Random Thoughts

Tech, words and musings from an Englishman in Seattle

Netflix/Xbox Integration Is Excellent!

Last night I received the update to the Xbox Dashboard - the eagerly awaited New Xbox Experience.

For those of you that have been living in a cave, along with the update comes the ability to watch Netflix Watch Instantly content - it's streamed directly to the Xbox.

To say I've been looking forward to this would be an understatement! The amount of content available is astounding, and the best bit is that it doesn't cost me a single extra penny as I'm already a subscriber to Xbox Live and Netflix.

Anyhow, last night I couldn't get it activated due to some (widely reported) problem, but it worked flawlessly this evening. The first move we watched?

Wubbzy's Big Movie

Guitar Hero 2 Ate My Hamster

Well, maybe it didn't eat my hamster, but Guitar Hero 2 for the Xbox 360 certainly ate up five hours of my life last night.

From Wikipedia

Guitar Hero II features many popular real world Gibson, Epiphone, and Kramer guitars, including the Gibson Les Paul, Gibson SG, and Gibson Explorer. Oddities such as the double necked Gibson EDS-1275 and unusual looking Gibson Corvus also make an appearance. Several available finishes are also recognizable from popular guitarists, including Zakk Wylde's bullseye Les Paul. As play progresses, several custom shaped guitars become available, although some are notable in the real world such as the USA and Battle Axe (a similar looking bass was played by Gene Simmons). Basses, such as the Music Man StingRay, Gibson Thunderbird, and the Hofner bass are also available for co-op play.

I plugged the cool guitar controller in at around 9pm last night, and it wouldn't let me put it down until 2am this morning. This game absolutely and completely, err, rocks!

I played through six of the eight sections on easy before switching to medium and playing through the first two sections before my right hand literally started locking up. The music selection is great as is the gameplay.

Getting a power boost and then activating it by rotating the guitar so the neck is vertical is just genius - you guitar players out there know what I'm talking about!

A great game and I can't wait to get in some more shredding tonight.

CJ, you need to get this now so we can indulge in some multiplayer action!

Casual Games And Me

Right now, my Xbox gamercard shows that the last five games I played were Xbox Live Arcarde games:

  • Small Arms
  • Jetpac Refulled
  • Cloning Clyde
  • Zuma
  • Astropop

That means something, although I'm not sure what. Either casual games rock, core games suck, or I really am an old fart.

I'm hoping for the former, though I expect the later. I own the original Jetpac (on cassette tape) for the ZX Spectrum and loved it as a kid.

I also think that Rare sold out when they changed their name from “Ultimate Play The Game”.

Bah humbug!

Make Your Own Xbox Game?

I've been holding off on commenting about the XNA Game Studio Express announcement because I didn't want to sound like a wet towel, but enough is enough :-)

Let me preface this with the fact that This Is A Good ThingTM, but lets take it for what it is.

Microsoft have enabled anyone to write code for the Xbox 360, and deploy it locally to your own console. Yes you can share the fruits of your efforts with others who have also subscribed to the service, and only in source form. I'm sure this will change in the future, but AFAIK, you can't share the compiled final product with your mate who isn't a developer.

Ok, so with that out of the way, here's the other thing.

It isn't going to come with Will Wright in the box. That's right folks, pesky things like game design, art creation, and coding mojo are still issues.

There won't be a “Make Triple-A Title” button.

I'm sure that XNA Studio will provide a ton of graphics clip art, sample models, and sample code, but there aren't going to be sample game designs, sample cool new ideas or sample innovative game mechanics.

Oh, and one more thing. Anyone can make a game with their PC right now. Just download Visual Studio Express - it's free, or maybe pick up a copy of Torque Game Builder from Garage Games - it's only $100.

What Microsoft have done is provided a cheap way for hobbyist (or cash strapped indie) game developer to target the Xbox 360. This is a good thing - it was very expensive beforehand. I'm sure that a few of these titles will be picked up by mainstream publishers, or Microsoft itself.

Just don't expect thousands of high-class titles to start rolling out of basements anytime soon. It's just another platform. Albeit a cool one.

Now, where do I sign up? :-)

Geometry Wars video

Joystiq has a video of a guy from the Live development team scoring 2.1 million in Geometry Wars. Wow.

Geometry Wars is one of the 'casual' (read: life sucking) downloadable games for you Xbox 360.

[Thanks to Major Nelson for the link.]

Cat and mouse on Xbox Live

I just finished a very fun session on Xbox Live.

I was playing some single player PGR and then hopped on Live expecting to get roasted as usual when I happened upon a session full of cool people. Everyone was friendly, joking around and there was no “annoying” talk. Plenty of trash talk, but no unpleasant stuff.


One guy suggested “Cat and Mouse”. I'd never played this before and neither had many of the others, so it took a while to set the first game up. It basically involves pairing up via the colour of your cars. One person in an A class (like a Ferrari) and the other in an E class Jaguar.

The first team to get the Jag across the finish line wins, so the Jag attempts avoid trouble while his teammate in the high performance car attempts to basically run everyone else of the road and block for the Jag.

Huge amounts of fun!

Many thanks to CSpec0, who was my teammate and almost helped me to a win.

Mind you, it was tdragger that joined in on the fun and denied me that win…

Opening the Xbox 360's box

Unpacking the Xbox 360 felt very reminicent of unpacking an Apple product. Everything in the box was neatly wrapped and fit perfectly in the box. Everything was wrapped in an appropriately coloured piece of plastic wrap.

Hell, even the batteries for the wireless controller were wrapped in matching green plastic.

Whatever we're paying the industrial designers for the Xbox 360, it's not enough.

I have to say though that the box that it all came in was damn heavy, mostly due to the power brick. The only fault of the packaging is that it didn't have a handle - the box is awkward to carry at that weight.

But once setup, connected to the net and attached to the 50" plasma and set to 720p, it is gorgeous. The media connect stuff just works - I was viewing pictures and listening to audio streaming from my PC in no time at all.

Oh, and the games are pretty good too :-)

Xbox 360 advertising

OK, I admit it, it's taken a while for me to latch onto the potential behind Peter Moore's advertising campaign.

I'm now a convert (Shawn, you win). This absolutely, freaking, rocks.

The Jump Rope and Water Balloon adverts left me feeling: “err, OK, but what did you actually tell me about the product?” But that's not the point.

I guess I'm too “type-A gamer”; too “get to the point”; too “anti-Madison Avenue”. But I see the light.

He's taking on Sony at their own game.

And he's winning.

© 2001 to present, Steve Lacey.