Posts tagged with xbox - page 2

Six great new features at Xbox.com

It’s been quite a while since xbox.com had a major update and today sees the launch of the new version with a clean new look and a whole host of new features that our teams here at LIVE engagement have been working on.

There are a whole great new set of features, my favorites are below… note that some of these are not available in non-LIVE locales.

Showing the xbox.com Avatar Editor in action

1. Avatars

Avatars are no longer just for the console but are escaping out onto the web and Windows Phone 7. With the new Avatar Editor you can create your own avatar or modify your existing one with a new easy-to-use interface from your browser.

The new Avatar Marketplace lets you search and find cool items for your avatar to wear and try them on right-there in the search pages. Head on in either by game or by lifestyle (brands) (click the little grid icon to see sub-brands such as your own university’s sports team!).

Because these guys are 3D animated they require Silverlight to be installed on your machine (the streaming videos on xbox.com also require it)

2. Marketplace search & results

A brand new search function means we get much better results than before, fuzzy matching and some dynamic filtering options that appear on the left-hand side letting you dig down into family friendly games (e.g. by game ratings).

Another cool use is to search for your favorite band and see what tracks and packs they have available. Then head to the game filter on the left to see only the ones that work with your game (e.g. Rock Band, Guitar Hero, Dance Central etc!)

When you visit the product detail page it now shows the images and streaming video inline (goodbye popups) as well as game add-ons showing which games they work with – useful for those music track packs!

3. Hand-picked promotions

Our content teams can now put together collections of themed hand-picked games, add-ons etc. that you can you filter, sort and explore from such as the new Kinect games (gone) or family-friendly fun (gone).

Gold and family gold members should keep an eye out for Gold exclusive offers or pricing!

4. Streamlined account creation

It’s now easier-than-ever to sign up for a free Xbox live account. Less questions, less steps and we’ll give you a randomly-generated gamertag you can change for free later when you’ve had chance to decide on the perfect name for your game-playing alter-ego. (We’ve seen some fun auto-generated ones during the development cycle including FirmJunk,

Comparing games on Xbox.com

5. Compare games with your friends

Okay, you could compare games before but the new UI is better and there’s a cool hidden feature that lets you compare against multiple people at the same time.

To do this head into My Xbox’s Game Center and choose a friend to compare with. Now, notice the url at the top of the page? Put a comma after it and another gamertag to see three… or another comma and a gamertag to see all four (the maximum) side-by-side.

6. Family center

New with this update is the Gold Family Pack (discontinued) which lets you get four gold subscriptions for $99 a year and lots of cool family features including play time reports, gifting points, allowances etc.

There are a whole host of extra features to be seen at xbox.com including mobile-to-web gaming, improved messaging, simplified UI etc. so go check them out!

[)amien

Taking on the role of a Guitar Hero

My friends and I have been very much enjoying Guitar Hero II on the Xbox 360 released earlier this month.

Despite reservations we’ve found ourselves jumping around performing a variety of silly stances, head bops and special moves whilst we attempt to strum ‘n chord in time to the tricky yet rewarding tracks available. Once we got a second guitar and hit the co-operative (one bass, one lead) and VS modes (turns each or both together) then out-performing the other player off-screen as well as on became an integral part of the game.

The line-up of songs is a little disappointing – when there is one “made famous” by a well known band then it tends to be one of their less famous song. I say “made famous” as the game clearly points it out they are, alas, cover versions bar a small handful.

Extra tracks are available on-line in packs of 3 for 500 MSP‘s each. These are again cover versions presumably due to the developer being unable to license the original audio mix to the songs so that they can cut out the guitar and bass lines when you fail to hit the right combination of colorful buttons and strum in time.

One pleasant surprise is that the guitar is just a normal USB device and can be used under Windows once the XInput common controller driver is installed or on the Mac using TattieBogle’s Xbox 360 OS X driver.

Why would you want to do that? To play the free cross-platform Guitar Hero clone Frets on Fire with all the fan-created songs of course!

Whilst there are plans for Guitar Hero: 80s Edition and Guitar Hero III the franchise is being handed over to Activision’s Neversoft team (Tony Hawks) as they bought the rights to the name when they snapped up Guitar Hero’s publisher Red Octane.

Original music-game-only developer Harmonix aren’t whining about it or heading to the courts, oh no. They are fighting back with Rock Band that throws drums and vocals on top of lead and bass guitars.

Fantastic!

[)amien

PS: Under no circumstances consider playing either game with a keyboard or a regular controller – the experience just isn’t the same.

Apple Macworld misfires

So the Apple TV and iPhone are finally announced and visually impressive with a very refined user interface – but some of the technical specifications aren’t quite there.

Apple TV

First off the Apple TV tops out at 720p high-def – what!? For less than Apple TV’s $299 I can get an Xbox 360 that does video & audio streaming at 1080p. Sure the 360 is missing HDMI and the slick software but it does play state of the art 3D on-line games.

Video scaled up to 720p by the device and then scaled up to 1080p by the TV is ugly.

iPhone

Apple’s iPhone is supposed to be state of the art but GSM really isn’t good enough. The world is moving on to 3G and UTMS is essential in the likes of Japan and important even in the USA. Other manufacturers do it, why isn’t Apple?

Secondly this is supposed to be state of the art Internet? Where the hell is instant messaging? You’ve got the UI with SMS but what if I want to talk to iChat, Google Talk, ICQ, MSN Messenger users? Zip.

Thirdly where is the SDK/API? Initial reports are indicating that it is a closed platform.

Hello?

Phone users seem to fall into one of two groups. People who want a voice phone with maybe a few extra features who won’t be prepared to pay $499 (plus the cost of a 2 year contract) and the second are existing smartphone users who often need to install additional applications and maybe even games. No mention of J2ME, no mention of an SDK. Nada.

It’s a slick product but for now is just functionally incomplete compared to what I have. Smartphone + iPod all the way.

Finally…

Jobs also thinks they are going for 1% of the massive mobile market share. Funny as ex-Apple’s Kawasaki puts this goal at number 11 of his Top Ten Lies of Entrepreneurs.

My god who decided to let the Cingular CEO on stage to read their corporate brochure.

[)amien

Damo Awards 2006*

Hardware: Xbox 360

The Xbox 360 enjoyed its second year and titles continue to impress although the count is still a little on the weak side. The addition of 1080p output was a great bonus but one many people (myself included) can’t take advantage of without a HDMI cable and nobody seems entirely sure if the 360 can pump out a digital video signal (I doubt it).

On-line support is blooming although can get very expensive if you want all the extras for games you’ve already paid for – come on guys we put £40 down gives a few freebies!

The PlayStation 3 on the other hand is vapor ware here still in Europe and was notably absent from Japan’s premier Sony Building in Tokyo. Online the only people raving about it are those that were raving about it before it came out…

Nintendo’s Wii has been getting a lot of press for being fun (if tiring and occasionally dangerous to your environment) but with the console itself is effectively a re-boxed GameCube which didn’t impress 5 years ago and the graphics look very dated on the couple of titles I’ve been able to see. With rumors of a more powerful unit doing the rounds and nothing stopping anyone producing a similar controller for the 360 or PS3 can Nintendo stay a contender or will they go the way of Sega?

With consoles traditionally being loss-leaders for the first few years perhaps Nintendo would have been better off producing controllers and software for the 360 and PS3.

Game: Oblivion

People often rave about how open-ended Grand Theft Auto is but lets be honest here – it isn’t a patch on Oblivion.

Like the aforementioned title you can follow the story or run off and do what you like. The difference here is that Oblivion is truly massive and is filled with interesting people, their stories and ultimately their sub-quests.

The graphics look absolutely gorgeous and show off the Xbox 360 very well – demands on the PC side are beyond what my desktop can deliver.

Surprise: Microsoft Office 2007

Microsoft took a brave step in reinventing the menu/tool bar that has been established for the last 10 years. Sure, the result isn’t a giant leap in terms of innovation but it is a joy to use and a big improvement over the older technology.

Importantly it shows a beacon of hope that there are people at Microsoft prepared to fundamentally change how people use their software for the better and not just deliver to developers (.NET, XML-HTTP).

Web site: YouTube

We were told repeatedly that this would be the year of high-definition yet despite large sales of HD ready equipment the content is still a bit thin on the ground (Sky HD, Xbox 360 and a smattering of HD titles). Sony hit another strike this year as another of their proprietary formats bombed – UMD video for the PSP – although sales of TV shows on Apple’s iTunes seem to indicate there is a market for tiny distinctly non-HD video.

The real winner on the video front has to be YouTube which goes on to show that whilst content is king there’s no reason you need to pay for it to be successful. Grainy, out of focus and copyright infringement seem the orders of the day but nobody cared – at least until a company worth suing brought them out (Google).

Communications: HTC

HTC phones and their branded variants have been popping up all over the web and in techies hands everywhere. Reviews are generally positive although I’m finding my TyTn sluggish in a couple of areas – something I hope the latest firmware will address.

Motorola meantime has been getting bad press over it’s Rokr variants.

Apple’s vaporware mobile phone continues to get insane coverage despite nobody having anything but speculation and rumors to go on. Cisco/LinkSys released an iPhone to which they own the trademark so I guess iChat Mobile is an option.

Web application: Google Reader

Google finally put it’s arse in gear and upgraded Google Reader to something not only usable but actually enjoyable to use. Now if only they could stream out the next 20 articles BEFORE I hit them so I don’t have to wait…

Rojo on the other hand deployed a screwed update and continually failed to pick up feeds complaining they were invalid or couldn’t be contacted despite other on-line tools were working just great. Bye.

With RSS becoming increasingly more popular something has to give and it’s news aggregation sites such as Slashdot and Digg which often reveal to you news you read several days ago and have already commented about at the original source.

[)amien

* Yeah okay, not a proper award ceremony but a useful ploy to group otherwise unrelated content into a single post.