NEWS: Guitar Hero coming to XBox 360!

September 27, 2006

Damn right.  Guitar Hero, that really catchy game with the fake guitar controller that allows you to play notes to your favorite songs kinda like a combination of Dance Dance Revolution, Karaoke Revolution, and "Simon", is coming to XBox 360. 

And it looks like RedOctane, the creators of the game intend on producing new songs that you can download to the Xbox 360 hard drive using Xbox Live so you don’t have the play the same songs over and over and over again… like with other <ahem> consoles.

The picture above is a prototype controller that works with the Xbox 360.  (It’s apparently, not the final design, so relax all your uptight design freakshows.)

http://www.kotaku.com/gaming/top/guitar-hero-360-controller-203727.php


NEWS: Banner newsday for Xbox360 at “X06″ – the Xbox festival at the Tokyo Game Show

September 27, 2006

Wow.  Check this out.  (And by the way, have you bought you Xbox Live Vision Camera yet?)

Jackson Working on New Halo Game: A landmark partnership announced between Academy Award-winning writer, director and producer Peter Jackson, Academy Award-winning screenwriter Fran Walsh, and Microsoft Game Studios will create two new interactive entertainment series exclusively for Xbox 360 and Xbox Live. The first series will be a collaborative effort with Bungie Studios to co-create the next great chapter in the "Halo" universe. The second series will be an entirely original property targeted at bringing new audiences into the captivating world of interactive entertainment. In addition, Microsoft Game Studios will partner with Jackson and Walsh to establish Wingnut Interactive, a studio dedicated to the creation of world-class interactive entertainment.

X06 Halo RTS Announced: "Halo Wars" is an all-new real-time strategy game based on the legendary "Halo" universe and designed exclusively for Xbox 360 by Ensemble Studios, creators of the "Age of Empires" franchise.
Two Exclusive GTA4 Eposides Coming to 360 Live: Rockstar and Take-Two announced they will provide Xbox 360 gamers with exclusive access to two downloadable, epic episodes of "Grand Theft Auto IV" via Xbox Live, each with hours of entirely new gameplay and available only on Xbox 360 just months after the release of the title.

Unnannounced Splinter Cell an Xbox 360 Exclusive: Ubisoft confirmed that the next "Splinter Cell" title, the next installment in the series after "Splinter Cell Double Agent," will be a console-exclusive on Xbox 360, a testament to the ability of Xbox 360 to deliver a complete experience no other console can match.

BioShock No Longer Coming to PS3 (At Launch): 2K Games confirmed that "BioShock," a revolution in the genre that will forever change the expectations for first-person shooters, will be released exclusively on Xbox 360 and Microsoft® Windows next spring.
"Project Gotham Racing® 4," the latest addition to the best-selling racing franchise from Bizarre Creations exclusively for Xbox 360, was unveiled. "Project Gotham Racing 4" promises to continue the "Project Gotham Racing" pedigree of innovation by introducing exciting new experiences to racing fans worldwide.
The beloved "Banjo-Kazooie®" franchise will breathe new, high-definition life on Xbox 360 exclusively from famed developer Rare Ltd.; astonishing next-generation visuals and presentation reunite beloved characters Banjo, Kazooie and Gruntilda — among other fan favorites — with their sharp wit and hilarious sense of humor.

PC/360 Cross-Platform Marvel MMO Coming: Microsoft Game Studios announced its highly anticipated new massively multiplayer online game, "Marvel Universe Online" for Xbox 360 and the Windows Vista operating system, developed by industry luminaries Cryptic Studios, creators of the smash hit "City of Heroes."

Doom is Live on Xbox Live Now: Two additions to Xbox Live Arcade were announced: the first-person shooter that pioneered the network-gaming era, "DOOM®," from acclaimed developer id Software and Activision, is available today for download via Xbox Live Arcade. The hey game includes the original four-episode, single-player game, four-player split screen (cooperative and deathmatch) and four-player cooperative and deathmatch over Xbox Live. Also coming to Xbox Live Arcade soon is "Sensible World of Soccer" from Codemasters. Based on the classic 1994 Amiga title, "Sensible World of Soccer" will let gamers choose between the original graphics or an updated, high-resolution look and feel — while still capturing the original’s entire world of football.

360 HD-DVD for $200 in U.S.: Arriving at retailers in North America, the U.K, France and Germany in mid-November 2006, the Xbox 360 HD DVD Player will retail for $199.99 in North America (estimated retail price)* and €199.99/£129.99 (estimated retail price)* in the U.K., France and Germany. The Xbox 360 HD DVD Player comes with the Universal Pictures’ blockbuster film Peter Jackson’s "King Kong" on HD DVD (for a limited time) and the Xbox 360 Universal Media Remote.

More details at:
http://www.kotaku.com/gaming/x06/x06-news-shocker-summary-203653.php


NEWS: Halo Wars coming to XBox 360!

September 27, 2006

Halo WarsAwwww yeah.  Halo Wars is coming to Xbox 360.

Microsoft Game Studios announced Halo Wars, an all-new real-time strategy game based on the legendary Halo® universe and built exclusively for Xbox 360™ by Ensemble Studios, creators of the Age of Empires series.

In the same way that Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle Earth 2 proved that real-time strategy games could be successful on a game console, Halo Wars appears to be aiming for a repeat of that goal.  And who better to do it than Ensemble Studios – the folks that brought you Age of Empires… in tandem with Bungie Studios, the creators of Halo.

Must… get… Halo Wars!


DOWNLOAD: Desktop Dreamscapes – 3D Animated Desktop & Screensaver

September 27, 2006

I’m something of a background & screensaver nut.  Consider this to be my cool Windows XP tool of the week.

http://www.superxstudios.com/Products/DesktopDreamscapes/home.htm


NEWS: Apple lawyers issuing cease & desist for using the term “Podcast”

September 26, 2006

Actually it’s worse than that.  Apple is releasing the corporate sharks on anyone using the word "pod" in their name like iPodder, myPodder, Podcast Ready, Profit Pod, etc., claiming that it infringes on their iPod trademark.  One of the more popular terms apparently Apple is putting the stomp on, is the actual term "podcast".

Here’s a copy of the letter being sent out.

Considering the amount of public-driven marketing being done by folks independently for the term "pod" I hardly think Apple is in any position to declare the term "built by Apple".  If folks end up bowing to Apple’s corporate legal team of Dewey, Screwem, and Howe, may I suggest the term, "Blogcast" instead?

Or better yet, "Zunecast"?


I stand, humbled.

September 19, 2006

Yesterday, I woke up at the ungodly hour of 5:00AM to shower, walk Sheepa (our dog) – who by the way was just as groggy as I was, and drive into Malibu to go to Zuma Beach.  I ended up parking along Pacifc Coast Highway (illegally apparently) and travelling 3 miles on foot to the beach (@#$%#$) along with several hundred other folks.

You see, my friend Ted, who I consider to be my best friend and was my best man at my wedding, was going to compete in the Malibu Triathlon.

For the record:

  1. I really thought he was drinking the bong water for wanting to do this.
  2. It was WAY too early for any normal human to be up on a weekend.
  3. I don’t watch Triathlons on TV much less go see them.

But nonetheless, I had heard triathlons were a big deal and I didn’t want him to go do this all by himself, being this was his first try at something like this, and I… well… didn’t have a lot of confidence that he’d be able to do the whole thing.

See, a triathlon as you may or may not know, is:

  • a half mile swim in the ocean, followed by
  • an immediate 18 mile bike ride, followed by
  • a 4 mile run over hill and dale

Now, I knew Ted had been training but I didn’t think he’d really been "TRAINING" for this gig.  All I knew was that he had it in his head that he was going to do this thing.

So I showed up.  Which I felt good about I suppose since I was supporting my friend however I was NOT happy.  Walking down a highway at 6:00AM is not my idea of spending a morning.  Walking for 3 MILES is even worse.  I called Ted on his cell at 6:45AM and mumbled something to his voicemail about being late and pissed about the walk then hung up.

His start time was 7:30AM and I had NO idea where he was.  I managed to waddle out into the sand and found a sign that read "Men 35-39" which I assumed was him but I could find a messy haired Chinese guy in this sea of 100 wetsuit-wearing, goggles-bearing, athletes.

THE SWIM

BAM.  The gun sounded.  People started scrambling across the sand to the surf.  I started taking photos but then stopped as I looked in horror:  The breaking waves were STRONG and were knocking guys over.  The water was FREEZING cold.  Competitors were scrambling and kicking beneath the waves and were struggling to get to a buoy which marked the starting point of the half mile leg.

You really can’t appreciate what a half mile swim is like until you see hundreds of little white skull caps swimming/bobbing slowly through the waves between the start & finish buoys along the Malibu coast.  The finish buoy was near the horizon… and I had no idea that a half mile could look so far away.

I hate swimming.  Demetri Martin (comedian) once said, "Swimming is an confusing sport… because sometimes you do it for fun, and other times you do it so you DON’T DIE."  My body has the tendency to just sink.  I told me friend Chandler that I’m like Jack from "Titanic".  Just look at me and imagine slipping off of a floating piece of wood: "Blub blub blub."  That’s me.

I didn’t know where Ted was, so I just kind wandered around, every so often peering at the horizon looking for white skull caps to start coming in.  I decided to plant myself near the the location where the swimmers were supposed to coming in.  Here I learned two things:

  1. The swimmers all had RFID tags.  Every swimmer was supposed to cross this electric field of sorts eminating from these pads that sat at the Stage 1 finish line.  As they came in a "boop boop BOOOOOOP!" sounded and the person knew they’d been "marked off" as coming in from the ocean.
  2. There’s a relay.  Apparently, you don’t actually have to do the whole triathlon.  Some folks come in teams of 3, each person doing a "leg" of the triathlon.  Which to me sort of defeated the purpose but whatever.

THE BIKE

Ted came out of the water and started trudging to his bike.  I was so startled by his exit that I barely got a photo of him coming out of the water.  He couldn’t even hear me… and didn’t even know I was there because he had earplugs on.

As he made his way to the thousands of bikes in the waiting area, all I could think was:  HOLY SHIT.  HE MADE IT.  HE ACTUALLY MADE IT.  AND NOW HE’S GONNA DO THE BIKE PORTION.

At this point, I didn’t actually know that the bike route was 18 miles long.  I frankly didn’t know a whole lot about triathlons except that they were some how related to the fabled "Ironman" competition.  (Sidenote:  Saying that the Ironman is related to nature to a Triathlon is kinda like saying a Porsche Cayman is related to a Toyota Corolla.  The Ironman is 140.2 miles in length – 2 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, & 26.2 mile marathon run.  A Triathlon is 22.5 miles in length – .5 mile swim, 18 mile bike ride, & 4 mile mile run.  If you know anyone that’s ever done an Ironman competition, you should be in awe of that person.)  All I knew was that he was getting into his bicycling gear and was in for a serious ride.

Why?  Because the route had two uphill sections.  And uphill = uphell.  I missed him coming out of the gate and waited on the side for over an hour or so looking for him to pass by again.

I got a little antsy here.  This was taking a while and I wanted to go back to bed.  But then it dawned on me that Ted was doing a triathlon – he was the one going through hell – and here I am, bitching about having to wait around sitting on my lazy ass watching people whiz past me.  How much of an ass do you think I felt like at that point?

The Cheerleaders

In the meantime, two girls sat on the side of the route where both the bikes and the runners (some individuals had finished the bicycling portion and had moved on to the running portioin due to the staggering of the start times for some of the younger folks) and to my amazement, they cheered everyone on.  EVERYONE.  For over the hour that I was there, these two girls cheered like schoolgirls for every person that went past them.

Remember that I was a little irritable.  At first, the darker side of me was a little annoyed by them being there like a broken record.  After all, hearing, "Yay!  Go [insert company name here]!  You’re doing great!" over and over again can be a little repetitive.  But as I watched people go by and saw the utter pain and sheer anguish in everyone’s faces, I started feeling more and more like a grade A jerk.  Who was I to think poorly of anyone encouraging these folks along?  Christ – these people are doing far more exercise than I could ever hope to accomplish.  I found myself starting to actually shout along with them as I waited for Ted to come back. 

The Near-Crash
Then came the near-crash. 

A girl, who looked like she could barely stand, wobbled on her bike along the path.  Her head hung low, she hit a post and lost control.  She swerved in the opposite direction hitting yet another post and looked like she’d had it.  She just had a look of absolute fear on her face and had tears welling up in her eyes as she entered just the second leg of the triathlon and I said to myself, "I really should go help her."

But I stopped.  I remembered something someone said earlier about the bike section – the athletes had to complete the bicycle leg on the own power or they would be disqualified.  No water.  No help from anyone.  Only verbal encouragement. 

So I yelled at her to focus and that there was no one behind her so to take her time.  She regained her composure, nodded silently in acknowledgment, stared straight ahead and started moving forward.  I don’t know what happened to her but judging by the change in her expression, I’ll bet she made it.

I waited for what seemed like an eternity:  Ted hadn’t come back yet.  It was so long that I suspected something might have gone wrong.  I later found out that I was correct – he cramped up on the uphill incline and was reduced to a fraction of his training speed.  But he did eventually make it back.  In fact, on the final turn he was practically sprinting into the second stage finish.

THE RUN

Which left the run.  The run was a beach-side 4 mile trek that went uphill and back.  As the runners left the gate, I managed to take another picture and noticed that Ted didn’t look bad!  He was breathing well and was running at a good clip, grabbing a cup of water from a volunteer as he left the RFID gates.

I shouted out to him at this point and ran with him for a brief second:  This was the first time he knew for certain that I was there.  He actually hadn’t seen me up until this point.  I shouted that this was the final leg and to keep a steady pace as he ran toward the highway.

I knew he’d have the opportunity to stop and walk if he needed to at this point so it was only a matter of time before he came in.  Unlike the swim, where… well… you can’t exactly stop anywhere, or the bike, where… you have to keep momentum or you fall off, the run is very controlled and even when exhaustion sets in, an athlete can keep moving forward through sheer momentum.

Sure enough after a little more than a half hour, he came hurtling back down the highway.  I caught him at the final 1/4 mile and started yelling at him to kick it into gear and that this was all that was left… the final minute or two of the triathlon.  As I shot some good photos of him, then suddenly burst into a sprint.

Now when I say "sprint", I mean, FASTER THAN I WAS ABLE TO RUN.  Me – the guy that drank sparkling water from a nearby vending machine (BTW:  $2.50 for a bottle of sparkling water?  What highway robbery!) and sat on his duff for over 2 hours.  I couldn’t keep up with him.  He was seemingly unstoppable.

In fact, I didn’t even catch him at the finish line.  I looked for him but I couldn’t find him.  I figured he must have gone back to his bike so I wandered over there, and there he was – the Triathlete – gathering up his belongings at his bike.  And he didn’t look bad at all.  He still had that patented dumb-assed smile on his face, and he didn’t look any worse for the wear.  In fact, he looked like he’d broken a sweat but, well, he wasn’t about to topple over or anything. 

Unlike me.  I probably would have been swearing up a storm about some blister or some cramp that I got.  He got a cramp during the run but he was able to run through it… as if enduring the Triathlon wasn’t enough as it was.

CONCLUSION

And that led me to a reaffirmation that no matter how much I think I know, I sure as hell shouldn’t ever count people out that have the right attitude – because attitude counts for more than people know when faced with serious challenges.  While I’m more of a git’-er-done, bear-down, grit-your-teeth type of person that just trudges through any situation like a tank doing it’s duty-bound job, Ted always has this ridiculous can-do, optimistic, positive attitude that I frankly tend to mock a lot.  He thinks he can be an Olympic snowboarder.  He thinks he can write a movie script.  He thinks he can get an MBA.  He thinks he can make it big in the stock market.  He thinks he can publish a book.  I always shake my head at his constant damn-fool daydreaming.

But then again, he THOUGHT he could run an Triathlon.  And so he tried.

And well… I stand, humbled.  Good job, buddy…really:   Good job.


INFO: Zune… What’s up with the Brown color?

September 15, 2006

With the announcement around the Zune-branded media player, the most arbitrary question I get asked is, "Why brown?"  The Zune media players are being made available in Black, White and Brown… but why brown?

Well, the answer is a lot simpler than you might think.  Here’s a clip from Fashion Era online magazine talking about fashion trends for this year:


New Colours for Autumn Winter 2006/7 Fashion Trends

New Colours for Fall Winter 2006/7As autumn 2006 settles down, colour fashion trends for fall 2006/7 reveal that warm earthen tones and natural materials gain appeal as women shop for new clothes.

The strongest colours in this palette are golds, reds and violas.

In autumn 2006 the colours for apparel are firmly in accord with nature.  Traditional earthy tones with sun dried rich ochre and terracotta tones gain ground.  Women’s clothes the colour of pollen, honey, scorched gold, burnt earth and fox hues, meander amid a few livelier more shocking tones. Expect surprise with the jewel colours of purple and vibrant rich ruby red.  Urban charcoal greys are enlivened with splashes of the brighter tones and look new because many materials have glazes.  All the images below enlarge.

With both greys and gold tones found in pebbles and stones so currently fashionable, either silver grey or golden metals make a good AW (Autumn Winter) 06/07 choice for jewellery or accessory trims.  Golden sequins, paillettes and beads, shimmer and glimmer on fabrics that appear to look like molten gold and sheets of liquid glistening glass.  Gold is one of the season’s hottest looks.  I’m sure you will find gold dresses and jackets in every autumn range.

(Read the rest of the article here.) 

What a surprise.  From a fashion perspective, the color brown works great with gold, honey and the terracotta pallet. White and black are your all time "won’t miss the boat by much" colors, but brown is a color that matches with fall and winter’s fashionable colors.  If you find yourself scoffing at this attention to detail, remember that much of Apple’s reputation is based on their attention to style.

We’re just trying to get both style & substance into Zune.


Sony… a bastion of bad news.

September 15, 2006

For the XBox fanbois… don’t get too excited, being that Sony is after all the 600lb gorilla of console gaming and there are millions of PS fanbois out there…

But still… how can any one company get consistently worse press than Sony?  Boy – I thought we got bad press…

—————————-

Proof that Sony Lied about the Killzone 2 Demo
http://www.gameklip.com/v/1034/

Sony Embarrasses Themselves at E32006
http://youtube.com/watch?v=IH2w2l1JTs4&search=sony%20press%20conference

Japanese Dev on PS3: "It’s more expensive than my rent."
http://general.gamerfeed.com/gf/pr/10893/

IBM Says It’s Lucky to Get 10% to 20% Yields on Cell Processor
http://www.dailytech.com/article.aspx?newsid=3295

High PS3 Price is Pushing Away Developers
http://www.dailytech.com/article.aspx?newsid=3438

Analysts: PlayStation 3 to be late, expensive
http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20060219-6216.html

PS3 Games to cost $100?
http://www.gameshout.com/news/ps3_games_to_cost_100/article7223.htm

LA Times: Sony May Want to Stop Used Games
http://www.gamepro.com/news.cfm?article_id=74128


NEWS: What’s coming up next at Mattel

September 15, 2006

For those of you at Mattel not familiar with what is apparently being released this holiday season, this is what I found online.  Check it out.

Kidtronics: By Fisher Price, Of Course
http://gizmodo.com/gadgets/top/kidtronics-by-fisher-price-of-course-150003.php

Mattel Making Hybrid Video Game/Card Collecting System
http://gizmodo.com/gadgets/home-entertainment/mattel-making-hybrid-video-gamecard-collecting-system-189132.php

Reinventing Hot Wheels
http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/jul2006/tc20060717_486976.htm?campaign_id=bier_tclta

Mattel Wants Your Money This Holiday Season
http://gizmodo.com/gadgets/gadgets/mattel-wants-your-money-this-holiday-season-182031.php


VIDEO: New XBox 360 Support Video released for customers

September 13, 2006

We’re released our first XBox 360 How-to video.  And it’s already been downloaded 200,000 times.

Even though extensive documentation is provided on Xbox.com and support.microsoft.com, many customers get lost when reading a Knowledge Base article filled with the concepts and terminology of the ever-evolving gaming environment. At a certain point, many customers put down the mouse and pick up the phone to call Xbox Customer Support for help.


The first Xbox 360 Support video released on Xbox Live Marketplace has been downloaded over 200,000 times.

As the Xbox team surmised, if a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video would be worth a lot more than that to Microsoft’s customers. So, the team made their first technical support video about setting up an entertainment network: MCE Network Settings. And it’s been a hit, with some 200,000 downloads.

Major Nelson, the spokesblogger for the XBox360 team has stated that there are plans for more videos over time.


NEWS: Windows High School: Microsoft designs a school system

September 13, 2006

I think this is pretty cool. 

"…a gleaming white modern facility looking out of place amid rows of ramshackle homes in a working-class West Philadelphia neighborhood."

Windows High School:  Microsoft designs a school system

http://www.cnn.com/2006/TECH/ptech/09/07/school.of.future.ap/index.html

The idea is to start teaching kids in a new way that primes them to compete in the new global economy with new curriculum teaching children not just what kind of things they can learn but more importantly how to learn… instead of the old ways of teaching which were passed down from the 50’s.

Although one of my coworkers pointed out this quote:
“At the 162,000-square-foot high school, which sits on nearly eight acres, the day starts at 9:15 a.m. and ends at 4:19 p.m., simulating the typical work day.”
…in what world do these folks live in where the typical work day is 9:15AM to 4:19PM?

Sarcasm aside, there’s more information on the project HERE at Microsoft.com for those of you interested.


EVENT: Video Games Live – Hollywood Bowl

September 13, 2006

The 2nd Video Games Live event is taking place on Thursday, September 21st (2 weeks away).  

Video Games Live is a concert at Hollywood Bowl where the LA Philharmonic plays all of your favorite video game themes – to a venue packed with over 11,000 people.  Everything from your favorite old Nintendo themes to more recent games like Castlevania, Tomb Raider, Legend of Zelda, Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts, Dragon’s Lair, all the Tom Clancy games, Sonic the Hedgehog, and classics like Tetris, Frogger, Gauntlet, etc.

To add to the mayhem, they’re going to have the actual creators of various famous video games present along with the the composers of the video game themes on hand.

And this year is special: 
They’re going to have the world premier of Halo 3’s music!
(Not just Halo 1 or 2 but HALO 3!)

Tickets are available here: 
http://www.ticketmaster.com/event/0B003C6EACB32C1C?artistid=1018457&majorcatid=10001&minorcatid=1

Web site is here: 
http://www.videogameslive.com

This really is a lot of fun… I hope you all will come!

From the organizers:

"We are announcing a LOT of cool new surprises including the world premiere of the Halo 3 music, new Final Fantasy segments, new interactive segments with the crowd, celebrity guest appearances, acoustic game composer jams, etc. We’ve even figured out a way to incorporate the Goodyear Blimp into the show!

The concert starts at 8:00pm but the doors will be opening early (5:30pm) for our pre-show festival which includes game competitions, playable pre-release games such as Guitar Hero II, a costume contest, game designers and composers meet & greet, prize give-a-ways, etc. All of these events are open to each and every ticket holder.


Dear “Top Windows Writer”: Who the heck are you?

September 12, 2006

That bastion of poor journalism known as the Inquirer has topped themselves.  According to a recent posting, a "top Windows writer" abandoned Microsoft.  Regarding this apparent loss, I have a question: 

Who is he?

No really – I’ve worked for Microsoft for 12 years now.  I’ve never heard of this guy.  As a prior Microsoft developer at HP, I’ve done a decent amount of development.  Petzold, Cunningham, Mauvais, Boling, Box, even IT books from guys like Minasi… these are names that I recognize. 

And I’m a book fiend.  I used to spend my (sad) spare time at Barnes & Noble just thumbing through new books and racking up a massive credit card bill on cool need publications.

But Peter Wright?  No offense to Peter but I had to search for him.  Apparently the guy wrote a book on Visual Basic 6.  On further investigation on Amazon, he’s written a few others including a some on the "Express" versions of the languages. 

Outside of that I’m trying to determine what gives the Inquirer the credibility to grace him with the title of "top Windows writer".  I’m sure he’s a smart guy… very few people that have the opportunity to write books on development languages are idiots.  But the usage of the phrase "top Windows writer" is a perfect example of the ridiculous journalistic practices of folks like the Register and the Inquirer.

I’m making something of a big deal about this because I’m tired of publications using overly zealous titles to link bait people into visiting their sites.  The Inquirer and the Register manages to get relatively high rankings from link tracking systems like Technorati and the like drawing more people to them on the basis of extremely misleading article titles.  One might say they’re "only giving people what they want" but I propose that people only visit their site "because they don’t know how better to judge the content on the site relative to other publications on the Internet… like CNet for example which is a much more credible news presence.

The entire world of journalism is going to hell.  We need to really start issuing "credibility ratings" to web sites and writers, in a manner similar to eBay because the world just doesn’t need another National Enquirer on the web.  We just don’t.


NEWS: Star Wars… uh… Transformers?

September 9, 2006

It’s official.  George Lucas and his sellout space trilogy has "jumped the shark" (or for those of you that watch Attack of the Show on G4TV:  Lucas has been "raped by a panda")

Hasbro has created "Star Wars Transformers" including Boba Fett’s fighter that transforms into… well… Boba Fett.  They also have a Millenium Falcon that separates into two pieces to transform into a Han Solo robot and a Chewbacca robot.

I couldn’t have even made this up.  Some moron of an executive had to actually push this through product planning.  See it here:  http://www.hasbro.com/starwars/default.cfm?page=to…

I don’t think I need to say anything more do I?  If you guys at Mattel ever, ever, EVER do something this stupid, I swear to God, I’m switching accounts. 


h.264 looks like crap for high definition motion pictures

September 8, 2006

I’d heard this from several sources but I was hesitant to write anything about it until I’d seen it myself.  Now that I have, I can firmly make the claim:

h.264 looks like crap for hi-def movies

No really.  It does.  h.264 really looks bad for high definition movies making it irrelevant for either Blu-ray or HD-DVD.  This explains a lot and I mean a LOT.

For those of you just tuning in, h.264 is a video compression standard that was created for the purposes of real time video conferencing.  Folks that do video conferences over IP connections usually use H.264 when the converse over Polycom video conferencing cameras.  Or if you’ve ever used the video conferencing capability of Microsoft NetMeeting or Office Communicator or Windows Live Messenger, you’ve use H.264.

The problem is that H.264 was one of 3 video compression codec standards used by both Blu-Ray DVD and HD-DVD.  While it provides excellent compression for high definition (1080i, 1080p signals) it results in a pixelated image, one in which "blocky patches" or "artifacts" are clearly noticable – particularly when you freeze the image.

Contrast this with VC1, one of the other 3 video compression codec standards that both high definition DVD standards adopted.  VC1, also known as the standardized version of Windows Media Video 9, produces a fantastic picture:  One that looks gorgeous, unpixelated and clear even when frozen.

The 3rd video compression codec adopted by both camps is good ol’ MPEG2.  This is the same compression technology used by standard definition DVD today – the movies you watch on convention DVD players.  This is pretty good for today’s 9.1GB dual layer DVDs today but when used for high definition content, the resulting content usually requires 40GB of storage or more, making it difficult to use without a large capacity disc format.

Enter Blu-Ray DVD.  Blu-Ray was supposed to have dual layer 50GB discs available by now but they haven’t, making only the 25GB discs available.  This has forced Sony’s production studios and their partners to make a choice:  Use VC1, use H.264, or use MPEG2 and create less-than optimal high definition Blu-Ray discs.

They apparently chose the latter.  It turns out that the authoring software for BluRay DVD creation ONLY supports MPEG2.  They completely side stepped using VC1 or h.264 for some reason.  Speculation ranges from:

  • h.264 had poor image quality
  • VC1 required paying a royalty to Microsoft and h.264 required paying a license to MPEG-LA.
  • MPEG2 was cheap for Sony being that they already held a license for the codec
  • 1st generation of Blu-Ray player’s had decoding chips that were too buggy to create discs with more advanced codecs

Man, this stuff’s fascinating.


BLOG: Ozymandia’s blog… and his debate about Blu-Ray’s value

September 8, 2006

Ozymandias, aka Andre Vrignaud, is a Microsoft employee and a veteran of the computer gaming industry.  He is part of a team that determines the strategy of our gaming division and the direction of both Xbox Live & Xbox as a whole.

He’s got a blog on which there is a helluva debate going on with a friend of his Mark Deloura, who coincidentally is another industry veteran who works instead for "the other camp", aka Sony Developer Relations.

Ozymandias says Blu-ray’s larger capacity is irrelevant.  Mark disagrees.  You be the judge.

As an aside, there’s a comment made by a fellow named ExTester on one of the discussions about the announcement that Sony would have 75% fewer consoles at launch than originally promised (500,000 down from 2,000,000).  It’s so poignant I couldn’t help but replicate the content and put a pointer to it:

You know, I am almost sure that Sony will be taking a huge hit, and file for Chapter 11. Ok maybe, Chp.11 is a little far, but the company will not be doing well. I wonder what they will announce @ TGS cause the reality is, if they don’t announce any news like "We got good news we are back on track with our original launch figures" or something.. its bad news for Sony period. And I have to agree, for whatever reason I think they will do well selling their consoles. But I liked my Dreamcast and I didn’t see it coming when Sega announced that its out of the console market. And I loved my Dreamcast 4 or 5 games for it. Controller felt great for me, and I am loving the 360’s cause it remindes me so much of it.

To your "Playstation" brand loyalty comment. Sorry, I have asked a lot of people hands down. No matter who it is. Would you pay $600 for a game console if it was the next best thing since sliced bread(its not, but just to be fair). And all of them said No. They even mentioned that $400 was high, but not nearly as bad. I then mention if Playstation was behind the $600 version. It didnt change the response.

Fact is this is a razor on razorblade market, you cut your profits to make them up on title sales. But you dont take a big enough loss pushing out as many consoles to market, and there will be less 3rd Party to help recoup the loss because there is no market to make a profit. And this is where Sony is pushing themselves into. Samething wit Sega with the Dreamcast.

Now you mention that "Sony inserted themselves into the market as the cool system". But last I checked they lost that cool when they became arrogant and try’s to force a standard on people. The system that gains the cool factor is the one that works "with the people" to give them what they want. Granted, Microsoft doesn’t see eye to eye on the prices people suggest for their products, but they have come a long way. I used to be a serious hater of Microsoft in early 2000, but slowly I started to see a different company emerging that has a huge monkey on its back. Its past. I honestly can say that Microsoft is a different company that it once was, and I can honestly say that it probably started with Bill Gates getting married. That aside, Microsoft has a huge shadow to overcome. But, Sony is working ever so hard to become the shadow that Microsoft is trying to get rid of.

Now about the the HD-DVD drive, I have to agree with you on this completely. Every second the HD-DVD drive is not out for the 360 is every second that is giving blu-ray to fight back. I think HD-DVD is the better format mainly because it boils down to one thing.

Consistant video quality releases. And this is something a buddy of mine that was a huge blu-ray fan(now in the middle) agrees with me. Since blu-ray has come out it has done about everything wrong. But the biggest crime personally is inconsistant quality in the release of the movie titles that are released. I mean how do you know which codec its using? With HD-DVD is simple. Its VC1 and thats it. blu-ray has yet to fully support VC1 as they take their Mpeg-4(h.264) to 50 gig blu-ray discs. Personally h.264 is great for conference or email, which it was developed for, but looks like crap for movies. So what happens to all the movies that have been released on MPEG-2, are they going to be re-released in a better quality like the SuperBit BS? And its these simple screw ups that personally will undermine blu-ray.

In reference to the HD-DVD price, its most likely gonna be 200. But I think if they sell it @ 180 they will sell themselves. I mean its really close to 150, but its not 200. I will buy one regardless, but I think it will hurt Sony even more if they were going for 180 say the first three weeks. Take a sligth loss on the drive. It would help push the product even more so. I honestly cant wait for the HD-DVD for my 360, and neither can my wife. And you better believe I will be getting the HDMI cable for the 360. Cause I know it can handle dual DVI output with that nifty ATI video output chip. Anyhow thats the other thing that is going to hurt Sony..

Every single 360 that has been sold is HDMI ready, they have just been waiting for the lame format to finalize. Get a fancey adapter and presto change-o HDMI. Betcha its gonna be the 1 thing that they have not revealed about the 360 that they mentioned @ X05 and will annouce @ X06 or TGS. But that will be another bad day for Sony…

Lastly, one thing is for sure. I have to say that Microsoft has done an excellent job in reasuring the customer that they made the correct choice, everyday that goes by. Especially when you compare Sony to Microsoft, seems like Sony has been doing everthing wrong. Can’t wait for Gears of War, Halo 3, Forza 2, and Mass Effect.

And I agree with the above comments about the HD-DVD drive.  You guys have GOT to get that thing out on the market as soon as possible and hopefully at least a month before Christmas.  I’m probably not alone in saying its a sure purchase for me compared to the 500 Toshiba players and honestly, as noted, 6 million potential sales?? It’s a no brainer.  Let’s put an end to this ugly and stupid format war before it gets even uglier and stupider, and show Sony that they are not yet over the curse of the Betamax.

http://ozymandias.com/archive/2006/09/06/Thoughts-…


INFO: Submit feedback on the XBox360’s user interface!

September 8, 2006

If any of you are interested in submitting feedback on the Xbox360’s user interface, you can do so at WildChicken’s blog.

WildChicken’s real identity is as a user experience manager of the real Xbox360 development team so your feedback is going to the actual people that create requirements documentation for the dev team.

Translation:  It’s going to precisely the right people.


Sony. Wow. I mean… WOW.

September 7, 2006

Yesterday Sony announced a few key things:

  1. EUROPEAN PS3 LAUNCH POSTPONED
    They are going to postpone the European launch of the Playstation 3 until March 2007.  This is delayed by 5 months from their original plans to release the PS3 in Europe at the same time as in North America & in Japan – November 15th.
  2. ONLY 500,000 CONSOLES AVAILABLE AT LAUNCH
    They are going to have 400,000 consoles in North America and 100,000 consoles in Japan at launch for a total of 500,000 consoles.  This is down from their original announcement of 2,000,000 consoles at launch in November.
  3. 6,000,000 CONSOLES BY MARCH
    They are still promising 6,000,000 consoles by March 31st, 2007 as originally planned.

That last point is of considerable debate.  The fact that Sony has production bandwidth problems has most people believing that there’s very little chance that they’ll come close to shipping 6,000,000 consoles by the end of March.  Their previous promises and reputation of "exaggeration" doesn’t exactly help either.

But c’mon folks:  A 75% drop in the expected shipments?  No one knows more than we do how hard it is to launch a console worldwide… but at least we never lied about it.  Sony has repeatedly exaggerated, overstated, and broken promises about dozens of aspects about the PS3 and Blu-Ray:

  • The number of Blu-ray players out there at Christmas
  • The nature of the KillZone 2 demo at E3
  • The wireless router capability of the PS3
  • The 50GB capacity of Blu-ray discs which have yet to materialize

…and people still believe them time and again.

This has been a helluva year for Sony to say the least.  I know that Microsoft hasn’t exactly been picture perfect in it’s long and storied history of product development but I can’t remember the last time any company has made so many catastrophic errors in a single year:

  • POOR E3 SHOWING
    Watching Sony’s E3 was downright painful.  Universally acclaimed as the loser in the 2006 E3, Sony managed to completely take out all the steam from the momentum they’d built up since E3 2005 where they came out as the winner, despite having shown fake video rendered demos that they claimed were in-engine play – in particular a much criticized KillZone 2 demonstration that turned out to be a pre-rendered fraud instead of actual gameplay.
  • THE "FIRST" PLAYSTATION 3 DELAY
    Playstation 3 was supposed to ship in April 2006.  It was postponed to November 2006 because Blu-Ray hadn’t come together.
  • BLU-RAY’S LOUSY VIDEO QUALITY
    Blu-ray has been savagely beaten by critics.  The announcement that Blu-ray DVD players would cost $1000 was a shocker, relative to HD-DVD player’s cost of $500.  Blu-ray DVD’s were then discovered to have visibly poorer picture quality than HD-DVD’ discs across the board.
  • PLAYSTATION 3 ANNOUNCED COST
    Sony did something funny:  They announced that the PS3 would be sold for either $500 for the "core" version and $600 for the "premium" version – essentially $200 more than XBox360.  Much to everyone’s exasperated surprise, they dead panned the announcement as if it was an everyday occurance and "no big deal". 
    …then they topped the announcement by having Ken Kutaragi, Sony’s president tell the press that the price of the PS3 was "probably too cheap".
  • PS3 GAMES = $60 OR MORE
    It was announced that PS3 games are going to be a bit pricey.  As in above $60 pricey.  Which is just peachy for PS3 owners than are already shelling out an additional $200 above an Xbox360 begging the question, if a person could get an Xbox360 Premium console + 4 or more games for the $600 that the PS3 will cost… unless you buy the hype that PS3’s first gen games are going to be better than XBox360’s 3rd gen games, why buy a PS3?
  • NO DUAL SHOCK
    Due to a lawsuit with the company hold the IP for vibrating controllers, Sony will no longer be selling vibration-capable controllers.  They instead announced the ability to detect side to side physical "tilt" movement in the controller – a feature met with yawns, after the Nintendo announced full gyroscopic capability.
  • NO HDMI CABLE IN PS3 $600 PACKAGE
    Wow.  Imagine telling everyone that you have to pay a $200 premium over your competitor to buy your console, then telling them that the games will cost more than your competitors… then telling them that to take advantage of one of your most highly touted features – HDMI digital interfacing for hi-def TVs, you’ll need to purchase an additional cable on top of everything else putting the cost at around $650.  Are you frickin’ NUTS?
  • 3 LETTERS:  D-R-M
    Who can forget the fiasco regarding Sony’s rogue DRM rootkit installation that resulted in PC crashes worldwide?  It’s amazing that they thought they’d get away with this without any sort of backlash.  Put that one into the "What were they thinking?" column.

Wired Magazine has a great article about what it is that Sony’s had problems with and what this launch means to Sony as a company.  http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/14.09/sony.html

All I can say a 75% drop in the number of consoles available at launch is either the worst projection in the history of manufacturing, or the biggest slap in the face of the gaming consumer.


NEWS: Sony to delay PS3 launch in Europe until March

September 6, 2006

Wow.  This is huge.  Sony might be taking a serious backseat in the European market with this announcement.

————————-

Sony Delay Reaction Story
Dean Takahashi, 01:13 PM in Dean Takahashi, Gaming

Here’s the story I’m working on for tomorrow’s paper:

If you want a PlayStation 3 for Christmas, you chances just got a lot worse.

Due to production problems, Sony said Wednesday that it will come up short with the supply of PlayStation 3 video game consoles for the critical holiday selling season and delay its launch in Europe until March.

Sony’s production problems with the PlayStation 3 could be a big boost for rivals Nintendo and Microsoft, but they could create big headaches for video game publishers such as Electronic Arts that have been counting on healthy sales of new software this holiday.

"Sony didn’t have their ducks in a row this time,” said Michael Pachter, an analyst at Wedbush Morgan. ""It hurts their image with investors and consumers. I think Euorpean consumers will be rightfully angry.”

————————-

FULL STORY:  Sony to delay PS3 launch in Europe until March
http://blogs.mercurynews.com/aei/2006/09/sony_delay_reac.html

 

(Thanks to Dave Delgado for the forward.)


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