The DRM on it is insane: you can only install it three times and then you're out of luck. Ever have to repave your Windows install? Ever feel like playing a game you bought a few years (and computers) back? Too bad.
I understand that piracy can be a big problem, particularly for game developers, but treating your honest customers like criminals is not a strategy for success.
See the reviews on Amazon.com for a good example of the protest vote.
This is the product that just keeps giving. Man I'm glad Apple didn't make this thing - they'd charge you another 30.00 for each semi-annual upgrade.
Some rationale here.
I don't think that it's a good thing to have the gaming world reduced to a few massive developers. I'd much prefer to see all kinds of little start ups doing innovative things, particularly with Microsoft's XNA tools allowing for free and easy of XBox game development. I want to see a lot more Rez, and a whole lot less boring FPSes.
What do you do if you want to down load a huge game demo over your painfully slow internet connection but you don't want to leave your 360 on all night? Ahh, enable background downloads. With this feature you start a download (or many) then turn the console off. It goes into a reduced power mode and continues downloading. The power light flashes slowly in this mode. When the download is finished it powers off. Thank you Mr. Xbox.
The new dashboard update scheduled for December 4th is going to include support for Divx / Xvid along with other goodies. Hurray.
This is the company that brought you ea_spouse and an endless series of identical sports games slightly tweaked to have the current year's player names and not much else. Depressing. It's like Walmart acquiring Trader Joe's.
Now that Lionhead is part of Microsoft, what other major independent studios actually try to do something innovative? I guess there is still hope for Project Offset, assuming that will ship in our lifetime.
Somehow I fell asleep at the wheel. It looks like this game got released without me noticing. Actually after 5 years or so I had pretty much just written this game off as another Duke Nukem. But then as I was wondering around circuit city there it was on the shelf. Sad, after all these years of waiting I think I lost interest. I'm having too much fun with Bioshock.
It looks like Sony' is transforming the PS3 into a DVR / Media hub with the addition of a TV tuner peripheral. I wouldn't mind something like that for my 360.
The wait is almost over. Bioshock will be released on Aug 21. The reviews are coming in and it seems everyone loves this game. The demo is available on Xbox Live now. You should check it out. It is amazing.
* While using it as a media extender
There is always a catch right? Well if you are using your 360 with MCE, which totally rocks BTW, then surfing the web is actually pretty simple. All you need to do is install the free MCEBrowser on your MCE (or Vista) computer. Once installed, fire up your 360 and in the media center menu go to more programs. There you will find the browser.
MCEBrowser was written to allow MCE machines to surf the web using the remote. But the program also works with any media center extender - including the 360. You can use either a media center remote or a normal controller to navigate. The browser basically extends IE so anything your browser on your MCE box can support should work fine. Note that streaming video performance may not be the best however. The browser supports zoom if you need to make things easier to see. The major downsides are the lack of easy text input (if you don't have a USB keyboard plugged in), and the fact that without a mouse you have to 'tab' through all the links to find the one you want to open. The text input without a USB keyboard can be done with 3 tap on the remote, or the 360 on screen keyboard. Tabbing through links is probably something most smart phone users are used to anyway.
Here is a quick video of what it looks like. It was shot using my digicam instead of my camcorder, and was pointed at the projected image on my wall so the quality is not very good - but that will probably be masked by YouTube's low resolution feed anyhow.
Oh if you are a YouTube regular you might notice something 'wrong' with this video - it's called using a tripod. To get the effect you are used to, just move your head around randomly while you watch.
There are few things the 360 warrior fears more than the dreaded Red Ring O Death.
All my base are belong to it. I have no chance to survive, make my time. No joy for great justice. Main screen turn off.
Continue reading "Gaming News Roundup"...
It's been an interesting week for gaming news, all kinds of rumours and mysterious release dates near and far!
Red 5 is a new MMO game company formed by a bunch of ex-Blizzard employees responsible for World of Warcraft. The name "Red 5" itself is an obvious Star Wars reference. They've licensed the Project Offset engine for whatever it is they are working on.
They've recently tried an interesting approach to recruiting top talent in the game industry by scouring the web looking for notable people and sending them each a personalized package and invitation, Willy Wonka style, to meet the staff. This is the account of one recipient.
Red 5 detailed the operation here.
So, the updated Xbox is here. New specs:
The obvious issues:
According to Google:
UK£ 425 = 826.03 U.S. dollars (as of this posting)
And according to this article, £425 is how much the PS3 is going to cost in the UK when it is launched this week. Don't forget that Sony has also yanked the hardware PS2 backwards compatibility chip from this version so you are actually getting even less for those hard earned pounds.
Okay, Commodore is back in the game, so to speak.
If you were going to get a high end gaming PC, would you buy from a vendor like Commodore or Alienware, or build it yourself?
What parts make a high end gaming machine anyway? Certainly a cutting edge graphics card and a beefy CPU are requirements, but I'm not convinced RAM type really matters. Would you buy the expensive sound card, surround sound speakers or physics accelerators? Is PCI-X going to make a noticeable difference?
More pictures here.
I like the idea of persistent worlds, where the "twitch factor" is minimized and there is a large universe to explore.
The economics of these games are quite different, but if you look at it as more of a social experience where one night's gaming equals one night out for beers with your friends, the monthly fee is actually quite cheap: $13 per month for WoW, versus $5 per pint, with a usual 3-4 pints on a normal night out. This article has an interesting analogy comparing the social aspects of MMORPGs to the sports enthusiasts.
I wonder if World Of Warcraft is worth it at this point, as it's been out since 2004 and everyone has leveled up...
FPS games typically evolve very slowly. There is a pretty recent trend lately, however, to add some sort of a 'cover' system to this games. Being able to take cover from fire adds more realism and fun to the game. It's nice to be able to peak around corners without exposing yourself to danger. With some games you can even 'blind fire' around corners with your gun alone. This is not the way to achieve any accuracy, but it is handy in laying down some suppression. In most older FPS games the best you could do for cover was to crouch down behind something and hope for the best.
This morning I purchased and queued up 1 HD TV show and 1 HD movie. The hope was that by the time I came home from work I would have some content to test out and report on. Well apparently MS didn't prepare properly for the bandwidth onslaught. When I came home I found my MS powered off and the TV show only at 66% (the movie download has not started yet). I kind of forgot about the 360's auto shut off feature, but still it is set to power down after 6 hours.
So I got 66% of 2Gs in around 6 hours. That works out to around 225Mb per hour. This is roughly 620.5Kbps (assuming 10bits per byte with overhead as a conservative rough estimate). Hmm, Not a very good first impression. Looks like I'm not the only one having trouble. MS even told this guy that the current issues he was having are not typical. Actually if I do the math the best I could probably do anyway would be 1G per hour at my current 3Mb bandwidth. So an HD movie would take me 6 hours to download. Assuming MS Live will eventually be able to keep up that is. It's good I'm getting more bandwidth soon.
So when I got home I quickly disabled the auto-shut off feature and restarted the downloads (it would be nice if that feature took into account the fact that you were downloading, but I digress). The system appeared to continue where I left off, but didn't really make any progress. I got some sort of error about 45 min later. I kicked it off again later on in the evening, and after a couple more hours I got a cryptic message that said "download could not be completed". This time when I restart it just seems to be stuck at 0%, so I'm guessing I won't be trying this out anytime soon.
I'm sure that this will be smoothed out eventually, but maybe they could have done some better planning? Maybe rented out a warehouse full of temporary servers? Or how about doing a staggered roll out over a couple of days to work out the kinks? Oh well, what do I know anyway? I can hear Steve Jobs laughing from here.
I managed to find myself with some time on my hands Friday night and Saturday morning, so I decided to fire up the single player Gears of War. Man I'm really enjoying this game. It is the first 360 game I've played that actually feels like it is taking advantage of the 360's horse power. This game is gritty, and raw. The environments are rich, the graphics are amazing and the gameplay is tense and engaging. It makes Halo 2 look like "My First Shooter" by Fisher Price. No funny little aliens crying "run away" here.
The 3rd person 'cover' system works very well and is a refreshing new element to the tired FPS genre. Although GRAW brought this style to the 360 first, it just seems to work so much better with Gears. Also like GRAW this games makes heavy use of high dynamic range. Again I think it works better in Gears, but maybe that is because I can't directly compare Gear's environment to real life (thankfully).
I don't know how long the single player game is, but already I think I've clocked in more hours than GRAWs single player is long. And it's been much more rewarding play.
Game Tunnel is a magazine dedicated to independent games, like Defcon (pictured right). Game Tunnel also has a really well produced PDF version if you're old school enough to want "files" on your "local disk".
Also check out The Escapist, which has plenty of good articles.
Microsoft is going to let home brew developers make and deploy games for Xbox Live! How awesome is that?
Microsoft will provide the software for free, and you can use C# to write games that can target the Xbox 360 and the PC. If you want to share your game, it'll cost you $99, but eventually, developers will be able to sell their games through Xbox Live Arcade.
Links to the news:
This is a great move, and bound to generate hundreds of fun games that would never be made by a commercial game studio. Very cool, Microsoft!
This game is going to be so many kinds of awesome:
Xbox Live is a great thing, probably one of the coolest things Microsoft has done. It has changed the way I play video games online: no more trying to find a random server with enough space for all your friends, then hoping that the ping time for everyone is reasonable, and that it isn't full of 14 year old griefers. Once you've found such a server, you have to somehow tell your friends about it, probably via IM, then jump in before the spaces are taken up. And good luck trying to communicate during the game. You could always set up your own server, but then you'd need a publicly accessible IP, and the person that ran the server would need to play each time the group played. Switching games would also mean switching servers, along with all the inevitable configuration issues and max player limitations.
Xbox Live eliminates the problems of moving, setting up and tearing down machines for LAN parties: you can stay home and play which makes spur of the moment pick-up games possible during the work week. I find that my favourite features are voice chat and having private servers. Voice chat in Midtown Madness, a game I'd ordinarily not play, gives it at least another order of funitude, nevermind the ease of coordination / taunting in games with team play. Since Xbox Live brokers all the server set up, private games are trivial to have and it works seamlessly across dozens of different games. The only connection problems I've encountered tended to be ISP specific, with Xbox Live being rock solid (I would love to see the code and design docs).Continue reading "Run Host! RUN HOST!!!"...
A new 360 update is out today. Download now. Engadget has some coverage here.
A new video (23 MB) from Project Offset. You can get the incredible older video here (75 MB). This game, and BioWare's upcoming Dragon Age, are about the only reasons for me to not get rid of my desktop PC and move entirely to a laptop + console set up.
I am stoked to burning-hot waiting for my plane to San Jose for the Game Developers Conference. The waiting area at Seatac airport for my flight is packed with game developers and their myriad gadgets. There is a perceptible hum of anticipation. Alaska Airlines stabs this atmosphere in the heart when they announce our flight is cancelled for no apparent reason, apart from the desire to piss on our parade. Then they tell us with a smirk, “Here’s six bucks. Go buy yourself a freaking Twinkie. Losers.” (I may be paraphrasing a bit there, but I’m sure that was the intended gist.) We are able to reschedule for the next flight, thanks to the quick thinking of my soon-to-be ex-coworker, Patrick, and we get to play Mario Kart DS most of the way there.
I arrive exhausted at the Hyatt Hotel at 10:00 pm and order room service.
I just finished the single player Call of Duty 2 on the 360. I'm pretty impressed. Just when I thought I was burned out on WWII games, this comes along. It looks amazing and plays very well. So far it is the best 360 game I've played. I don't want to spoil the ending, but we win.
BioWare is coming out with a MMORG, rumored to be for the Xbox 360.
Every now and then I'm tempted to get into one of these games, with World Of WarCraft being the top contender. I like the idea of persistant worlds that grow over time. The problem is that, from what I've heard, the gameplay tends to quickly devolve down to harvesting gold. The MMORG type people also seem a little weird in a not good way: spending all their time reading the game's forums and stats, or leaving a social LAN party to go off to their office to play EverQuest by themselves. On a Friday night.
Is this catagory of game reserved for the hopelessly sad, or can BioWare bring it with their excellent backstory and quality games? If it is for the Xbox, presumably that means voice chat will be central, but how are you going to have a conversation with so many people online? Or hordes of shouty German 12 year olds?
Hopefully it will be set in a science fiction universe, since those seem to have the most breadth in terms of directions and themes. Fantasy games all seem to eventually become pale versions of Lord Of The Rings.
Well this is the week. I don't have much to say on the topic, just adding to the 360 blogging noise.
You can check BestBuy inventories here. 200 premium 360's for launch at the bellevue store. I predict that there will be more than that number who leave the store disappointed after they sell out Tuesday morning.
The Escapist Magazine is a really interesting online gaming focused weekly. It has very high production values, no ads, and you can download the PDF versions for offline reading. Oh, and great articles as well.
There's an article in the The Guardian here.
I went to an Xbox 360 breakfast talk this morning. It was pretty cool. I think I'm really starting to 'get' the whole digital hub strategy. I can't give any specifics, but I'm very impressed with the amount of integration that is being done between teams. Its funny, but I'm now thinking more in terms of complete 'end to end' experience rather than raw horsepower etc. (Not that I think the 360 lacks in that department). I think Sony should be worried.
After the talk there was a Q/A session. I got some of my questions answered (sorry I can't share though) and best of all I got to handle actual hardware. The console is very nice in person. I'm impressed. The controller surprised me a bit. It's lighter and smaller than I expected. A bit smaller than the controller S. It has a good feel though. I expected it to be heavier due to the battery.
Ars is running a series of articles entitled "Inside the Xbox 360". Part I covers the Xenon memory and cache architecture and how it relates to Microsoft's gaming concept of procedural synthesis. I'm a hardware guy at heart so I really dig stuff like this.
This article has a Geek Factor rating of 4 stars. ****
What is 'Geek Factor' you ask? It is the Nullstream rating of nerd technical spicyness where 1 is; yawn, a TLA was used and 5 is; break out the turbo propeller beanie, my brain is on fire.