Tuesday, August 14, 2012
Gamescom News Dump - Vita Edition
So, Sony's Gamescom presser was today and many people, especially myself, hoped that it would bring good tidings for Sony's latest handheld, though I imagine most were expecting not. In a rare moment of catharsis, us expectant people were given quite a bit to hold onto, where the people expecting to be able to gloat were left with precious little ammunition to actually launch, leaving what they said rather sad, instead of something that could be arguably grounded. Indeed, it was a good showing for Sony all around, as New IP after New IP were announced, including Rain and Until Dawn as hoped, though certainly not in the incarnations expected. Regardless, they're PS3 games, which I will focus on tomorrow as tonight is the Vita night. It is a night for me to celebrate for having something fairly unequivocally positive for the overlooked little handheld slice of gaming heaven. These nights have not been as scant as you would have been lead to believe, but they have been too rare regardless.
Instead of starting with what is arguably the biggest bit of news to come from the conference, I'm instead going to focus on the above pictured game first. That game is Tearaway. It is adorable and magical. No surprise, it is being made by Media Molecule, the folks behind the lovely and charming LittleBigPlanet series that you know I have a particular fondness for. I had no idea that Media Molecule was actually working with the Vita and the knowledge that they were filled me with all sorts of glee, even before I saw Tearaway and it only amplified thereafter. Because seriously, watch this trailer and tell me it is not magical because I posit that it is not only magical, but double-magical because not only is it very obviously Media Molecule doing what they do, but they're also doing something rather wonderful with the Vita's controls if you look at the trailer. While a lot of people whinge about motion controls and the like not being utilized properly, I would posit that Tearaway uses them in all the right ways, screaming at your screen aside.
Tearaway puts you in the shoes of a little papercraft dude called iota, who has a very, very important message to deliver. Of course being a world of fantasy and a video game, he faces hardships along the way and that is where you, the player, come in, though in more of a role than one would normally think. Not only do you control iota, but at times your direct interaction with certain things, like the microphone or the touch screens has a very blatant effect on the world. Touching the rear touch screen thrusts your finger into the world, as if the paper dimension, being as 2D as it is, exists purely between the two screens of the Vita. You can use that finger to sweep aside enemies, switch switches or perhaps even offer something for iota to jump on for platforming puzzles if I'm not mistaken. This is just what was shown in the little trailer, of course, so it's possible that there are all sorts of other uses. Certainly, the front screen gets some love too as, at one point, you're tasked with cutting out a shape on the front screen in the shape of a crown, though it's pretty safe to assume that you do not -have- to conform to a crown. I'll leave that one up to your imaginations.
There's no real information on Tearaway beyond what's in the trailer, but what is there will suffice for now, I suppose. I would like if there was some sort of window in 2013 when this comes out (as I seriously doubt it'll make the end of the year), but January, to fill the LittleBigPlanet gap (Since LBP2 came out mid-way through that month) would be exceptionally nice, though I won't hold my breath. With LittleBigPlanet Vita coming out next month, I can honestly hold off a little more than I could otherwise, since I intend on having that game in my Vita non-stop for a good clip after I get it. Everything else will likely be put on the backburner after that unless there is something really big that I am completely forgetting, which is entirely possible since my blinders kind of go on when I talk about the Vita and LittleBigPlanet, so doubly so for LBPV. Regardless, more magic is always appreciated. For it is always magical.
So, with that out of the way, it should be said that the big news is that the next Vita Firmware update, 1.80, finally has a date for you to look for - August 28th. That post doesn't specifically say the 28th, rather saying late August, but it was apparently stated as such during the conference, so barring delays, look for it then. The post also does not specify whether a good portion of the back library will be supported from the get-go, or if it will be a gradual process as is the tail-end of the PSP back-log addition. Many, many people will gripe if it is the latter and perhaps slightly rightly so, but this is not a simple matter of "Put data on Vita, wiggle fingers as it magically works". It is an emulator, and as we have all discovered at times, emulators are not the most reliable of things and especially when it concerns something rather expensive like a PS3 or a Vita, you want to ensure that the testing it thorough to see that each game will not buckle under the stress of running it as well as some other applications, possibly. Since that is a main feature of the Vita and all - running several things all at once. And games tend to take a lot of resources regardless.
While PSOne Compatibility is the main point of 1.80, it's not the only point, of course, though it certainly overshadows the other things. Possibly the next highest thing on the list is the Cross Controller ability which allows you to use your Vita as a PS3 controller, particularly for things that have specifically announced it like LittleBigPlanet 2 and Guacamelee. I would assume, however, that it leaves the door open for other games to have some functionality patched in, should developers be so inclined to do so. It is a brand new field, of course and so long as you can suffer the people whining about 'copying', then you'll likely be golden no matter what, even if it doesn't get supported wholesale. One would suggest that what it -does- get will be pretty neat regardless, but we'll just have to see when something comes out. Well...something other than LittleBigPlanet 2's functionality because no way will I be able to be unbiased there.
Also included in the 1.80 update is just some miscellany, nothing too big. People have been complaining about -having- to use the touch screens to navigate the Vita's LiveArea, so it will include the ability to control the screens with the actual controls. I'm not sure if this involves a cursor like arrow, highlighting or simply the ability to shift between screens with the controls where you still have to launch with your finger. Or, you know, something else; it's hard to tell since I haven't thought about it and probably won't be using it. Aside from that, you'll be able to import playlists from iTunes and other such formats, control the web browser with the back screen as well as the front should you so desire, and have slightly more options when watching videos downloaded onto your Vita. And finally, Near might finally be fixed in a way that helps people like -me- who are stuck on wi-fi that is not near location data from Skyhook to actually use it. I'd dig it.
There was all sorts of other Vita announcements worth mentioning today of course, so I'll go ahead and run through those quickly and get off here to go lay down or play on my Vita or something. Worth mentioning right out is that a new initiative called "Cross-Buy" is officially a thing for all games (that come from Sony, at least) that will be on both the PS3 and Vita. Say you're interested in picking up the new Sly game or the just announced version of Ratchet and Clank: Full-Frontal Assault on the Vita, but you also want it on your PS3. Using some simple math and averages, $60 for the PS3 version and $40 for the Vita means you're spending $100 on, essentially the same game (even though extra copies are always handled separately, etc. etc. blah blah, not getting into that argument tonight). Well, with the Cross-Buy initiative, if you buy the game on the PS3, you're then entitled to a digital version of it for your Playstation Vita as well, free-of-charge. It works one-way only, of course, as you can't opt for the cheaper Vita version and get the $100 value like that. At current, only Playstation All-Stars, Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time and Ratchet and Clank: Full Frontal Assault are announced for the Cross-Buy initiative, but more games are on the way that will support it.
Beyond that and the earlier announcements, Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified finally got a gameplay trailer that looks strangely familiar. Though why that is, I'm not sure I can put a finger on it....hmm. Oh, right, announced today was the fact that the game was handed off to Nihilistic Studios to develop instead of Activision even using one of their own B-teams. Which is...well, I won't even touch how annoying that is, because I'm sure you understand that it is very annoying and I shouldn't have to accentuate that. Now, if you're wondering just why Nihilistic Studios and the game have have anything in common that would make it look familiar, let me go ahead and end that wonder right now and state it: Nihilistic Studios was the developer behind Resistance: Burning Skies which I said to be decent, but not great and this looks...well, very similar. If Burning Skies was any metric to go by, then perhaps CODBOD (That's a thing now, I made it a thing) might not be the Call of Duty game that the Vita wants, nor deserves. Here's hoping NS learns, though, but...well, don't expect it.
Finally, the last of the announcements is another First Person Shooter, but one that is decidedly -not- being developed by Nihilistic Studios, and I daresay that it shows. Killzone: Mercenary was shown off and looks fairly impressive for assuredly being an early build of the game. Killzone: Mercenary seems to take its title a little literally, as apparently in the game you will not be fighting for the ISA or the Helghast forces specifically, at least, not for the whole game. Yes, as a Mercenary, you'll be able to fight on both sides of the battle, doing whatever you can to earn money and weapons for taking out targets and/or just doing whatever you're asked of. I'm not quite sure as to what level of control you'll have over your contracts and price tag, but fighting on both sides of the war seems novel enough. And it doesn't look like ass or anywhere near it which might have something to do with using the engine from Killzone 3. Certainly, if you're looking for a FPS on the Vita, this is the game you'll want to firmly plant on your radar.
So, that was about it from Gamescom. I'd say that is a hefty bit of news, especially when you consider that that is literally just half of it, as there was all sorts of PS3 news going on as well. I'll get into that tomorrow unless something comes up, but with any luck, I'll be able to just keep rolling with things. But for now, I'm going to put a few extra touches on my Sound Shapes level and post it up on the community, provided it actually works as it did earlier, finally allowing me to play some community levels. That....weren't exactly worth the wait. But whatever, blah blah, fun news for the Vita everything is wonderful, magic is everywhere, etc. etc. etc. Gonna be a busy rest of the year, assuredly, but that's just the way we like it. Most of the time at least.