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

Nintendo, You’re Doing Cloud Saves Wrong

Ever since the Nintendo Switch came out in March 2017, despite having many modern and lauded features, many have been quick to point out some of its flaws. From launch until today, there has been no cloud save feature for games on the system.

Whereas Xbox and PlayStation have had cloud saves since last generation, 2017’s Nintendo Switch had no such feature. When Nintendo finally announced that the paid Nintendo Switch Online subscription service would offer cloud saves, many gamers rejoiced. No more, many thought, would a gamer who lost his Nintendo Switch have to restart his 300-hour Breath of the Wild game save, from scratch. He would no longer have to grind his way back up to the top in Splatoon 2.

But today’s news that certain games would not support cloud saves came as a surprise. Whereas a rival system like the Xbox One saves every single game to the cloud universally, it appears Nintendo is allowing each developer to “opt-in” to whether they want to use cloud saves or not.

Here is the current list of games that do not support cloud saves:

Splatoon 2

Pokémon Let’s Go Eevee & Pikachu

FIFA 19

NBA 2K19

Dark Souls Remastered

Dead Cells

It’s worth noting that all of the multiplatform games on this list support cloud saves on Xbox and PlayStation. And this list is likely to grow.

Worse yet, Nintendo’s official reasoning behind the change is maddening and confusing, to say the least.

Per Game Informer, here is Nintendo’s response to the issue:

The vast majority of Nintendo Switch games will support Save Data Cloud backup. However, in certain games this feature would make it possible to, for example, regain items that had been traded to other players, or revert to a higher online multiplayer ranking that had been lost. To ensure fair play, Save Data Cloud backup may not be enabled for such games. To ensure that Save Data Cloud backups cannot be used to unfairly affect online multiplayer rankings, the feature will not be enabled in Splatoon 2.

Breaking this down, this response indicates a very important distinction in the way Nintendo is conceptualizing its cloud saving feature. Besides not being available at a system level for each game, Nintendo’s response makes it clear that players’ cloud saves will not be automatically synced to the cloud, like Xbox One’s system enforces. Per Nintendo’s words, this looks more and more like Nintendo will be instead implementing cloud saves with the same thought process as how it implements them on the NES Classic Edition; That is, Nintendo will give gamers different cloud saving “slots,” the same way as it does with offline single player games such as Breath of the Wild. Players can then choose to load up one of, potentially many, “cloud saves” from a cloud save list, the same way players can load up any normal offline save from their offline save list.

There are many reasons having multiple save files are beneficial for offline play in single-player games. Say you got stuck in a tough boss battle with low health and few items, making it near-impossible to get through it. What do you do? Bingo: fire up a previous save and stock up on items before you face that bad boy again. Or say you were near the end of a game and your character suddenly died, the game then forcing you to restart from far back. A save file closer to where you were before is helpful in this situation, as well.

However, there is a good reason online games, such as Splatoon, Halo, and Gran Turismo, don’t give you save slots (at least in the online portions). The reason is because all of the online data is stored in the cloud.

Now, from a certain perspective, Nintendo’s logic in their response is sound. If it is indeed possible to revert saves to alter online play, then it is a good call for Nintendo to not allow cloud saves on Switch.

The issue is that this situation is only possible in the first place, because Nintendo implemented an inferior cloud save model, where it gives players the option to revert players’ local saves to previous cloud saves created at an earlier time. In this case, as unfortunate as it is, Nintendo is making the right decision to thwart cheaters.

But why isn’t this an issue on Xbox One and PlayStation, and how are these platforms able to have cloud saves on each and every game without the same concerns Nintendo has? This is because these systems do not allow for reverting a current offline or online game save to a previous, specifically Online version. The only way Nintendo’s concern makes sense is if it is allowing players to revert their game saves to previous online game saves. So, it’s rather obvious this is the kind of system Nintendo intends to implement here.

This approach to cloud saves makes sense for single-player games such as Super Mario Odyssey or Breath of the Wild. However, it should not be a one-size-fits-all approach, because games that dare to have online components like Splatoon 2 and FIFA 19 become a victim to that decision, Nintendo putting online gaming fairness en masse over individual save data security.

It is also puzzling to me why, if Nintendo does want to stick with its cloud save data reversion feature, Nintendo can’t achieve the technical issue of allowing single-player save data in a game like Splatoon 2 to be reverted without affecting a player’s online rankings. This suggests that a player’s online data is tied to the offline game save data, when it should have been saved in the cloud all along. Now that we know this is the case, it’s another reason Nintendo has done things wrong here and is having to make this decision.

This situation also makes me wonder why Nintendo can’t just make sure that once a console is connected to the internet, it adopts a system like Xbox One’s, where instead of giving the player the option to revert to a previous online save, the system automatically synchronizes the player’s latest game save, whether offline or online, and overwrites the older one.

Nintendo could simply choose to implement this auto-synchronization function for online games and preserve the cloud save function, and if it wants, it can use revertable cloud saves for games such as Breath of the Wild. There’s no reason why the Switch cannot use two different cloud save systems for two very different kind of games, when that framework can allow the benefit of cloud saves to games such as Splatoon 2. Implementing this approach would work, and gamers would benefit.

Not implementing this approach signals to me that Nintendo’s current game save system is out of date, and thus incompatible with this set-up, or Nintendo wants to keep everything simple for gamers and would rather have the same exact cloud save functions across every game. However, the victims of this decision, then, are online multiplayer games.

Nintendo has dug themselves into a pretty large hole here. But they can solve this.

If they simply adopt a universal auto-synchronization system like Xbox One’s, or even do this for only games with online multiplayer, then precious save data for games like Splatoon 2 would be able to be safely backed up to the cloud, and gamers could finally rejoice at the feeling that their save data will be safe, no matter what happens to their Switch.

As it stands now, though, it looks like cloud saves will be a neat feature to have for offline Nintendo Switch games, but a gamer who happens to lose or damage his Nintendo Switch will still have to start from scratch for a game like Splatoon 2.

Nintendo still has time to fix this. If not when the service launches, then any time after. But as of now, fans of online games on Nintendo’s system will still have to be subject to uncertainty regarding their save data. And in 2018, that is not acceptable.

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:

IMG_20180719_150444IMG_20180719_150549

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!