Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Games on Demand?

In an interview with gamesindustry.biz, the CEO of Eidos US made an interesting point about digital distribution of today's games. The take home message was that in the US it would take as long as 9 hours to download titles available at retail. The infrastructure just isn't there to support those downloads.

On a related note, another blogger detailed her frustration with downloading movies via Xbox Live Marketplace. Instead of waiting six hours for the film to completely download before viewing, she decide to order it from her cable provider instead.

What would it take for you to make the leap to downloading movies and games to your system of choice? Would it be price, download speed, convenience? Would you miss having the packaging for a retail release?

I'm all set for downloading games from Xbox Live Arcade. My network connection would have to be reset constantly if I were to download movies or games that are gigabytes in size. I think when the day comes where I have download speeds on the order of gigabytes then I'll look at downloading as an alternative to retail.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Healthy Competition

During a shareholder's conference call, Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello briefly commented on Take Two's football title All Pro Football 2k8. While he did not mention any strategic action to compete with Take Two, he did mention that EA would continue to defend its franchise (Madden) and wants to make sure that Take Two's success is short lived and not something that is long term.

As a videogame fan, I am thrilled to have Take Two back in the game, even though there is no NFL license. If people feel that All Pro Football is a better game despite its lack of a NFL license, then maybe EA Sports would be forced to innovate between iterations of Madden and not basically charge $60 for a roster update.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Hey WiiJ, won't you play that song?

I'm not sure if he is the first one to do this, but he is the first that I found.

Mashup DJ ! (pronounced Shift-1) learned about Wiimote hacking and figured he would experiment with the Wiimote and his DJ setup. Here are a couple of videos from his website djWiij.

Beatmatching Demo

Scratching Demo

Get Up and Boogie

I haven't really wanted a Nintendo Wii because there weren't any games that interested me. I liked what EA Sports did with the Wii version of Madden, but that wasn't enough to move me.

This little video clip swayed me, big time.

Developed by EA Montreal, Boogie is a rhythm game in the same mode as Dance Dance Revolution and Bust a Groove. It doesn't seem to be as difficult to jump in and play either. Using the WiiMote, the player can make their avatar dance to the beat and switch styles to earn tokens. It looks like a lot of fun to play and engaging to watch.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Xbox Mod Misadventure

Now that the big black box is no longer available, I thought it would be safe to share a story about my attempt to modify a busted Xbox. What I won't do is provide links to the usual places where one could gain specific information on how to mod an Xbox. Even though Microsoft no longer manufactures the hardware, the hardware itself is protected by copyright and modifying that hardware may be a violation of the DMCA, Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Proceed at your own risk.

A couple of years ago, my hard drive failed on my Xbox. Since it was one of the first off the line, manufactured in Nov. 2001, the warranty had long since expired.

Instead of paying to have my Xbox serviced, I wanted to try to fix it myself. I had read that you could replace the hard drive if you modified your Xbox. I figured that for the cost of the chip and hard drive, I could have an Xbox that had a bigger harddrive and did more than play games. So I ordered a chip which was easy enough and set aside a weekend to install it. I ordered a solderless modchip because I thought it would be the easiest way to go.

I thought wrong. Taking apart the Xbox was easy enough, but installing the chip was a disaster. I couldn't get the system to boot up with chip because I had it sitting on the solderless adapter incorrectly. Then I learned that if the adapter doesn't fit just so, the chip won't boot your system either. Then I figured out it didn't matter because I jacked up the motherboard and it wouldn't boot up at all.

So after some swearing at myself for being so klutzy, I broke down and bought a premodded Xbox from the same folks I bought the chip from and I bought a used one on Ebay to play on Xbox Live. It was highly recommended that I did not use a modded Xbox on Xbox Live even if the modchip was inactive. Then I learned that I didn't need a chip to begin with because there are improved softmods for Xboxes. So I paid extra for a premod for nothing.

All in all, I was happy with my premod and glad to get back on Xbox Live again. However all things being equal, I probably should have sucked it up and sent my broken box in for service to begin with.

The moral of my story, think very carefully about modding your box otherwise you could end up with a $150 paperweight. In my case I spent a couple of hundred dollars above the $100 it would have cost to have it repaired by Microsoft. If you're considering it, do lots and lots of reading. You can google a ton of information about mods.

Friday, July 20, 2007

What is a supergg2k?

GG2k is short for Giant Gram 2000, a japanese wrestling game for the Dreamcast. I am shocked that no one has turned to this game's engine for another product. The graphics were pretty good, but the presentation was off the hook, the crowd responded to action in the ring, the announcer would get more and more excited as the match went on. Check out the attached video.

Peter Moore's Last Interview as Xbox head

Gamasutra has an excellent interview with Peter Moore shortly before his announcement that he was leaving Microsoft to join EA.

Of interest, to me anyway, was his response to Sony VP Peter Dille's opinions on the 360 and HD-DVD:

Based on your last console, some people feel that Microsoft isn't in things for the long haul, because the Xbox stopped after about five years. I'm sure you feel differently.

PM: I think those were Peter Dille's comments. They're welcome to their opinions, and having an opinion about something that is still years away is fine and makes good PR fodder, but we're very committed to this platform. I'll just let the numbers speak for themselves so far. I don't have to get into a swinging match with them.

The same gentleman says that HD-DVD will be dead within months. How do you feel about that?

PM: On that one, I look forward to speaking with you at CES next year. I was just looking at HD-DVD numbers over the weekend, and I think Toshiba may have an opinion about that. Of course, the fact that Sony has an economic interest in making sure that it's dead is interesting. I think his comments will be read with interest from the folks at the European Union, who will be looking at the tactics that they've been using to ensure that retailers do things their way. Again, I'll defer comment and look at what happens. I think that's kind of a preposterous statement.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Moore's Law

I was as shocked as the next guy to learn that Peter Moore was moving on to EA.

Obviously, EA made him an offer he couldn't refuse. Plus he's getting back into the business of making the blades instead of selling the razors. Prior to Microsoft, Moore supported Sega through its transition from console manufacturer to third party developer.

Clearly Moore's passion was a great benefit for Microsoft, but I believe that his strengths are toward leading software developers. Moore was first to admit that he didn't have a great understanding of the hardware and perhaps that gap may have been what inspired this move.

Check out this interview with Dan Hsu of Electronic Gaming Monthly, for a look back at Xbox 360's former champion.

Lost: One Hard Drive

On Monday, the hard drive on my work laptop crapped out on me. This was after swearing up and down the weekend before that I would back up my files since it had been so long.

It's funny how attached we are to technology. I have a loaner laptop that I have been using but it doesn't have the software I need to continue to work while my other laptop is in the shop. I'm in my cube trying to find things to do that don't involve going online, when I realize that everything on my to do list requires my laptop. People were able to make a living before computers weren't they?

Friday, July 13, 2007

With all due respect...

Isn't it funny how people try to be polite before insulting you?

In an interview with Gamasutra, senior VP of Marketing for Sony Playstation Peter Dille was less than professional when offering his take on Microsoft's profitability with the Xbox 360.

I don't have a problem with dissenting opinions. I have a huge problem where people in leadership positions go on the record and bash their competition instead of speaking to their own strengths.

All Pro 2k8 Football

On Monday, 2k Sports will be shipping what may be the best alternative to EA Sports' Madden franchise.

All Pro 2k8 Football lets you build your own team made up of some of the greatest players to play the game. Coming out for the PS3 and the 360, the game features online play, league support and a stat tracking for players.

I have been a fan of the 2k series going back to the Sega Dreamcast. I was devastated when EA snatched up the rights to use NFL players and properties exclusively for their products. If I wanted to play NFL football I would have to pay EA for what I thought was an inferior game.

There were rumors that 2k sports was going to try to get back in the game with another license, but EA had snatched up the Arena Football license and already had the exclusive NCAA football license.

Then there were rumors that a Legends-type game was in the works. Three years pass and then there is the announcement 2k fans were waiting for. All Pro 2k8 will be out Summer 2008.

If you're interested in more details about the game, check out this excellent piece on ESPN's Page 2 about the new game.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

And the next generation console war winner is....Epic Games?

Two very interesting announcements were made this week at the new-and-improved E3.

Microsoft announced that its Games for Windows Live technology is being included in the Unreal 3 Game Engine.

Sony announced a partnership with Epic where the Unreal 3 Game Engine will be optimized for the Playstation 3.

What does this mean? The wikipedia has an excellent explanation of what a game engine is.

These developments basically mean that game developers will have an easier time developing for the 360, PC and PS3 because the Unreal 3 engine will be optimized for all three environments. This may level the playing field for those that feel one system is more difficult to develop for than another.

This also means lots and lots of cash in Epic's pockets. I would love to be at their post E3 party!

Is the Playstation 3 a victim of the Playstation 2?

I ask the question because while everyone is looking at Sony's competition to understand why it is "struggling" in the next gen console race, I think Sony can look in the mirror to find their answer.

Microsoft took a lot of heat for quietly discontinuing its support of the original Xbox. They seemed to think that supporting two consoles was not beneficial to their business, even though the black box had a lot of life left in it. Looking at the success of the 360 since that decision it is easier to say that they were right.

Nintendo made a similar decision with the Gamecube. Although I think that the overwhelming demand for the Wii, made discontinuing the Gamecube a no-brainer.

Sony is trying to support two systems, the Playstation 2(PS2) and the Playstation 3(PS3). Take a look at these numbers from 2003 taken from a Gamespy report on the gaming market in Japan. Sony has a huge install base for PS2 owners. It is very lucrative for them in the short term to continue support for PS2. Sony is also still strongly supporting the PS2 with titles like God of War 2.

Short term support is where Sony is short sighted. After launching the PS3, the system is still lacking killer software that make the system a must have, Resistance: Fall of Man being the exception. The recent price drop is making the console more attractive to consumers. At this point though, people are basically buying an entry-level blu-ray player and not a game system.

Should Sony have halted the support of the PS2? On one hand, if Sony had titles like God of War for the PS3 at launch people would be more excited about the system. On the other hand, they would be leaving tens of millions of dollars on the table if they completely walked away from supporting the system. If ten percent of their user base purchase a new game at $50, that is roughly 300 million dollars for the company.

What do you think? Is the Playstation 3 a victim of the Playstation 2?

Trips Ahoy

My wife and I decided in 2006 to try for a sister for my oldest daughter. Even though it was just over a year since we our first child, we went for another round of IVF because we're in our mid 30's and didn't want to wait much longer to try again.

We were not shooting for triplets. We implanted two eggs and wound up with our daughter. We figured that we were older and we wanted to improve our chances for another child, so we had the doctor implant three. And they all took.

My wife held up like a champ during the pregnancy. Between taking care of the house and a toddler while carrying three babies, I am sure she was perpetually exhausted. Eventually she was admitted to the hospital for bedrest and about a week or so after that, the triplets were born. They were premature, I think about 10 or 12 weeks, but they didn't have any serious issues. All they needed to do was eat and grow. They were about 3 pounds each at birth;at almost five months old they are probably 15 pounds each.

Please meet Aidan, Nia and Tim. You'll see them occasionally here on my blog.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Live Action Halo - from Bungie.net


Xbox 360 Recall?

N'Gai Croal, gaming journalist for Newsweek, makes an awful good case that Microsoft should pony up and recall Xbox 360s currently in the field.

Microsoft has taken steps to address hardware failures that seem to be happening at a rate higher than 3 to 5% of the customer base, extending the warranty of any Xbox 360 to three years from date of purchase and refunding monies paid for repairs of machines serviced.

I have had my Xbox 360 since launch. I won it in the "Every 10 Minutes" promotion sponsored by PepsiCo. I haven't had any issues with my machine, but I don't put a lot of hours into gaming on the box either.

What do you think would be appropriate for Microsoft? Go with their current plan or initiate an all out recall?

Marathon on XBox Live!

I stayed up way past my bedtime to peek at Microsoft's E3 press conference. Just wanted to post this tidbit before bed.

In between all the marketing speak I learned that game I loved on the Mac will be coming to Xbox Live.

Marathon was a first person shooter on the Macintosh. While game developers shunned the Mac in the 1990s, a startup called Bungie Software created several games for the computer.

In many ways Marathon was a precursor to Halo, the killer app for Microsoft's console. In fact, quite a few features to be released in Halo 3 have their origins in Marathon. Saving game recordings, for example, was great in Marathon but in Halo 3 it looks phenomenal.

I had better start saving up Microsoft Points!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Dad Hair Day

Since my wife has her hands full with the triplets, it's my job to get my daughter ready to go to daycare.

I do a pretty good job getting her dressed. Doing her hair is the challenging part. I don't know anything about making her hair pretty. I can't braid hair or part hair or straighten it.

I do an OK job, but it is obvious to any woman, moms especially, that daddy did her hair today.

Can anyone recommend a site for dads to help them learn how to do their daughter's hair?

Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

Gamasutra is reporting that Timothy Roberts, the former founder and CEO of Infinium Labs now Phantom Entertainment has resigned.

I can hear you asking "Who?". Let me explain.

In 2002, there was a lot of hype regarding a system that would allow PC games to be played on your TV via a broadband connected online service. The system was dubbed the Phantom. The system would basically be a computer configured to play popular PC titles by automatically installing and configuring them.

This sounded like a good idea. There are hundreds of PC games available versus the few hundred available console games across the several systems available at the time.

But there was a small problem. All they had was an idea. And promises were being made left and right surrounding that idea.

In fact it took two years to get a prototype built. And even then they didn't have the licenses for the games or the technology built to deliver them.

In 2004, the former head of the Xbox team Kevin Bachus joined the company. While this provided some hope that the system would finally see the light of day, he left the company in November 2005 unable to deliver the system.

In August 2006 the company pulled the plug on the system. Although the system is no more, the lapboard (a keyboard and mouse that sits in your lap) that was introduced was manufactured and is available for order from their site.

Gamers and reporters had a field day with these events. It turns out that the CEO had a history of building companies that were unbelievably unsuccessful. Several times the system won awards for best vaporware. Across the board the company was ridiculed and derided.

Timothy Roberts resigned his post to pursue other opportunities. I can hardly wait to see what vaporware he comes out with next.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Gamer Dad

As a father of four children under 3 I don't have a lot of spare time. You can see this in the frequency that I post.

I do manage to spend a little time everyday playing a game of some kind. I have been tinkering with Xbox Live Arcade games lately now that I have earned almost all the offline achievements for Smackdown v. Raw 2007.

I'd like to think I would be able to introduce my kids to video games at some point, but if my oldest is any indication they will be more likely into offline activities. Which is great, I am looking forward to not having to pry them away from the TV to get them to go out and play.

Question to you dads out there; how do you maintain your video game involvement while being a dad at the same time?

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

On board

If you're looking for something different to play, try Catan or Carcassonne. These Xbox Live Arcade titles are based on popular board games. They have similar goals, controlling land or resources to win, but the gameplay is different.

The Xbox Live Arcade title Catan is based on a board game Settlers of Catan. The object of the game is be the first player to collect 10 Victory Points earned by building roads, settlements and cities. Resource cards are used for building those objects and are gained either through a dice roll, trading with other players or stealing.

Carcassonne is based on a board game of the same name. According to the Wikipedia, it is named after the town of Carcassonne in southern France. The object of this game is to place tiles representing roads, fields and city walls together to form cities where residents called followers are then placed. Once all the tiles are used the game ends. Points are tallied based on where followers are located. The person with the most points wins.

If you're looking for something family friendly (neither of these games are violent) and a change of pace from frantic action like Geometry Wars, you should give these games a look.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Splitting hairs at 30 frames a second

Several video game outlets are reporting that this year's football games, All Pro Football from 2k Sports and the usual offerings from EA Sports (Madden and NCAA Football) will run at a higher frame rate on the Xbox 360 than the PS3 versions of those games. The Xbox 360 version will run at 60 frames a second versus 30 frames a second on the PS3.

What does this mean to you and I? Not a whole heck of a lot. The animations in the game may be smoother on the 360, but that's about it.

However, rabid Xbox 360 fanboys will probably use this bit of trivia to taunt their PS3 counterparts. There may be some serious discussion amongst developers because this may serve as evidence that while the PS3 is a more powerful machine, the Xbox 360 is easier to develop on.