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Saturday, September 29, 2007

Xbox Emulator For PC In The Works

Xbox Scene gives an update and some tasty Battlestar flavored pics of Cxbx, which hopes to emulate the Xbox on the PC. Looks like in the grand scheme of things the project is going quite well, although we'll certainly have to be a bit patient, I'd assume, before we can just shove any old game into the DVD drive and play.

Game Play: Stranglehold Demo

To be honest, Stranglehold isn't a perfect game. There's flaws inherit in the design and you will feel them - but like the title suggests, the game might grip you. Here's why.

- It has Chow Yun Fat.
- It's like Max Payne if someone stopped annoying you with time limits.
- It has Chow Yun Fat.
- It's like someone tried to make a Chow Yun Fat hard boiled action film into a game. Did it succeed entirely? Who the hell cares??? Someone tried to make a Chow Yun Fat hard boiled action film into a game??? Are you nuts? Even a failure would be fun to watch here.
- It's not a failure. It's not a home run, but it tries and it tries with heart. Conceivably it would be one of the best Hong Kong Action Films put to game to date, but it really is the only so that isn't fair. I'll just say by the time you get to understand the powerup system, it clicks.
- It has Chow Yun Fat. In a game. Why are you still reading this?
- Somehow the game earnestly seems to care about framerate. I can't even adjust the resolution here. Is this some kind of sign of things to come? Not sure.
- This game would pass, I think, Epic's own quality badge of "well, is it fun?" Yes, it's fun.

For Sunday: Sadie's Late Night Gaming

Honestly, I just don't browse YouTube enough. Hence, I've missed out on cute girls playing video games late into the evening and having someone youtube the whole thing. That just does not seem fair. Some apparently will even do it with a wig of that chick from Space Channel 5.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Halo 3 Great, Except When Generally Not

Microsoft can clearly take Halo 3 to the bank at this point ... kinda literally in fact. It has made a truckload of cash for a company which just shelled out big time for warranties due to overheating units.

A shame some of that cash might not, apparently, have been spent on actual Halo fans:

"I'm on my third copy of Halo 3," said Matt Gibbs on the Bungie user forum. "After my second Limited Edition copy was found to be scratched I upgraded to the Legendary Edition hoping it would yield a clean disk, and it did. The surface is perfect.

"But... I'm still getting read errors intermittently at various points... this is happening on a spanking new Xbox 360 Elite -- four days old."

Some owners reputedly exchanged their copies of the game two or more times in an effort to bypass the disc read error to no avail. Others fared even worse.
-- Halo 3 believed to cause disc errors, possible 360 failures (thanks Glinkster)

Apparently the big debate right now is whether Halo 3 is actually crashing 360's or whether it just gave them an excuse to turn on their machines again to crash them. Not really great news for the console just voted to win third place in a no win console war.

Shall we add that the one the best ways to play the game, online, is crashing left and right and in the meantime a debate flares up as to whether the game even runs in anything resembling a high definition mode? That last point possible being more of an indictment on the whole concept of "true 1080P" than anything else, mind you.

OK, so the game hit some snags. The one I'd really lay at Microsoft's feet is the manufacturing. Seriously, who fell asleep at the QA wheel there? 360's make better toasters than game consoles sometimes and you can't ship a game without a profound number of scratches?

Time to fire the one year old puppy from doing quality assurance, Redmond. Might be cute - but here's a free tip. Customers don't care.

Game Play: Jericho Demo

First of all - can I ask what the heck happened to Fileshack? My favorite download spot updates its design and suddenly breaks in my version of FireFox? OK, so I'm still using 1.0 and everything (upgrading as we speak) - but ouch.

So, I thought I might download the Stranglehold demo but got the Jericho one instead. These things happen. As it is, I was one of those people who discoved Clive Barker's Undying a little too late for its own good - but much to my own good - and so I was pretty interested.

In one hand, I applaud a first person shooter title trying to push the design envelope a bit. I played with three man squad mechanics a little with an unreleased Unreal mod and thought there was a lot of potential - and Jericho feels like it wants to mine that potential. Also, Jericho shares Undying's desire for narrative. There's even plot setup in the game to explain shifting between characters - and the occasional dialogue to boot. Plus, while the framerate wasn't amazing on the CheapBox++ - Jericho can be a pretty little game when it wants.

Still, it's almost like I was just talking about consoles invading PC game design space. Holy cow does it show with this title. Whereas Undying played like the standard Unreal engine licensees of the time, Jericho is burdened by the console controller. Even firing your weapon gets a bit of practice as you learn primary and secondary fires ... but then major actions get resorted down to tapping previously established keys. Space might swap characters - or completely revive them. Now, I've got like 104 keys on this keyboard - why are two major functions sharing one of them while for the life of me I can't figure out how to jump? Oh, wait - climb is also tapping the space bar.

Just wait until you get to the DDR style mini-game we can all thank God Of War for granting apparently the entire gaming cosmos. Look, I'm all for trying to push new avenues of co-operative play especially in single player mode, if you get my drift, but why do I have to jump to a tune specifically designed to be challenging to a controller which happens to group four buttons in a specific way?

I think Jericho might have merit, but I'm pretty wary of it as a PC title at this point. Maybe Clive's desire to show that games stand as an artistic medium will win me over - only reviews will tell.

Jack's Kid Buys BioShock/Halo 3. Jack Barks Up Wrong Tree.

GamePolitics reporteth:

The activist, who sometimes refers to himself as the “Energizer Bunny” of the game violence debate, is at it again.

In a press release issued late yesterday, Thompson claims that his 15-year-old son has once again purchased an M-rated (17 and older) game at a South Florida retailer.

Readers may recall our September 13th story in which Thompson claimed that Junior purchased BioShock at a local Best Buy.
-- Thompson & Son At It Again… Says Junior Bought Halo 3 at Target

Dear Jack,

Here's the difference between a Target employee being paid minimum wage not to care that some 15 year old kid is let loose with $60 worth of purchasing power and the United States Air Force using video games to recruit minors for real life violence ....

... actually, if you need me to tell you - you're a moron.


Analysts Say No Clear Console Winner, Again

"Under DFC's best-case scenario for the Xbox 360, the system is in a virtual tie with both the Wii and the PlayStation 3," the analysts wrote. "However, unless the Xbox 360 can kick it into gear in the fourth quarter and through 2008, the system will probably finish in a fairly distant third. A big challenge for the Xbox 360 is building a base outside North America."

As for who will win the console race, DFC said the Wii "could be" the overall winner, but also predicted that the PS3 will hit its stride in 2009, and could finish "a strong second." The firm said that Sony might even bring in more software sales than Nintendo by 2012, even if its installed user base isn't as big.
-- Analyst: No clear winner in this console war

This echoes an IDC report from March for those of you scoring at home. The report also contains good news for the PC market - 80% growth over five years and virtual hotbed for new business growth and genres. Clearly they haven't read my rant from this morning...

Seriously, though, that last bit is worth noting. PC games have one advantage over console games that will continue to be true for some time - low barrier of entry. You don't have to ask Microsoft to release your game on Windows like you have to ask Sony to get on the PS3, or Nintendo to even see what a test unit looks like. It's a ridiculously different playing field in that manner and easily one of the PC's undeniable strengths.

CNet Calls On Microsoft To Dump Vista

You know that saying that all PR is good PR? Not sure it always works. I don't think this is what the #1 software company wants people reading over coffee:

Never before have I seen such an abysmal start to an operating system release. For almost a year, people have been adopting Vista and becoming incensed by how poorly it operates. Not only does it cost too much, it requires more to run than XP, there is still poor driver support, and that draconian licensing scheme is a by-product of Microsoft picking on the wrong people.

The road ahead looks dangerous for Vista and Microsoft must realize that. With Mac OS X hot on its tail, Vista is simply not capable of competing at an OS level with some of the best software around. If Microsoft continues down this path, it will be Vista that will bring the software giant to its knees--not Bill Gates' departure.

Of course, categorically dumping an operating system is quite difficult and with millions already using the OS, chances are Microsoft won't find a good enough reason to do it. And while I can understand that argument, there's no reason the company can't continue to support Vista and go back to the drawing board for its next OS. Even better, go back to XP--it's not nearly as bad as Vista.

As a daily user of Mac OS X, Ubuntu and Vista, I'm keenly aware of what works and what doesn't. Mac and Linux work.

The time is up. Microsoft must abandon Vista and move on. It's the company's only chance at redemption
-- Why Microsoft must abandon Vista to save itself

Ouch. It's a pretty reasoned article, too. I can, of course, tie this back into the massive blunder Microsoft is making with PC gaming at the moment, trying to strongarm gamers into a new, apparently subpar, operating system while offering up a pretty paltry set of features to attract new gamers.

On PC Mythbusting

I wasn't going to write about this article on Extreme Tech which takes to task five complaints about PC gaming but the darn thing keeps arriving in my feeds. It's not a bad article, but ... well it annoys me and I have a headache. So there.

And I know someone may read this and once again accuse me of being some kind of console fanboy. Remember, if you are that person, that most of my gaming experience has been on PC's, that I've gamed on PC's for just about the same amount of time PC's have been in existence, that I've spent hours (and won money) and hours modding and mapping PC games in my spare time and I've finished Half-Life no fewer than four times on three different computers.

So - if you are that person - you should probably know that I'm actually more of a PC fanboy than you are.

That said, I don't think assuming the world of PC gaming will always be the same and that the outlook always cheery is such a good idea. And if anything, this article makes me more worried than less.

The opening salvo is that PC gaming is actually not too expensive. As evidence, the article points to another ET piece, Get Your Girlfriend To Build Her Own PC. That article shoved a 8800 GTS into that box. The list price (and I'm going by the article's number here ... so don't berate me with eQuote specials) of that card is $395.

In other words, one component of the computer is in the same ballpark of a brand new console. As comfort, the author reminds us that for just about $800 more - Dell might throw in a monitor.

Look, I know decent gaming computers can be had for $1,000. I've refused to spend more than a grand for a new computer ever since I got a Mac Mini and realized it just wasn't necessary in this day and age. When hardware was new and rare - you could see yourself buying $2,000 laptop to run a word processor and play a few games ... but these days a $800 box has five times the power of those antiques. In fact, if you aren't a gamer - it's hard to find things that will seriously task a modern computer of any price. Take up non-linear editing or perhaps 3-D modelling, otherwise that $400 Dell special will do fine.

In general, though, PC gamers don't buy into the budget mindset. Nobody posts the specs of their computer as their sigquote to show how little they spent. The market for budget gaming computers is essentially non-existent as Dell, HP, Alienware, and everyone else proves every time they release a $8,000 model.

And the reason is simple - no company is going to get far marketing an $800 gaming computer that won't be able to play games in a couple of years. That's where the expense of PC gaming lies ... in the upkeep. And a real problem is that the inverse is true of consoles. As developers learn how to cram more stuff into yesteryear's console, the games get better and better looking. Meanwhile, Crysis (or heck, even Stranglehold) has many people looking for a new card.

One that might cost about the same as a 360.

Then there is this bit:

After the cost of entry, PC gaming is actually a better deal than consoles. For starters, top-tier PC games cost $50, while console games have bumped up the price to $60. And while you can hardly ever find good deals on hot new console games, new PC games are discounted in many retail stores all the time. Just today, I saw the brand-spanking-new triple-A game World in Conflict is on sale at Frys for $40. Older games are available on digital download services and in stores for often $20 or $30. Digital download systems abound. In fact, the best deal in gaming anywhere is the PC-only GameTap. For $10 a month, you can play almost 1,000 full games (and the list grows rapidly), including pixel-perfect emulated retro arcade games, console games, and PC games—many a year or two old and some even very new.

I hate to break it to Extreme Tech, but I think many publishers would actually consider the above to be a bad thing. Piracy is far more rampant on the PC side of things, after market retailers help push prices down and things have gotten to the point where it's a fiscal risk to launch a major title on only the PC. It's even gotten into design, as many PC gamers will tell you about the "console-fication" of their favorite game or franchise. Hard to crow about the versatility of having a keyboard and mouse when titles need to be streamlined and shrunk down for a gamepad and tighter memory footprint.

Myth #2 is something I can get a little more behind, that PC games are nothing but bug fixes and patchwork. I've never bought into that wholesale, although there have been times when I wanted to hit Windows with a hammer - heck, I've had PC problems of epic proportions. However, console games can crash just as easy as PC games (I nearly threw Champions Of Norrath out the window). I like PC games because I have a sense of control - if something is wrong, I can poke around and try to fix it.

That said, if you remove this particular myth from the general forum flame bait it usually is - there's something to be said about the general ease of playing on a console. You're free from installation worries, hardware requirement concerns, updating your drivers, etc. Console gamers don't have to check the back of the box to see if they can play the game or download a demo just to see if the game will float on their $800 budget box. So the problem with Myth #2 may depend on how Myth #1 is playing out.

However, consider I don't know a 360 owner who hasn't returned their console at least once ... I don't think anyone should assume consoles are inherently less annoying.

The third point of the article is that PC games do and that they aren't falling behind console sales. The problem with this particular argument is that there's fifteen different ways to talk about it. The article points out that while compared to all consoles, PC sales seem week - 6:1 in fact. But he points out that it isn't fair to compare PC's as a single platform and then lump all the consoles together. OK. But then he kinda loses me when he insists there are nine major game platforms. Nine? What - we're still counting Jaguar sales here? Right now, I'd say there are two - Nintendo and everyone else. A real cynic might say there are three game platforms in general right now: Nintendo, everyone else, and World of Warcraft.

Look, PC gaming isn't going to die next year or anything. The PC gaming market isn't dying anytime soon. That's not to say that the console market isn't flexing it's muscles and starting to encroach into PC gaming space. Tried and true PC genres like First Person Shooters are more and more the domain of console development. MMO's are probably next. Casual gaming is already a battlefront. This is one of those myths which always gets reduced into the same inane dialogue of "which console is winning". It's barely even a valid question in the first place - but when your PC shooter is being designed around the constraints of the 360 ... something is going on and it has everything to do with a changing marketplace.

The fourth talking point is that Xbox Live trumps everything in PC gaming and that PC online matchmaking is a mess. You know, I'm willing to grant this one. Well, partially. I think the PC online world is something of a mess, but I agree with the article that Xfire and Steam go a long way to fix that. More to the point, I agree with the article that Games For Windows Live is a joke and that is completely on Microsoft's front door. Let's face it, when it comes to helping out PC gaming - Microsoft is doing a pretty poor job. So while I've knocked Valve and Steam in the past - at least someone is stepping up to the plate, because it sure isn't anyone in Redmond.

The final argument is a kind of mishmash of points about copy protection, DRM, etc. Let's just be honest here - copy protection on the PC sucks only as much as the publisher allows it to suck. Sometimes it sucks quite a lot, sometimes it doesn't. The real point here isn't that copy protection is a pain in the ass, but that piracy is so bad on the PC platform than anyone would consider releasing a game with some of the protection schemes we've seen, some that have made even loading the game a bear (or just outright impossible).

PC gamers can complain about it all they want, and poke fun at the occasional disc scratch which ruins a console's day, but that simple distinction is the prime force driving marketshare to consoles.

OK, rant off.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Air Force Says M Is For Kids

On Gamespot Recent Updates [News]:

With the Halo 3 launch hype in full swing yesterday, The New Hampshire Union Leader reported on the efforts of a local group of Air Force recruiters to capitalize on the occasion. The Air Force cosponsored a Halo 2 tournament at an area GameStop store, with the winner set to receive a copy of the third game in the series.

However, that tournament was postponed by a GameStop district manager because gamers under the age of 18 had signed up to compete on the game, which is rated M for Mature (17 and older). But whereas GameStop sent eager minors away disappointed, the US Air Force stepped in to help them get their Halo fix.

The recruiters set up a party area in a nearby strip-mall parking lot, where the Union Leader reported that they could scarf down pizza, choke down Mountain Dew, and play Halo 2 on a TV "from the back of a pimped-out military SUV." According to the article, a 13-year-old gamer and three of his fellow eighth-grade classmates were there playing the game, which they'd been anticipating since Halo 2 came out in 2004, when they would have been 10.
Read Full Article, Air Force using Halo 3 as recruiting tool

So politicians get to beat the pulpit and complain that GTA is ruining America's youth with violence ... but if the government wants to use that violence to employ kids to actually kill people .... that's OK.

Nice. No hypocrisy there, no sir-eee.

UFO On The Moon

Via New Launches:

Observed during routine looks from Italian astronomers. Creepy. I'm sure there is fine scientific explanation for a black blob which changes both course and speed, right?

Cross Platform Play Problematic For UT3

In an IRC (Internet Relay Chat) featuring members of Epic’s UT3 team, Rein said that, "The biggest challenge in doing cross platform play is syncronizing the builds such that the build on the PC is 100% compatible with the build on the PS3.

"Unfortunately (or fortunately) when you [develop] games on console you have a lengthy certification process to go through each time you release anything new.
-- Epic: 'No UT3 Cross-Platform Play'

I'm actually quite OK with this if I can still create a mod and release it for the PlayStation 3.

Force Unleashed Characters Video

Gaming Bits has a video feature (via Glinkster) about the characters in the upcoming LucasArts game, Force Unleashed. Now I know where those pretty concept sketches I found months ago were for - this game. Looks pretty darn good and quite honestly everyone seems to be able to bring the fun back into the Star Wars universe as long as Lucas isn't in the front seat.

This is also the game that will bring the oft-wanted lightsaber action to the Wii.

Spiderbot Video

On MAKE Magazine:

This hexapod robot by animatronic artist Matt Denton is sure to freak your
freak. Truly impressive.
Read Full Article, Stunning Spiderbot

Pretty neat, although you get the point early in the video. Still some pretty hypnotic movement from a robot there.

Cheap PS3 Rumors

On Glinkster Latest Links:

According to Sky News, a manufacturing source has revealed that Taiwanese
FoxConn (which also produces PS2s) will make the rumored $399 PS3. An
announcement could come sometime this week in an effort to "spoil" the high
profile launch of Halo 3 for ...
Read Full Article, Sony unveiling cheaper 40GB PS3 this week

Firstly, I wouldn't necessarily fret too much until Sony says something official on this, but these things do often pan out in the long run ... but sometimes that's a pretty long run.

Secondly - I don't think much will be spoiling Halo 3. Microsoft even seems to be covering the whole scratched disc fiasco with some ease.

2D Remake Of GoldenEye

On TIGSource:

Here's something pretty cool. You know how big game companies are always
taking classic games and remaking them to next-gen spec (with sometimes
dubious results)? Well - what if, instead, they took a time ...
Read Full Article, Goldeneye 2D

As half the gaming world drools over Halo 3, here's a little 2D homage to that classic of classics, GoldenEye.

Operation Troy Footage

Insert Credit bring TGS love with this found footage of Operation Troy which looks to be some kind of Gundam meets Tank Wars kind of affair.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Zodiac's Blue Screen Work

Solace In Cinema points outs just how much blue screen work actually worked its way into the film with the following video. Amazing. Granted I saw the movie at like 1AM while waiting for a car to take us to O'Hare - but I certainly had no idea.

More On Vista's Exclusivity / Stranglehold on XP

I've recently gotten a flood of traffic (like twice my normal rate alone) to this article on Vista's exclusive hold on DirectX 10 because gamers are wondering if John Woo's Stanglehold is being, well, held hostage on Vista.

PC Gamers should not fret, if you peruse this blog post you'll see XP gamers have apparently dove into the demo with nothing more than a hail of virtual bullets to worry about. It sounds intriguing and I'll probably download it myself when I get a chance - being a huge Chow Yuan fan and all. Midway is using the Unreal 3 engine for the game and both developer and technology has a good track record on being fairly broad, requirement wise.

In short - expect a similar threshold as to the on BioShock had (if that helps).

I gotta say, though, this is more evidence that Microsoft is simply being a detriment to PC gaming. By causing this divide in technology, every gamer starts to think twice about whether a game will run on XP or if some developer decided to go the lazy route and make it DX10 only. PC gaming doesn't, to put too fine a point on it, need this crap. It's a marketing blunder and one squarely in Microsoft's hands to fix. The way they've dealt with Vista has killed any good "Games For Windows" ever intended to have.

And give us Halo 2, you twerps.

Scary Flat World

On Boing Boing:

The View co-host Sherri Shephard told her other co-hosts that she does not
believe in the theory of evolution. Whoopi Goldberg then asked her if she
thought the world was flat. Here's the transcript of the conversation that
followed. WHOOPI GOLDBERG: ...
Read Full Article, Co-host of The View doesn't know if Earth is round or flat (video)

Seriously, that's creepy than the crazy hobos who follow me to work.

Happy Birthday Smiley

On New Urban Legends:

About the anniversary of the smiley and the origins of emoticons.
Read Full Article, Glyph Notes

Great article. To think the Reader's Digest was ahead of the emoticon curve.

Real Virtual Trees

On MAKE Magazine:

Some video documentation of German artist Aram Bartholl's custom built
physical versions of the "virtual" trees you usually see in 3D games.
[Read this article] [Comment on this article]
Read Full Article, Aram Bartholl's 3D Trees

If anyone has ever level mapped, this is extra funny.

404 Bumper Sticker


A really neat 404 error bumper sticker. Seems this guy is a web admin or a
web developer....
Read Full Article, Nerdy Bumper sticker

Google Life

On Techmeme:

*Google Prepping A Second Life Competitor?* � Rumors of a Google powered
virtual world based on Google Earth surfaced in January; today there is word
that Google may be testing their virtual world at Arizona State University
(ASU). � According ...
Read Full Article, Google Prepping A Second Life Competitor? (Duncan Riley/TechCrunch)

Wasn't that a April Fool's joke someyear?

The woot heard around the world (so bite me)

On Guardian Unlimited: Gamesblog:

Halo 3? The Second Coming or just a highly polished sci-fi shooter for the
Xbox 360? Well, the reviews are in and things aren't looking good for the
Read Full Article, Halo 3 reviews in

According to nearly every review - Halo 3 arrived as expected, lived up to the hype and delivered.

Not to rain on this parade, though, but I still think the fact that, as an XP user, I can't play Halo 2 is a rotten, low-down, self-serving decision by Microsoft which represents at least a kick in the knees to loyal PC gamers - if not an outright groin punch.

So, on this eve of success with a shooter which apparently could probably easily and gracefully run on even the CheapBox++ ... I say bite me Microsoft.

Bite me.

Overheard In Chicago

The Girl and I have a long standing debate about which is a better form of public transit - the El (that's elevated train for you non-Chicago folk) or the the bus lines.

My problem, as of late at least, with the bus lines isn't so much that they are slow and crowded but simply non-existent. The line we are supposed to take downtown is the 148 Express. You can stand on Irving Park and watch no less than ten nearly vacant 135's go by before getting a 148 packed so tight that it possibly violates several health code regulations.

Today we were commiserating with another distressed traveler. She remarked how annoying it was to see people running after 135's when, as The Girl chimed in, the bus right behind it is another 135. I noted that if you really wanted to catch a 135 you just need to step into traffic as chances were the vehicle that would hit would in fact be a 135. The woman then noted in an exasperated tone that she would complain formally but she felt she'd been blacklisted by the CTA.

At that point one of our resident hobos appeared, seemingly from nowhere, to state that he had once been blacklisted - even though, as he frantically and angrily pointed out - he was white. Nothing like an insane racist homeless person to cap off a discussion on the faults of the Chicago Transit Authority.

The Girl noted that they must have been color blind. Perhaps not oddly enough, this seem to agree with him and he left.