Monthly Archives: March 2014 - Page 2

Microsoft won’t allow Xbox One/PC cross-platform play, says War Thunder dev

[UPDATE] Following the publication of this story, a Microsoft representative provided GameSpot the following statement:

“For developers interested in enabling cross-platform game play between Xbox One and PC, we work with them closely to meet their development needs and ensure a great user experience.”

The original story is below.

The Xbox One is technically capable of supporting cross-platform play, but Microsoft is not currently allowing it, according to War Thunder developer Gaijin Entertainment CEO Anton Yudintsev.

“Microsoft is not allowing cross-play completely; which means [War Thunder] cannot be on Xbox One,” Yudintsev told GameSpot at GDC last week in San Francisco.

Why would Microsoft block cross-platform play? According to Yudintsev, Microsoft needs to certify game servers as a means to ensure a “good experience” for all players. This isn’t possible under the current circumstances, Yudintsev said.

Xbox boss Phil Spencer said previously that cross-platform play between Xbox One and PC “makes sense,” teasing that he’s “not allowed to leak things,” suggesting this feature may actually be in the works. We’ve reached out to a Microsoft representative for a further comment.

Cross-platform play is vital for a game like War Thunder because the install base of new consoles like the Xbox One and PS4 is too small for players to have an enjoyable experience, Yudintsev said.

The PS4 version of War Thunder, available only in Europe right now, will support cross-play beginning as early as next month, Yudintsev said. The reason this feature has yet to go live comes down to an unspecified updating issue that Yudintsev said Sony engineers are working to fix right now.

As for why Gaijin Entertainment elected to side with Sony instead of Microsoft, Ydintsev said it’s because Sony is significantly more accommodating to indie developers, specifically those who make free-to-play games.

“Sony is much more open to indie developers and free-to-play games in general. So Sony has been in the free-to-play market for a few years already, they started on the PlayStation 3,” Yudintsev said. “Not only that, but Microsoft has a lot of unspoken limitations like if you want to make a free-to-play game you have to talk to an account manager and there are no set of rules; you need to communicate them; and the rule depends on the [individual account manager]. If he likes your game you get approval, if he doesn’t you don’t get approval.”

“Sony is much more open to indie developers and free-to-play games in general” — Yudintsev

Yudintsev said one individual Microsoft account manager decides your game’s fate. This person is the only who says “This game is good, this game is bad,” Yudintsev said.

“I don’t think it’s a correct assumption that anyone can be the one who can choose which game is good and which is bad because each game is for a specific audience,” he said.

Yudintsev said Minecraft is a good example of the faults in Microsoft’s indie program. “It’s a very fun game, a lot of people play it, and nowadays everyone understands it’s a very good game. But it would not be happening [first] on Xbox Live.”

“When it was released it was strange…it had very, let’s say, specific graphics and not much of the gameplay,” Yudintsev said, referencing the game’s alpha release. “It suddenly became very popular and after that it appears on Xbox 360 as well. But it could not happen the other way. There’s no way, I am pretty sure, that Microsoft would ever approve that game to be on Xbox Live Arcade before it became popular on the PC.”

Yudintsev stressed that Microsoft’s policies for indie games are beginning to change for the better with the arrival of the ID@Xbox program. But he made clear that Microsoft still has a ways to go to catch up to Sony.

“[Microsoft] has to change and they will change,” Yudintsev said. “They key is that they understand the necessesity of change, so they will. We’ll see. I hope we will be [on Xbox One] some day as well. I have nothing against the platform itself especially because I’m not one of those guys who worries about which is better [Xbox One or PS4]. I don’t care. It’s just the hardware. At the end of the day it’s only about the quality of the game and the gameplay experience.”

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and you can follow him on Twitter @EddieMakuch
Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email

Feedbackula – Final Farewell Furore!

Johnny sends Feedbackula off into the long night. Also, bees.

Console gaming not dead in Japan, Microsoft says

Earlier this month, Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima lamented the state of the AAA gaming business in Japan, saying young people are gravitating towards mobile games instead of high-end titles. And before that, influential Mega Man and Dead Rising design Keiji Inafune said the Japanese video game industry has only “gotten worse” in recent times.

Not all agree with this downtrodden viewpoint about the state of gaming in the Island nation, and one such supporter is Xbox boss Phil Spencer. Speaking with GameSpot at the Game Developers Conference last week, Spencer, who heads up Microsoft Studios, said he’s optimistic about console gaming in Japan.

“Well, I don’t think the number of gamers in Japan has gone down. We obviously haven’t launched [the Xbox One in Japan] yet. I’ll say we’re doing more development in Japan right now than we’ve probably done in quite a while,” Spencer said. “But the development community, I actually feel like there’s a lot of great talent there for console games.”

“I don’t believe that console gaming is dead in Japan” — Spencer

“I don’t believe that console gaming is dead in Japan. I’m not Japanese, so I’m not the best person to talk about why I believe that. I don’t have any kind of natural connection to it. But knowing my friends there and the things that they’re interested in, and the games that are built there, I think we’ve got to find some genres of games that re-emerge,” he added.

Overall, Spencer stressed that the Japanese market is “critical” and even teased that Microsoft has first-party games in development in the region.

“We remain committed to the Japanese market,” Spencer said. “And I know our launch is a little further out, but we’re going to be at Tokyo Game Show again, we’ve got first-party games being developed in Japan, and just as a creative entity itself, the Japanese development community, it’s critical for us in the industry that we continue to invest there and see great games come out.”

The Xbox One launches in Japan this coming September.

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and you can follow him on Twitter @EddieMakuch
Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email

Goat Simulator – Now Playing

It’s been called “Tony Hawk Pro Skater, but with Goats” around the halls of the GameSpot offices. Now’s your chance to see for yourself!

GameSpot GamePlay Podcast Episode #67

Kevin VanOrd and the GameSpot crew are joined by Edmund McMillen from Team Meat to talk about all things in the gaming industry this week.

Microsoft reportedly pays as much as $150 million for wearable computing assets

Image credit: TechCrunch

While Oculus VR and Facebook are making most of the headlines this week in the virtual reality space, Microsoft is also reportedly making moves in this sector. Sources told TechCrunch today that Microsoft has paid as much as $150 million to buy IP assets related to augmented reality and head-mounted computing technology.

Microsoft reportedly purchased the assets from the Osterhout Design Group (ODG), an under-the-radar tech company that creates products for the consumer, industrial, and military markets.

TechCrunch reports that Microsoft was in discussions to buy ODG outright, but instead chose to buy some of its IP instead, for a price estimated to be between $100 million and $150 million. This deal reportedly closed in November with the patents transferring to Microsoft in January.

Rumors of an augmented reality gaming initiative from Microsoft date back years.

Some of the patents Microsoft reportedly scooped up cover things like “see-through near-eye display glasses including a partially reflective, partially transmitting optical element,” as well as “video display modification based on sensor input for a see-through near-to-eye display.”

Microsoft has not commented on the report, so take this with a grain of salt for now.

If Microsoft did in fact acquire the assets, there’s a number of possibilities for what they might be used for. One seemingly apparent use would be for gaming. Xbox boss Phil Spencer said during the Game Developers Conference last week that Microsoft has been tinkering with virtual reality for “quite a while.” Now that Facebook has acquired Oculus and Sony is in the market with Project Morpheus, Microsoft following suit wouldn’t be too much of a stretch.

In July 2012, a purported Microsoft roadmap document for the Xbox One showed that the company plans to introduce an augmented reality endeavor called “Fortazela.” sometime in 2014. The glasses will reportedly run on Wi-Fi and 4G connections.

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and you can follow him on Twitter @EddieMakuch
Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email

Oculus VR hires another Valve virtual reality veteran

From left: Oculus Rift creator Palmer Luckey, Michael Abrash, and John Carmack

Oculus VR has hired yet another Valve virtual reality veteran.

Just two weeks after announcing it had hired Atman Binstock, the company has now brought on longtime Valve VR developer Michael Abrash as the company’s new “Chief Scientist.” His arrival at Oculus VR comes just three days after Facebook purchased the company in a surprise $2 billion deal.

In a blog post on the Oculus VR website, Abrash laid out his prediction for what he believes is the future of virtual reality. “We’re on the cusp of what I think is not The Next Big Platform, but rather simply The Final Platform–the platform to end all platforms–and the path here has been so improbable that I can only shake my head,” he said.

The “final piece of the puzzle” to help VR go mainstream, Abrash said, was Facebook’s purchase of Oculus VR on Tuesday. Advancements to display panels requires expensive engineering, and now that Facebook is on board, Oculus VR should has the capital to make its dreams come true, Abrash claimed.

“Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus means that VR is going to happen in all its glory,” he said. “The resources and long-term commitment that Facebook brings gives Oculus the runway it needs to solve the hard problems of VR–and some of them are hard indeed. I now fully expect to spend the rest of my career pushing VR as far ahead as I can.”

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and you can follow him on Twitter @EddieMakuch
Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email

Oculus didn’t expect such a negative reaction to Facebook deal

Following the surprise announcement Tuesday that Facebook had purchased Oculus VR for $2 billion, positive and negative comments flowed forth from social media. Oculus VR vice president Nate Mitchell said in a new interview with Game Informer that he expected to get some heat from its core fans over the deal, but said he was surprised by the outpouring of negativity from the community at large.

“We assumed that the reaction would be negative, especially from our core community,” Mitchell said. “Beyond our core community, we expected it would be positive. I don’t think we expected it to be so negative.”

In the time that’s passed, Mitchell said he’s already starting to see the conversation on Twitter and Reddit “swinging back the opposite direction.” He stressed that it’s up to Oculus VR to educate people on why the deal makes sense and should be considered a good thing.

21-year-old Oculus Rift creator Palmer Luckey has been busy doing just that. Immediately following the announcement of the acquisition, he answered dozens of questions on Reddit about privacy concerns and what the deal means for the future of Oculus. For more on the Oculus VR/Facebook deal, check out editorials from GameSpot editors Tom McShea and Peter Brown.

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and you can follow him on Twitter @EddieMakuch
Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email

Microsoft expecting an "army of huge franchises" at E3

Between Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo, Electronic Arts, and Activision, there will be an “army of huge franchises” to look forward to from this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo. That’s according to Xbox boss Phil Spencer, who made the comment to GameSpot in an interview from the Game Developers Conference last week discussing the overall health of the AAA business.

So far in 2014 “bad” news has abounded. BioShock creator Irrational Games announced that it is effectively closing down, Sony cut numerous jobs at God of War developer Sony Santa Monica, Thief developer Eidos Montreal laid off 27 people a week after release, and just this week Sony eliminated jobs at multiple UK studios.

“I think at this year’s E3 between us and EA and Activision, Sony, and Nintendo, you’re going to see another army of huge franchises coming” — Spencer

Spencer said he doesn’t know the specifics of every situation, but maintains that the AAA game business remains a successful enterprise and this will become clear when E3 rolls around this summer.

“I don’t think it’s a reflection of the vibrancy of the industry,” Spencer said, referencing the news discussed above. “If you look at attach rate on the consoles right now, people investing in the great new AAA IP, it’s great. I think at this year’s E3 between us and EA and Activision, Sony, and Nintendo, you’re going to see another army of huge franchises coming.”

News about downsizing is more a reflection of the size and scope of AAA games today, Spencer said. As part of the normal development cycle for big-budget games, studios staff up and then shed employees when they are not needed. This not not atypical, he said.

Spencer said no one bats an eye when jobs are cut during the development of major movies because this ebb and flow is standard operating procedure. He told us that over time, he expects video game development to evolve to a point where development practices and procedures become more normalized.

“I think the model for how studios deal with that peak and valley is still evolving,” he said.

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and you can follow him on Twitter @EddieMakuch
Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email

Prodigy: Not Just Skylanders for Grown-Ups

The announcement trailer I’d seen for Prodigy before meeting with people from Hanakai Studios last week had left me with the impression that the game I’d be seeing was essentially Skylanders for grown-ups.

I was wrong.

Prodigy does have something in common with games like Skylanders and Disney Infinity. In this game, as in those, you place figurines on a platform, and the characters represented by those figurines then appear in the world of the game. However, that’s where the similarities end. Prodigy is trying to bring the tactile and tactical pleasure of thoughtfully positioning pieces on a game board into the realm of video games. The role-playing game will have a single-player campaign, but my hands-on experience with Prodigy took the form of a turn-based battle against another player.

In the full game, parties will be composed of three characters, but my opponent and I had just two units each, one of them being a guardian, who provides the mana that powers the party’s special attacks (lose your guardian, and your other members are limited to their standard techniques). The boards before each of us had three rows of four squares each. Characters positioned in the front row received a bonus to damage dealt, while characters in the back row received a defensive bonus.

If Elae and Stealth Elf got in a fight, who do you think would win?

On each turn, only one character could act–my guardian, then my opponent’s companion, then my companion, then my opponent’s guardian, and so on. On a character’s turn, he or she could move to any position on the board–done simply by picking the figure up and putting it down where I wanted the character to go–and then perform an action. Positioning was crucial not only because of the bonuses associated with certain rows, but also because placing one character in front of another can defend the character in the rear from attacks, and because some characters have special attacks that hit every character in a column, or all characters in a T formation. Actions were triggered not with presses of a button or clicks of a mouse, but by waving cards with symbols and words like “attack,” “focus,” and “power” over the board.

Of course, I’ve played plenty of video games in which I’ve had to carefully consider where to place my characters, but, just as computer chess can never completely duplicate the pleasure of sitting with a friend over a board of finely carved chess pieces, there is a different kind of pleasure that comes from picking up a figurine of a character and putting it down than the one that might arise from clicking and dragging a figure on a computer screen. The figurines I had the chance to examine were far more intricately detailed than the cartoony figurines of Skylanders and Disney Infinity; these are miniatures that would be at home in a tabletop, pen-and-paper role-playing game.

Prodigy hopes to make you feel drawn in to the fiction and magic of the game’s fantasy setting–the game includes a ring of power that you wear, which stores information about your progress, though some information is stored in the miniatures, as well. Hanakai hopes that there’s an interest in this meshing of the tangible and the digital, and is launching a Kickstarter campaign on April 2, at which time more information about Prodigy will be revealed.