Subject: General Tech | July 5, 2016 - 05:18 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: xbox, windows 10, microsoft
Microsoft is launching Xbox Play Anywhere this fall, which allows games that are purchased on Xbox Store and Windows Store to be available on the other for no additional cost.
To our site, this means that these games will also be available on Windows 10. Moreover, Microsoft has announced that “every new title published from Microsoft Studios will support Xbox Play Anywhere and will be easily accessible in the Windows Store.” So this means that, starting with Re-Core, Microsoft should publish all of their games on the PC.
Update (July 6th @ 3:33pm EDT): Turns out that it was updated to clarify "at this year's E3". So the list of games on XboxPlayAnywhere is all they're announcing so far.
That said, it will all be done through Windows Store, and so we'll need to remain concerned about the openness of that platform. The obvious example is when Games for Windows Live was shut down, bricking all software that the developer didn't patch out (or patch over to Steam). There's also concern about people being able to distribute software independently and anonymously as well.
That said, Microsoft is free to publish their own software however they like, and it's nice to see them supporting the PC again. I just want to make sure a strong, alternative platform exists (like Win32 or a strong Web standard) that cannot be (legally or technically) pivoted into Windows RT (or iOS), which forced all browsers to be re-skins of Internet Explorer (or Safari in iOS's case), forced content guidelines on games, etc. Someone will abuse any restrictions that are made, now or in the future.
Subject: General Tech | January 6, 2016 - 12:05 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: microsoft, xbox, recore
ReCore was first announced at the last E3 as an Xbox One exclusive, but Microsoft has recently announced that it will arrive on Windows, too. It is being developed by Comcept and Armature Studio for Microsoft Game Studios. Comcept was founded by Keiji Inafune, producer of Mega Man, Dead Rising, and Lost Planet. Armature Studio was founded by three members of Retro Studios, who made the Metroid Prime franchise. It was supposed to launch in the next couple of months, but it has been pushed to later this year.
It's still unclear what the game even is though, which is odd considering its relatively close release date. It is listed as an action-adventure title, and the developer claims that both Metroid and Zelda have influenced its direction. There also seems to be an element of “robotic cores” that can be moved from skeleton to skeleton, bringing its AI with it. Lastly, the Game Info site highlights a robotic companion element. Neither of those two points seem to fit in a Zelda nor a Metroid framework, which revolve around puzzle solving and re-exploring areas with upgraded abilities, respectively. There's something missing, and it will likely be revealed at E3 in June.
We'll see. It could be a bust, but at least we will have the option to try it.
Subject: General Tech | October 29, 2015 - 09:36 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: microsoft, xbox, windows 10
As some have noticed, my recent “Just Delivered” post for the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller was not very... wireless. Simply put, the Elite does not come with a wireless adapter for Windows, because that would be useless for the console-only crowd, and its price was already high enough. While it was released on October 20th, the Xbox Canada website gave a server error for its product page until the 22nd.
It seemed like a bit of a rushed launch, to say the least.
Well, when I popped into EB Games on my walk today, I was surprised to find that they have stock. Yay. Installation was relatively simple. Open the box, stick it into an available USB port, wait for Windows 10 to recognize it, put batteries in your gamepad, turn the controller on, press both sync buttons, and wait until the Xbox logo (on the controller) turns a solid glow. From then on, you just need to turn the gamepad on and off by pressing and holding the Xbox logo, which takes about a count of fifteen to turn off.
A couple of additional notes. First, the adapter is said to support up to eight controllers. This is great, especially for indie developers who are interested in party games. Also, the ability to update controller firmware will be added via the “Xbox Accessories” app from Windows Store, which is the same one used to rebind gamepad inputs. That update will be available on November 12th (see "Headset audio issues through the controller"). Thanks to an anonymous comment for this info!
Also, this means that you pretty much should not get Xbox One accessories unless you're planning to run Windows 10.
Subject: General Tech | October 28, 2015 - 10:02 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: xbox one, xbox, pc gaming
The Xbox One Elite Wireless Controller launched yesterday, and mine arrived in the early afternoon by mail. It was not a review unit, I bought it at retail, but I intend to publish my thoughts on the device in the near future. I am currently thinking up tests and benchmarks to run it through. Be sure to look out for that. It will be told from the perspective of a PC gamer who does not own an Xbox One console, and who does not intend to get one.
I have been using it over the last two days, off and on, however. I must say, it is pretty solidly built from what I can tell. The thumb sticks rolls around with basically zero grinding sensation, and the D-Pad feels precise (although that will need to be actually tested). It does feel just a bit awkward for games that center on the D-Pad though, because my left thumb feels more natural somewhere between it, the left thumb stick, and the “view” (back) button. It is certainly better than a standard Xbox 360 gamepad for “16-bit” style games, but probably not a step-up from USB-based knock-off SNES controllers for enthusiasts who go for that sort of thing.
It's definitely the best offering that I've used for titles like Super Meat Boy, though... even as far back as Windows 98/XP era. Granted, I didn't dip too far into the niche companies.
So keep an eye out for our later review. It will probably be one of the few that exclusively focus on the PC, and was written by someone who could potentially see themselves buying one... because I did. A word of warning though -- the controller's firmware still cannot be updated without an Xbox One console (although the Xbox Accessories app to customize it is available for free in the Windows Store). I've reached out to Xbox PR asking for any update on that situation, and the answer will probably be a big part of the review.
Subject: General Tech | September 19, 2015 - 07:29 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10, xbox, pc gaming
The Xbox App for Windows 10 was touted as a major feature before launch, but you barely hear about it after. I will occasionally get a notification that I can record game footage, or a little pop-up after pressing the center button of my 360 controller. Other than that, I barely notice that it exists. A lot of the functionality is useful to manage their Xbox One or Xbox Live Gamertag (do they even call it that anymore?) but PC gamers barely have a reason to open it. Granted, I expect Microsoft hopes that will change after enough Xbox-aware games for Windows 10 hit market. It's early days.
Some currently use it though, and it has just received an update for them. Version 9.9.16003.00000 has added four new features, two of which implement automatic updates for friends and their activity feeds. The button to refresh is still present, which is always nice in case something goes wrong, but it shouldn't need to be pressed as the app should be pulling notifications from Microsoft's servers on its own.
The other two features are more interesting.
The Xbox App now supports “Console text entry”. This feature allows Xbox One users to type into the console's search boxes “and more” using Windows 10 devices, and, more importantly, their keyboards or keypads. A chat pad is being launched for the console soon, which plugs into the controller to give it a QWERTY keyboard, but supporting laptops is definitely nice.
The last feature is “Game progress comparison”. In the Achievements panel, you are able to click on the “compare” button to line up your achievement history next to your friends. As it turns out, Ryan has a higher score than me in Halo 3. That just won't do.
Microsoft has also announced that they will be providing a Beta app in the future, which will arrive later this month. You can pick it up from the Windows Store when it becomes available, if you want.
Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | June 17, 2015 - 10:24 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: xbox one, xbox, Steam Controller, microsoft, E3 2015, E3 15, E3, controller
And, of course, Xbox One... but I can assume who is the bulk of my audience.
Microsoft announced the Xbox One Elite Controller at E3, which includes support for Windows 10. This is part of their initiative to amend relations with the PC gaming industry. They seem to be going about it by focusing on the high-end gamer first. If not, then I wonder why they chose a $150 controller as a leading product.
At that price, you could literally purchase three Steam Controllers from Valve instead of a single one of these, but whether you should... depends. In all honesty, I might end up purchasing both and doing a comparison between them over a variety of games. Of course, my primary input device is the mouse and keyboard for most games, but I occasionally add an early model Xbox 360 wired controller to the mix for Saint's Row, Grand Theft Auto, NASCAR 2003, and a few other titles.
The real disappointment is its D-Pad, though. It just cannot reliably send a single direction without sometimes accidentally sending others. This gets worse in games that are styled in the “8-bit” and “16-bit” era. I actually need to play most of those on a keyboard, which is a terrible experience. Valve's implementation looks interesting with the cross-shaped thumbpad, but Microsoft's new version has options: an old-fashioned cross as well as a nine-sectioned cup, called a “faceted D-pad”.
That leads into the main design of Microsoft's controller: customization. Two switches on the back of the controller allow the range of trigger motion to be limited on the fly. This is designed for games like Grand Theft Auto, where the player wants precise control over throttle and brake, but would prefer to rapidly max-out the trigger as fast as possible when shooting a weapon. With this controller, you flip the switch when you leave the car and, what normally would be some fraction of its range, would be considered “bottoming out” and it would apparently even physically stop the trigger from pushing in further. According to the website, the threshold is user-customizable. I did not use it personally because I wasn't at E3.
Like Valve's controller, it has optional rear paddles near the grips. They are stainless steel apparently, and can be used to compensate for weird button combinations by mapping them to fingers that normally just clutch the device itself. In Valve's version, there is just two while Microsoft's allows for up to four. Microsoft also allows you to detach them, rather than just disable them.
This is when we get to software customization. Valve claims that the Steam Controller can be bound to many events across mouse, keyboard, and gamepad buttons and axises. Microsoft, on the other hand, seems to be keeping within the range of buttons found on a standard Xbox One controller. This is concerning to me because it means that extended inputs will be redundant, which is fine for an Xbox One game but could be annoying for a PC title that has many independent, simpler commands. This might be a limitation of XINPUT, which supposedly cannot address more than 10 buttons. I thought I remembered that limit being extended, but that seems to be true even in the MSDN documentation. Even still, the driver could address the extra functions as a secondary virtual device (keyboards, etc.) but Microsoft doesn't seem to want to. As a final note, Valve also allows the end of both triggers to be considered a clicky button, while Microsoft just recognizes it as a bottomed-out axis.
The Xbox One Elite Controller will ship in October for $149.99. A wireless adapter for the PC will not be required if you use the included USB Micro cable, but add that to the price if you want it wireless. Add batteries on top of that, because it takes AA. They include a pair of disposable AA, but that is obviously not a permanent solution.
Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | March 6, 2015 - 03:57 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: xbox one, xbox, microsoft, gdc 15, GDC, controller
During his keynote speech, Phil Spencer of Microsoft announced a wireless adapter for PC. It can apparently be used to connect any wireless Xbox One peripheral on Windows 10. If you watch the presentation, the statement occurred at about 36 minutes and 30 seconds in. It was just a brief acknowledgement of its existence this year.
A similar device existed for the Xbox 360, pictured above, and I used it heavily with controller-friendly games (until the adapter died abruptly). I was not a fan of the directional pad, of course, but the rest of the controller suited the games that I play without a mouse and keyboard. I also used the adapter with the Xbox 360 wireless headset, which was surprisingly good (especially at removing speaker noise).
On the same day, Neowin acquired a leak that claims the company is looking to create a new Xbox One controller. They expect that, if the project doesn't get killed internally, we will see the new controller at E3 2015 in June. The design is supposed to focus on first person shooters and driving titles, but nothing else is known about it. We'll see.
Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling | September 17, 2014 - 03:55 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: microsoft, xbox, xbone, xbox one, controller, gamepad
A few months ago, Microsoft released 32- and 64-bit drivers for their Xbox One controller on Windows 7 and Windows 8. This was for wireless controllers attached by micro-USB to a PC. Now, Microsoft announced a new controller for Windows: the same controller, only bundled with the required cable. In fact, it can still connect wirelessly... to an Xbox One, not a PC.
The bundle will cost $59.95 (MSRP) and be available starting in November. As far as I can tell, the PC cannot update the Xbox One Controller's firmware; for that, you apparently need an Xbox One handy. It is possible that Microsoft will implement this, or already has and no-one is talking about it, but you might want to hold off until we know for a fact. One update adjusts analog stick sensitivity; this could be important, especially if you have multiple controllers at different patch levels. Yes, some PC games allow local multiplayer.
Subject: General Tech | June 8, 2014 - 04:09 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: xbox, microsoft, pc gaming, reverse-consolitis
Ah cool. Microsoft has provided the 32-bit and 64-bit (x86) drivers for their Xbox One controllers. The controller can only be used in wired mode, connected to the PC with a micro-USB cable, and there does not seem to be any plans to develop a PC wireless dongle like the 360 had. It will support any game which can make use of an Xbox 360 controller, which is certainly a lot of games.
The D-Pad is said to be a huge step up from the 360, which is a polite way of saying the 360's directional pad was absolute garbage. I am hesitant about the rest of the controller, though. I have heard numerous complaints about its design, particularly with its shoulder buttons, although it is hard to know without physically trying it. Like all peripherals, I would expect it comes down to personal preference to some extent.
PC gamers have other choices, too. For instance, unofficial support for the PS4 controller exists, albeit it is missing features from what I remember (it does support Bluetooth wireless on the PC, however). Also, and this is a better option, numerous PC gaming companies have their own controllers, including Razer, Logitech, and others.
But, of course, if you already have an Xbox One -- then why not try its controller on your PC?
Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems | February 12, 2014 - 10:45 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: xbox, xbone, ps4, Playstation, pc gaming
PCMag, your source for Apple and gaming console coverage (I joke), wrote up an editorial about purchasing a gaming console. Honestly, they should have titled it, "How to Buy a Game Device" since they also cover the NVIDIA SHIELD and other options.
The entire Console vs PC debate bothers me, though. Neither side handles it well.
I will start by highlighting problems with the PC side, before you stop reading. Everyone says you can assemble your own gaming PC to save a little money. Yes, that is true and it is unique to the platform. The problem is that the public vision then becomes, "You must assemble and maintain your own gaming PC".
No. No. No.
Some people prefer the support system provided by the gaming consoles. If it bricks, which some of them do a lot, you can call up the manufacturer for a replacement in a few weeks. The same could be absolutely true for a gaming PC. There is nothing wrong with purchasing a computer from a system builder, ranging from Dell to Puget Systems.
The point of gaming PC is that you do not need to. You can also deal with a small business. For Canadians, if you purchase all of your hardware through NCIX, you can add $50 to your order for them to ship your parts as a fully assembled PC, with Windows installed (if purchased). You also get a one-year warranty. The downside is that you lose your ability to pick-and-choose components from other retailers and you cannot reuse your old stuff. Unfortunately, I do not believe NCIX USA offers this. Some local stores may offer similar benefits, though. One around my area assembled for free.
The benefits of the PC is always choice. You can assemble it yourself (or with a friend). You can have a console-like experience with a system builder. You can also have something in-between with small businesses. It is your choice.
Most importantly, your choice of manufacturer does not restrict your choice in content.
As for the consoles, I cannot find a rock-solid argument that will always be better on them. If you are thinking about purchasing one, the available content should sway your decision. Microsoft will be the place to get "Halo". Sony will be the place to get "The Last of Us". Nintendo will be the place to get "Mario". Your money should go where the content you want is. That, and wherever your friends play.
But, of course, then you are what made the content exclusive.
Note: Obviously the PC has issues with proprietary platforms, too. Unlike the consoles, it could also be a temporary issue. The PC business model does not depend upon Windows. If it remains a sufficient platform? Great. If not, we have multiple options which range from Linux/SteamOS to Web Standards for someone to develop a timeless classic on.