming more and more unlikely by the day.

When contacted by fans asking about the progress of the game, the studio stated that the Switch version is not cancelled, is taking longer than expected, but development is proceeding well. The company adds that it will post a release date once it has one for sure.

 

 

 

 

 

Most recently, the developers said they were “trying” to release the game by Christmas. However, it is unlikely it will now hit that goal.

Additionally, the company clarified that another company is handling the Switch version, and a physical version is something it would like to pursue.

 

We asked representatives from Nicalis and 34BigThings why the game is not ready yet, and what is holding it back from release, and if we can have a more firm update on the current state of the game. However, we did not receive a response.

For now, we just have the responses above to analyze. If the developer is to be believed, we should get a release within the next few months.

-Noah Sanchez, Gamer Splash

Big Nintendo Announcement Coming Soon [Rumor]

Nintendo has had a big year so far. They launched the Nintendo Switch, the first home gaming system you can play anywhere. In a surprise announcement, they announced the New 2DS XL, coming alongside two new 3DS games. They wowed us at E3 with a big shocker: Metroid Prime 4, as well as showed other new games coming to the platform such as Kirby, Yoshi, Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle, and Super Mario Odyssey. And most recently, they continued their coverage with more at Gamescom 2017. However, if you thought Nintendo was done this year, they’re not.

We all know Nintendo produces news throughout the year, with some of its biggest announcements at E3. But Nintendo likes to surprise us when we least expect it. Though this year’s E3 was great, there was something still amiss.

As Reggie Fils-Aime said in several interviews, Nintendo will bring all of its major franchises to each platform. So what haven’t we seen on Switch yet? We have not yet seen Animal Crossing, F-Zero, Donkey Kong, Star Fox (though we are getting Star Fox 2 on the SNES Classic), Earthbound, and of course, Super Smash Bros. Additionally, we still have not seen Retro Studios’ new IP or anything from Next Level Games. So what’s coming next?

According to SupermetalDave64, a prominent Nintendo YouTuber with industry contacts, Nintendo is preparing a large announcement very soon.

He says the first announcement will not be from Nintendo, but it may be related. The second, he says, will be from Nintendo, and may come in the form of a mid-September Nintendo Direct.

Since the first announcement won’t be from Nintendo, we can only speculate it will be a big third party announcement for the Switch. Currently, it could be anyone’s guess, but if I were to bet on it, it would be a AAA third party game from 2K, Ubisoft, or Activision. Rumors have been pegging Assassin’s Creed, Call of Duty WWII, and LA Noire for Switch, so we will find out.

PlayStation has a big press conference on September 19, so it may also be something announced here:

https://gematsu.com/2017/08/2017-playstation-press-conference-japan-set-september-19

As for Nintendo’s own announcement, it is also unknown at this point. However, it is slated to be coming soon after. Nintendo is holding a special panel on September 1 at PAX West to possibly talk about something that will be revealed just before it. It could potentially be about an already announced game such as Super Mario Odyssey or Metroid: Samus Returns. Or it could be about something brand new.

If we were to put any immediate bets on what would be unveiled next month, it would be Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo Switch, or Retro Studios’ new IP. Or maybe even Metroid Prime 4? Virtual Console is also a good bet, with GameCube titles recently appearing on Nintendo’s websites.

What else could it be?

Additional speculation suggests Nintendo could be revealing a new console. Not only has SuperMetalDave hinted at this before, but our own independent developer source from previous interviews has stated that there were three parts to the NX: one portable, one docked, and… something else. And one has not been shown off yet.

We will see soon.

SuperMetalDave64, the rumor’s perpetuator, has been hinting at this for weeks, saying there are two parts to this, and plans to hold a livestream to discuss after each announcement. He also hints that Nintendo will hold a Direct or a special event in mid-September for the final announcement.

SuperMetalDave has gotten things correct before, such as two new Metroid games being announced at E3 2017. So there is reason to put faith into his presumptions.

He’s put together a rather interesting teaser trailer hinting at what is in store.

Stay tuned to Gamer Splash for the latest on this topic.

-Noah Sanchez, Gamer Splash

Inti Creates Anime Expo 2017 Panel Footage [Exclusive]

Anime Expo 2017 hosted a variety of great content, including a strong gaming presence, as well. Inti Creates hosted a panel titled “Publishing Japanese Games for a Worldwide Audience on Nintendo Switch” and we were in attendance to bring you exclusive footage from the panel on YouTube!

The developers went through their history as a company and explained how they came to develop games for worldwide release and get into the the American indie scene.

In a surprise no one was expecting, they also unveiled both Shovel Knight and Shantae as playable DLC characters for Blaster Master Zero and invited the original franchise devs to play the DLC live for the first time!

Additionally, they held a Q&A session where some interesting details were shared.

Check out the full panel (with exclusive footage of their Inti Creates history video) below:

Check out Blaster Master Zero Shovel Knight DLC gameplay with Nick Wozniak, the Pixelmancer from Yacht Club Games!

Check out Blaster Master Zero Shantae DLC debut live gameplay with Matt Bozon, the creator of Shantae, from WayForward!

-Noah Sanchez, Gamer Splash

Breath of the Wild Frame-Rate Issues Are Not Power-Related, Originally Ran at 60fps on Switch

According to independent Nintendo developer Bplus games, the frame-rate issues in Breath of the Wild are not related to the game’s resolution or system power, as previously thought. Instead, the developer says the issues are due to programming bugs.

The current notion is that the frame-rate drops in the Switch version of Breath of the Wild are power-related, because the game tends to perform better in portable mode. It is thought that because the game runs at 720p in portable mode, that is why it performs better than in TV mode, which is reported to run at 900p.

However, according to the developer, this not the case. Instead, he asserts that the Switch does have enough power to run the game well in both modes, even at a higher resolution. He says the frame-rate drop problem is due to poor optimization of the programming for the game in TV mode:

Most of the frame-rate issues in Zelda are just programming failures. If Nintendo sets the right people to it they can totally fix them.

Some dev friends and I have the same feeling about that. Because sometimes it is just a specific zoom ratio that makes the frame-rate drop. Just zoom in a bit closer or further away and it runs super smooth.

The problem is that the game wants to show both near and far LOD (Level of Detail) objects. This is a frame-rate killer if two objects are in each other. To show that, it would need around 10 times the power.

And if you see Kakariko Village, the framerate hell there, and then the more beautiful Hateno Village, which runs super smoothly, you see that doesn’t make sense. So something else is going wrong there.

I mention that in my experience, the frame-rate issues usually only happen when there is a lot of grass near Link. I believe this is because of all of the detail and animations there are to render for each piece of grass on screen at once.

But he explains:

Yes, but if you zoom in just an inch or two, it has to show even more details of grass, yet it runs super smoothly again. Same thing when you zoom out just a bit. So on that one zoom ratio, it needs to render too much. It is an LOD problem that is known by the devs that need to handle that.

So indeed, it is not even an issue directly with the grass itself, but instead an issue of how much detail is rendered at certain zoom ratios.

I mention that the portable mode does change more things besides resolution, as noted by Digital Foundry, so this means more things change in TV mode too.

He agrees, but says there are even more changes beyond those.

A lot of things change between docked mode for Switch, besides the resolution.

The distance for LOD’s are changed, the types of texture filters, the distance of texture filters, levels of tri-linear mappings, etc.

All depending on graphics. But for example, the zoom ratio of the LODs are changed, which is a coding part. That also would bold the issue with the zoom level frame-rate issues.

So yes, it is a programming issue in TV mode that doesn’t relate to power.

I’m sure Nintendo has the right people to know the issue and to solve it, so we’ll see if they issue another patch soon.

So indeed, the frame-rate issues in Breath of the Wild are a programming issue that can be easily solved by Nintendo, if it is simply the case of having the LOD set to the wrong values at certain zoom ratios.

If so, it should be reassuring to people who thought the Switch wasn’t strong enough to run Zelda in TV mode at a higher resolution – it’s simply a programming issue, not a raw GPU power issue. If the issue is indeed this simple, it would seem easy to fix, so let’s hope Nintendo issues an update soon!

One more interesting tidbit:

If you take a closer look, you can see a lot of things changing. BUT they could have done more!

From what Nintendo devs told me, the whole game originally ran at 60 frames on Switch. But they did not want it to have too many hiccups. So they focused it down to 30 frames.

There is enough of power there to run the game well. Just some programming issues.

I understand an open world at that size, it is unbelievable how smooth it all runs when you think of what it does load all the time and that it all works in real time.

-Noah Sanchez, Gamer Splash