Windows 10 – Should You Upgrade?

Yes you should upgrade. It’s a big improvement that simplifies Windows 8 and makes it accessible to anyone who knows how to use traditional Windows. Despite being traditional, it has a modern twist while being light on the Windows 8 gimmicks like the hot corners and charms menu.

It looks nice and it just works the way you expect. The only issue really for me is that it feels a little bit too small of an upgrade in some ways. Like a better skin for Windows 8, rather than a true evolution. I’m sure it does run faster and does other things better under the hood, but I haven’t really noticed any difference. It actually feels slower to boot up, but I’m not sure if that is just because it’s removing the start screen, which was faster to load than the full desktop in Windows 8.

The biggest issue I have though is the Windows Store. It is exactly the same as Windows 8, and it’s confusing. How you’re supposed to figure out which apps are touch based and which are full desktop apps I have no idea. It makes me wonder if Microsoft have made the wrong decision in trying to unify all of their devices under one umbrella OS, rather than separating Mobile / Tablet and Desktop OSs, like Apple continues to do with Mac OS X and iOS. If Apple are so committed to keeping them separate, then Microsoft should probably have realised there was a reason why, and followed suit.

While I don’t agree with this particular aspect, it doesn’t dampen my enthusiasm for the upgrade overall. It’s free for the vast majority, and it has a load of great features I haven’t yet mentioned, such as Xbox streaming, the new Edge browser, and Cortana. The personal assistant isn’t yet available in the UK. I also don’t have a microphone for use with my desktop PC, but from what I’ve seen of it, it can prove useful if you can be bothered to put up with the times it inevitably gets what you say wrong. Eventually we will have perfect voice control, but it still seems a long way off. Even despite the huge strides we’ve taken over the past few years.

If you have Windows 7 or 8, upgrade now. If you have XP, buy a new computer. What are you still doing with XP? That came out in 2001….

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Is Microsoft’s XBOX One UK Price Cut the Right Move?

The drop in price announced today that takes the system from £430 to £400 and will include Titanfall from mid March. I’m not sure why you would announce this now considering they’ll be selling the system on its own for several weeks, and surely anyone about to buy one will be aware of the impending bundle with the system’s most anticipated game.

While it’s unlikely that early adopters will be compensated to the same extent that they were in 2002 when Microsoft aggressively slashed the XBOX price by £100 shortly after release, early-adopters should really receive some kind of reward for their support from the very beginning of the systems life cycle. Whether that comes in the shape of a free year of Xbox Live, a download code for a free first party game, or something else, they should be rewarded for their loyalty.

As for whether or not the price drop will boost sales, I am sure it will make a considerable difference in the short term especially for people who have been on the fence. Gamers who have been waiting for Titanfall and who had planned to buy the system and the game at the previous full price will have likely placed their pre-orders today and can’t believe their luck. Microsoft will lose money on those gamers as many of them would have gladly, or at least begrudgingly paid the extra £85 or so more than they now will have to.

In the long term, it’s hard to say whether or not this price drop will helps them catch up to PS4. I don’t think they’ll be able to salvage the lead in this generation, but I do think that they’ll slowly inch closer over time. When they had a huge lead over a misfiring Sony with the PS3 last generation, they were eventually pegged back and overtaken. When you hand Sony the initiative at the start of a generation as they have done, it’s going to be extremely tough to catch back up. Sony always get stronger and stronger over a generation and so it’s very unlikely that they’ll drop the ball now after making such a strong start.

Overall, it’s a good thing for gamers, the industry and competition, even if it does upset the early adopters as an immediate side-effect.

Update: One thing that I completely forgot about is the fact that the kinect camera could easily be removed from the package and be sold separately. This would allow Microsoft to dramatically lower the console price again and really enable them to compete on a much more level playing field with Sony. Kinect doesn’t really have any games right now that are going to appeal to hardcore gamers, or really even casual gamers. Kinect Sports: Rivals is surely going to be the first really good kinect game, but I still don’t see how it can justify forcing everyone to pay for a camera they may not ever use at all. Right now, almost everyone using it is doing so primarily for the voice activated functions. While cool, I just don’t see people persevering with that function in the long term. Once the novelty of being able to turn your system on or off using your voice fades away and you realise that it’ll be quicker to just use your controller, I doubt many will go back to it. I don’t play PS4 and wish I had the playstation camera so I can try the voice activation. I’m sure it would be fun to try, but even if it worked exactly the same way as kinect, I can’t see myself using it continuously over time. Microsoft need to stop focusing their advertising efforts on this semi-gimmick and focus entirely on the games.

E3 2011

Wii U Controller
Image by ze_bear via Flickr

I think this year’s E3 has been a strong one from all three companies. Certainly a lot better than in past years, especially Nintendo who have not always brought their best in the last several years. This is a quick overview of how I think each of the three big companies conferences went.

Microsoft

Microsoft seemed to be a bit ordinary and predictable in their approach this year, and it does make me wonder who’s running things over there when you see casual games taking the centre stage at a show where hardly anyone is interested in the majority of those titles. Yes, Dance Central 2 should be a great dance game just like the first one was, but I just think they could have mentioned the game with a quick trailer and then moved on to the next game. It just didn’t seem necessary to demo it to the audience they have in attendance.

In terms of the rest of the show, no real surprises. I suppose 2 Halo games are better than one for fans of the series, but anyone could have predicted Halo 4 and that Microsoft would want to jump on Sony‘s HD remake bandwagon for some quick cash.

Sony

I don’t think Sony had the strongest of shows but it was certainly similar to last year’s in being very consistent and safe in a way while still exciting fans with great gameplay demos of titles like Uncharted 3.

The Vita name for the NGP is starting to grow on me slowly. If I had written this on the day the name was confirmed, then I would have not been in such a great mood about it, but now I can see how it may work. In terms of Vita games, I think they’re doing well for a launch lineup, with Uncharted leading the charge with many other strong titles such as LBP, Killzone, Call of Duty and more all in the pipeline as well as the traditional Sony launch games like WipEout and Everybody’s Golf. I’m pretty confident that they’ll be something for practically everyone when the system ships, unlike the 3DS on launch.

Nintendo

We knew pretty much everything about the Wii U before it was announced. Practically nothing was a surprise except the name. Which I suppose looking at it now isn’t really surprising. It makes sense for Nintendo to keep such a successful brand name going rather than risking a whole new identity for their new system.

The most exciting aspects for me to come out of the conference were the slew of game announcements. Not counting all of the games we already knew about, Super Mario 3D and Luigi’s Mansion 2 were the big stand-outs on 3DS. There wasn’t really anything on Wii that we didn’t already know about but the Kirby game looks to be the pick of the bunch alongside Zelda Skyward Sword.

Mario Kart 3D got a new trailer and now we know what the gimmick will be in this latest version, flying and underwater aspects. I quite like the idea of turning into a big glider and actually being able to control your flight rather than following an automatic path when you fly off a big jump, so I’m looking forward to this. I’ll be a little disappointed if they don’t feature bikes as they were so much fun in Mario Kart Wii but it’s not something that will ruin the game if it’s not included, likewise stunts.

Star Fox disappointed me a bit because I first thought this was a new version rather than the previously announced remake, but it seems like they just re-announced the same old game which isn’t ideal really.

A quick note on the Wii U controller. I hope they change a couple of aspects of the buttons. An analogue trigger is a must for realistic driving games and currently they’re not showing this so I hope they add those. I also was disappointed to see that they use the same design of analogue circle pads from the 3DS on the Wii U which to me doesn’t make much sense. The whole reason you would use those on the 3DS is because a traditional stick wouldn’t fit with the clamshell design of the system. Here, you’re not bound by height restrictions and as the controller is already so big, I would have expected full size analogue sticks just like the Nunchuk and Classic Controller. Not having those I believe will negatively affect precision control.

Conclusion

Overall, I think you would have to say that Nintendo had the best conference. A new system is practically guaranteed to overshadow anything else that’s shown, and it proved to be the case here.

The Vita price point of $250 was a bit of a relief but it’s still going to be expensive here. Then again, even if it comes out at the ridiculous £225 price tag the 3DS launched at, then I’ll be a lot more accepting of paying that much for this device over Nintendo’s one.

What I want to see at the major E3 conferences

Electronic Entertainment Expo 2009
Image via Wikipedia

E3 is always an exciting time of year for gamers. We build it up so much, but often are left disappointed or even bemused by some of the things that happen in the big 3 press conferences, especially Nintendo’s in recent years. They’re certainly not the only ones. Sony and Microsoft have both had their fair share of awful, embarrassing shows.

This year is the time for all 3 companies to wow us and justify the mass excitement that goes hand in hand with E3. This is what I’m hoping for from each of them.

Nintendo

I think Nintendo on paper should have the most to talk about on Tuesday. We all know that their new system will be officially unveiled. From what we know, it seems that Nintendo will be going back to their more hardcore route. Whether or not they simply try to bridge the gap between being too casual and too hardcore or go fully in the traditional gaming direction is unknown, but I personally hope that they put their traditional audience first. Casual games can still exist on a hardcore focused system, but not the other way around.

If they are planning to go fully hardcore with the new system then they have to fully match Sony and Microsoft in every way. If they don’t give gamers the online functionality, community features and other functions that they’re used to, then the new console won’t be able to be considered any truly hardcore gamer’s console of choice in this upcoming generation.

Sony

The NGP will surely play a large part in proceedings on Monday night. You would assume that they’ll announce an official name, but probably not a price or release date. Generally, in recent years Sony conferences have either been ridiculed or applauded. However, the last couple, although they were strong showings, mostly focused on demos for games we already knew about, and that’s not really exciting for an event such as this. I hope they really just go all-out with new game and service announcements tomorrow, and leave the demos for the show floor, or at most a quick video montage.

Microsoft

The general trend I can see in the last few years of Microsoft conferences tend to be towards mostly showing demos for 3rd party games as well as some exclusives. Last year marked the addition of casual gaming with the kinect which I hope isn’t such a big focus this year, but I don’t see them ditching their successful casual programme. They’ve also been known to surprise people by poaching games, mostly from Sony when the PS3 was struggling. Unfortunately, you can also expect to hear news such as early releases for MW3 DLC and other things like that. Halo isn’t a series that Microsoft will be willing to give up on now that Bungie are moving on to new things, so I would be surprised to hear something about a new Halo game from another developer.