Tag Archives: Preview Program

Gigantic (Game Preview) review

There’s something highly compelling about Gigantic. Whether it’s tied to its unique take on the MOBA formula, its varied and well-balanced roster of heroes, its charming cartoon aesthetic, or perhaps a little bit from all columns, whatever it is we can’t seem to stop playing it.

Right now Gigantic’s Preview Program offering involves three maps and a rotating selection from the 16 available characters, that’s in its free version at least. Pay for the Founders pack however, and you’ll have access to the whole cast of quirky, anthropomorphised animal heroes. Trying it out then, is entirely free, and thanks to solid balancing between the heroes, and seemingly the matchmaking, whichever version you play there’s no obvious ‘pay to win’ shenanigans.

Of course, it’s early days but in our experience, things were fair between the competing sides despite the heroes selected. This felt largely due to the restriction of only one hero choice per team, and the free version’s roster including a well-sized selection of heroes to facilitate this. In the end, your five strong team naturally fulfils multiple roles: tank, DPS (Damage per Second) and support. The strategy is in the detail; are the DPS players ranged or melee, what’s the ratio of classes, and are individuals playing to the strengths of their character and class. And as long as the latter was true, matches were tense, action packed and closely fought battles.

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The aim of each match is very simple: deal three blows to the enemy’s guardian, a massive lion eagle thing for the good guys, and a dark snake thing for the bad guys. And in classic MOBA tradition, this means securing points within the map and defeating players and the creatures they summon. This generates energy orbs, and once you reach 100 your guardian dashes across the map and engages the enemy guardian, opening up an opportunity to strike and injure it. The other team’s amount of energy also then aids in their defence, with more granting them a higher chance of pushing back against the onslaught and saving their guardian from taking damage.

However, Gigantic follows less traditional MOBA design when it’s comes to its map layout. Lanes are less of a focus, in fact the maps are more arena shaped. Instead of minions and creatures roaming around and pushing forwards via lanes, the creatures you summon are static, remaining at the strategic points you capture within the map. Here they grant different bonuses, such as healing, defensive barriers, or offensive abilities. Therefore, another part of the overall strategy is figuring out where to put each kind of creature to best benefit your team.

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In truth, the strategy is fairly shallow, but this makes it far more intuitive to learn. With a little practice on each map you gain a good idea of the best strategic points to capture and what creature to put there, which makes for a player base that can pick up and play without having to worry about a steep or complex learning curve. The nuance comes in learning how the heroes work.

The 16 heroes offer a wide variety of move-sets to master, based around the aforementioned three classes of tank, DPS and support. A potion wielding mad scientist can buff the team with defence and attack enhancements, meanwhile, a robotic artillery piece can offer ranged DPS, and a hulking bull can charge on in, distract enemies and absorb its fair share of damage. Moreover, many characters can fulfil the role of two classes, depending on the upgrades you choose as that hero levels up within a match. Once a match is over, these upgrades are reset and you’re free to mix it up next time you jump into battle, changing your role and focus to meet the requirements of your team. There’s certainly characters that have some particularly devastating skills when in the right hands, but there’s always a character or strategy that can level the playing fields, it’s just a matter of finding it. However, the biggest threat your team will face comes from within.

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Teamwork is absolutely crucial to your success, and managing the strategic points, upgrading your characters, killing enemy players without falling yourself, and then attacking the enemy guardian when the time comes, is a lot to keep track of during a match. This is exacerbated by just how fast paced it all is. The maps are small enough, mostly, so a re-spawning enemy can get back into the fray quickly, movement is equally swift, especially in combat, and smooth, lightning framerates makes the whole experience a visual treat. Moreover, the cartoon aesthetic and bright colour pallet is stunning, almost distractingly so.

However, there’s always a ‘but’, or indeed a collection of ‘buts’, fortunately in this case they’re smalls ‘buts’, ones sure to get a good kicking during Gigantic’s time in the Preview Program. Matchmaking is a rather lengthy process, leaving you waiting at the title screen for several minutes. Meanwhile, when a match is found you need to confirm you still want to participate, which often resulted in matches not going ahead and the matchmaking starting from scratch. Hopefully this is more a limited player-base problem than an issue with the matchmaking itself, but that confirmation step really needs to go. One of the maps, Sanctum Falls, is also significantly larger than the others, and despite its attractive design, its size makes matches more drawn out and frustrating. Fortunately, Gigantic’s trick of reducing the map size when the guardians clash – triggered when a match is taking too long – works splendidly at hurrying up a prolonged competition.

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Gigantic also doesn’t feature any private match options or bot battles. A singleplayer tutorial helps you figure things out but the ability to play with and against friends with bots filling up the spare slots would go a long way to making the title more engaging to a larger audience, and aid in people’s quest to master the many characters and their unique upgrades trees and move-sets.

Gigantic is one of the most stable preview program titles on Xbox One, and offers highly compelling MOBA style battles with enough unique twists on the genre to make it stand out. It looks and runs terrifically, and has a wonderfully diverse set of quirky characters that’s hard not to fall in love with. We cannot wait for more maps to be added, in fact, add half a dozen more and we’d call it retail ready, fix our ‘buts’ and we could well be seeing a game of the year contender here.

Thanks to Xbox and Motiga for supporting TiX

Subnautica preview

Survival games are ubiquitous at the moment and largely follow the same formula. Subnautica does things a little differently, with the clue being in the title. Indeed, the underwater nature of Subnautica is what makes it stand out from the crowd, and it’s all done so well it’s hard to put it down.

Having suffered a fatal malfunction with your spaceship, you launch an escape pod and splash down on an aquatic planet; you’re intact but severely damaged ship sticking out of the ocean a few hundred metres away. Here you quest for survival begins, encouraging you to search the ocean for materials to craft devices, supplies, submersibles, and habitats in order to keep you alive.

Playing through on survival mode subjects you to starvation and dehydration, making it imperative that you find sources of food and drinkable water amongst the usual building options and exploration. Here’s where Subnautica really shines, forcing you to explore further and further from your escape pod, and deeper and deeper into the ocean, in order to find what you need. This is a daunting and frightening endeavour. An ocean is a monumentally large place to forage within, full of fish and creatures, and not all of them friendly, but a planet sized alien ocean is a different matter altogether. Here the alien environment is so new that everything feels like a threat until you’ve investigated it, and venturing that little bit further from your escape pod taps into your fear of the unknown splendidly.

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Bobbing up and down on the surface you’ll be forgiven for thinking you’re on Earth, but the moment you go beneath the waves the alien ecosystem is clear to see. Brightly coloured fauna and flora litter the alien ocean, drawing you in with their strangeness and tapping into that explorer within us all. Scraps of metal from you ship can be found on the shallow bed, amongst all manner of materials that can be collected, identified and then put to use within your pod’s matter converter. Caves and coral formations entice you in, creatures dart by and encourage you to chase, then you see the shallow bed give way to darkness and the fear of the unknown drowns out that spark of exploration. However, eventually you’ll have to go down there, there might be stuff down there you need, and frightening as it may be, a part of you wants to go down there. A few enhanced oxygen tanks or a submersible later, and you can venture into the darkness and discover what else lurks beneath the waves.

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The ocean is superbly enticing and scary, and with hungry creatures looking to make a meal out of you it only gets scarier the deeper you go. But it’s also extremely rewarding. There’s a lot to see in the depths and building large habitats and slowly conquering this alien world alone is thoroughly entertaining. The day and night cycle brings with it visibility issues to challenge your engineering skills and fear tolerance, as well as stirring new sea life for you to witness, and the bioluminescent glow of the flora is especially attractive. The visual splendor does come at a cost, with the initial load taking several minutes, but fortunately death means an almost instantaneous respawn, and once the initial load is done Subnautica runs smooth and fast.

Indeed, Subnautica is shaping up to be one of the strongest survival games on the market, thanks largely to how spectacularly detailed, vast, rich and different its ocean environment is. Moreover, you can enjoy the alien ocean without the need to worry about food and drink thanks to a creation mode. And whilst the barrier for some will be the lack of handholding when it comes to figuring out how to construct things, this inherent aspect of the genre isn’t going to affect the enjoyment for survival game veteran at all.

Thanks to Xbox and Unknown Worlds and Grip Games for supporting TiX

SmartGlass and Windows 10 updates heading to Preview members

There’s some exciting new features heading to the Xbox One dashboard, which as usual, will be distributed first to Xbox Preview program members. There’s additions to the dashboard, the Windows 10 Xbox app and SmartGlass.

Xbox on Windows 10

  • Game DVR for PC game
  • Screenshots
  • Live Tiles
  • Avatar app
  • User profile
  • Real name sharing
  • Xbox One Now Playing and media controls
  • Live TV streaming and PIP (picture in picture) support
  • Xbox controller drivers

Xbox One and SmartGlass updates

  • Over-the-air TV for the U.S. and Canada
  • Power on and off from Xbox One SmartGlass
  • Wireless Display app
  • User-selectable power mode
  • Voice messages

For more information on the new features check out Xbox Wire.

Xbox 360 Preview Program brings 2TB external drive support

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With all the hype around the Xbox One people might have thought that the trusty Xbox 360 has been forgotten.  Fear not though as the Xbox 360 Preview Program has just rolled out a nice little update to its preview members to help compete with its bigger brother.

Microsoft has announced that Xbox 360 Preview Program members can now support 2TB hard drives on their consoles and whats more it will also support two external drives at a time.

Microsoft’s Major Nelson stated on hos blog that this is one of the most requested features from the Xbox 360 community.

“In addition we will also no longer reserve space in advance on your hard drive,” Microsoft said. “If you are using 16GB of hard drive space for games – we will only take 16GB of space. And just like today – you will be able to use two external drives at a time.”

As of yet there is no information on when the update will be available for the public, but it’s confirmed later in the year is most likely.

However Major Nelson also stated that some drives may give performance issues or be incompatible and if you already had space allocated to Xbox 360 data then you would need to clear this first before you could use the drive.

Good news for Xbox 360 owners then, as for one I always found I was running out of space.  So what do you think and what else would you like the 360 preview program to deliver?

Xbox One preview program receives screenshot feature

The long-awaited screenshot feature for Xbox One has been released in March’s preview program update (available now). Previously you could only share videos via message, your activity feed or twitter – now screenshots have been added it’s one less feature that the PS4 can boast over the Xbox One.

The update also sees the introduction of “suggested friends”, a list similar to what you might find on social media when looking for new people to add to your growing social network – the Xbox One activity feed is pretty much a version of twitter!

Here’s a list of what’s included in the update:

  • Screenshots
  • Suggested friends
  • Sharing your name (additional options)
  • Tile transparency (additional options)
  • Privacy and online safety settings (additional options)
  • Report spam
  • OneGuide for Australia
  • Xbox One Digital TV Tuner in Australia

Check out the full update notes here.

MS announce November system update features

Microsoft have announced what participants of the Preview Program can expect, when the latest system update hits their Xbox Ones.

One of the most requested features has been implanted, custom backgrounds! Currently you’ll be able to choose a colour or and image from an achievement you have unlocked, in the future the media app will be updated to allow you choose any picture. There are loads of other features coming including updates to your profile, SmartGlass and One guide. Check out the video below for more info and also Xbox Wire for more notes.

Xbox One October Update

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The October Xbox One Update began rolling out less than 48 hours ago. Here’s what to expect when it lands on your console if it hasn’t already.

New Snap and Friends functions

  • Snap Updates – Microsoft have updated the Snap Center to include quick access to many of the things the fans wanted faster access to when playing a game – Friends, Messages, Game DVR, clock, and battery indicator – as well as making it easier to close and open new snap apps when playing a game. A double tap of the Xbox button on your controller will bring up a menu that allows you to open a new app in snap mode, close the current snapped app, or switch focus between your game and your running snapped app. Additionally, two apps have been optimized for Snap mode:
    • Friends Snap App – Access your friends list without leaving the game. Quickly check your friends list to see who’s online right now and take actions like send message, invite or join.
    • Messages Snap App – You’ll be able to open, read and respond to messages in Snap mode, and messages will now be displayed in a threaded conversation view.
  • Achievements App – Updated to enable sharing of achievements you’ve unlocked with captions, see a list of friends who have unlocked specific achievements, and an updated achievements Snap landing page that that shows Achievements on recently played games, when a gamer is not actively playing a game.
  • Friends section – The new Friends section enables you to see at a glance what’s going on with your friends. You can stay up-to-date with their current activities, the most popular games your friends are playing, and a Gamerscore leaderboard to see who has improved their Gamerscore over the last 30 days.
  • New SmartGlass features – You can now see a list of your top games in your profile. You can also see a list of your friend’s most popular games in the Friend’s section of SmartGlass.

Improvements for TV and video

  • Media Player DLNA and MKV support – The latest version of the Media Player app will now have support for DLNA streaming. With this update, you will be able to easily access and play music, watch photo slideshows or movies stored on home media servers and devices that support the DLNA server protocols. Additionally, you will now be able to playback MKV files stored on a USB device or a device on your home network that supports DLNA streaming.
  • Live TV MiniGuide – For markets where OneGuide is available, a new MiniGuide on the bottom of the screen will display details about the TV content that is currently playing. You can quickly change channels, see what’s on other channels, and tune to the previous channel or other recent channels. While watching TV, you can also launch Miniguide using voice, by saying “Xbox Select – MiniGuide”
  • OneGuide in 11 new countries – Live TV listings and schedules will be made available to customers on Xbox One and SmartGlass for Belgium, Chile, Columbia, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Portugal, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland and Russia in the next few days.
  • Internet TV Apps – Apps with live TV channels can now include their TV listings within OneGuide. In addition, other Xbox TV features such as channel changing using speech and Miniguide will work with these apps. These features are enabled automatically the first time you sign into a supported app. The first app to support this feature will be Zattoo with an upcoming content update for their app. The Zattoo app is available in Germany, Switzerland, Spain and Denmark.
  • Universal Remote Control in SmartGlass – If you are in one of those 11 countries that are getting OneGuide TV listings, you will also be able use your mobile device to control your Xbox, TV, and/or Cable/Satellite box.
  • Live TV initial setup experience – This update will enable you to select “On start, go to TV” for your Xbox One console. Additionally, you will be shown a one-time message highlighting this new capability, if you had previously setup Live TV or have not yet set “On start, go to TV” under Settings – Power & startup.
  • Live TV Cable & Satellite Box auto-detection – In select markets the Live TV Setup experience is being improved by attempting to automatically detect the set-top box connected to the HDMI-In port on your Xbox One.

New accessory and “hide” features

  • Updated Devices & Accessories page – To access the new page, go inside Settings, where you can Find, Assign, and Update Xbox One accessories. You can now more easily “assign” accessories to specific users, such as assigning a headset to a specific gamer.
    • Firmware updates – You can update the firmware for an individual device.
    • Find my Controller – You can also more easily find (or identify) a controller by making it vibrate.
  • Hide Games and Apps on your console – You can now hide items in the “Ready to install” list under My Games and Apps. This is a per-console setting and items will reappear in the list if they are installed again from the Xbox Store. To access the shortcut to temporarily show “hidden” items, press X while holding down both triggers and it will show all hidden items until you exit My Games and Apps.

Password resets just got better

Microsoft are making it easier and more secure to reset your password and add protection to your accounts. Coming later this month, if you haven’t set up your security information already, they’ll ask you to provide an alternate email address or cell phone number to use if you ever need your password reset. You’ll only need to set this up once per account, and you won’t need it every time you sign in. To set up your account security go to account.live.com/proofs and get more information at support.xbox.com/my-account/security/add-security-contact-information.

To check to see if the System Update is available, navigate to the System section of the Settings menu. If the System Update button is selectable, the update is available for download and installation.

October Xbox One System Update: Preview

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So whilst the rest of the world is going crazy for the Destiny launch today, last night Major Nelson gave a detailed breakdown of what to expect in the October Xbox One System update. The update includes changes and new features to added to the Snap functionality, TV and Media viewing and a plethora of other updates and tweaks. The update will be rolling out first from today to Xbox One Preview Program members and then to the rest of the Xbox Live Community at at later stage.

Enjoy the October Preview video and then full details further below that…. that’s if you manage to put Destiny down of course.

New Snap and Friends functions

Snap Updates – We’ve updated the Snap Center to include quick access to many of the things our fans wanted faster access to when playing a game – Friends, Messages, Game DVR, clock, and battery indicator – as well as making it easier to close and open new snap apps when playing a game. A double tap of the Xbox button on your controller will bring up a menu that allows you to open a new app in snap mode, close the current snapped app, or switch focus between your game and your running snapped app. Additionally, two apps have been optimized for Snap mode.

  • Friends Snap App – Access your friends list without leaving the game. Quickly check your friends list to see who’s online right now and take actions like send message, invite or join.
  • Messages Snap App – You’ll be able to open, read and respond to messages in Snap mode, and messages will now be displayed in a threaded conversation view.

Achievements App – Updated to enable sharing of achievements you’ve unlocked with captions, see a list of friends who have unlocked specific achievements, and an updated achievements Snap landing page that that shows Achievements on recently played games, when a user is not actively playing a game.

Friends section – The new Friends section enables you to see at a glance what’s going on with your friends. You can stay up-to-date with their current activities, the most popular games your friends are playing, and a Gamerscore leaderboard to see who has improved their Gamerscore over the last 30 days. The new Friends section has been available for select preview members for a few weeks and now we’re bringing it to everyone in the program, with plans to roll out this feature for all Xbox One owners with the October system update.

New SmartGlass features – You can now see a list of your top games in your profile. You can also see a list of your friend’s most popular games in the Friend’s section of SmartGlass.

Improvements for TV and video

Media Player DLNA and MKV support – Members of the preview program who have also downloaded the latest version of the Media Player app will now have support for DLNA streaming. With this update, you will be able to easily access and play music, watch photo slideshows or movies stored on home media servers and devices that support the DLNA server protocols. Additionally, you will now be able to playback MKV files stored on a USB device or a device on your home network that supports DLNA streaming.

Live TV Trending – Within the next week, you will be able to see what Live TV is trending based on your country and OneGuide settings.  A new tab will be available in OneGuide that displays the top 10 most watched TV shows, with the list filtered down to the shows that are currently available to you based on your OneGuide settings.  You will be able to tune to a specific show by pressing the A button. The Live TV Trending list will be updated approximately every minute, so you can easily discover shows that are popular with other viewers.  This feature will initially be made available to preview users in the U.S., Canada and the UK.

Xbox One Digital TV Tuner – Previously announced in August, this new accessory will be available for purchase in UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain on October 21.  This USB-attached TV Tuner will enable users to watch TV on Xbox One, and pause Live TV for up to 30 minutes.  There are a limited number of preview participants in this program due to hardware requirements needed for testinG.

  • Stream TV to SmartGlass – If you have an Xbox One Digital TV Tuner, you will be able to stream TV across your home network to your smartphone or tablet using the Xbox SmartGlass app. You can also pause, play, rewind and change channels, without interrupting gameplay.

Live TV MiniGuide – For markets where OneGuide is available, a new MiniGuide on the bottom of the screen will display details about the TV content that is currently playing. You can quickly change channels, see what’s on other channels, and tune to the previous channel or other recent channels.

OneGuide in 12 new countries – Live TV listings and schedules will be made available to preview members on Xbox One and SmartGlass for Belgium, Chile, Columbia, Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland and Russia in the next few days.

Internet TV Apps – Apps with live TV channels can now include their TV listings within OneGuide.  In addition, other Xbox TV features such as channel changing using speech and Miniguide will work with these apps. These features are enabled automatically the first time you sign into a supported app. The first app to support this feature in preview will be Zattoo, a TV provider available in several European markets. We will be sharing more details soon with members of the public preview.

Universal Remote Control in SmartGlass – If you are in one of those 12 countries, you will also be able use your mobile device to control your Xbox, TV, and/or Cable/Satellite box.

Other user requested features

Updated Devices & Accessories page – To access the new page, go inside Settings, where you can Find, Assign, and Update Xbox One accessories.  You can now more easily “assign” accessories to specific users, such as assigning a headset to a specific gamer.

Firmware updates – You can update the firmware for an individual device. And, you can also more easily find (or identify) a controller by making it vibrate.

Hide Games & Apps on your console – You can now hide items in the “Ready to install” list under My Games & Apps. This is a per-console setting and items will reappear in the list if they are installed again from the Xbox Store. To access the shortcut to temporarily show “hidden” items, press X while holding down both triggers and it will show all hidden items until you exit My Games & Apps.

These new features and updates are rolling out to all Xbox One preview program members starting today. We are looking forward to bringing Xbox One to new markets this month, and can’t wait to hear from fans in those markets who get to pick up and play Xbox One for the first time. Plus, these new features will be available in all of our new markets for Xbox One owners who join the preview program.