Friday, April 12, 2013

Orth is out, Grid 2 = Most Wanted? EA layoffs & more



The Midagedgamer Report for 4-12-2013

This Week:
Mr. "Don't see the drama" don't see a paycheck no more, Grid 2 = NFS:Most Wanted, EA layoffs and more!

Remember Adam Orth?  You know that guy who last week set the console gaming world on fire with his twitter account?  Well apparently he's no longer the creative director of anything having resigned his position after Friday's apology from Microsoft's Larry Hyrb of the XBOX group...


"We apologize for the inappropriate comments made by an employee on Twitter yesterday...This person is not a spokesperson for Microsoft, and his personal views do not reflect the customer centric approach we take to our products or how we would communicate directly with our loyal consumers. We are very sorry if this offended anyone, however we have not made any announcements about our product roadmap, and have no further comment on this matter."
Microsoft Apology

The commentary on various forums on the topic has ranged from "good riddance" to "I feel sorry for the guy".  I don't feel sorry for him at all.  An attitude like that in a retail business is poisonous.  This went far beyond even the Adria Richards fiasco a few weeks back.  Orth left absolutely no room for interpretation and suffered the consequences.


More news about the upcoming Grid 2, specifically about the multiplayer modes.  The upcoming game due out May 28th in the U.S and the 31st in Europe is going to offer up to 12 player online racing as well as a new "anti-griefing" system designed to match player racing styles so that you don't end up with more aggressive "paint swappers" racing against players trying to achieve a clean race.  There's also integration with social and mobile apps as well as what sounds like a very "Autolog" like "Racenet" which like Battlefield 3's "Battlelog" is the only way to launch a multiplayer game.  The game will feature modes like Race with the option for "Liveroutes" , Endurance, Drift, Touge, Checkpoint, Face-off, Time Attack as well as Challenge events in the form of Overtake and Power Lap.

Liveroutes is interesting because it's a race mode that tries to leverage the "open world" dynamic the whole game is based on.  It basically means the track can change at certain points based on what's going on in the race.  No more memorizing turn 4 or anticipating a straightaway.  Sounds a bit like Need For Speed:Most Wanted but where EA failed maybe Codemasters can succeed.
I have to wonder if Codemaster's is overreaching this time though.  The very EA like online interface and dizzying array of race modes could be biting off more than the developers can chew.  Then again, Codemasters has had 5 years to develop it.  We'll see on May 28th.

Pete Hines, PR President for Bethesda has an opinion.  He thinks that people who complain about new games launching with DLC at day one don't get it .... "I don't think they quite understand the development process and the point at which you have to stop making the game and you have to finish the game." He goes on to say that DLC often happens in the middle of all of that somewhere. 
More like an aborted development cycle to milk more money out of content that should have already been there.  DLC is fine but launch day DLC is just another case of squeezing more money out of your customers and you know it Pete.  Of course how valuable can an opinion be from anyone  that heads up "PR and Marketing"

In case you were wondering when the next update of Intel's Thunderbolt interface was coming (and who wasn't..ha ha) Your wait will soon be over.  It'll be out....soon.  As in the end of the year or early 2014 depending on how fast you want to go.
At the National Association of Broadcasters convention this week Intel announced the new Falcon Ridge controller that provides 20Gbps (that's 2.5Gigabytes per second) bandwidth as well as Redwood Ridge which is a low power version of the interface offering  the same 10Gbps bandwidth of current Thunderbolt controllers.  Both controllers offer Displayport 1.2 compatibility by the way for improved display performance.
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 Redwood Ridge will launch with Haswell  later this year, Falcon Ridge sometime after that.  Meanwhile USB 3.0 still maxes out at 5Gbps but a new standard promises to match existing the existing 10Gbps bandwidth of Thunderbolt.  It still doesn't have Displayport capability or the ability to transfer video and data over the same cable, however.  What it does have is better adoption and a lower price point.

The only thing keeping Thunderbolt from supplanting USB 3.0 at this point is the high price of cables and relatively small selection of devices to connect to.  It's a catch 22 situation which is why Intel is pushing the new standard to Hollywood as a replacement for the aging Firewire standard still in use today.  A classic case of trying to get professionals and early adopters with deeper pockets to foot the bill for newer technology.  They get the latest and greatest and after a few years we get lower prices.

 Intel also discussed future plans for Thunderbolt cabling to include optical fiber instead of copper which could theoretically make bandwidth limitless but increase the cost of cables even further with the need for optical transceivers and such.

A promising interface but nothing's going to happen till the cost comes down and more devices are out there to use it. 

So why should a gamer care?  With Displayport capability and high bandwidth straight off the PCI-E bus the days of being limited to only what you can cram into into a laptop case are over.  Imagine eventually being able to have a drop in performance "Dock" to play the latest games at the highest settings but retain the low power and portability of an ultrabook.  Bandwidth is king and it'd be nice if Intel could finally get Thunderbolt into the mainstream.


On the job front, EA has laid off a bunch of people in its Montreal studios supposedly to "sharpen their focus for new platforms and mobile."  Rumor of the layoffs has been circling around since earlier this week with some reports saying most of the layoffs are in the Q&A department.  Regardless, it makes no sense to be slashing staff if you're ramping up for a new platform. 

If the recent launch debacle of SimCity and the complete failure of Warfighter are any indication EA may be cleaning house.  Unfortunately, quality seems to be the major issue in the past few years.  If the rumors are true and most of the layoffs are Q&A people then they've completely missed the mark. 
Anytime I hear the words "Streamline our operations" in a company press briefing it usually means they're circling the wagons.  All the more reason to make sure you're putting out a quality product instead of pumping out marginal games with huge development costs.

Finally,

If you've just been dying to do some hardcore gaming on your new 80" flatscreen but the console just wasn't cutting it, Couchmaster may put you back in the game (no pun intended).  No, it's not a new gaming console, well at least not the kind you're thinking of.  It's a wraparound padded desk designed to handle your PC mouse, keyboard and a few other USB accessories.  To be honest it kind of looks like a craft project but at $150 U.S. it's reasonably priced for what it is. 

Obviously, only single gamers need apply unless you're trying to become single again...


    
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