Confessions (of a WoW addict) part 2, Xbox Spring Dashboard update and Jam! – Welcome to the column that lays bricks like nobody’s business known as Dare to Play the Game.
Welcome to another edition of Dare to Play the Game. I didn’t do much this weekend, you hardly knew a holiday was passing through. I was going to see Grindhouse but the super awesome girl that I wanted to go out with was called out to work at the last moment. I try, I try. But…now I hear they want to split up the 2 movies which is kinda pointless and will kill what little money they are making from the picture. I just hope if I don’t get to go see it that when it comes to dvd it will be together and with the missing reels and fake trailers. Besides I need my healthy dose of Kurt Russell. He will always be my favorite actor I think no matter what role he ends up in.
Ode To Morgan Webb
“Like Kedrix, when are you going to give up this tireless crusade of fawning over me and providing another weird picture of me? I mean I know I’m really pretty and I think you are handsome too but come on, week after week!” I really do need another hobby perhaps, perhaps torturing paper mache animals or crafting models out of old Atari 2600 E.T. cartridges. She’s just so darn cute.
Quick news stories of interest
At some point during the week of May 7, Xbox 360 owners will turn ontheir console and find that a new update is available for thedashboard. The timing will coincide with the launch of Games forWindows Live by no small coincidence. In total, some 1,600 changes,fixes, and updates will be applied. Most will be superficial. Few willeven be noticeable. But the groundwork is being laid. In sitting downwith Jerry Johnson, Xbox Live Group Program Manager, and John Rodman,Senior Product Manager for the Global Platform and Accessories Group,we got a glimpse of the immediate future and beyond. It begins withWindows Live Messenger integration.
Xbox Live users currently send more than 2 million text andvoice messages a day. With just 6 million members, that makes for onetalkative community. Expect that number to go up in May. With WindowsLive Messenger built into the Xbox 360 dashboard, console owners willbe connected to a much larger network of PC and Windows Mobile poweredcell phone users that currently boasts 260 million active users.
Our demo of this Messenger service showed just how simple andpowerful it is. When you receive a text message on your Xbox 360, asmall box will appear that overlays the bottom portion of the screen.The box serves as a chat room with incoming and outgoing messagesappearing automatically, removing the process of bringing up a newscreen to see the context of the message. Multiple people can be ineach room and the texting can be done on top of games, movies, or onthe dashboard. The placement and opaqueness of the box won’t beadjustable, though that will likely come in the fall according toMicrosoft.
Sending text messages through Xbox Live is currently an arduous process unlessyou enjoy plugging a USB keyboard into your console. Without theelegance of some other text input devices, such as the Wii-mote, addingMessenger support seems odd when the easiest way to communicate rightnow is through voice messages. That is why Microsoft will release akeypad that plugs into the bottom of your controller using the headsetplug. We had a chance to try out this text input device and, althoughit looks unwieldy, it fits comfortably in your hands and doesn’t impedeyour ability to easily reach the controller buttons. The keypad will bereleased this summer and the image shown here isn’t the final product.A few changes are still being made, with one being the colors and fontson the keypad to make it easier to see what you’re hitting. No pricingor exact release date are known, but they won’t be available when thespring update releases. The Microsoft representatives were also unableto tell us whether the keypad would also be available in black to gomatch the upcoming Elite console. Whether the keypad will work when thecontroller is used on a PC is unknown at this time.
The Messenger integration doesn’t end with chat capabilities. Right now,finding a friend on Xbox Live is like searching for a needle in ahaystack if you don’t know their specific Gamertag. Once the springupdate goes out, that process will get a lot easier if you have aWindows Live Messenger buddy list. That’s because your Xbox 360 will beable to scan that list, tell you which friends have Xbox Live and thenautomatically send them Xbox Live friend requests. When you pull upyour list of friends on the dashboard, you’ll be able to tap a buttonand expand the list to Messenger users. A small icon will tell youwhether they have associated their tag with Xbox Live or not, just asit will for Windows Live Messenger users on the PC. The icon will alsoindicate whether that player is in a joinable multiplayer session. The Windows Live Messenger integration isn’t the only new featureXbox 360 owners will receive this May. Remember, there are roughly1,600 changes being made. Unsurprisingly, a number of these updatesrevolve around Achievements, Xbox Live Arcade, and the Marketplace. Anew Achievement Unlocked notification box will show which Achievementyou’ve accomplished as well as how many points it is worth.Highlighting the tray icon on the dashboard will display which game isin the console along with your Gamerscore and Achievements for thatgame. New options for sharing your Live Arcade successes will alsoappear with the ability to quickly send one of three canned messagesregarding your Achievements and the game you’re playing to anybody onyour friend list.
Downloading large files will become a friendlier process, an area insore need of improvement in light of the recent announcement of alarger hard drive. A new Auto Download feature will enable users todownload every free and trial version of Xbox Live Arcade gamesautomatically. Perhaps the best addition to this area is the ability tohave your Xbox 360 turn off when it is done downloading files. You’llbe able to queue up downloads and walk away worry free. The Xbox 360will go into a low power mode and then shut itself off entirely whenall of the downloads are complete. If you want to stick around asmovies are downloading, a new set of controls will allow you to pause,rewind, and fast-forward videos while they are still being downloaded.
Streaming media from your PC through Windows Media Connect will also get a coupleof additions this spring. Included in the update are codecs for H.264and MPEG-4 formats, expanding the list of supported formats which waspreviously limited to only WMVs, a big boost for those of us that liketo stream movies from our PCs to watch on home theaters. Once thatmovie gets started, or if you’re watching one you downloaded, you’ll beable to switch the aspect ratio to Zoom, Letterbox, Stretch, or Nativeon the fly.
Perhaps the most noticeable change will be the inclusion of a wholenew blade on the dashboard. Worry not, this new Marketplace blade won’taffect your themes because it will be entirely distinct from the restof the dashboard with a dynamic look. The goal here is to consolidatethe Marketplace experience into one place rather than spreading itacross several different blades. More than cosmetic changes are beingmade though. The new look Marketplace will also give publishers andnetworks the option to create their own landing pages for theirproducts. Theme and gamerpic showcase pages are the obvious start, butpublishers will also be able to embed videos into the pages and createa more immersive and rich experience. This may not mean a whole lot toyou or me at first, but these pages will be dynamic and controlled bythe content creators. That means if game publishers want to incorporatethis page into their game, they can. Contest results, leaderboardshowcases, or more innovative uses of the page are all conceivable.
This talk of dynamic, product specific pages got the room talkingabout the future and options for users to create their own pages foreveryone to see. Jerry Johnson told us that day isn’t far off thoughMicrosoft is focusing on the Marketplace and communication optionsright now. “The next phase of this…is being able to express moreabout yourself, build a richer profile and view other people’sprofiles.” Imagine being able to create your own personal Xbox Livespace, viewable by your friends or others on the web. If you just beata game, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to let the world know in a waythat is more personal than an Achievement list? It’s coming. “Not toknock what other people are doing in the industry, I think it’s moreabout the information you share and less about some immersive 3Dexperience.”
Okay, that is a lot. Let’s try to break this down into bite size bits. XBOX Live Messenger looks like it could be interesting with the creation of chat rooms and ongoing chat boxes. I’ve done the person to person thing before while just messing around on the same or different games. When people are willing; it is a nice way to relax and add to your playing experience. My only worries are that I hope it can be turned off for example when you are watching a movie. I don’t want a whole message appearing while I’m trying to enjoy Escape from New York for the 37th time. They also mention a new controller with a qwerty keyboard attached. Interesting, however they make mention that plugging in a usb keyboard is tedious. I happen to do this, I have a very compact USB Keyboard and it’s not tedious at all. In fact it even have a usb slot on the end of it for another device so it doesn’t even tie up a slot. But I guess some will need it to be even easier so Microsoft delivers.
Good idea on the Live Messenger list, too bad I don’t use MSN’s Messenger. I happen to be a fan of Yahoo Messenger (and ICQ when there were still people using it). Again, nice idea but won’t be helpful to everybody. Achievements, okay the first person that sends me automatic notification when they get a 5 point achievement; I’m beating the crap out of. Now if you beat a game at a certain difficulty level, then awesome, I wouldn’t mind hearing about it. But if you got the chicken achievements in Frogger, I really could care less. I certainly like the idea of being more descriptive about the achievement. There were certain times in Guitar Hero this week that I was like what did I just do and have to flip back and forth often. I’m something of an achievement addict now; so anything to help that along will be appreciated (and my therapist will thank you too).
I’ve been wondering about those automatic downloads for quite sometime. That’s why I haven’t downloaded anything huge as of yet. My connection isn’t the greatest to begin with and I don’t feel like leaving it on when I go to sleep as some probably do now. I don’t want to even go into how long it took me to download the South Park episode they had up there in HD, most of which was due to the fact that I turned off my XBOX and only downloaded chunks here and there when I wasn’t playing something online. Any pluses they make to the streaming media are a good thing since I currently use TVersity. While it is good, if XBOX could just make all mpgs and avis native and recognized; I wouldn’t have to jump through so many hoops to play a lot of my old video files. Finally, it mentions that there will be a new blade (read: more advertising space) that will be allow publishers to spam, I mean inform us more about their products. The only interesting idea is that us XBOX users might be able to create live spaces. I saw an inkling of this on XBOX’s website already but I don’t think it’s implemented quite yet so I can’t give a strong opinion just yet. I am however very excited for the future and hope that Microsoft keeps delivering.
The WoW Interview Part 2
Well, last week we did 5 questions from the interview with my friend Gary, the devoted WoW player. This week we finish that interview. Hopefully somebody finds these entertaining.
1. Thank you for coming back for a second week, lets start off with something easy. So how large is the area you can explore; are we talking the size of Montana big, or are we talking about the size of my bathroom (which is where most of this humor is going)?
Well lets just say, if your on foot it can take you hours to get from one side to the other. That is just one continent. There are 2 large continents, and a smaller one, about half the size, and in some of those places, you have to fly to get there. And about your humor, isn’t slap stick and toilet jokes funnier then the F’er this, and Mother F’er that jokes?
2. Hey, hey; those MF’er jokes got me through college (and also didn’t land me a date for several years). You mention flying to each continent. So what are you given to fly and do you have to go a certain route to get there?
Well there are many ways to travel. There is the Zeppelin which goes between Grom’Gnol (sp), Undercity, and Orgimaar. There are Ships, which take you from Rachet to Booty Bay, to Dark Shore, to where ever else. Inside the borders, there are Flight Master’s. You pay anything from 50 copper, to 20 silver for a flight to another city. The only draw back is you have to be summoned to, or run to talk to each separate flight master. Other then that, once you reach level 40, you can buy a mount which gets you there a little quicker.
#3, Level 40; wow, that’s pretty high and you are like a level 60 or something right? How long does it take you to level?
I am level 60. I am able to buy an epic mount, But I just don’t have that kind of gold lying around. But for me, it took a year to make level 60. But for anyone who plays regularly, it takes from a couple months, to about 4 months to reach 60. With the expansion you have the chance to go to 70, but that takes a month or so of regular play as well. There are hard core players, who with their guilds help, can reach level 60 in a month. Also once you reach level 70 you get flying mounts, which can only be used in the Outlands. They take you to areas, only accessible by level 70 players.
#4. Guilds help eh? Sounds like a conspiracy. So these cults, I mean guilds, how are they formed and do you have sacrifices with small animals?
Guilds NOT cults, are formed by a group a guy interested in taking on the responsibility of dealing with a bunch of BS. Just last night, I was running 4 guys (all in Playground Bullies) through Shadow Fang Keep, and this one kept needing all the items. When in a group, you greed Bind on Equip, that way you can strike a deal with the person who wins, and pass on Bind on Pick up, that way the person who needs it, gets it without having to go through the instance 30 times to get an item that will be wasted because they would be to high for it. So anyways, this idiot kept “Ninja Looting” so we booted him from the party. He goes into guild chat and starts calling our group a bunch of immature a’holes, greedy sob’s, and just generally unfair losers. He quit once he realized, he was about to be branded, booted, and laughed at.
5. Sorry, I had only a thirty day free-trial and I had to work quickly. Besides you kept telling me to light chickens on fire for no reason. So final question; so how are these groups formed and what is a raid…do you raid chicken coops or look for vials of dragon’s blood to perform your rituals?
I seriously think you need rethink your addiction to Guild Wars. I heard that they enjoy the ritual slaying of frogs, rabbits, and anything short and limp =)
Groups can be formed in 3 ways. Use your guild to get a group together, and usually a high level will help you through it. There is also begging in General chat for a group. Or you can use the LFM system, which allows you to choose which instances you want to join, and it puts your name out there for others to view, along with your stats. A raid can be 20, 40, or 60 member teams which go into an instance and work together at getting items, gold, and slaying the big bad monsters, that Kedrix drools over so much =) You can also raid your opposing factions cities. Last night after my run through SFK, there where around 15 alliance scum attacking the crossroads. Needless to say, they had problems staying alive.
Well I certainly thank Gary for his time and thought this was a nice departure. Just maybe I can secure some Guild Wars guys for some rebuttal, but we’ll see :).
Arcade Classic of the Week
BOOOMSHAKLAKA! When this game came out in 1993, basketball video games were pretty much limited to dribble, dribble, pass, pass, pass pass, and shoot. It was boring and dull mostly. Then came this little game that cost usually around $2.00 to play a full game that featured actual NBA players doing an assortment of crazy moves including dunking a whole lot. Not just any dunks either, monster jams babie! This game was actually based off Arch Rivals, an older basketball game released around 1989 which showed off the same kinda play minus fancy graphics and NBA players. This game was also one of the first where certain players *caugh Michael Jordan*, decided they were too good for the game and were not included. I believe he’s never been included in an NBA Jam game to be honest. (if I’m wrong, please correct me). Anyhow, this game spawned many successful updates in the arcade and console arena. It lost “fire” around 1996/97 when NBA Maximum Hangtime came out. In 2003, a new NBA Jam was released for PS2/XBOX and I do happen to own a copy. It’s a not a bad game (quite fun actually) but it does feel kinda dated now :). For some reason for the original I almost always chose the Washington Bullets (even though I could never stand the team). Mainly cause I always made my living by playing with Tom Gugliotta and draining those threes. However, NBA Jam essentially revolutionized the sports game industry into what it is today. You still see many of the same ideas from NBA Jam just imported into new and exciting games from Midway, its creator and many other game companies. So be sure to “Monster Jam” and if it bricks then “Grab the rebound” the next time you play this game.
Brave: The Search for Spirit Dancer
Super Paper Mario
Suddenly I feel like I’m flashing back to three months ago when there wasn’t a blooming thing released. Unless you have a Wii and you have been waiting patiently for Super Paper Mario, this is a mute on the ole wallet this week. I did hear that Kingdom Hearts II for PS2 is now only $20. My honest opinion, that is your best bet for this week unless you do own a Wii. Just wait for next week, hopefully there will be something cool.
Some Final Thoughts and Mutterings
I finished Guitar Hero 2 for XBOX 360 on medium. I’d say about half of the last 12 songs are extremely difficult. I’m not sure my fingers quite react the way they are supposed too. But I do notice myself getting better. Can I conquer hard? Doubtful, but I’ll give it a shot. I did take time to write a review. I also finished Gun by for 360 by the way, I want to try it in the hard difficulty sometime, but probably not right now. Basically all of this progress got me to 30 points within the 1500 Old Spice Challenge. There is no reason why I won’t get those 30 points this week (most likely in Guitar Hero). Have fun kiddoes.
Kedrix of Aldrianian
(*The Forgotten One*)