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Project scarlett

By: James Pisano

So it finally happened.  Microsoft announced their next console during the Xbox E3 2019 Media Briefing.  For now, however, we only know it as Project Scarlett.  Phil Spencer did let us know what we can expect from the upcoming Xbox hardware on a technical level though.

Under the Hood

It’ll have an AMD chipset, with their new Navi graphics architecture and a Zen 2 CPU.  They promised to reduce or eliminate(?) load times, and it will contain a new generation of solid state hard drive, also acting as virtual ram, so this actually is possible.  Microsoft says will lead to a 40x improvement in load times over previous consoles, but that remains to be seen.

Overall, they said Project Scarlett would perform 4x faster than their most powerful current console, the Xbox One X.  They said we would see resolutions and framerates we have never seen before on consoles.

8k resolution, 120 frames per second were quoted, and those are certainly the best we’ve seen in the console market to date.  And we got a quick mention that it will be backwards compatibile across all current xbox consoles.

What Does it Mean Though?

It’s a lot of tech speak, and enough to make most parents’ heads spin. That’s why we’re here to explain what this all means to you. (We also have a list of tech definitions here.)

With a more powerful graphics chip and processor will allow the console to display the beautiful visuals that were promised.  That said, most of our current televisions will look beautiful. But, it sounds like this new console will be and to display resolutions up to 8k. That would be stunning… but impossible on our current televisions. As of the time of this writing, the cheapest 8k television is approximately $4,000. That price will almost certainly come way down by the time the console releases however.  

The solid state hard drive is going to be used to facilitate shorter load times which more engagement, and happier players.

They also shared that Project Scarlett would have total backwards compatability. That means that all the Xbox games you’ve bought so far will not be obsolete as they will play on the new console.

We’re excited for Project Scarlett, and we think you should be too.

What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

Make sure to keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for all of the latest news and reviews you need to Get Your Family Game On!

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By: Jeremy Davis

Price: $21.75
Was: $29.99

Let’s just be up front.  Mega Man 11 is one of the most anticipated platforming games of this decade.  While the blue bomber has certainly fallen from the spotlight he held in the 90s his fan base has never stopped their cry for a revival of the franchise. They have been miserable since the untimely cancellation of Mega Man Universe and Mega Man Legends 3 back in 2011.  There have of course been a plethora of fan-made games to fill the void, Mega Man x Street Fighter (2012) and Mega Man Unlimited (2013) being personal favorites. But, the last official, Capcom-made, game in the franchise was Mega Man 10 in 2010.  

It’s been a long wait. So the question is, is does Mega Man 11 live up to its legacy? This hardcore Mega Man fan might be horribly biased, but for me, the answer is a resounding YES!

I know some of you are embittered fans still riding the disappointment of Mighty No 9. Let me assure them that I have played that too, and Mega Man 11 rights all of that game’s wrongs. True to form; Mega Man 11 is not a thinking man’s video game. Some people are disappointed by the lack of a deep and meaningful story, but I appreciate that Capcom kept it simple and stuck with the established formula. One of Mighty Number 9’s biggest downfalls was its overly self-important plotline.  Mega Man 11 gets you straight into the action with a plot line depth akin to Mega Man 7. Meaning that it is there, but only enough to keep the game moving forward. The game puts all its energy into what made Mega Man famous to begin with, tight controls, clever platforming, and of course the “run, jump, shoot” trifecta.

So with an established return to its classic form, what actually makes Mega Man 11 special? Let’s break it down into a couple questions:

Is Mega Man 11 challenging?  


Absolutely!  Not even taking Superhero mode account, Normal mode, is just great.  By no means is it a cake walk, and those who have played Mega Man 1, 2, and 3 or 9 and 10, “the traditionally hard games”,  will find that the challenges offered here are a new kind of gauntlet. Each level offers new gimmicks never seen before ranging from water that turns into acid baths. to flaming walls of fire that chase you through complex platforming sections. Each level has at least one sub-boss, sometimes several, and 11 has some of the longest levels seen in the classic Mega Man franchise.

If Mega Man 11 is so challenging is it accessible to newcomers and kids? 


It sure is!  For the first time ever Mega Man has a special newcomer mode, let’s call it easy mode. It takes the things that new gamers frequently struggle within Mega Man and puts a twist on them that not only alleviates the pain point but also balances it in a way that doesn’t feel awkward.  Most importantly spikes and pits are no longer instant kills. Spikes just deliver damage and falling in pits summons Beat, the robotic bird, to pick you up and save you. Even as a legacy hardcore gamer, I’ve found it to be kind of fun to play on newcomer mode just to speed run and see how fast I go.

Does Mega Man 11’s new look and feel fit?  

I struggled with this when the game was first announced and we saw the first screenshots.  However, after playing just a few minutes of even the demo I can promise that you will feel right at home as a returning player, and old school and new gamers will both be pleased with the beautiful backgrounds and creative, colorful, and clever stage designs.

 

What’s up with that new Gear System?  

I have mixed feelings here, mostly because I am a bit of a purist.  I have a lot of positive things to say. The ability to slow down what’s going on around you and the ability to crank up your power is a pretty sweet power.  I also appreciate that I almost never felt forced to use the abilities, and I even considered unmapping the buttons that trigger the abilities so I could repurpose them for one button sliding and weapon cycling.  My only real criticism is there are one or two places where you all but must use speed gear. For players who want to try and get through the game without it this its a little bit of a downer. Additionally, I don’t really see how the mechanics will fit in going forward. I hope if/when a Mega Man 12 comes to fruition it doesn’t get shoehorned in just to include it.

Mega Man 11 is just what we needed to reinvigorate the franchise.  It has a slew of alternative play modes, and achievements to unlock. There is plenty of replay value for those who enjoy being in the 100% club.  The robot masters are clever and unlike the disaster that was Mega Man 8’s voice acting, the acting here feels on point, without being over the top or falling short or too campy.

All that said, I wouldn’t be being 100% honest without mentioning a few qualms, but I’ll be first to say some of these might be just me, and I don’t think the average player is going to care.

 

  • One issue with Mega Man games is a lack of female representation.  In the whole history of the classic series, the number of female characters has been limited to just a handful.  Mega Man 9 was “generous” by giving us just one: Splash Woman. I had really hoped this time around it would have had a better split, dare I even dream of an even split.  I personally feel that Tundra Man and Bounce Man especially would have been great opportunities to have had female designs, though honestly there is no reason why any or all of them couldn’t be gender-swapped.  A really inspiring option would have been to go the route Shovel Knight took and just let you pick for each character, but alas not this go round.
  • Music for Mega Man games is usually a bright and shining example of some of the best music in gaming, but this time around it falls a little flat.  It’s not that its in anyway bad, but nothing about the soundtrack really sticks out. If you are able to get ahold of the download code for the instrumental soundtrack variants, I would encourage it, as they are better, but not enough to write home about.
  • They did change the door transitions.  If you are a newcomer to the series you won’t even notice this. But, It was something I had really hoped that they changed back after I played the demo.  Many of you won’t know what that means, which is all the better. It means this complaint doesn’t really mean anything to you. 
  • While Rush Coil and Rush Jet make a return in this game, they really don’t serve much purpose.  This felt odd considering they gave Rush’s abilities their own button.  I would have liked there to be more applications for the classic tools.
  • Finally my most petty complaint…  Tundra Man is awesome, but why did they name him Tundra Man???  Sure his level is an icy landscape, but he is a figure skater. There is nothing about him related to “tundra” outside being ice-themed.   My head-canon is that his name is Axel Man, but I suppose it doesn’t have the same ring to it. I have similar feelings about Torch Man, but they are not as hyperbolic…

What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

Make sure to keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for all of the latest news and reviews you need to Get Your Family Game On!

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Family Gaming for Less Part 3 – More Hardware Concerns!

We’re sharing tips for saving money as a gaming family in our newest guide! We will help you choose a gaming console, where and how to buy games, and we’ll even talk about accessories.

First, we talked about games and how to save money buying them. Then, in part two, we talked about consoles. 

This time we talk about some of the specific hardware options you have.

Video

Table space is an issue when setting up multiple systems at home. Fortunately modern consoles and computers will work with any display with an HDMI port. In space constrained situations a monitor is a great alternative to a television. A small projector and blank wall also works for dark rooms.

Audio

Listening to someone playing games can be distracting. With several people in the same space noise quickly becomes an issue. During gaming sessions this means speakers get turned up and people talk louder. Fortunately, using headphones means speakers are unnecessary.

Windows PCs have separate headphone and microphone physical inputs. Some games have voice chat built-in or Steam has voice chat capabilities. Typically PC games default to “push to talk” mode, where a keyboard key must be held while talking.

Microsoft and PlayStation consoles both use headsets plugged into the controller. When connected the headphones can play game sounds and voice chat. A mix between game and voice is available in the console menus. With everyone wired for sound you are ready for “party chat”. Both the PlayStation and Xbox consoles offer group voice chat which works across games.

The Switch has a headphone jack on the console. Any headphones will work – no microphone required. Nintendo does not offer a system-wide voice chat service on the Switch. A smartphone app is required instead. You may want headphones with a mic however, as individual game developers can add voice chat to their games. Fortnite is one example of this.

Adding an inexpensive gaming headset to any device will cut down on noise. Even if the family isn’t playing the same game everyone can join party chat. It is rewarding to share in the moments of triumph or defeat as a group! And mobile phone headsets work with consoles if you aren’t ready for a dedicated gaming headset.

Bonus Xbox engaged family tip: With the free Xbox smartphone app you can join parties from your phone. No console required! A great way to keep an ear on your kids’ social gaming.

Controllers and Power

PC games will often support Xbox 360, Xbox One, and/or PlayStation 4 controllers. Games even show correct button prompts in game. Steam sells their own controller, which supports advanced customization. This makes it difficult to use for most people though..

PlayStation 4 controllers integrate a rechargeable battery. Controllers use a micro USB cable. The micro USB end can break off if handled roughly. Controllers also include a charging port on the bottom. Look for controller charging stands which use this bottom port.

Xbox One controllers use AA batteries or custom rechargeable battery packs. Using a micro USB cable the controller can charge some battery packs. These cables can break off if not handled with care. Externally charged AA batteries or battery packs are also available.

Switch Joy-Con controllers charge while attached to the Switch itself. Other charging stands are also available. The Switch itself and Switch Pro controller have integrated batteries. They both use the newer USB C standard to charge. Third party chargers have damaged Switch consoles and Nintendo does not cover this under warranty.

Recommendations

Best Console for the Family to Share

If you only buy one video game console for your family consider the Switch. The ability to play multiplayer games with the Joy-Con controllers saves money on accessories. There are many games available for Switch and the library is growing quickly. There are many titles with couch co-op support and innovative experiences such as the cardboard building Labo. Nintendo is also produces excellent family-friendly games exclusive to the Switch. Being able to take the system on the go means family trips can be a little easier too.

Example couch multiplayer family games exclusive to Switch consoles:

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

Snipperclips

Best Console for Multiple Gamer Families

The Xbox One is the best console for most families. Xbox Game Pass provides a decent library of titles both new and old. Backward Compatibility plays inexpensive original Xbox and Xbox 360 game discs. The Xbox Store gifting feature makes it easy to manage multiple accounts. Xbox One supports multiple external hard drives. Players can play on any console without worrying about saved game management. Some games even work on both Xbox and Windows 10. The downside of Xbox is the smaller pool of multiplayer opponents. For most families this is unlikely to be an issue.

Example multiplayer family games exclusive to Xbox One consoles:

Sea of Thieves

Subnautica

Forza Horizons 3: Hot Wheels Expansion
Carcassonne

Best Console for Multiplayer Outside the Family

PlayStation 4 is the best choice for a console for those who want to play primarily multiplayer games with people outside the family. The larger player base of PlayStation means more people to play with. And PlayStation Now is moving to compete with Xbox  Game Pass. You must do more work to manage game purchases across multiple accounts however. Commit to each member of the family using a specific console however. Switching between consoles is a frustrating experience.

Example multiplayer family games exclusive to PlayStation 4 consoles:

LittleBigPlanet 3

100ft Robot Golf

MLB The Show 18

Wrap Up

Thanks for reading! Please share this article with anyone who needs help saving money on video games. We’re always happy to hear your feedback..

The video game marketplace is constantly changing. Check back for future updates to this guide.

Stay engaged and happy family gaming!

What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

Make sure to keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for all of the latest news and reviews you need to Get Your Family Game On!

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Family Gaming For Less Part 2 – Hardware Options

We’re sharing tips for saving money as a gaming family in our newest guide! We will help you choose a gaming console, where and how to buy games, and we’ll even talk about accessories. Last time we talked about where to buy your games and how to save money buying them. 

This time it’s all about the hardware!

Windows PC

Maintaining multiple gaming PCs can be time consuming and expensive. This may work for families with a Windows computer technician in house. When planning your gaming budget keep in mind the cost of hardware upgrades.

There are solutions to play your office computer in the family room. The Steam Link and Nvidia Shield both support this feature. There are limitations and network requirements however so investigate further if this sounds useful.

Mac

Both Steam and GOG support Mac computers. Maintaining multiple Mac computers is easier than Windows PCs for most people. Many games are not available on Mac though. Available games often run slower or with fewer graphical features.

Nintendo Switch

The Switch costs US$300 and has a strong selection of games. Many games on the Switch allow you to share its standard “Joy-Con” controllers for couch co-op multiplayer sessions. This can be awkward for large hands because the Joy-Con is physically small. The Switch Joy-Con controllers are the most expensive at US$80 MSRP. Nintendo also offers a “Pro” controller similar in design to the Xbox and PlayStation controllers. The Pro controller retails for US$70.

The Switch uses microSD cards for data storage. Smaller size microSD cards are inexpensive at 64GB for less than US$20. Prices rise significantly for the cards with the most storage. Switch physical cartridges also require microSD storage for patches. Families planning large Switch game libraries should consider the cost of digital game storage versus the convenience.

PlayStation 4

The PlayStation 4 costs US$300 and has the biggest installed base of modern consoles. It is often the best choice for multiplayer gaming outside the family. There is a limited selection of couch multiplayer games and each player must have their own US$60 MSRP controller. PlayStation 4 owners cannot play online games with players on Xbox One or Switch.

The PlayStation allows you to use a single external USB 3 hard drive to expand the internal storage. This drive can be up to 8TB in size. You cannot use a USB hub to connect the external drive. Once formatted it is only readable by the PlayStation. Moving the drive requires ejecting it from the PlayStation settings menu first. PlayStation supports copying games between the internal console and external hard drive storage.

PlayStation uploads saved games only from the primary console. This is a problem for families using multiple consoles! Accessing saved games requires multiple steps on both consoles. PlayStation limits online storage to 10GB of saved data per user.

The PlayStation 4 supports “remote play” – where a PC, Mac, Vita, or PlayStation TV can access the PlayStation in the same house or over the Internet. The feature requires a PlayStation 4 controller and free software download for PC and Mac. Local and remote players can only play the same game together. Remote Play prevents the PlayStation from playing another game.

Microsoft Xbox

Xbox One S consoles are US$300. There are limited couch multiplayer games on Xbox – similar in quantity to the PlayStation 4. The Xbox One is less popular than the PlayStation 4. This can be a problem when trying to play older multiplayer games online since there are fewer potential players. PlayStation 4 and Xbox One gamers cannot play online games together. Some specific titles do support playing with Switch, Windows PC, and mobile.

Controllers are US$60 MSRP. Microsoft offers a custom controller design option as well for US$70 where you can choose various color options to create a unique controller. This can make a fantastic gift!

Xbox also supports two unique controller options. Copilot allows two controllers to both fully control a single game. This is a great option for a younger player who needs a little help. It is also popular with gamers with disabilities. Even more exciting is the Xbox Adaptive Controller. This uses industry standard assistive devices to connect to a controller base, enabling a range of new options for gamers with disabilities.

Xbox supports attaching two external USB 3 hard drives. Each drive can be up to 8TB in size. Attaching two smaller drives is a cost effective choice as well since they are often inexpensive. Once formatted a drive is only readable by Xboxes. You can move the drive between Xboxes by unplugging the drive.

The Xbox supports moving games between drives on the same system and between Xboxes on the same network. This can save money on metered Internet connections. One Xbox can copy games to other consoles.

The Xbox synchronizes saved games to the cloud so switching between Xbox consoles is painless. Launching a game first time on a new console and it downloads the saved game. Updating saved games occurs in the background while playing. Storage for this saved game syncing is unlimited.

A free Windows 10 Xbox app allows remote play with an Xbox console at home. The Xbox can only play one game at a time however.

Mixed Platforms and Cross Play

Playing together using multiple video game platforms has limitations. Most games rely on the video game console or Steam multiplayer services. Only games with “cross play” features can play together across different systems. A “party” – a group of people like a family – playing together is often a separate consideration; not all cross play games support cross parties.

Fortnite, Rocket League, and Minecraft are the most popular games with crossplay. Rocket League plans to add cross-party play in late 2018. These games support Xbox, Switch, PC, and – excepting Rocket League – even mobile devices. Absent from any cross play is PlayStation. Sony has so far not made cross play possible according to developers.

A more limited version of cross play is Microsoft’s “Xbox Play Anywhere” and “cross platform” programs. Xbox Play Anywhere provides a license for both the Xbox and Windows 10 version of the game with a digital purchase. A single account shares the game with all users on the computer. With an Xbox and Windows 10 PC this can save money! However, the small game selection limits the usefulness of Xbox Play Anywhere.

Not all Xbox Play Anywhere titles support cross platform multiplayer. Look for these features on the game’s store page. Some examples of games with Xbox Play Anywhere and cross-play are: Sea of Thieves, Forza Horizons 3, and Ark: Survival Evolved.


That was a whole lot of info right? And we aren’t even close to done! Come check back for part three soon!!


About the Author

Adrian Luff is a lifelong video gamer with three video game obsessed boys and a very understanding wife. He is fortunate enough to have worked in the video game industry for over 20 years building online services for multiplayer gaming. He worked on servers for Battle.net used by the Starcraft, Diablo, and Warcraft games. He also designed the launch infrastructure for World of Warcraft. Adrian leads a team of engineers building robust systems, infrastructure, and developer tools for Twitch.tv (a division of Amazon).

What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

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Family Gaming For Less!  Part 1 – Where to Buy Games!

We’re sharing tips for saving money as a gaming family in our newest guide! We will help you choose a gaming console, where and how to buy games, and we’ll even talk about accessories. 

We’ll be paying special attention to saving money when playing on multiple systems in the same house.

That’s because finding enjoyable couch co-op games is challenging. Finding couch co-op games suitable for the entire family is an epic quest! Many games now support multiplayer exclusively online with only one player per system. Families are increasingly purchasing one console per family member. It isn’t uncommon to have a house with several Xboxes anymore.

Video game system prices have dropped in recent years but multiple gaming consoles is still an expensive proposition! Picking the right gaming platform can save thousands over the lifetime of that system.

The Game Stores

The first, and probably most important decision, is where you will by your games. There are several online platforms or “digital stores” selling games online. The games they sell don’t have discs or cartridges. They exist only as files on your computer or console. The online stores use Digital Rights Management (DRM) to control how you can use their downloaded games.

These are small details that might not seem important, but you need to know and understand them in order to stretch your budget.

Windows – Steam

Steam is an online store that sells digital games for PC, Mac, and Linux. Steam provides a guide to enable Family Sharing. This feature enables sharing your game library with up to five family members. Only one person at a time can use the library however.

Logging in to Steam kicks other users out after a few minutes. Multiplayer requires purchasing a copy of each game for each player.

Steam games are often on sale. Many games are 20% off at launch, which is appealing on its own.. There are also several Steam sales throughout the year (a Summer sale in May and a Winter Sale in January for example).

You can also buy digital games for use on the Steam platform on other sites. Websites like Humble Store and GreenManGaming sell “game keys” composed of strings of number and letters. You can use these keys to add the game to your Steam library.

The competitive marketplace keeps prices low, but purchasing 4 copies, even at 20% off, is not the most cost effective option.

Windows – GOG

An alternative to Steam is GOG. This is a service that offers DRM-free PC games. GOG games are downloaded as ZIP files or using an optional client named GOG Galaxy. The client downloads, installs, and updates games. It is possible to purchase games from GOG once and copy them to multiple computers since they are DRM free. This isn’t a perfect solution because some games require GOG Galaxy for multiplayer. If that is the case, then each player must have their own copy of the game.

Games using the Steam multiplayer system can only be sold through the Steam store. GOG has made it easy for game developers to use the GOG multiplayer system instead. Usually playing the GOG version of a game means playing with only other GOG customers. That’s fine – maybe even preferable – for family gaming. It will, however, cause frustration if you try to play with friends who own the Steam version of a game. You won’t be able to see those Steam friends!

Editor’s note: GOG used to be called Good Old Games because they focused on keeping older games playable on modern PC operating systems. They recently changed their name to GOG and I had no idea until Adrian corrected me. Just goes to show… I don’t know EVERYTHING. 😉

Nintendo eShop

The Switch is an appealing platform. The same games can be played on the TV at home or on the go. And Switch has a great library of family friendly couch co-op games. But multiple Switch consoles is a budget buster for many families. Nintendo’s DRM restricts digital games to a single console, even when online. Playing together requires that each family member own a copy of the game.

PlayStation Store and Xbox Store

Sony’s PlayStation 4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One consoles have similar DRM policies. They allow an account to play a purchased digital game on the “primary” or “home” console. Each account picks a single, specific console as home. This can be the same console for multiple accounts. Sony and Microsoft permit the home console to change only a few times however.

Each account can simultaneously play a purchased game on the home console and any other console while online. Buying two copies of a game allows four family members to play – including multiplayer! This is known as “Game Sharing”. This works with two consoles and even four – with two copies of games. 

Buying Multiple Copies of Games

Rewards

There are easy ways to save money on games for any platform. There are free rewards programs available: Nintendo Gold Points, Sony Rewards, and Microsoft Rewards. Each offers about 1% of purchases back as points. You can then redeem points for gift cards or other rewards. Make sure to check the program details as they each have their own quirks.

For example, you earn points using Bing web search and by completing surveys in the Microsoft program. There are many rewards available, including Xbox Live and Xbox Game Pass memberships at discounted prices. Many people find they can pay for a year of both Xbox Live and Game Pass membership just by using Bing search daily.

Sales and Wishlists

Look for the weekly digital game sales on your platform of choice. Savings range from 25% to 75% off. Subscribers to PlayStation Plus often save an additional 10% on sale items. Xbox Live Gold members have a special weekly sale. Patience pays off as most games will go on sale at least once a year.

If you don’t have time to track the weekly sales you can still save. Steam, PlayStation Store, and Nintendo’s eShop for Switch all have wishlist features in their digital game stores. Steam will even email you when something on your wishlist is on sale! There are also many third party sites which offer price tracking like IsThereAnyDeal for Steam, TrueAchievements for Xbox One, and TrueTrophies for PlayStation. Each sites offers multiple notification options. These sites require an account to track your wishlist.

Saving on Digital Games

Using specific payment options can also save money.

Sony offers the Sony Card with 5X points (~5%) on entertainment purchases, including those from the PlayStation Store. The credit card company deposits points in the linked Sony Rewards account each month. This discount stacks with the rewards points earned from purchases via Sony’s digital game store. Redeem points for PlayStation gift cards.

Families may already have a Target Red credit or debit card, offering 5% off purchases at Target. This discount applies to gift cards. Target charges an additional 5% on digital gift cards delivered by email however. Saving requires a trip to the store.

Amazon offers the Amazon Prime Store credit card with 5% back on purchases at Amazon. You must be a paying Amazon Prime member to qualify. Amazon offers Nintendo, PlayStation, and Xbox digital gift cards delivered by email.

Remember gift cards are not subject to sales tax. And the discounted gift cards “stack” with any game sales for more savings!

Gifting Games

Gifting digital games is available on Steam and the Xbox Store. This is helpful as it allows you to maintain a single account with funds. Use this “primary” account to purchase games for the whole family and gift them to your children’s accounts. This also serves as an anti-fraud measure, because you won’t have to add a payment method to your children’s accounts.

Microsoft rewards points are also in a single account when using this approach with Xbox for faster accumulation. Microsoft parental controls also support “request to purchase” on child accounts. However, you can only gift DLC as “request to purchase” does not work. In-game currency such as Fortnite V-bucks require purchasing from the child account. In this situation you can apply a gift card to your child’s account only for the needed amount. Microsoft has said they are working to improve the process.

PlayStation and Xbox Online Services

PlayStation and Xbox require a paid membership subscription to play games online named Sony PlayStation Plus and Microsoft Xbox Live Gold. Each costs US$60 per year. Alternate subscription lengths are also available. Buying a membership for one account will enable online play for anyone logged into that player’s primary or home console. The paying account can also play online from any console while logged into the Internet.

Subscription Services

Microsoft Xbox Game Pass

Microsoft has a Netflix-style service dubbed Xbox Game Pass for US$10 per month. This offers a library of “over 100” games available for download. Game Pass games are available to anyone on the purchaser’s home console. The paying account can also play these games from any console while logged into the Internet.

With Game Pass for the family you have games everyone can play together. Microsoft has stated games they publish will remain in the library. Microsoft adds or removes other games periodically. Game Pass offers a sliding discount up to 20% to buy games in the library based on the game’s age. Game Pass games don’t include DLC but there is a 10% discount to buy it. The Game Pass discount only applies to full price games and DLC.

It is worth mentioning that not all games in Game Pass are family friendly, nor are they all multiplayer titles. Some are older Xbox 360 games that play on Xbox One but lack the high resolution and performance of newer games. There are multiple games from many genres including multiplayer family favorites Zoo Tycoon, Rocket League, and Lego Star Wars. The complete list is available here.

EA Access for Xbox

EA Access is a subscription specific to game publisher EA. It is available for US$30 per year on Xbox One only. Sports gamers can enjoy last year’s version of EA’s Madden, FIFA, hockey, and basketball games. EA also makes Battlefield, Need for Speed, and Plants vs. Zombies series which all have games included. Overall EA Access offers a smaller and older selection of games compared to Xbox Game Pass. Game Pass includes none of EA’s games.

EA Origin Access Basic and Premiere for PC

EA Origin is the PC counterpart to EA Access on Xbox. There are two levels available: Basic and Premiere. Basic is a separate PC-only subscription also for US$30 per year. The game selection is similar to EA Access on Xbox One but includes games from other publishers.

EA Origin Access Premiere is US$15 per month and adds newly EA published games immediately. This can be appealing for gamers who buy several EA titles for PC each year.

Sony PlayStation Now

PlayStation has the PlayStation Now service for US$30 for three months. This offers a library of games for PlayStation 3 plus a few for PlayStation 2 and PlayStation 4. The service streams gameplay across the Internet rather than downloading games to the console. For any multiplayer games you will need a great Internet connection to support four or even two players. Instead of streaming games over the Internet it is rumored Sony will add support for downloading Playstation 4 games to a Playstation 4 console. PlayStation families should check back in the coming months for updates.

Xbox Backward Compatibility

One budget-friendly option for families is backward compatibility on Xbox One. Simply insert a supported original Xbox or Xbox 360 game disc into the Xbox One. The console downloads a small update and the games are ready to play. The list of Backward Compatible games is available from Xbox Community Manager Major Nelson’s site.

There are several sources for inexpensive used Xbox 360 game discs. eBay, Walmart, Best Buy, and Amazon all sell used Xbox 360 games. This can be a cost effective way to expand your family game library. Also, digital copies of almost all backward compatible games are available in the Xbox store.

Game Sharing and Always Online

Game sharing lets you use digital game licenses on two consoles simultaneously. This is key to economical family gaming on both Microsoft and Sony’s consoles. Xbox accounts have a home console. Similarly for PlayStation accounts there is a primary console. Changing the home console is possible only a few times.

The home or primary console can always play games. The second console must be always online and connected to the Internet. If the Internet is not available then the console will not be able to play purchased digital games. If PlayStation Network or Xbox Live are down the second console will also be unable to play. This has ruined Christmas for some people.


That was a whole lot of info right? And we aren’t even close to done! Come check back for part two tomorrow!


About the Author

Adrian Luff is a lifelong video gamer with three video game obsessed boys and a very understanding wife. He is fortunate enough to have worked in the video game industry for over 20 years building online services for multiplayer gaming. He worked on servers for Battle.net used by the Starcraft, Diablo, and Warcraft games. He also designed the launch infrastructure for World of Warcraft. Adrian leads a team of engineers building robust systems, infrastructure, and developer tools for Twitch.tv (a division of Amazon).

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Family Video Game Review – Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition

By: Rob Kalajian from A Pawn’s Perspective

Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition for the Switch isn’t a new title really. Hyrule Warriors has previously been released on both the Wii U and 3DS consoles.  Similar to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, it’s everything we’ve seen before with much more polish and a few new goodies tossed in to entice owners of the previous-gen systems to repurchase the game on their shiny new Switch.

Luckily for me, this is my first time playing the game, so I’m not rebuying anything!

Hyrule Warriors is a Musuo game, made popular by Koei Tecmo Games’ Dynasty Warriors series. The are games where players take control of a hero on a battlefield trying to turn the tide of a conflict and (usually) taking down the enemy commander. The player must wade through hordes of enemies trying to capture key points on the field, stop reinforcements from arriving, taking out enemy generals, and finally unlocking the path to their objective.

Between battles, players can upgrade their hero’s stats and weapons, pay to level up heroes, switch weapons, and create potions that will help them find better items and materials in their next battle.

As players progress through the game they’ll unlock more battles, characters, side-stories, and more, often playing the story from multiple vantage points as the hero, villains, or supporting characters. Just when the players think they’ve completed the game they’ll find out its just part of the story-arc with more and more levels being added. There’s tons of content to play through here, and that’s just the story mode.

There’s also Arcade Mode and Free Play mode that gives players a bit more flexibility with what battles they want to play through and which characters they’d like to focus on. In My Fairy mode, players can even care for fairies who can help them out in their battles!

Is it a kids’ game?

Hyrule Warriors is rated T for Teen for Fantasy Violence and Suggestive Themes. The game revolves around mowing down thousands upon thousands of baddies (and good guys if you’re playing as the baddies) using swords, staves, spells, clubs, crossbows, and yes, even a pistol.

The real issue here is the Suggestive Themes, which pretty revolve around one character. Cia, one of the main villains of the game. She’s a highly sexualized sorceress with a giant bust, plunging (like all the way down) neckline, one completely exposed leg complete with garter, and high heels. Almost every shot of her in any cutscene accents these features, often lingering on them in close-ups before panning away to where the action really should be taking place.

There’s also Lana, another new hero character. While not as overtly sexual she’s still a bit different from the overall Zelda designs we’ve seen in the past with a large chest, exposed skin, and a stance that, while more innocent that Cia’s, is still more suggestive than it should be.

Can kids play it?

Yeah, kids can play it. The game is mostly button mashing, though some basic reading skills are needed so players know where to go, what allies are in trouble, and if win/defeat conditions have changed. The story isn’t very in depth, so players don’t miss out much if they can’t follow along.

Conclusion

Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition is an excellent game providing hours of hack and slash entertainment with a huge and diverse cast of characters for the Zelda franchise. Unfortunately, a bit of that is spoiled by Team Ninja’s “contributions” the game with the additions of Cia and Lana.

Still, if you’re a fan of Musuo games or Zelda, you’re going to have a great time with this title. Just know what you’re getting into before you subject younger eyes to the amount of flesh on display by the evil, crazy-lady.


Rob runs A Pawn’s Perspective and he has been writing about board games for over a decade. His website, A Pawn’s Perspective, is a great place to find news about board games! Check it out!
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Fortnite Beginner's guide

by: Jonathan Goosetree of InkedGaming.com

Fortnite has taken the gaming world by storm.  Gamers of all types are joining the craze as it is playable on PC, Mac, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Android, and iOS. With often 300,00 viewers or more on Twitch, Fortnite is currently the most popular title in gaming. If you’re looking to jump into the action, our beginner’s guide to Fortnite will make sure you hit the ground running.

There are a few aspects of Fortnite which set it apart from any other game. In almost all other Battle Royale, FPS, and Third Person shooter games, players only need to work on their skills with weapons. In Fortnite however, building and gathering resources are just as important as weapon skills. You may be thinking this sounds intimidating and that Fortnite might be too complex for your family. Fortunately, we are here to help.

Our Fortnite Beginner’s Guide will be broken down into two main sections: The first focuses on farming materials and building beginner level structures, with the second part focusing on the early, mid, and late stages of the game.

Use that Pick Axe!

Fortnite

 

Fortnite has three types of materials: wood, stone, and metal. Each has a different purpose and different in-game statistics. Wood has a five-second build time per panel, with 200 health, stone has a 12-second build time, with 300 health, and metal has a 20-second build time, with 400 health. Wood is the most commonly used resource, as it is used for exploring and fast cover. Stone is better used for when you have time to build a fortification in the mid-game, and metal should be used exclusively in the late game, as it is the only material that can withstand a blow from an RPG (Rocket Powered Grenade).

Materials are gained by swinging your pickaxe at various targets. One thing many new players miss, in spite of its importance, is the blue circle that appears on screen when you are attacking a resource. Swinging your pickaxe where this circle appears acts as a critical spot and striking near it will yield more materials per swing. The easiest way to strike the circle is to start in the middle of the tree or structure, then moving straight down with your mouse or thumbstick. Using this tactic, you will hit the blue circle almost every time.

It is always important to have enough materials to build when the situation calls for it, whether exploring or when being fired on by an enemy and protection is needed. Being caught out in the open without enough materials to build cover is often a deadly mistake. This is why farming materials efficiently is a crucial skill for any new Fortnite player. When moving from one area to another, always be aware of your surroundings and plan your route accordingly. You should not stray too far out of your way to farm a single tree or area. Instead, try to choose the path with as many trees along the way as possible. Knowing what to farm is also important, as larger trees and wood pallets provide the most materials per swing for wood, and vehicles are most efficient for farming metal. One important tip is that you should never finish chopping a tree completely, as a disappearing tree is a dead give away of your position to potential enemies!

You, the Builder

Now that we know the different types of materials and how to farm efficiently, let’s go over what those materials are used for. Materials are used to build four different shapes or panels: walls, floors, ramps, and roofs. Knowing when and where to use each shape and for what purpose is key to becoming a skilled builder in Fortnite. Your first few games of Fortnite should be focused on farming materials in a remote part of the map and practicing building. With three different types of materials and four panels, you will need enough practice to where you can switch between all 12 options in a split second.

Now that selecting the desired materials and panels is second nature, it’s time to learn what to do with them. Building is used for three main purposes: exploring, fast cover, and building forts in the mid to late game. Exploring in Fortnite means building ramps or floors to reach places that would otherwise be inaccessible. Common examples of these would be building a ramp to reach a loot chest in an attic or building a bridge to move between two buildings. Wood should always be used for exploring because it does not need to withstand enemy fire.

Building fast cover, which is one of the most important skills in Fortnite, can be used defensively and offensively. If you are out in the open and an enemy begins firing at you, quickly build walls and ramps for cover (Wood should also always be used for this). Something important to note is that although wood panels have a 5 second build time, during the build time there is a blue indicator for the panel that will immediately obstruct your enemy’s vision. This obstruction of vision is often more important than the finished panel itself, as you will have moved to a new location before the five second build time is over.

Ramps can be used either offensively or defensively. Building a ramp to run into the second floor of a building can often save your life as well as preserve precious materials because you will not have to build more panels to use for cover. Ramps are often used as an offensive tool as well. If you are moving out in the open and encounter an enemy, quickly build a ramp. Moving to the top of the ramp allows you to peek over with your medium to long range weapons and take cover when needed.

A slightly more advanced form of building is combining multiple panels to form structures. There are many different sizes of structures players use. The most basic structure is known as a 1×1 structure. This is made by building 4 walls with a roof or ramp panel in the center. Most often used when out in the open, this structure provides 360-degree protection, with the roof or ramp panel allowing the player to peek over the sides. The 1×1 structure is the most basic of examples and there are many more advanced patterns that can be found online. These more advanced structures are primarily used in the mid and late game, where players build extremely high towers in the ever-important battle for high ground.

The Fortnite Beginner’s Guide to The Early Game

Fortnite glider

Fortnite has three different phases, early, mid, and late game. The early game is generally viewed as the time from when you first drop into the map until after the first storm circle closes. Knowing where to drop is the most important part of the early game. The named areas of the map have better loot and thus attract more players. If you’re a beginner, it’s best to avoid these areas and drop on a hilltop somewhere in a remote area that is away from the path of the bus. This way you can avoid firefights and practice building until you have a few games under your belt.

When you are ready to land in the more populated areas and go for better loot, it is important to start memorizing where the loot chests are. Chests are often in the attics of buildings, which can be found by listening for their shimmering sound effect. If you drop into an area with buildings at the start of the game, you should always land on the roof and break through with your pickaxe in hopes of finding a chest. If you are lucky, you may get a good weapon at the start and get an easy kill on another player who has not yet had a chance to loot anything. You can also reach attics in other houses by destroying ceilings and building a ramp. However, you must be careful to not destroy the ceiling the crate is resting on, or the crate will be destroyed as well. If you loot a chest with a shield potion right after landing and hear another player, consume the shield potion as fast as possible before engaging. The extra health will give you a considerable advantage. Most important in the early game, but important throughout all stages, is to always be active. You should always be looking for loot, planning your most efficient path, and checking around for enemies, never move around without purpose or using materials when unnecessary.

The Fortnite Beginner’s Guide to The Mid Game

 

After the first circle closes, we head into the mid-game. In the mid-game any remaining players will probably have a decent inventory of weapons and shields, so be ready for a fight. It’s important to have a balanced inventory at this point. A balanced inventory consists of a shotgun for short range, an assault rifle for medium range, and a sniper rifle or assault rifle with a scope for long range, as well as some consumables.

It is also important for the mid and late game to play around the enclosing storm properly. If you are in between the safe zone (The safe zone being the center circle) and the enclosing storm, you can use the storm as protection from behind. Try to move towards the safe zone as the storm closes in. However, it is possible that some players in the storm will fire upon you, so don’t treat the storm as complete protection. If you are already in the safe zone as the circle starts to close, take or build some cover and try to pick off any players moving in. These players will be caught between having to stop and return fire, risking damage from the storm, or continuing to run and being unable to fight back. This advantage should most often net you an easy kill. Also, be sure to farm some stone and metal when the coast is clear, as you will need these materials for your fort in the late game.

The Fortnite Beginner’s Guide to The Late Game

Fortnite female character

If you have made it to this point, then congratulations! Late game is the most adrenaline pumping phase of the game and begins when there are roughly 10-15 players remaining. If you are outside the safe zone, you should focus on getting as close to the center as possible. This is important because in the late game you will need to build your final fort, and you do not want to construct it somewhere that will end up in the storm before the game ends. Constructed with stone or better yet, metal, your fort should be three to five stories high. Three stories are the minimum and should be made if you are low on materials (Be sure to keep some materials in reserve so that you can rebuild destroyed panels). If you have a healthy amount of materials, then a five-story fort is ideal. A five-story fort will usually give you the high ground advantage while allowing you to hear the footsteps of enemy players on the ground. Since every player should have a sniper rifle or long-range weapon at this point, whoever controls the high ground has the advantage.

Once you have your final fort constructed, try to get a feel for where the remaining players are. As a new player going for the win, it’s best to let other players fight it out and eliminate each other. If you see two other players in a firefight, wait for one to take out the other before engaging. The winning player will most likely be low on health and an easier target. Keep moving and avoid peeking from the same spot or moving in patterns, keep your movements random to avoid becoming predictable. The late game is especially nerve-racking so keep your cool, focus, and wait for your opponent to make a mistake and you will be in a good position to take home the win.

Fortnite Victory Royale!

On the surface, Fortnite looks like a simple game but as you can see, there is more than meets the eye. Fortnite has many other features and advanced strategies not mentioned in this guide. Gaining confidence as you progress and learning more about the game is half the fun. As you play, try to remember in each game what worked and what didn’t. Learn from your mistakes, follow our guide, and with some beginner’s luck, you will surely be on your way to your first Fortnite Victory Royale.

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All-New Battletoads Coming to Xbox One X in 2019

By: Drew Habersang

One of the biggest surprises on Monday was the announcement of an all-new Battletoads, the legendary borderline impossibly difficult side-scroller. Microsoft announced the game Monday at its E3 2018 media briefing, stating that Battletoads will return in 2019 with “body-morphing genre mashups, three-player couch co-op, 4K hand-drawn 2.5D graphics, and broad non-specific feature declarations”.

While not specifically detailed in the announcement, all indications are that Battletoads will be a completely new game, rather than a port of the original first game. Battletoads was last brought to the Xbox One in 2014 as part of the 30-game Rare Replay Anthology.

Originally released June 1, 1991 by Rare (a studio owned by Microsoft since 2003) for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), Battletoads has long been recognized as one of the most difficult games in existence. No doubt, this new iteration of Battletoads will be equally as challenging.

What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

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One For The Grown-ups – Fallout 76

By: James Pisano

Sitting down for Bethesda’s reveal of Fallout 76, I expected to see something very different from Fallout 4.  Maybe something between Fallout Shelter and Fallout 4… maybe something totally different. But I HOPED it would just be another open world Fallout game.  That’s where my gaming soul lives!

Turns out that it’s a prequel to ever other t game… a “softcore” survival game, set in a VERY different wasteland and with one MAJOR departure from the franchise. It would be completely online… massively multiplayer.  My heart sank. HARD.

Thankfully, the good people at Bethesda understand that people like me exist, and they put a lot of time and attention into crafting this always online foray into the Fallout universe.  My heart rose little by little:

  • You can play completely solo.  You can quest, gather, survive and BUILD your settlement (literally anywhere on the map that is 4x the size of Fallout 4’s map.)
  • If you want to play with friends, you can, and it’ll make survival “easier” but it’s not necessary.  Each server (Which apparently, you don’t need to sign into, you’ll “never see a login screen”. Sounds intriguing…
  • There is a VERY expanded home building system called “C.A.M.P” (Construction and Assembly Mobile Platform) that will let you build alone or with friends literally *anywhere* in the world, and if you want to move your settlement, you can totally do that.  Oh, and did I mention flying Deathclaws can totally destroy what you built? Well, I just did. There’s a lot to unpack there. Considering how badly I wanted to like Fallout 4’s construction features, it was hard because of how clunky it was. But this excites the heck out of me.  A LOT.
  • They peppered the landscape with nuclear silos that you can use however you see fit, if you gather the requisite launch codes.  And if you don’t, or only gather a few, you can trade with other players and shoot off nuclear fire together, arm in arm.

Why would you want to do that, you ask?  Maybe to get back at a rival faction, maybe because you just feel like it, but either way, you will irradiate the target area creating rare spawns, rare loot, and of course, an all new landscape.

Regardless, I trust Bethesda to get this right and create an online realization of one of my favorite worlds, that 38 year old “My job and family make it so I can’t play online games a lot” I can play on November 14th, 2018, and still have a literal BLAST.  

Price: $25.94
Was: $59.99

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Let’s Talk About Anthem for a Hot Minute

By: Drew Habersang

For those of you living under rocks, Anthem is Bioware’s spectacular looking open world online shooter. It’s basically Destiny with armor that serves a purpose and freakin’ JETPACKS!!!

Can we talk about how much Anthem looks like Destiny but is totally-not-at-all like Destiny?

First, the similarities: Anthem appears to be mechanically and structurally similar to the Destiny
Games including much of what was revealed about late game progression requirement co-op to complete endgame challenges like raids (Anthem calls them “Strongholds”). More to the point, Anthem looks like Destiny. I mean… just LOOK at it. The aesthetic similarities are undeniable.

But, a slightly closer look at the game reveals very many several and big and extremely exciting differences.

 

Friggin Jet Packs, gang!


The gameplay reveal trailer focused a great deal on that sweet sweet jet pack action, demonstrating the flight capabilities and apparently fluid controls as players careened through the skies of Anthem’s massive open world, cartwheeling past towering trees and gargantuan menacing monsters and even diving into cavernous lakes and exploring their depths. I am, by far, most excited about the jetpack action. Because c’mon – jetpacks! To quote our fearless leader, Stephen Duetzmann, “Everyone is Iron Man.”

The Social Space is anything but social


In Destiny and Destiny 2, players can go to any of several social hubs with up to 24 other players to get missions, upgrade gear, and retrieve rewards. Anthem’s hub “Fort Tarsis” is not a multiplayer lobby but instead offers a single player hub full of NPCs. And, as with previous BioWare titles, decisions players make will alter the space and, by extension, the game.

Armor Matters

Unlike Destiny 2 where armor is largely cosmetic, in Anthem, armor is EVERYTHING. Players suit up in one of four giant mech suits (woot!) with a wide range of abilities. And, as is the case with Tony Stark, the “Iron Man” style suits constitute the sum total of the players’ physical powers.

No PVP

You read that right. In an AMAAA (ask me almost anything) on Twitter, BioWare’s Mark Darrak stated unequivocally “No PVP. This decision allows us to have a much wider array of weapons and gear and make the loot chase more interesting.” No doubt, fans of PVP are disappointed by this revelation. PVE is my jam so I am completely unbothered by it.

(Potentially) Cross-platform Saves


While Darrah made it perfectly clear that BioWare has no plans to implement cross-platform play, he was a little vaguer when it came to cross-platform saves. Note: Darrah did NOT confirm cross-saves. What he DID say was, “I am looking into cross-platform saves as we speak”. So, despite the high probability that cross-platform saves are impossible, cross-platform saves confirmed but not confirmed but totally (potentially) confirmed, you guys.

We have several months until we’re able to get our hot little hands on Anthem, but I’m glad that BioWare is being so forthcoming with information about the game.

Anthem releases on February 22, 2019 for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.

 

What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

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