Thursday, January 31, 2008

Its been a long week

Hudson Hawk would know what to do - I'm sitting here watching one of the most underrated movies ever, Hudson Hawk (yes, I'm serious), taking a break from a ridiculously exhausting week. On Monday I came back from a 3-day skiing weekend, on Tuesday I wrote a piece for GamePro and finally arranged for a February tour of the SOE Denver office (Eli, you've got to go with). On Wednesday I interviewed Adam Sessler (great guy and as soon as I transcribe the interview, it'll be posted here first). Oh yeah, I also bought a PS3...for the second time (long story, tell you all about it later). That's right, its tough being me. But this week I also lost an OXM writing assignment because my stupid debug wouldn't work properly. Damn!
So what's the purpose of this post? So I can bitch and moan is part of it, but also so I can tell you about the great stuff I have coming up for the blog - The Sessler interview, pics and a story from the SOE tour, the long sordid tale of the PS3 and I kissing and making up, and of course, the first ever As the Gaming World Turns Beerfest. Despite being a slow time for new releases, its shaping up to be a solid spring.


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Are gamers getting price gouged?

Rollin' in the dough - When I received the email from Microsoft Monday morning that Rez HD and Chessmaster Live were going to be available to download on Xbox Live Arcade this Wednesday, I was stoked. Until I saw the price. If I want both games, which I do, I'm going to have to drop 1600 Microsoft Points...$20?!? $20?!? That's 4 movie tickets at the cheap theater. That's 10 downloads of The Office from iTunes. That's an eighth of a tank of gas! To quote my inner Jerry Seinfeld, what's the deal with these $10 games on XBLA?
I get the idea that we live in a free market society and items only get sold for what people are willing to pay, but when will MS realize that they'd actually make more money selling more games for $5 than fewer games for $10. Not only would more games get sold, but $5 games and frequent free offerings (given out of good will, not guilt) would do nothing but help the image of a company that's sometimes viewed as a little cold.
But its not just Microsoft that's sticking it to us. Between microtransactions and the $10 bump in next-gen games (which doesn't seem to be going anywhere anytime soon) gamers wallets are getting consistently emptied. Since we're being so generous with our money, gaming companies should show some gratitude and show us some love. Free gamer pics, classic arcade titles, multiplayer map packs, t-shirts...what would it hurt?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

I love the 80's

Girl can't help it - Okay, that's not a girl. That's former Journey frontman Steve Perry, the lead singer of the real Journey. Not that crappy version of the band that goes around stealing people's money with some guy who sounds an awful lot like Steve Perry. Or maybe its a picture of my sister-in-law, they have the exact same haircut and look quite similar.
Steve-O's photo is gracing the blog because Journey, along with Boston and Foreigner, are part of the Classic Rock Track Pack that's available to download for Guitar Hero III starting today. The songs included are Boston's "Peace of Mind," Foreigners "Juke Box Hero" and Journey's "Any Way You Want It." Normally I'd be pretty stoked about this download as I'm a fan of all three bands (my son and I saw Foreigner with Styx and Def Lepard at a concert last summer) but because the tracks are on GHIII and not the far superior Rock Band, I'll pass.
Are you sure you don't mean March? - In late December I wrote a post on the possibility of a March release date for Grand Theft Auto IV. I based this conclusion on hours of research and hundreds on interviews with Rockstar employees. Or maybe I just based that hypothesis on a GTA IV reservation card I saw at Target that had the date 3/2008 on it, I don't remember. Either way, my data was incorrect. Just to make my blog look inaccurate (not that hard to do) and to torture me, Rockstar head Sam Houser officially pushed the release date back to April 29th. Damn! I'd like to personally thank Sony for making me wait longer than I should for the next installment of my all-time favorite series.
Updated 1/27/08 - Jordache vs. Calvin Klein, you decide. If you're confused, check the comments.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Get points instead of Undertow?

Call India toll free! - While checking out Kotaku today I noticed this post about the recent Undertow freebie download. If you've already paid for the game, you have a half way decent chance of calling Microsoft (1-800-4MYXBOX) and asking if you can get the 800 points instead. As with any call center number you dial, your success rate is directly proportional to the kind of person who answers and how well they speak English.
But what about angry gamers who didn't buy Undertow and would rather have the points instead? I guess if you're willing to try and sweet talk someone from a foreign country who's probably paid 25 cents an hour and could easily pretend not to understand a word you're saying and will "accidentally" hang up on you when you start getting feisty, its worth the $10 you'd get for the effort. And if that's the case, you're probably like that kid in Better Off Dead who relentlessly harasses John Cusack about the $2 he owed him for his newspaper deliveries. Just step away from the phone and take the free download.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Undertow for Free

How about some MS points instead? - This morning I received an email from MS letting it be known that Undertow will be available for free this Wednesday (Jan 23). The free download is available starting midnight MST and ending at 10pm MST this Sunday (Jan 27). Naturally the email didn't say a word about this being a courtesy download for the problems gamers have had with Xbox Live, but you know it is. While I'm all for a free game and all, how about a little choice for my trouble, or even better, free points to let me get what I want? What about all those people who have already downloaded Undertow? Sure I don't know any of them but if I was one, I'd be ticked.
Speaking of XBLA - Microsoft also announced awards for Xbox Live Arcade games. Here's the pertinent info from the email I received because I'm too lazy to paraphrase.
As a way to recognize the teams of talented developers who have together created over 112 games for Xbox LIVE Arcade, Microsoft will announce awards for the top XBLA games of 2007 later this year, with several award categories decided by the community. Fans of Xbox LIVE Arcade are invited to cast their votes for the first-ever Xbox LIVE Arcade Awards – 2007 by voting at Voting begins Tuesday, January 22 at 2:00 a.m. PST (10:00 GMT) and runs through Wednesday, January 30 at 11:59 p.m. PST (07:59 GMT).
The finalists in each award category were selected by a panel of consumer and video game industry journalists, and the winners will be determined by popular vote. Microsoft will announce the winners of the inaugural Xbox LIVE Arcade Awards – 2007 at the Game Developer Conference in February.
Below is the list of award categories that will be open for public voting:
- Best Overall Arcade Game
- Best Classic Game
- Best Original Game
- Best Family Friendly Game
- Best Competitive Multiplayer Game
- Best Cooperative Multiplayer Game
Other award categories include the following:
- Best selling game
- Most played game
- Highest rated game
- Staff choice


Thursday, January 17, 2008

Getting called up to The Show

But am I Nuke LaLoosh or Crash Davis? - For the past two weeks I've been staring at my mailbox like Ralphie Parker waiting for his decoder ring. Why? Because my first piece in a nationally published gaming magazine was coming out this month. So when I opened my mailbox today to find my long awaited copy of Official Xbox Magazine (this month's issue is pictured above) I almost tripped over myself getting inside the house to open it up. Sure my contribution is only slightly over 100 words but I'm in it. Combine this with the recent emails I received from editors at GamePro wanting me to do some freelance work for them and I'm happy as hell.
To celebrate I'm giving away a copy of Harvey Birdman Attorney at Law (you can choose from PS2, Wii or PSP formats) to the first person who sends me an email with the page number where my little Tiger Woods '08 DC blurb sits.
Beerfest - All this talk of a beerfest in the comments section recently has been making me awfully thirsty. I'm out of town next weekend and the Super Bowl is after that but I think the following weekend should be the first As the Gaming World Turns Beertacular. I'm not sure where this will be held or what exactly will take place so if you have any suggestions, let 'em rip.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

NFL Tour Achievement Points

Rack up the points - Below are a list of the Achievements for NFL Tour and MX vs ATV Untamed (that title just rolls of the tongue doesn't it). Why did I post the points for these games? Because some of us need our points fix okay!?! So just back off!!!
NFL Tour
1. Homecourt - Win a game of Smash & Dash (1-player, Standard rules, Veteran or harder) 50 points
2. Boogie - Win Smash & Dash with over 50% possession (1-player, Standard rules, Veteran or harder) 100 points
3. Army of Two - Win a game of Redzone Rush (1-player, Standard rules, Veteran or harder) 50 points
4. Icon - Score on every possession in Redzone Rush (1-player, Standard rules, Veteran or harder) 100 points
5. Airborne - Wall Hurdle to score a TD (Exhibition, 1-player, Standard rules, Veteran or harder) 25 points
6. Slippery - Hit 3 reversals, same player, same play (Exhibition, 1-player, Standard rules, Veteran or harder) 50 points
7. Need for Speed - Get a 40+ yd TD, no turbo or wall hurdles (Exhibition, 1-player, Standard rules, Veteran or harder) 50 points
8. Paradise - Get a TD on a play longer than 30 seconds (Exhibition, 1-player, Standard rules, Veteran or harder) 50 points
9. Playground - Score 56 points (Exhibition, 1-player, Standard rules, Veteran or harder) 50 points
10. Skate Through - Shutout a team on All Star or Legend (Exhibition, 1-player, Standard rules) 100 points
11. Tour Superstar - Complete Tour Mode 150 points
12. Coast to Coast - Hurdle off both walls for a TD (Exhibition, 1-player, Standard rules, Veteran or harder) 100 points
13. Secret achievement - (Sorry, can't find it anywhere) 100 points
14. Really? - Same play four times in a row? (Exhibition, 1-player, Standard rules, Veteran or harder) 25 points
MX vs ATV Untamed
1. MX MINI - Win the "Fast 50s Minimoto Series" in X-Cross Tournament. 10 points
2. MX LITE -Win the "MotoXXX Freestyle Series" in X-Cross Tournament driving an MX LITE. 10 points
3. MX - Win the "Kicker Supercross Series" in X-Cross Tournament driving an MX. 10 points
4. ATV - Win the "FMF National Series" in X-Cross Tournament driving an ATV. 10 points
5. MONSTER TRUCK - Win the "M2R Opencross Series" in X-Cross Tournament. 10 points
6. TROPHY TRUCK - Win the "DWT Opencross Series" in X-Cross Tournament. 10 points
7. SAND RAIL - Win the "UNI Opencross Series" in X-Cross Tournament. 10 points
8. OFFROAD BUGGY - Win the "PEP Opencross Series" in X-Cross Tournament. 10 points
9. ORV SPORT - Win the "Oakley Opencross Series" in X-Cross Tournament. 10 points
10. OFFROAD GOLF CART - Obtain an Offroad Golf Cart as a reward in the Event Series or X-Cross Tournament. 10 points
11. Sprocket Collection 1 - Collect all Free Ride Sprockets in Clearwater. 10 points
12. Sprocket Collection 2 - Collect all Free Ride Sprockets in Crawley Creek. 10 points
13. Sprocket Collection 3 - Collect all Free Ride Sprockets in Del Sol. 10 points
14. Sprocket Collection 4 - Collect all Free Ride Sprockets in Copper Valley. 10 points
15. Sprocket Collection 5 - Collect all Free Ride Sprockets in Greenfield. 10 points
16. Sprocket Collection 6 - Collect all Free Ride Sprockets in Kittery Point. 10 points
17. Sprocket Collection 7 - Collect all Free Ride Sprockets in Lakewood. 10 points
18. Sprocket Collection 8 - Collect all Free Ride Sprockets in Pine Lakes. 10 points
19. Sprocket Collection 9 - Collect all Free Ride Sprockets in Split Oak. 10 points
20. Sprocket Collection 10 - Collect all Free Ride Sprockets in Sutherlin Valley. 10 points
21. Longest Jump - Successfully land a Longest Jump record of 300 ft. 10 points
22. Wheelie King - Successfully perform a 500 point wheelie. 5 points
23. Stoppie King- Successfully perform a 250 point stoppie. 5 points
24. Stunt Man - Successfully perform a 5x stunt combination. 10 points
25. Golden Boy - Win a Gold Medal in each Event Series. 50 points
26. Iron-man Champion - Win the X-Cross Tournament Pentathlon Trophy. 100 points
27. Globetrotter - Compete in all available Game locations. 25 points
28. Hall of Famer - Set 5 new records. 50 points
29. Speedworld - Achieve one of the top 5 Best Lap Record for each race course. 200 points
30. Shop-a-holic - Unlock or purchase all items in MX vs. ATV: Untamed. 100 points
31. Wreck-less - Complete one Freestyle event without wrecking. 25 points
32. Connected - Win 5 races on-line. 10 points
33. Winner's Choice - Obtain the Winner's Choice option 3 times in a row while playing on-line. 25 points
34. Explorer - Enter an on-line Free Ride location with at least one other player. 5 points
35. Clean Freak - Clean your vehicle of mud and dirt by riding through water. 0 points
36. Kudos - Watch the credits till the end. 0 points
37. Daredevil - Successfully perform a 8x stunt combination. 25 points
38. Fearless - Successfully perform a 10x stunt combination. 50 points
39. Hole Shot- Win a total of 10 Hole Shot awards during any Exhibition Supercross Event. 50 points
40. ATV "Triple Threat" - Win a Gold Medal with the ATV in a National, Supercross and Freestyle event series. 25 points
41. MX "Triple Threat" - Win a Gold Medal with the MX in a National, Supercross and Freestyle event series. 25 points
42. Hat Trick - Score three personal goals in a row within the same period in Hockey. 5 points

Friday, January 11, 2008

Ready for the Old Spice Challenge?

What's the challenge, listening to their music? - Thankfully this post has nothing to do with the Spice Girls but before I get going, take a look at Posh on the far left here. That boob job borders on the hysterical. I guess Becks likes to play with soccer balls in the bedroom as well as on the pitch. Thank you! I'll be here all week! Try the veal, its great.
The Old Spice Challenge I'm referring to is the Xbox 360 Achievement Point mongering one. You may remember the Microsoft sponsored challenge about a year ago. Rewards like t-shirts, free XBLA downloads, and gamer pics were given out if you earned a certain amount of Achievement Points in a certain amount of time. If you recall from my posts about it last year, the challenge fueled my already obsessive drive to earn points, leaving me a sleepless wreck and getting me as close as I'll ever get to being Tyrone Biggums. Good news, the Old Spice Challenge has returned, but in a different form.
Microsoft is sitting this one out (Old Spice is teaming up with, which I absolutely love and highly recommend to any 360 owner) but prizes are still around and better yet, the competition is all user defined. Its all in gamers hands. There are 20 different prize packages in different tiers, based on the length of the competition and number of teams involved. Below is a list of the rewards.
Tier 1 · Requirements: 7 day challenge, 5 gamers minimum · $20 Amazon gift card · 1,600 Xbox Live Microsoft Points · $20 Best Buy gift card
Tier 2 · Requirements: 14 day challenge, 10 gamers minimum · $50 Best Buy gift card · 4,000 Xbox Live Microsoft Points · Xbox Live Gold Membership (1 year)
Tier 3 · Requirements: 30 day challenge, 15 gamers minimum · $100 Best Buy gift card · 8,000 Xbox Live Microsoft Points · 6 month GameFly subscription
Tier 4 · Requirements: 30 day challenge, 20 gamers minimum · Year long GameFly subscription · Xbox 360 HD DVD Player
If you're a big point hog head to to create a challenge or join one. This is a good opportunity to prove how much of a stud you are to your friends and rub their faces in it. I'd be willing to take on any readers in a challenge but lets be honest, I'd destroy you all and I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings (read: I don't want to turn into Tyrone Biggums again, my wife just might divorce me this time).

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Hulk Smash!

Lame Hulk or Badass Hulk? - As a comic nerd and Marvel fan I was bummed by the last Hulk flick, which was a complete bust. Eric Bana was a boring Bruce Banner, Nick Nolte was over the top to the point of distraction and Jennifer Connelly officially reached "Didn't she used to be hot?" status. The only way anyone thinks this movie is any good is if you've watched it over and over on cable the past couple of years and talked yourself into thinking it was an okay film, kind of like what my brother and I did with Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. I do have high hopes for the new Hulk film, this time starring Ed Norton and Liv Tyler.
The Hulk games that accompanied the last film were a bit of a disappointment as well so SEGA, taking over for VU and Radical, has a good chance of making an enjoyable title this time around (based on its history gamers are sure to have low expectations). Above is the promotional box artwork for the multi-platform release due out sometime close to the same time as the movie, which is tentatively scheduled for mid-June this year. I know its sexy and a visual feast, the very definition of eye candy, but don't let all of that color and detail distract you from what's really important. Just hope the new movie and game treat The Hulk with the respect he deserves.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

HD DVD headed to laserdisc Heaven

Aw, come on! - The hits keep coming for the HD DVD as rumors of Paramount flipping over to Blu-ray open up the strong possibility that the final nail is in its coffin. Check out this post that was on Yahoo! earlier today.
How many "death blows" will it take for Blu-ray to finally win the format war against HD DVD? I've been hearing that phrase (and writing about it) since July 2007. Well here comes another one. Following in the footsteps of Warner Brothers' abandonment of the HD DVD format, reports are surfacing that Paramount is headed to Blu-ray as well. This is huge news not just because it would leave just one major studio (Universal, plus the mini-major DreamWorks) producing HD DVD content. It would mark the first time in the high-def war that a studio has abandoned one exclusive format and switched to another. Warner was producing both HD DVD and Blu-ray discs and merely dropped the HD DVD ones. Paramount will have to switch entirely to Blu-ray, which it has not been producing up to now. According to the Financial Times, Paramount has a clause in its contract with the HD DVD camp allowing it to switch to Blu-ray in the event that Warner was to do so. And exercising that clause is what's about to happen. It's also theorized that DreamWorks will follow Paramount, since the studios are closely tied together. Nothing's been announced yet, but this should be wrapped up in fairly short order. Stay tuned.
The lesson, as always, follow your own advice. I wrote a few months ago that it was too early to pick sides, and that's exactly what I did. At least I should soon be able to start a nice collection of HD DVD's because you know those bad boys will drop in value like rocks pretty soon. Then I'll horde them and in 10 years sell them on ebay for a ton of money. At least, that's what I hope.
But wait, there's more (added 10:48pm) - First caught this on Kotaku, but click here to see the original Reuters story about Microsoft considering Blu-ray support. Yes, that's right, even Bill Gates will turn his back on the HD DVD player if there's no money in it. In a way this makes perfect sense, MS has been passionately denying an HD DVD 360 and now we know why they wanted it as an add on in the first place. "Hey, if that whole HD DVD thing doesn't work out, we'll just come out with a Blu-ray add on instead." Way to cover your bases Microsoft. If MS does end up going with a Blu-ray add on, they damn well better give those of us shmucks who bought an HD DVD a great deal on it. I think a straight up trade would be fair.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Portal cheats, because everybody likes cake

What, no pie? - I'll admit it, I haven't given the Orange Box as much attention as it deserves but now that I've beaten Assassin's Creed its going to get plenty of play on my 360. I started out by messing around with Portal and its a blast, not only is it hilarious but it requires some brains, quite a change of pace from your average game. If you're having some trouble (which you probably will around level 13 or so), here are some cheat codes to help you out.
Down, B, A, B, Y, Down, B, A, B, Y - Create box
Up, Y(2), X(2), A(2), B(2), Up - Fire energy ball
Up, Y(2), B(2), A(2), X(2), Up - Fire rocket projectile
Up, Left, Down, Right, Up, Left, Down, Right, Y(2) - Portalgun ID 0
Up, Left, Down, Right, Up, Left, Down, Right, X(2) - Portalgun ID 1
Up, Left, Down, Right, Up, Left, Down, Right, A(2) - Portalgun ID 2
Up, Left, Down, Right, Up, Left, Down, Right, B(2) - Portalgun ID 3
Y, A, B, A, B, Y(2), A, Left, Right - Portal placement anywhere:
X, B, LB, RB, Left, Right, LB, RB, LT, RT - Upgrade Portalgun
LB, Up, RB, Up, LB, LB, Up, RB, RB, Up - Enables invincibility
Good news/bad news - Microsoft has had an up and down week. The good? Bill Gates jams with Slash at CES, Windows Vista has sold 100 million licenses, and 10 million subscribers are now on Xbox Live. The bad? Its HD DVD concept might just be toast. That's right, last month I bought a frickin' Betamax player, at least that's the way it looks now that Warner Bros. and sister company New Line have decided to go Blu-ray exclusive as of May of this year. The ironic thing is MGM, Disney, ABC are all coming to XBL with tons of downloadable content (which they're sure to make a bunch of money on) but none of them will support HD DVD's. If I was MS, why not force the hands of these companies or offer downloadable content on Xbox Live as an incentive to go with HD. Maybe it wouldn't have been enough to bring a major studio over but why not try? Unless MS comes out with a Blu-ray add on like its HD DVD add on, this whole HD DVD experiment has been a complete waste of money. Not just for Microsoft but for consumers as well. Obviously the new DVD format war wasn't going to last, these kinds of things never do, but I expected Bill Gates to put up more of a fight.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

In the year 2000...and 8

Happy New Year? - I just got back into town from a trip to Boston so I haven't had any of the issues with Xbox Live I've been hearing about (and while I'm a game geek I don't take my 360 with me on vacation), not that I had any issues the week before either. However, I guess quite a few gamers have and Microsoft has decided to take all the complaints seriously and do something to compensate people for the lack of service. While I'd rather be writing about my drunken New Year's, my first fantasy football championship or the Celtics/Rockets game I went to last night, an email I received from MS takes precedence. Below is the email sent out by Xbox Live GM Marc Whitten an hour ago.
Dear Xbox LIVE Members:
During this past holiday season you helped us break a number of Xbox LIVE records. This included our largest sign-up of new members to Xbox LIVE in our 5 year history and just yesterday you broke the record for the single biggest day of concurrent members ever on the service.
As a result of this massive increase in usage we know that some of you experienced intermittent Xbox LIVE issues over the holiday break. While the service was not completely offline at any given time, we are disappointed in our performance. I would like to take this moment to thank you each and every one of you for your patience and understanding as our team has worked around the clock to return the service to a stable state.
At the same time we would like to offer a token of our appreciation to all of you in celebration of record success for the service. And as a thank you for your loyalty during this holiday period, we will be offering all of our Xbox LIVE members around the world access to a full Xbox LIVE Arcade game that will be available to download free of charge. In the coming weeks we will be sharing the specific details of this offer with you. Thank you again for helping make Xbox LIVE everything that it is today!
Marc Whitten
General Manager, Xbox LIVE
A freedownload of an XBLA game is nice, especially since this wasn't an issue for me but personally I'd prefer some MS points, 800 would do the trick, to buy whatever I want. I'd hate to end up with something lame like Shrek-N-Roll or even worse, a game I already downloaded. Have any of You had a problem with the service? Is so, what was it and what do you think would be fair compensation? Let me know.