Google Stadia Seems to Have Killed Microsoft’s Lockhart Console
Microsoft has previously eluded to having two Xbox Scarlett consoles in development, yet since E3 they have begun to walk this back:
Last year we said consoles, and we’ve shipped a console and we’ve now detailed another console. I think that’s plural. Technically, that is plural. Right now, we’re focused on Project Scarlett.
Numerous well-sourced articles have been produced over the last year suggesting that Microsoft had two next generation Scarlett consoles in development; Anaconda and Lockhart. Anaconda is thought to be a 12 teraflop standard machine, which, ignoring performance gains made through the increased efficiency of the newer architecture, would see it launch with roughly twice the processing power of the Xbox One X. Lockhart on the other hand was thought to be a 4 teraflop machine, giving it roughly equal processing power to the PS4 Pro. It is thought that this Lockhart console would have been a hybrid machine; streaming game content from the cloud, but processing some of the content locally in order to eliminate some of the latency associated with streaming games.
It has been alleged that Lockhart was unceremoniously killed a few weeks ago after Google unveiled Stadia, which looks to offer pretty much the same thing as the Lockhart console, only without customers having to purchase a console. This likely comes as a boon to developers, who were allegedly finding development for a weak streaming console to be a distraction from developing impressive next generation content.
Alongside development of Lockhart, Microsoft was also developing something called xCloud. xCloud was to be Microsoft’s low entry barrier streaming service, which would also be in notional competition with Google Stadia. Unlike Google Stadia however, xCloud was based on clusters of Xbones instead of clusters of next generation machines. Obviously this would put the Microsoft service at a severe disadvantage against stadia, and so Microsoft’s plans for Lockhart and xCloud have now allegedly been rolled into a single project which aims to bring next generation streamed content to users with the aid of clusters of Scarlett Anaconda consoles, without requiring any kind of console hardware investment.
Famitsu Covers Awesome New Final Fantasy VII Plot Details
The Final Fantasy VII remake is really shaping up to be an embarrassment of riches. In the original game the Midgar section, which is the most memorable and (arguably) the best part of the game lasted for a mere 5-7, but in the remake the greatest section of Final Fantasy VII is being expanded out to the length of a full game – which is completely awesome, because the only thing better than a good thing is even more of a good thing. This does raise the question however of just how this portion of the game will be expanded when the original title was only able to eke five hours of gameplay from the material. This week Famitsu has shed some light on the situation during an interview with Tetsuya Nomura.
Readers may have noticed during the recent Final Fantasy VII trailers that at one point Cloud and Aeris are surrounded by shadowy beings which look a lot like Dementors from Harry Potter. It turns out that these shadowy beings are known as the watchmen of fate, which are mysterious beings that follow the party wherever they go. It sounds like the watchmen of fate will be reoccurring antagonistic elements similar to the Turks, which dog the party wherever they go. Expanding the game’s content through wholly new plot elements sounds like a wonderful way to extend the game’s runtime, particularly when it looks to have been inspired by a popular property such as Harry Potter. Square Enix also took this route when expanding the Zack flashback sequence for Crisis Core by supplementing it with original plotlines and poetry delivered by the popular Japanese entertainer Gackt – and that approach was critically well received, so it seems like a good idea for Square Enix to try it again here.
Another way in which Square Enix are expanding the content is by adding dialogue options to make conversations with NPCs more expansive and engaging. One of the problems with the original Final Fantasy VII is that Cloud’s personality was largely static, and pre-determined by the game developers at Squaresoft. Dialogue options will help players to express their own personalities through Cloud’s actions and responses, bringing Final Fantasy VII into the 21st century. Dialogue options are just one of the modern RPG conveniences that Western audiences have come to expect, and changing a classic game’s content in order to conform to modern sensibilities is never a bad thing!
Case in point the Honey Bee Inn has now been enhanced in order to modernise it, which does not sound at all ominous. Honey Bee Inn as it exists in the original game is “no good” because the “physical unease” that it would engender in mainstream players would be “staggering”, so it had to be changed, which is very thoughtful of Square Enix. Changing this content in order to meet the modern sensibilities of gamers can only be a good thing, and it is very reassuring that Square Enix is being so attentive towards their audience.
This kind of attentive attention to detail seemingly runs through all of Square Enix’s decisions in recreating Final Fantasy VII for the modern era. During the unveiling of Tifa many kneejerk persons within the fandom pointed out that her boobs had seemingly been shrunk, but this is not actually true at all. Instead Square Enix’s ethics department insisted on having Tifa’s breasts receive the proper support of a sports bra, which serves to compress them more tightly against her chest, so there will not be any Dead or Alive crazy boob physics. This is kind of cool because a female fighter would never enter the ring without proper breast support, so creative changes like this will make the game more realistic, which is always a good thing!
Judgement Executive Director Shows Contempt for Western Fans
Judgement is launching in the West today, and thankfully the Yakuza series (of which Judgement is tangentially a part of) is finally receiving an English voice track – it might have been deeply uncomfortable for Western gamers if this were not the case. While this is one small milestone won, there is still a long way for Western gamers to go before we see justice – Sega has made hardly any changes to the product when bringing it to Western markets!
If the Final Fantasy VII remake has taught us anything, it is that pandering towards the sensibilities of Western markets is absolutely paramount when launching a game in the West – yet Sega’s Toshihiro Nagoshi has spat in the face of such common sense thinking by completely disregarding the valid concerns of this market! Apparently Nagoshi looks no further than the satisfaction of his Japanese audience when making games.
First and foremost, we think about the Japanese audience and then we start thinking about Asian audiences. We make sure we create a game that’s good and fun for them. Hopefully, this game will reach as many audiences in the West as possible.
He added that “there’s that order to things when we’re developing and that mindset is something that I don’t think will change even as we go on,” mostly because if they “start thinking about different audiences, catering to all these different people, it will really lessen the appeal of what we’re making here.
Nagoshi’s disregard for Western audiences is so great that he does not even attempt to translate in-game signage into English, which has long been a source of confusion for Western gamers. The Final Fantasy VII remake has been a huge win for us, but backwards looking products like Judgement are confirmation that we still have a long way to go.