Platform specific gaming
I’ll start with addressing one key issue generation change. A new platform on the horizon, means choice and what will influence a gamer most in their quest for console certainty and peace of mind?
You might jump in and say, “oh the controller” or “no it’s the games” maybe even “this one has better graphics”. These are all valid points and will certainly be the base on which your next platform will be chosen. But sadly the winning trend will always be “what system are you playing on?”.
That’s right, if your friends are getting a PS4 to play CoD, then you’ll either be doing the same, or be the odd one out that gets a Xbox One. Subsequently, kick-starting the exhausting process of finding another set of friends to play with.
Why separate us?
There are huge issues and reasons why cross-platform play hasn’t been viable in the past, and I’m not going to drone on to you the technical hurdles that are involved in this process. But the inability to play between systems has been a growing bane for gamers over the years. There have been attempts in the past, namely Microsoft’s Games for Windows Platform. In hindsight, this was doomed to fail from the very beginning due to the fact it required users to have Windows Vista… Let us not rehash that old chestnut here.
Although it did bring with it some exciting developments, in 2006 Final Fantasy XI was the first game that allowed Xbox 360 and PC gamers to play together, the second was Shadowrun released in 2007. Due to the colossal failure of Windows Vista, Microsoft scrapped the entire idea in late 2010.
They have managed to pull this off without too many hitches, so does this mean it’s now technically viable?
Xbox Play Anywhere
Xbox Play Anywhere positions Microsoft to unite its key products, Xbox and Windows 10. In turn, this will also generate a greater demand for them both, a clever marketing ploy by Microsoft.
The aim here is to lure consumers to both platforms by making it both easier to work and play between the two, by sharing saved games and achievements. But, does it look like they’ve learned from past failures?
CNET has shed some light on how this process should work when gaming across two platforms.
“One key advantage is that you can start playing a game on the Xbox One and then resume where you left off on your PC with your saved game intact, or vice versa. You can also play games with Xbox owners who don’t have a PC, or PC owners who don’t have an Xbox.”
Sounds good, right? Microsoft has already had somewhat of a trial run with this approach, such as its recent release of Quantum Break. Users who purchased the digital version of QB were also provided with a code to download the Windows 10 version of the game.
However, it wasn’t all clear sailing for Microsoft here, as gamers reported losing their game save data early on in the Remedy forums. Thankfully it turned out to be only a minor synchronisation issue between the game and the cloud across both platforms. This issue has since been patched and is working fine.
The first attempt this generation has gotten off to a shaky start but still finished strong. So I think it’s safe to assume, at least from where this gamer is sitting, that Microsoft is in good stead to deliver on their promises this time around. I cannot comment on how games will play competitively across platforms, however.
Gears of War 4: Xbox vs. PC, controller vs. keyboard? It sounds like it could get messy, but time will tell.
Cross-platform competitive play update – 30/11/2016
When this article was originally written, there was not a great deal of information available on the implementation of cross-platform competitive play, only that we could expect it.
Forza Horizon 3
Since then Forza Horizon 3 excelled at this beautifully, providing both co-op and competitive racing between platforms. However, it is a racing game, meaning it is far easier to provide a level playing field between Xbox and PC.
Gears of War 4
Gears, however, is a shooter, which brings into play the pinpoint accuracy of the mouse and the higher FPS provided by superior hardware, not to mention Gears has a nifty setting on PC to increase the field of view. All of these make a significant difference in a shooter and would have certainly given an unfair advantage to PC players.
Gears of War 4 has since remained co-op only between both Xbox and PC. Keeping its respective competitive play (outside of private matches) to their own systems to avoid the aforementioned PC advantages.
However, a change could be on the horizon. Coalition Studios made a big announced recently on their forums addressing this issue.
“The time has come for us to run a special test weekend event to trial Crossplay Versus in Gears of War 4. This test is being conducted to evaluate the potential of a more permanent Crossplay solution in the future to allow Windows 10 and Xbox One gamers to play together in Versus outside of Private Matches.”
The settings for this test are as follows:
PC and Xbox players can matchmake together in this special Versus Playlist from Friday, December 2nd – Monday, December 5th.
Playlist Type: Social
Modes: Team Deathmatch, Dodgeball, King of the Hill
Maps: All (including Checkout and Dry Dock)
Win XP: 1500
Loss XP: 750
Maximum Squad Size: 5
What this could mean for the future
Exciting stuff for Gears of War 4 players. If this test proves to be successful and us here at THG are hoping that it is, it will clear the field as proof that the system works. Which in turn will subsequently give way to other cross-platform shooters to do the same in the future.
Games that will support cross-platform play
Titles that will be initially available on launch include Ark: Survival Evolved, Gears of War 4, Halo Wars 2, Sea of Thieves, Forza Horizon 3 and State of Decay 2. Microsoft has said that all future titles it produces will support Xbox Play Anywhere, according to gaming blog source MCV.
The company is currently set to launch Xbox Play Anywhere on September 13; a company rep reported to gaming blog site Polygon.
To aid the transition into Xbox Play Anywhere, Microsoft has merged many aspects of the Xbox and Windows 10 store, to create one unified platform so. For those of you with both Windows 10 and Xbox One, you will soon be able to purchase one copy of the game that plays games on both platforms. However, a keynote here: This service is only digital, and Microsoft is yet to announce a hardware alternative.
PC Gamer picks up on Microsoft editing it’s the previous statement during its E3 press conference “Every new title published by Microsoft Studios that we showed on stage at E3 this year will support Xbox Play Anywhere …”
Just clarifying could be unique game not right for all devices. Intent to bring our franchises to Win10 & XB1 is unchanged.
— Phil Spencer (@XboxP3) July 7, 2016
It now reads:
“Every new title published from Microsoft Studios that we showed on stage at E3 this year will support Xbox Play Anywhere”.
In response to PC Gamer tweet, Phil Spencer justified the change as merely of a refinement of Microsoft’s intentions.
Thus far only games published by Microsoft have been cross-platform, however recently Digital Trends confirmed that “Resident Evil 7 will feature cross-save support on Xbox One and PC”. This will be the first title under a third-party publisher to make the jump to Xbox Play Anywhere and cross-platform, which again makes the future for us gamers even more exciting to look forward to.