Thursday, March 29, 2007

XNA Portal Updated

Well I have recently been busy working one of my XNA projects. Though it isn't a game, it is a way to find information about XNA. A couple of months ago I launched XNAPortal.com to track RSS feeds about XNA, Microsoft's new game design tools as well as a way to track your own feeds.

I have been working on a great Community Links section for the site and finally went live with it yesterday. If you have an interest in XNA, go check out the site, it has some of the best RSS feeds for XNA all in one place plus a great link resource that is growing weekly.

Interested in XNA? Check out 15 Great XNA Tutorial Sites.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Microsoft Announces New Xbox Live Video Partners

Microsoft announced it has four new content providers and upgraded content from others.

Quote from Microsoft's press release: REDMOND, Wash. — March 27, 2007 — Xbox 360™ just keeps getting more entertaining. Microsoft Corp. today announced that TV series and movies from A&E Network, ADV Films, National Geographic and TotalVid.com will add to the more than 1,500 hours of downloadable entertainment content already available on Xbox LIVE® in the U.S.

Further capitalizing on the success it has seen with Xbox LIVE, one of the leading distributors of high-definition gaming and entertainment content in the living room, Paramount Pictures, for the first time on Xbox LIVE, will offer its feature films for download in high definition. Available titles will include "Braveheart," "Team America: World Police," "World Trade Center" and "South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut." Also, for the first time, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will be releasing its direct-to-video movies exclusively in high definition on Xbox LIVE simultaneous with their availability on DVD, starting with "Sublime" and later "Babylon 5: The Lost Tales."

"With more than 300 games expected by year’s end, an Xbox LIVE community of more than 6 million people and a growing catalogue of premium content from some of the biggest names in entertainment today, Xbox 360 is an incredible value," said Peter Moore, corporate vice president of the Interactive Entertainment Business in the Entertainment and Devices Division at Microsoft. "Adding partners and content like this helps reinforce the console's position as the center of connected entertainment in the living room."

Downloads on Xbox LIVE have grown in double-digits, month-over-month, with a 400 percent increase since the service began offering TV shows and movies late last year.

Xbox LIVE members have also enjoyed free entertainment content, which has been wildly successful. Comedy Central recently offered the first-ever high definition episode of the No. 1 show on its network, "South Park." "Good Times With Weapons," available for a limited time on Xbox LIVE, has been downloaded more than 380,000 times to date. Warner Bros. Home Entertainment offered promotional clips from the blockbuster hit movie "300" that have been downloaded more than 477,000 times.

While existing partners continue to increase the amount of content they offer, the list of total partners also continues to grow. The new partners announced today will bring an array of content to Xbox LIVE Marketplace. From a reality show about a bounty hunter named Dog or an action-heavy, retro-styled mecha series to a TV show about extreme biking in the mountains or a program detailing a war in the desert, there is something for everyone. Examples of television shows and feature films that will be coming to Xbox LIVE include these:

A&E Network. "Dog the Bounty Hunter," "King of Cars," "Gene Simmons Family Jewels," "Driving Force," and "Criss Angel Mindfreak"

ADV Films. Top offerings from the No. 1 producer-distributor of Japanese animation ("anime") outside Japan

National Geographic. The television series "Is It Real?" and "Taboo" as well as programs such as "21 Days to Baghdad" and "Air Force One"

TotalVid.com. A broad action-sports offering including extreme skiing and snowboarding, skateboarding, motocross, surfing and mountain biking

So, have you purchased any movies or TV programs from Xbox Live? I have a few I have downloaded and watched and I am always happy to have another convenient way to find and watch movies. Let's just hope they keep rolling out the HD content, SD is so last-gen ;)

Microsoft Finally Announces Xbox 360 Elite


Microsoft finally revealed the much rumored and anticipated Xbox 360 Elite.
Quote from the Press Release: REDMOND, Wash. — March 27, 2007 — Microsoft Corp. today announced the upcoming availability of Xbox 360™ Elite, a new model of the video game and entertainment system that will include a 120GB hard drive, a high-definition multimedia interface (HDMI) port, a high-definition cable, and a premium black finish for the console, wireless controller and Xbox LIVE® headset. Xbox 360 Elite has enough space for a library of Xbox LIVE Arcade games and thousands of songs, as well as downloadable high-definition TV shows and movies available on Xbox LIVE Marketplace. The new 120GB hard drive also will be sold as a stand-alone accessory to give current Xbox 360 owners greater choice and flexibility in their games and entertainment experience. Additional Xbox 360 Elite accessories, such as the black Xbox 360 Wireless Controller, Xbox 360 Play & Charge kit and the Xbox 360 rechargeable battery, will be available separately. The Xbox 360 Elite and its accessories are expected to begin arriving in U.S. stores on April 29.

"Today’s games and entertainment enthusiast has an insatiable appetite for digital high-definition content," said Peter Moore, corporate vice president for the Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft. "Xbox 360 Elite’s larger hard drive and premium accessories will allow our community to enjoy all that the next generation of entertainment has to offer."

Distinguished by its black finish and signature metallic detailing, Xbox 360 Elite will have an estimated retail price of $479.99 (U.S.) and will come packed with components and accessories for the ultimate high-definition entertainment experience:

Xbox 360 Elite console. The console is equipped with a premium black finish and three powerful core processors capable of producing the best in HD entertainment (up to 1080p), 16:9 cinematic aspect ratio, anti-aliasing for smooth textures, full surround sound, HDMI output and DVD playback with upscaling capabilities right out of the box.

Xbox 360 120GB hard drive. The 120GB detachable hard drive allows gamers to save their games and store television shows, movies, music, pictures, trailers, levels, demos and other content available from Xbox LIVE Marketplace.3 The hard drive is sold separately for an estimated retail price of $179.99 (U.S.).

Xbox 360 Wireless Controller (black). This award-winning, high-performance wireless controller, now in black, features the Xbox® Guide Button for quick, in-game access to friends and music. It has a range of up to 30 feet and a battery life of 30 hours on two AA batteries. It is sold separately for an estimated retail price of $49.99 (U.S.).

Xbox 360 headset (black). Now available in black, the headset lets gamers strategize or trade taunts while playing games and send voice messages to friends on Xbox LIVE.

Xbox 360 HDMI cable. New to Xbox 360, HDMI allows consumers to get HD video (up to 1080p) and multichannel surround sound, all from one cable.

Xbox LIVE Silver Membership. With this, gamers can chat with friends online, collect achievements and gamerscores, send and receive voice and text messages, and access Xbox LIVE Marketplace content such as game demos, HD movies and TV, as well as the best in downloadable games from Xbox LIVE Arcade.

One-month subscription to Xbox LIVE Gold. An Xbox LIVE Gold Membership provides a complete online entertainment experience. Those who subscribe to this premium service can engage in competitive online multiplayer matches, tailor their matchmaking via feedback and accomplishments, chat with more than one person at a time, and take advantage of unique privileges in the Xbox LIVE Marketplace and Xbox LIVE Arcade.

The following accessories for the Xbox 360 Elite console will only be sold separately:

Xbox 360 Play & Charge kit. Complete with a charging cable and a black rechargeable battery pack, the Xbox 360 Play & Charge kit allows gamers to recharge their Xbox 360 Wireless Controller without interrupting their gameplay. It is sold separately for an estimated retail price of $19.99 (U.S.).

Xbox 360 rechargeable battery (black). The rechargeable battery pack provides more than 25 hours of gameplay per charge. It is sold separately for an estimated retail price of $11.99 (U.S.).

Not only do we get an elite unit but they are also releasing elite (black) accessories in the form of a controller, headset, rechargeable battery and play and charge kit. Also of note is the price tag for the 120 gig HDD, $179.99 retail is definitely better than the rumored $200. Now I just have to convince the wife my Xbox 360 needs to be replaced with an Elite unit, anyone have any ideas?

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

YouTube Video Awards

I meant to post this yesterday but didn't get to it. YouTube has posted the winners in their first ever Video Awards for 2006. Here are all the winning entries for your viewing pleasure ;)

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

XeLL - Linux Loader Mod for the Xbox 360


Do you want to run Linux on your Xbox 360? Well combining XeLL (Xenon Linux Loader) and the Hypervisor Vulnerability to run Linux on the Xbox 360 is a reality.
Quote from Xbox-scene.com: "In order to run this current loader, you will need to execute the compiled version through serial cable, after booting a modified shader via the king kong disc (with a firmware modded dvd-rom), and you will need to compile your own linux kernel aswell. This is obviously for the more savvy of the xbox users, but keep in mind this is a very early release with limited support (samsung sata drivers are not supported yet, but hitachi confirmed working great)."
Of course the mod will only work if you have kernel 4532 or 4548 since it will not work with the patched 4552 kernel. If you're intimidated about doing everything yourself, there is some good news, it seems Felix Domke is working on a Linux live cd that will be easy to boot. If your looking for more information or want to keep up with the project Xbox-scene.com has a forum to discuss it.

Xbox 360 Back in Black?


Kotaku.com has an article up about the rumored Black Xbox 360. It seems Game Informer (GI) magazine claims the rumor is true and we will see the elusive black Xbox 360 soon. In the magazine article they list the consoles specs and Matt Helgeson over at GI emailed Kotaku.com to let them know it is not a rumor, the console is real and on it's way to a store near you.

Quote from the article: "This month's Game Informer says that a black Xbox 360 with larger 120GB hard drive, HDMI output and an HDMI cable will retail for approximately US $479. It does not include HD-DVD playback. A well-placed source at Microsoft tells GI that the reason is because the 'format's not proven.'"

So, what to say about this? Well being an early adopter I am kind of upset since it means to get HDMI I will have to buy a new console. Where is the love for the early adopters who helped put the Xbox 360 where it is today? Joystiq.com mentions the new 120 gig hard drive will retail for $200(!!), seems a bit expensive to me considering I can get storage for less than $1 a gig for most other things. If that is showing love, I would hate to see what it would cost otherwise. All the information points to a late April release, let's just hope there are no delays. I will definitely be getting a new hard drive, it is my biggest gripe with the current console but at that price I will have to wait a bit. Will you be upgrading to a new console, getting a new hard drive, or just continuing on with what you already have?

**UPDATE - Quote from engadget.com: "We've confirmed with trusted sources that the black Xbox 360 is indeed coming and will be dubbed the Xbox 360 Elite."

Creating Gaming Goodness

So, you have been playing with the idea of creating a game. Before you get started designing and coding the game, you should check out these tips by Jon Radoff over at Gamasutra.com.
Quote from the article, Five Prescriptions For Viral Games: "Games have the potential to be phenomenally viral—but the mistake that most game studios make is in thinking about it as purely a post-design job for the marketing department. In fact, making a game viral is something that needs to be thought of at the very outset of game design—it incorporates aspects of game design, marketing and player community. If virality isn’t “designed in” to the game, it is unlikely that any type of marketing program can add it later."
Jon discusses many things in the article about building your game around your users and viral marketing, players as contributors, using guilds or clans as a marketing element, and some other key viral marketing issues. The article ends in the culmination of five ways to help your players become viral marketers for your game by using these tips: Skinnable user-interfaces, Modifiable rule sets, Modifiable user interfaces, Level and scenario design, and In-game content [sic] creation. With these five variables designed into the game from the beginning, Jon says players become contributors and will work to help promote your game to the community. Just don't make the same public relation mistakes mentioned in the article from Gamesradar.com about the Top 7 PR Disasters and run your potential players off.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Jack Thompson Sued by Take Two

Well it seems the anti-videogame lawyer Jack Thompson has been sued by Take Two. In what I would call justice, Take Two's lawyers filed suit against Jack Thompson citing his public nuisance tactic violates Take Two’s First Amendment rights.
Quote from the article: In the wake of a recent legal threat by Miami attorney Jack Thompson, game publisher Take Two Interactive has launched a pre-emptive strike.

With Thompson threatening to file suit to block the release of Grand Theft Auto 4 and Manhunt 2, Take Two has petitioned the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida for relief.

I think this has been a long time coming and it is well deserved. It would be one thing if Jack had all of the facts before starting his crusade but this guy uses bogus studies and out right propaganda to mislead and confuse everyone, including himself, in my opinion. Anyhow, check out the full story over on GamePolitics.com.

Monday, March 12, 2007

MIT Game Research Project Needs Your Help


Ever wanted to be a part of a game development project? I know I have though truly I do not yet posses the skills. There is a way to get your name on a project as a designer without having the skills to be a designer. Jeff Orkin, the designer behind the AI in F.E.A.R, is looking for help on a project he is working on for the MIT Media Lab.
Quote from the site: "Contribute to the first collaboratively authored computer game and earn Game Designer credit!

The Restaurant Game is a research project at the MIT Media Lab that will algorithmically combine the gameplay experiences of thousands of players to create a new game. In a few months, we will apply machine learning algorithms to data collected through the multiplayer Restaurant Game, and produce a new single-player game that we will enter into the 2008 Independent Games Festival. Everyone who plays The Restaurant Game will be credited as a Game Designer. It's never been easier to earn Game Designer credentials!

All contributions are not equal, however. Designers will be ranked based on how well they play their assigned roles, and accomplish their objectives. There will be only one Lead Designer. Remaining credits will be divided into Game Designers and Assistant Game Designers, and within each category individuals will be ranked according to the quality of their performance(s). Quality will be determined computationally, based on a number of factors."

Click through to read the rest of his blog post, get the game, and play it through a few times. This is a way to get designer cred without having the skills needed to be a designer. Besides, you just might help create the next-gen AI system games will be using in the future and having your name on that as a designer or researcher would be awesome.

Interested in creating games? Check out 15 Great XNA Tutorial Sites

(via Game Tycoon)

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Sony Announces Home for the PS3


Well, Sony is trying to redeem the PS3. At the GDC today Sony announced their new 3D world for gaming.

Quote from Playstation.com: "Mar. 7, 2007
Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. Announces Ground-Breaking, Next-Generation 3D Online-User Community For PLAYSTATION®3 - "Home"
Free Download to Allow Broad User Interaction in Highly Detailed Community Environment; Opens Door to User-Created Content, Collaboration and Commerce

TOKYO and SAN FRANCISCO, Calif., March 7, 2007 – Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. (SCEI) today announced the unveiling of a first-of-its-kind 3D online user community service for the PLAYSTATION®3 (PS3™) computer entertainment system. The service, known as “Home,” will enable users to create their own avatar and explore a real-time virtual community, as if they are playing a detailed 3D game for PS3. The service will become available globally beginning in fall 2007.

Home will be demonstrated at the Game Developer’s Conference (GDC) in San Francisco, California on March 7 as a key element of SCEI Worldwide Studios’ President Phil Harrison’s keynote presentation titled "Game 3.0: Developing and Creating for the 3rd Age of Videogames."

Home is a real-time online 3D, networked community available on the PLAYSTATION®Network. It allows PS3 users to interact, communicate, join online games, shop, share private content and even build and show off their own personal spaces to others in real time. Home will be available as a free download from the PLAYSTATION®Store and will launch directly from XMB™ (XrossMediaBar) on PS3.

With an avatar uniquely customized according to each user’s preference, users can explore the 3D community that is Home – a sleek, modern environment featuring spacious common areas; custom spaces dedicated to specific games; and personal apartments. Each user is assigned an apartment in Home where they can invite others to join them as they show off their own style in an area they can personalize themselves with furniture, art and other items – even a different view from their windows. They can also show their personal video, pictures and other digital media content found on their PS3 hard drives in their apartments. Very rich interactive communication with others is achieved through built in text, audio and video chat, along with sophisticated emotional animations for each character.

Sharing continues in the "Hall of Fame," where users can display new 3D trophies that will be unlocked through in-game achievements, as well as real time score rankings in PS3 games.

"This is a significant step forward in the area of user community services and emergent entertainment experiences," said Izumi Kawanishi, Corporate Executive and CTO Software, SCEI. "While the 3D graphics demonstrate the power of PS3 and the PLAYSTATION Network, the most impressive feature in Home is the variety of ways in which multiple consumers, as well as our third-party partners, can experience the next generation of communication by interacting and sharing among each other. I feel strongly that this unique blend of community, user-generated content, collaboration and commerce will expand the future of computer entertainment."

Home will go into a closed beta test this spring with a full launch targeted for later this year. By having a broad range of business partners participate in Home, along with an expansive catalog of upcoming game software titles for PS3, SCEI will continue to enhance the new world of entertainment and vigorously promote PS3 as the next generation computer entertainment platform."
I have to say, it looks great and it's success depends on what you can actually do in the world, how much it will cost to customize things, how games interact with the world, and whether Sony makes the 3D Trophies mandatory for all games. After all, if I am going to show these things off, I would like them to be available from all the PS3 games that I play. Check out the video Sony released for Home below.


Monday, March 05, 2007

Microsoft Patched Hypervisor Mode Vulnerability


ZDnet is reporting Microsoft has issued a fix for the unsigned code execution in Hypervisor Mode vulnerability I posted about earlier. Microsoft reports they have already released the fix through Xbox Live and the fix will be coming in games available after Feb 20th.

Quote from the article: "Microsoft confirmed the issue on Friday. "Microsoft has worked with the party that reported this issue and has already distributed a fix across our distribution methods, both online and offline," a company representative said in an e-mailed statement.

The update was pushed out via Xbox Live, Microsoft's online gaming service. Any game coming out after February 20 will ship with the fix, which is also available for download on the Xbox Web site, the representative said.

However, Microsoft doesn't describe the Xbox update as a security fix. Instead, on its Web site it lists an "operating system update" for download, without stating what the update does."
So, go check out the article for more details but it looks like homebrew will have to wait for the masses as most have likely already had their 360s patched, I am willing to bet mine was patched. But I don't really desire a mod anymore as the Xbox 360 does everything I want it to through Xbox Live, the XP MCE extender, and the XNA Creators Club. I am hoping to get in on the IPTV offering coming soon and I do not think it would play nice with a mod. Do you desire a mod for the Xbox 360? If so, for what purpose?


Xbox 360 Live Arcade Size Limit Tripled, New XBLA Games Announced


At the Game Developers Conference (GDC) yesterday, Microsoft announced they have upped the limit on the size of Xbox Live Arcade games from 50 MB to 150 MB. Also announced is a new memory unit with 512 MB of storage, a price drop on the 64 MB storage units, and five new games coming to XBLA.

Quote from Microsoft PressPass: "SAN FRANCISCO — March 4, 2007 — At the Game Developers Conference (GDC) 2007, Microsoft Corp. today announced plans to launch a 512MB Memory Unit for the Xbox 360™ video game and entertainment system and an increase in the official size limit of Xbox LIVE® Arcade games from 50 MB to 150 MB.

The 512MB Memory Unit, available worldwide beginning April 3, 2007, will retail for an estimated retail price of $49.99 (U.S.) in North America.* The 512MB Memory Unit will be pre-loaded with the hit Xbox LIVE Arcade game "Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved" from developer Bizarre Creations Ltd. for a limited time. The original 64MB Memory Unit will simultaneously drop in price from $39.99 to $29.99 (ERP).*

Eight times larger than the 64MB Memory Unit, the 512MB Memory Unit will provide Xbox 360 owners with vastly expanded storage capabilities for gaming on the go, allowing gamers to easily store and transport their gamer profile and save game data, Xbox LIVE Arcade games and Xbox LIVE Marketplace content. The 512MB Memory Unit also gives Xbox 360 owners the ability to download exclusive content from any of the 45,000 Xbox 360 kiosks accessible at retail outlets worldwide.

Beginning today, the Xbox LIVE Arcade game size limit has increased from 50 MB to 150 MB, giving developers greater flexibility in game design and expanding the opportunity to add advanced game features while still keeping games compact.

"The new size limit offers developers increased flexibility and continued opportunities for innovative game development, while also ensuring that the millions of gamers on Xbox LIVE can continue to easily access, download and play all Xbox LIVE Arcade games on Xbox 360," said Chris Early, product unit manager for Xbox LIVE Arcade and Microsoft Casual Games at Microsoft. "If you take a look at current games like 'Roboblitz' and 'Small Arms,' it’s clear that our developers deliver amazing game experiences within a compact size limit. Our focus is on continuing to provide developers with an environment that allows for the creation of cost-efficient games and that nurtures an artistic and creative approach to game development."

"As we prepare to launch our first Xbox LIVE Arcade game, 'Boom Boom Rocket,' we’re able to see how dynamic and creative this platform is," said Chip Lange, vice president of Online Commerce for Electronic Arts Inc. (EA). "Having 'Wing Commander Arena' on Xbox LIVE Arcade allows us to take full advantage of the online play and bring to life a 16-player online arcade experience that delivers unparalleled arcade action."

This week at GDC, Microsoft will showcase forthcoming Xbox LIVE Arcade games from a cross-section of genres to the game development community:

• "Boom Boom Rocket" (EA and Bizarre Creations). This eagerly anticipated title from EA and Bizarre Creations is a hypnotic rhythm music game that will launch on Xbox LIVE Arcade this spring, priced at 800 Microsoft Points.

• "3D Ultra™ Minigolf Adventures" (Sierra Online and Wanako Games). The first outdoor sports game on Xbox LIVE Arcade, "3D Ultra Minigolf Adventures" lets players putt their way through 36 fun-filled holes on wild courses that include settings such as the Classic Carnival and the fantastical Outer Space.

• "Eets: Chowdown" (Klei Entertainment Inc.). A completely revamped version of the popular PC title, "Eets: Chowdown" offers a fun puzzle game experience unlike anything else available on Xbox LIVE Arcade, and features new items and 120 new levels.

• "Jetpac Refuelled" (Rare Ltd.). This is a new take on Rare/Ultimate's 1983 classic space blaster with enhanced graphics and Xbox LIVE features; players must clear a path through hordes of aliens to refuel their ship and amass a fortune over the course of more than 100 high-definition levels.

• "Pinball FX" (ZEN Studios Ltd.). "Pinball FX" offers an unparalleled pinball experience that will be fun for novices and experts alike, with realistic ball physics and stunning 3-D tables. "Pinball FX" also features real-time, head-to-head competition over Xbox LIVE and Xbox LIVE Vision camera support."

The new memory unit sounds great but I have to ask, when are we going to get a new hard drive? I don't know about you but my hard drive stays 3/4 full constantly and if I had more room I would keep some of the stuff I erase to make room for new XBLA games. A 20 GB drive is just not large enough for all that Xbox Live has to offer, specially since most movie downloads and game demos from the service are around a GB or more. Anyhow, the new memory units are a step in the right direction but I really don't want to have to store backups of game downloads on a bunch of memory units and the movies won't fit. I have to say, Microsoft seems to be dropping the ball here, I would be willing to go out on a limb here and say a 100 GB hard drive would definitely be a hot seller.