X360 Red Lines Broke My Heart

I was always confident my year old Xbox 360 unit won’t succumb to the infamous 3RL. Unfortunately, a failed a hardware would always be a failed hardware. Yesterday, I experienced random red lines on my Dell LCD display while having a playthrough of Assassin’s Creed. I assumed it could probably be the disc or loose VGA connection, checked the connection and the disc for scratches -- all was fine.

nerve-wracking....

Best option was to restart the unit. Everything was great but after a few moments the same issue occurred.

ah... beautiful... sniff...

damn it...

Being the optimist that I am, retightened the VGA cable and restarted. Everything was running smoothly, no red lines for nearly half an hour so decided to punch in the disc and ignore the incident and hoped the red lines would just pass into oblivion - and at the same time drilling to my head it’s merely a minor defect that happens to every Xbox owner and most importantly, it doesn’t recur. Regrettably, after a few moments of jumping around with Altair, it happened again.

"And, when he shall die, Take him and cut him out in little stars, And he will make the face of Heaven so fine That all the world will be in love with night And pay no worship to the garish sun." - William Shakespeare


So I turned off the unit, was at the brink of a ‘teary-eyed state’ and turned on the system, the worst of my fears flashed before my very eyes... no display at all. Audio worked, everything else worked, but no display. I put down the controller, sat on my chair, and grieved for what has just transpired. (Note: I didn’t cry)

video

A heart wrenching experience for me. I’m seriously considering a PS3 purchase on christmas, but this was hard earned cash. Painful.


Gears of Failure?

Just read through a gaming piece regarding the possible demise of Epic’s Gears of War 2 slated for release round the 4th quarter of this year. I completely disagree. For those interested on the piece, heres the link: Why Gears of War 2 May Not Reign Supreme

The author of this piece, aptly named Admin argues that Epic Games could possibly fail in delivering an up to par product as to what they brought in to the market back in 2006 with the first iteration of Gears of War. For 3 reasons: new found media pressure, constricted time for development which in this case is 2 years plus they’ve been focused on Unreal Tournament 3 for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC, and lastly, the lack of Epic Games to ‘WOW’ gamers this time.

Lets argue this point by point, first, on the new found media pressure. Ever since Unreal engine came out and their first game featuring the engine, Epic Games has been in the media spotlight since. Media pressure has been handled quite smoothly throughout the years. And we can’t disregard on how effortless they handled the press for Gears of War after they’re E3 showing back in ‘06. I have no doubt that Epic Games and its staff can handle the media mayhem and the hype surrounding its upcoming title.

Second, on the argument that Epic Games lack development time to weave a ‘quality’ sequel. We must understand that the middleware is ready, some significant updates are being applied to it, the gaming universe has been laid out, which means the creative process is most likely done, just some additions here and there and a more cohesive and deep plot as compared to the first title. Moreover, its true that they’ve been working on Unreal Tournament 3 on a multi platform approach but haven’t you heard of ‘parallel development?’

There are different phases game development goes through, a development cycle occurs. Not exactly sure what they are, its possibly similar to a software development cycle -- It has its planning and design stage, implementation stage, and the like. Its best to assume that while a team was hard at work with Unreal Tournament 3, the design team for Gears of War 2 were already focused on creating a more compelling plot and level design for the sequel -- different development phases for both titles occurring simultaneously.


"me want to eat Cliffy B.!!!"

And third, the ‘WOW’ factor. The author does make a point, but we can’t disregard the significant updates being made for the Unreal Engine 3, now being dubbed as Unreal Engine 3.5 -- it can render nearly a hundred or so characters on a single screen. For the first game, we had to go through less than 20 Locusts for each battle scenario or area. But what if, multiply that to 5 times more and we got tons of huge battles ahead of us for the sequel. If gamers felt the intensity and grittiness of having to massacre 10 to 20 of these Locusts... slaughtering a 100 or a figure near that would clearly be mind blowing. And fortunately for us, there are more updates being done to the engine that would have a significant role on gameplay.

I enjoyed the first Gears of War and I strongly believe in the ability of Cliffy B. (Creative Director of GoW) and his team to satisfy their consumers who have fallen in love with the world they've created. I can’t wait to discover more about Marcus Fenix and his team on a more personal level and of course a macro-perspective on the whole Locusts versus Humans conundrum. Rev up those chainsaws!


Racial Sensitivity

Racism is a societal norm. It has been part of human social interaction since, ever-existent amongst our father’s father’s fathers. The goal of each race so it seems, as proven through our morbid and sadistic history as a species, is to out do the other, survival of the fittest, to prove who’s the powerful, the ruling, the chosen race. Even the most famous book in history, respected and viewed as the most sacred literary masterpiece by more than a billion people, The Bible -- dwells in this racial discriminatory act, it openly and aggressively promotes the idea of a chosen, preferred race - The Israelites.

Since it’s so obviously apparent that the stigma of racism is consistently fresh in the minds of the world’s populace why are there such extreme backlashes if a certain race becomes a subject of derogatory remarks, as if experts failed to predict on how sensitive human emotions have turned out the past couple of centuries.


For the past few weeks, strong opinions and harsh words have been given to Resident Evil 5’s gameplay footage. Capcom recently released an updated gameplay footage of their upcoming survival horror blockbuster franchise and it drew up tons of reactions online and groups concerned about the content. The protagonist, Chris Redfield is seen in the video shooting and kicking the day lights out of Africans = Black.

Should we be bothered by this? Nobody complained when hispanics were the subject of killing in Resident Evil 4, why then such a reaction from the online community? Since its merely a light form of racism, its ever-existent, why bother, its just a videogame, so what?

We as human beings have evolved through time. True, corruption is widespread in every form of government, in some corner of the world, savage and barbaric acts are still rampant. What I’d like to focus on, are the developed, civilized societies that have been formed for the past century or so amongst the majority of the world’s nations. Equality and freedom from oppression have been set in motion -- we are all trying to attain that, through our workplace, home, and the like.

It is the responsibility of this ‘evolved’ society to safeguard the maturity it has reached. A lot of people were offended by this game’s setting - due to blacks being synonymous to victims of slavery and hurtful racism from Americans and Europeans - to see a white male having random trigger happy moments and indulging himself in mass executions of native Africans, it hurls back the painful memories of racism to those affected.

Could it be we humans are internally sensitive, but when external sensitivity is due, we are incapable to offer such sensitivity for which we so desire?

Racism is here to say. But to let it roam freely through mass media and various forms of entertainment -- this must be abated.



Northern Shores

My goodness, its been a hectic although enriching week, just came back from Pagudpod beach (Boracay of the North) with friends -- completely in no relation to gaming but we did conduct some intensely competitive Ultimate Frisbee sessions. Easily one of the most exhausting and draining beach sport there is, hardly rewarding really. Just like how I view soccer and football, well, both require physical contact in some form or another, the mentioned beach sport doesn’t, in fact, it’s forbidden. Lame.

The beach was great on that Sunday afternoon, the sun was riding high, if only I had a handheld system with me, perhaps a bit of God of War Chain of Olympus wouldn’t hurt while the waves pounded the fantastic northern shoreline.


Wii360

Since the release of Nintendo’s Wii, game analysts and the competition have been in awe and rattled on how much consumers welcomed such a device in the market -- there were countless criticisms regarding the system’s novelty and measly hardware.


However, it turned out to be the anti-thesis of a failed console, the technology was disruptive -- it disrupted the very approach of creating a videogame system, that is to make it beefier and faster. Wii may be more powerful than the Gamecube but nowhere compared to the leaps and bounds of the graphical capabilities Xbox 360 and PS3 have. What it has going is the innovative control pad invented and developed hand in hand by Nintendo engineers and the creative genius/gaming god - Shigeru Miyamoto.

It’s the Wii’s soon to be third christmas and nothing has changed within the industry. Consumers are snapping up the system, demand has been so high that recurring hardware shortage has currently been the only thorn on Nintendo to completely rule this generation. They are number 1 worldwide. Since they are the leader - number 2 has been studying the approach to casual gaming which Nintendo has so far milked out billions of revenue.

Microsoft is developing a 360 version of a Wii control pad, thats right, with all the functionality of a Wii mote and then some. It assigned Rare to develop the controller that would go head to head with the Wii this holiday season. Expect an announcement this coming E3 or some other convention through the third quarter if all goes to plan, according to MTV Multiplayer Blog, Rare hasn’t been meeting its deadlines -- since when did they?

Now, how competitive would this type of peripheral be for MS? Very competitive. MS can pull this through, the foundation has been laid. The Arcade SKU is cheaper than the Wii in Europe plus a US price cut is looming on the horizon to reinvigorate the market since the core Xbox audience is nearly saturated. With heavy marketing and branding, Nintendo could lose market share within the casual gaming space. The sole impediment for MS is if Sony has a Wii-like controller of their own. Sixaxis is dead and Dualshock 3 is in, but that doesn’t mean Sony would let the Xbox camp enjoy a soft market barrier into the casual market.

Although millions of this peripheral could be sold, the best bet Microsoft has is to go all out on a PR offensive. Rebrand the Xbox from its high failure rate stats and it wouldn’t hurt for the Redmond giant on re-launching the Xbox 360 in a new smaller and sexier enclosure such as Sony’s past iterations for the Playstation systems.


Acquisition Happy

It all started when EGM published an assumptive rumor stating Microsoft’s intentions of acquiring one of the videogames most coveted development houses -- Capcom, even before the news of Microsoft’s acquisition of Rare came about. Not only will MS have the exclusive rights to franchises such as Onimusha, Megaman, Street Fighter and Resident Evil but also have a respectful foothold on the Japanese software market.

The rumor never died, hitherto, numerous forums discuss the possibilities and somewhat an Xbox fanboy’s wet dream of having Capcom on the Redmond giant’s side. Personally, MS should pursue such a deal, it would benefit them on a financial standpoint though initial costs for acquisition would be high and the question for allocation of cash reserves is questionable due to the planned acquisition of Yahoo!.

It’s estimated that Capcom’s market value stands at nearly 2.5 billion dollars. I strongly believe that in able to survive within the gaming industry, Microsoft has to enrich, diversify, and strengthen its first party developers. They’ve lost Bungie and second party partnerships -- Bioware and Bizarre, both snatched up by bigger gaming publishers. And the current lineup of first party developers (Lionhead, Rare, etc.) is insufficient to sustain a consistent release of triple A titles year after year.

Since 2008 started, Xbox 360 has been cannon fodder for failure rates and a weak software lineup. To re-inject interest and hype for the system, I propose a 6 Billion dollar ‘Content Expansion Plan’. To commit such an amount from Microsoft’s coffers would be a gargantuan task for Xbox executives, but if they do seriously consider on winning the content front, this would simply be one of the best options. 5 Billion goes into acquiring two development houses - determinately Capcom and Epic Games. Both have seen growing partnerships with MS and are highly profitable but affordable within the 5 Billion dollar range.

Epic rakes in profits from licensing its propriety engine - Unreal Engine 3 to countless developers and publishers throughout the industry. Moreover, it owns the Gears of War and Unreal Tournament IP. As for the remaining Billion, it would be utilized in acquiring excessive amount of exclusives from third party developers may it be downloadable content or full fledged games.

It’s time Microsoft sees the value these companies would bring to their overall strategy in taking the lead within the gaming industry.

It’s all about content. Content is king.


Rebuttals

Here’s another round of anti-videogames remarks from a US Democrat presidential nominee to a NY Times writer...

“We’re going to have to parent better, and turn off the television set, and put the video games away, and instill a sense of excellence in our children, and that’s going to take some time.”

- Barack Obama

‘This is not because of anything wrong or bad about video games or heroin or teenage parents. It’s not even because of game-induced homicide or web-grooming of little girls by perverts - serious problems, but statistically low-risk. It’s because, compared with everything else on offer in a kid’s life, video games and heroin and teenage pregnancy are a colossal waste of time.’

- from NY Times Byron Review

On Obama:

You’re 46, you may seem the younger choice among the US presidential lineup but you sure do have the same aging vantage point on what video games is to the populace. Isn’t it through televisions, you were propelled from an unknown US senator to becoming the next US President? You’ve spent millions on donors cash to air your campaigns ads -- at least pay some respect to the medium that brought you to where you are.

What assurances are there that when a child turns off the videogame systems will he/she excel in life? There are numerous professionals who are earning top dollar developing games. Video games is an art, an expression, where excellence can stem from numerous facets. Don’t undermine the potential of this medium to create and inspire a whole new generation of creatives and artists.

To say that video games leads to failure and mediocrity is a pathetic narrow perspective that is commonly associated to individuals who haven't experienced and witnessed the rich emotions, memories attached to gaming.

On the Byron Review:

Great sarcasm. You had the mercy to state that videogames is neither ‘wrong' nor 'bad’ although as if to confuse the readers, through the rest of the paragraph, lambast the hobby by comparing it to highly proven and factual activities that deter humans from success and happiness.

Oh, so you think that ‘game-induced homicide or web-grooming of little girls’ ain’t ‘wrong or bad’? Why sarcastically characterize videogames as something neutral from the start then sarcastically contradict it throughout? Absurd.

At least now readers know how narrowly minded you are, it’s quite clear to any level headed individual that video games compared to Heroin and Teen pregnancy is entirely in a different aspect on its effects to people. Your arguments are essentially flawed, just shut up, and try to understand this form of entertainment before you publish another misinformed and one track minded editorial.