It's About The Brand, Not The Console

Updated: Jul 25, 2020

Let's just cut right to the chase. People are disappointed in the July 23rd, 2020 XBOX Games Showcase for numerous reasons.

One of the major-reasons why people were disappointed is because they felt that this XBOX Games Showcase did not show off the power the Microsoft claims the XBOX Series X has. That is a fair-argument to make if you are just giving a cursory-evaluation of the showcase itself. All of the games looked "good," but a lot of people expected the games to blow them away.

Whether that is a logical-stance to have is debatable, as what construes as being "next-gen" graphics is relative to the individual. There is a lot going-on in a game that you cannot see that is more-telling on the horsepower of the hardware other than the obligatory visuals cues i.e. lighting, textures, frame-rate, resolution, etc.

I think that a major-error Microsoft made was leading with Halo: Infinite. The idea of starting with your flagship-title may sound good in theory, but it turned out to have a deleterious-effect on the rest of the show. First-impressions are lasting-ones and people in this day and age tend to hang-on to that impression for a long-time. People expected this game to "wow" them and the discontentment people have of it NOT delivering in that aspect is not misplaced because it should have delivered. I mean.....this is HALO. It was painfully-obvious to me that Halo: Infinite is an unfinished-game. I'm not a big-fan of 343 Studios to begin with, but I can compartmentalize-things better than others and I know that they are not this incompetent. You saw various moments where assets were popping-in and that is something that both Microsoft and Sony have vehemently-denied would be an issue any longer. Granted, the pop-in was very far away, but still there nonetheless. I also noticed that when Master Chief was driving the Warthog, the wheels did not spin-correctly and at times did not spin at all. It was not a case of the wheels spinning so-fast that they "appeared" not to be spinning because from a physics-standpoint that would not be the case when you isolate the moments where this effect occurred. One could make the argument that maybe he hit the brakes and locked-up the tires which is why they weren't spinning, but again in the situations it happened in, it doesn't match-up in my opinion. I wouldn't rule it out as a possibility just to be fair.

Lastly, when the Covenant transport-craft arrived, the flying-pattern looked very static and rigid. It almost looked-like someone was manually-controlling the flying rather than it being a pre-animated flight-path. As an animator myself, I can explain that there are at least a couple of ways to make a flying-craft look smooth.

1. Instead of animating the object itself, you set keyframes to animate the camera moving around the object which gives the illusion that the object itself is moving. This has been done for decades in major-films and TV-shows that deal with flying-craft before CGI became a readily-available and affordable-alternative. However, this technique does not apply here because we are looking at it from Master Chief's 1st-person perspective and because the camera is affixed to him it wouldn't work.

2. Another option is to animate the object itself by drawing a set-path for the object to follow, and then using keyframes to move the object along that path and to adjust the tilt and orientation of it during the turns and so forth.

In any event, it just looked sloppy. One last thing that I noticed is that the textures were very bland in this footage. Everything felt too-clean and pristine and in this type of game that doesn't play very well. There was very little (if any) specular-mapping or bump-mapping that I could see. The grass looked very washed-out at times. At this point in the Halo series you would think that supplies for the UNSC would be few and far between based on previous-events. They are not exactly operating from a position of surplus. Meaning you would expect them to be older, worn-out, and showing battle-damage elements. Everything looked like it just came fresh off of the assembly-line. Now, all of these things that I pointed out are very easily-fixed issues. This game also was designed with Ray-Tracing in mind and it was not in effect with the footage we saw. I suspect that a lot of this will be fixed with the Ray-Tracing patch. Here is an example of how dramatically Ray-Tracing can affect a game.

This video shows what Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild looks like with Ray-Tracing. Notice the vast-difference in the foliage.

So you see how much of an effect Ray-Tracing can even have on a Wii U game (because this is running off of the CEMU emulator which runs Wii U roms.) I also think that it is fair to point out that the visuals are a night-and-day difference when watching the 4K 60FPS version of the XBOX Games Showcase as compared to the live-feed.

This picture has been getting a lot or traction from people and it has even become a meme. This indeed does look terrible and the gaming-community is really giving Microsoft the business over it. THIS, is what people have chosen to identify what the XBOX Series X is all about. However this...

....has been barely talked-about and this was on the same piece of hardware. There was also this game...

Little is known about this studio TwistedRed, but this game in my opinion looks better than anything that has been shown up to this point by ANYBODY and it is running on XBOX Series X. So the XBOX Series X in my opinion will be fine once they get the ball-rolling. Everything we saw during the showcase was running at 60 FPS and we have been told that several-games (including Exomecha) will run up-to 120 FPS. Now, I would not bank on major-games hitting that benchmark anytime soon. Like, maybe not for years. If it happens before then, hey great! People also have forgotten that 7 months ago Microsoft told us that they were not even going to have 1st-party titles available at launch for the Series X. So that to me is further-proof that these games are unfinished.

I think that for whatever reason people take pleasure in the mistakes, failures, missteps, and even sorrow of others. Usually this is applied to people or companies they perceive are "better" than they are so when they make a mistake it alleviates their own insecurities.

"Hey, my life may suck but at least I'm not responsible for this!"

Sad but true. On a bigger-scale I think people are missing the point here with Microsoft. The loudest-squawking comes from those who still hang-on to the "Console-War" dynamic whether they realize it or they don't realize it. Let me make it plain for you. THERE IS NO CONSOLE WAR. PERIOD.

That chapter in history is dead, buried, and consecrated. Sony permanently-won the Console Wars. I seriously doubt that they will ever be challenged again in the home-console market. They have sold the most home-consoles in 3 out of the 4 generations they have been in and the one they didn't sell the most they still sold 87 million units. I predict that Sony will sell the most-consoles again in the 9th-generation. Yes, I predict that eventually the PS5 will surpass the Nintendo Switch. It will take the entire 9th-generation but they will surpass it. When it comes to Microsoft's strategy people need to understand something.

Outside of a few exceptions, the PlayStation is the only place that you can go to experience Sony games. Nintendo consoles are the only place you can go for Nintendo experiences. With Microsoft, their focus is not just on the console. Yes, they want you to buy a Series X but if you don't guess what? They still make money. I've seen so many comments from people saying how they don't need a Series X and will stick with the PC because all the games they saw that they liked will be available on the PC and they say this in a derogatory-way as if they are "hurting" Microsoft.

No genius, if you are buying the game on Windows PC Microsoft is STILL getting your money! Tell me, what has a bigger install-base? The XBOX console division....


......desktop PCs, tablets, lap-tops, and smartphones?

Microsoft only cares about you using their brand to play games. That's it. It's not about the Series X. It's not about Series S (Project Lockhart.) It's about Project XCloud and XBOX Game Pass. Microsoft wants to become the Netflix of the gaming-industry. They know that they can't beat Sony head-to-head, so they gave up on that strategy and replaced it with a surreptitious-one where profit is coming from games-sales on multiple-devices with an immeasurable install-base worldwide. Microsoft quite-frankly does not even NEED a home-console. That could be why they seemingly have such an cavalier-attitude regarding the lack of polish on the Series X at this point. Their company's future is not tied to the success of their hardware, but their software and networking-infrastructure for gaming and non-gaming purposes. Microsoft in many ways reminds me of SKYNET from the Terminator-series. In the first-two films we looked at SKYNET as a physical, tangible thing. A self-aware super-computer in a bunker someplace. If we just destroy the system-core then we destroy SKYNET right? Wrong. In Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines we learn that SKYNET was never a self-aware super-computer, but it was actually self-aware software. It could not be destroyed because the software was everywhere and into everything. In order to truly beat SKYNET you would have to literally destroy everything with a micro-chip to do so. In the same way, Microsoft has positioned the XBOX brand to be everywhere and into everything. With Project XCloud in tandem with XBOX Game Pass you have people having access to over 100 games that can be played on any device that you already own. A PC, lap-top, tablet, smart-phone, or whatever 8th-gen XBOX console you may own right now. You don't have to go out and buy anything. All you need to do is sign-up for XBOX Game Pass, download the app to your device, and away we go. Right now it is clear that both Microsoft and Sony have decided on the strategies that will work best for them and they are not deterred by the scuttlebutt from the gaming-media. Both companies understand what will be a winning-strategy for THEM, even if the fanboys don't.

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