Rising From The Ashes

For a while it really seemed like Microsoft’s new policies had hit rock bottom. 360 owners were coming out in full force stating that they were now going to buy PS4s. As the days have progressed, however, Microsoft has done everything to put their console back on the table. They’ve reversed their DRM policies. They no longer an internet connection. They no longer require Kinect to be constantly plugged in. They were very close to losing a lot of fans, but I think they’ve finally turned it around.

Now with all of the most recent news coming out of Microsoft themselves, as well as press conferences like that at Gamescom, we’re getting a much better look into what the console actually has to offer. There’s in-depth videos regarding the new hardware, the full launch lineup has been released, and even huger news is coming out of Europe.

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Xbox One: My Initial Thoughts

Here it is. The new Xbox. I’m sure you all have had your news feed absolutely demolished with the new Xbox info, but let me add my 2 cents:

Can't get much slicker than that!

I’m not looking at giving you all of the information on the new console. It just wouldn’t make sense. Instead, I’m just going to go over the things that really stood out to me, starting with the hardware.

Hardware
When I look at the console, I think “sleek.” The black chrome finish is wonderfully modern and I even think the vents at the top add to the aesthetics. Underneath the hood, I was pleased, but not surprised. It has 8Gb of RAM and an 8 core CPU. It comes with a 500Gb Hard Drive, although I bet they’ll have optional bigger ones. All-in-all, in terms of processing power, it’s about what I expected. Keep in mind that the Xbox 360 only has 512Mb of RAM. That’s NOTHING in the computer/gaming world. All-in-all, I’m not overly impressed with the hardware, but I’m not disappointed either. It’s about average specs for a gaming machine, but I’m afraid that it will be outdated quickly. Even more so than the 360 did. Im interested to see if Microsoft addresses this issue.

Remember the first Xbox controller? Blegh, what a monstrosity that was... I'm lovin' this one.

Remember the first Xbox controller? Blegh, what a monstrosity that was… I’m lovin’ this one.

The next piece of hardware is the controller. Again, “sleek” comes to mind when I look at it. Not a crazy amount of changes, but enough to make a difference. Upgraded joysticks, flush battery pack on the back (That’s a HUGE one for me. I hate the huge battery pack on the current ones), better triggers that let you jump from one to the other much more seamlessly, and what appears to be a more ergonomic design.

Last but not least, is Kinect. I’ve never been a huge fan of Kinect, but now that EVERY SINGLE XBOX ONE CONSOLE will ship with Kinect, that’ll definitely change. I think this is big for Microsoft because Kinect will be bigger than ever. Now with every single user having a Kinect, they’ll HAVE to make it as best as it can be. It seems to be a much more powerful piece of tech and I can’t wait to use it.

Oh, and how could I forget! We finally have a Blu Ray player!

Software
The huge thing they’re pushing is the fact that the Xbox is running three operating systems. One for the main functions of the Xbox (starting up, etc), the next is for accessories and other capabilities (Kinect, movies, TV, etc.), and the main one is for gaming. Why do they do this? Because then, you can seamlessly switch from one aspect of the Xbox to the other. The downside? Performance might be slowed due to running all of this at once.

I like the new menu interface, and I like how it works with Kinect. The games shown were great looking, although they’re still far out from release so I wouldn’t expect them to look different by the time they ship.

Other Cool Features
This is not my photo. Go here for the original: http://media1.gameinformer.com/imagefeed/featured/microsoft2013/XBOXREVEAL/xboxguide610.jpg
1) Watching TV straight  from your Xbox. I was hoping this would happen, and it did. Basically, you plug in your TV device (cable box, satellite stuff, etc.) into your Xbox, and then the Xbox will send it to the TV. That way, you can access your guide without ever changing TV inputs. I have to say, this is INGENIOUS of Microsoft. Now you really can access anything from your console. They’ve become the medium of all living room entertainment. Absolutely brilliant.

2) Up to 1000 friends on Xbox Live. I can’t even think about how many times I’ve complained about the friends list cap on the 360. They’ve finally learned and boosted the limit. It’s about time.

3) Apparently, there are rumors that there will be dedicated servers for all games? That could be pretty huge.

4) Achievements will be ported. Not surprising, but still nice to know.

5) There’s going to be a live-action Halo TV show!!! Directed by Steven Spielberg!!! Can’t get much cooler than that.

Complaints and/or unanswered questions
1) 
No backwards compatibility with 360 games and XBLA games. This is going to sour a lot of gamers. However, I’ve looked into why this is, and it’s something that’s unavoidable due to how the console’s architecture is now running.

2) Purchasing system for used games. Basically, on the Xbox One, you can download the whole game to your console and basically validate your purchase. Then, if you sell your game and someone uses your disc, they have to pay a fee to download it to their console, and then your dowload will be invalidated on your own console. It’s a way of curbing used game sales. I’m not sure how this’ll turn out, so we’ll have to wait and see.

3) They didn’t address anything about DVR capabilities with your cable box, but I’m assuming it’ll work the same as accessing the cable guide. I just want to hear it from them.

4) They need to address the core gamers in their crowd. Sony did a great job of showing exactly how well the PS4 will process things, whereas Microsoft didn’t. In that sense, I believe Sony did a better job.

5) Price?

6) Release date? (Probably November)

7) There’s some info related to the fact that the Xbox One might have to be connected to the internet whenever you want to play, and I think this is very interesting. I think it’s kinda ridiculous to make a console that can’t play offline, but I guess we’ll see.

And finally…. Here’s some links for much-needed information regarding the Xbox One (or as I’ve now heard it being called, the X1. I like that much better)

1) PS4 vs. Xbox One Comparison
2) Used game fee information
3) Fantastic inside look at the Xbox One
4) Xbox One FAQ
5) Funny bit on how “the cloud” works
6) More awesome information about the future of Xbox Live

Halo 4 Lanyard Giveaway!!!

This contest is now over! Thank you all for playing and hopefully I’ll have another one soon. Make sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter to keep in touch and find out about any giveaways I have!

Since Halo 4 just came out, I figured I would have a little giveaway! I have a Halo 4 lanyard that was only given out at E3 (as far as I know), and I thought it would be a nice prize to give away since everyone has been so excited about the game’s release! How do you win you ask? Well, there are two ways to enter. First, you can follow me on Twitter and retweet my official giveaway tweet, or you can like my page on Facebook and comment on my official giveaway status on there! If you do both, you will be entered into the contest twice, but two entries is the limit. Again, you have to have my page liked or follow me on Twitter to win, so be sure to do that! Thank you all for checking out my site, and good luck!

You could win this!!!

Halo 4 Avatar Armor Giveaway

UPDATE: I just picked a winner for the contest and his name is James G! (@heykuda on Twitter). Thank you all for participating, I really appreciate it! I’d give you all a code if I could! If I get any other items to give away, I’ll announce it on here or on Facebook/Twitter.

So I’ve been trying to figure out a giveaway that’s easy to put together, because shipping stuff can sometimes get complicated. Well now I have a code for Halo 4 avatar armor (which you were only able to get if you attended E3), and so I’ve decided to give it away! I’ve put together a little contest, and we’ll see how it does. If I don’t get a lot of entries, I’ll change up the rules a bit, but this is what we’ve got so far: I’ve posted a picture on all of my profiles on different social networking sites (Facebook/Google+/Twitter), and all you have to do is share the picture and tell me what you favorite Halo game was! Also, since you’ve already found my site, you can just comment on here as well (but I would recommend doing it on the other sites as well)! Later this week, if we have enough entries, I’ll randomly select a winner. Sound good? So here we go! Below is a copy of the picture you should be looking for, and on the top right of any page on this site, you’ll find little buttons with social networking icons (Facebook, Twitter, etc.). Click on any given one to get forwarded to my page on that social network. It’s as easy as that! Thanks for playing!

“True” Achievements

As I’ve stated before, I love achievements. They’re a great idea, and they’ve contributed a lot to the gaming world. However, there have been several games that have handed their points out way too generously. When I can get all 1,000 points within a minute while playing Avatar, there’s a problem. So when I see someone bragging about their gamerscore, I get mad when half of their points are from games that require little to no skill to play. If you feel the same way, then I have the perfect website for you!

I found this site a while back, and I checked the other day to see if they were still around, and to my surprise, they were! The site is called trueachievements.com, and their goal is to show gamers how hard each achievement is to unlock, and then alter the original reward for that achievement accordingly. So beating a game on easy might only deserve 20 true achievement points when the actual game rewards you with 50, while beating it on it’s “insanity mode” or whatever it might be called, deserves 200 points when you only actually get 100. This is to show the gamer not only how much they’ve played, but also if they’ve truly earned the gamerscore they have.

If you’d like to figure out your own “true” gamerscore, create an account on their site, give them your gamertag, and they will sort through every achievement you’ve unlocked and send you an email when they’re all done. When they finish, they will present you with a score that reflects how much gamerscore you’ve actually earned. I was curious as to what my true gamerscore was, so I created an account and had them tell me what I’ve earned. I currently have 52,380 gamerscore, but my true gamerscore is 73,724!!!

I was quite pleased by the way they set up their website, and I definitely recommend all Xbox users check it out. If you do end up creating an account, post your gamerscores in the comment section below (actual vs. “true”). Let’s see who has the most!

Staying In The Loop

There’s so many sources of news out in the world. It amazes me that I can literally figure out the same piece of information in so many ways. I can read a book, a magazine, or a newspaper. I can listen to a podcast or the radio. I can see a movie or watch the news. I can even simply talk to others, and I can get the same information from any of the sources. I’ve been thinking about this more and more because as I talk to people about video games, they all (basically) know the same gaming news, but follow completely different sources of information. It’s just intriguing to see what one person prefers over another.

Personally, I subscribe to magazines and check online for news once in a while, but my favorite source of news is through podcasts. I love listening to them as I go through my daily routines. I just feel like podcasts are much more personal, and over the course of an hour, I will have acquired much more information than I would have if I was reading a magazine or a newspaper, simply because of the fact that I can listen to something a lot longer than I can read something. I often get distracted while reading, but if I’m listening to a podcast, I feel like someone is talking to me and I have a much harder time ignoring what they say. I have also been thinking about this because I was recently given the opportunity to be a podcaster myself, and I might just take that opportunity. I just don’t know what people find to be the most successful in terms of getting information across, so I haven’t made up my mind yet.

So my question to you, the reader of this humble little blog that I call home, is what do you find to be your favorite source of gaming information? Along with what your favorite is, what is the most useful source you use? I find that sometimes these often differ with people. Some like the internet, but get more useful information from a newspaper. So if you have an opinion, just leave a comment below. I’d love to hear what you have to say!

Getting Hacked Is Not Fun!

I tried to log into my Xbox Live account today, and I got an odd error message. It basically said that my account was invalid and that I needed to get a valid one or download the account again. I thought this was odd, but I figured maybe the Xbox was just being weird, so I tried redownloading the account. I then got another message. My account was unable to be downloaded and it gave me an error code. I immediately looked it up online, and whaddya know, it looked like I was hacked. I was going through some forums and I found a correlation between all of them. First off, this is happening to a LOT of people. Second, there seems to be a recurring theme. Seemingly every person that was hacked had a mysterious achievement pop up on their account at some random time way before they noticed any strange transactions. They all noticed that a couple achievements for FIFA 12 randomly popped up on their account. As weird as it sounds (Microsoft still doesn’t know how it works), they somehow hack your account by giving you these achievements. This happened to me a while back. I saw the achievements, but I at the time, I didn’t think twice. I live with a roommate, and so I figured that maybe he played FIFA on my Xbox or something.

Well as soon as I figured this out, I started to freak out. After all, my credit card is linked to my account, and I’d really rather keep that information private. So, I went online, and I tried to access my account. I reset my password, set everything up again, and then looked at the damage by going to my recent download history. There were two strange downloads. One was called “Premium Gold Pack” and the other was “Premium Gold Jumbo.” I had no idea what those were, so I looked at more of my account and I realized that over 2000 Microsoft Points (For anyone who don’t know what these are, they’re basically Xbox’s digital currency) were taken off of my account! I immediately figured that these hackers were waiting for me to get Microsoft points! After all, I had just added some to my account a day or two before so that I could buy Trials Evolution!

After seeing all of this, I immediately called Microsoft. Their customer support was actually a lot better than I expected. They walked me right through the steps and I told them everything I just told you. They said that it was a known problem, and as of right now, they have no idea how the hackers do it. All they know is that the FIFA achievements are almost a sure sign that your account is hacked. So they took my info, made an account investigation report, and submitted it so that my account could be reviewed. They said my account will be down for up to a couple days, and then they’ll send me an email when they’re done. I should get my points back and everything! Besides the fact that I’m dying to play Trials, I’m extremely happy that they fixed the problem. Also, it doesn’t look like anybody used my card either, which is fantastic news.

So my message to every Xbox user out there is to watch out for that FIFA achievement! If you get it, contact Microsoft and/or change your passwords, because nobody likes getting their stuff stolen…

The Problem With Kinect

Ever since I first saw Kinect (If you don’t know what Kinect is, go here), I thought it was pretty cool. A bit gimmicky, but it was definitely better than what the other consoles were developing, like the Playstation Move. Kinect’s capabilities are pretty impressive. It can detect movement from each individual person in the frame, and distinguish who’s who through your physical appearance and voice. It can also track certain body parts as well, turning your whole body into a huge Xbox controller (Just like Microsoft’s motto for Kinect, “You are the controller”). The problem that everyone, including myself, had with it was that we were afraid of how Microsoft was going to use it. We were first amazed by Peter Molyneux’s (The man behind the Fable franchise as well as others) showcase at E3 entitled “Milo”, where he had a representative interact with a virtual boy by using the Kinect. You could talk to him, hand him things, and interact with the boy’s environment (Or so we thought). It turns out that the showcase was a scripted video, showing what the Kinect might be capable of in the future. This was the first of many disappointments. Continue reading

E3 2012

E3 2012 is still pretty far away, but I would like to remind everyone that if you’ve ever wanted to see the latest and greatest in gaming, the Electronic Entertainment Expo is what to pay attention to. You might not be able to go if you aren’t a part of the gaming industry, but don’t let that stop you! G4 TV always has their hosts on the show floor, displaying the latest games that you’d see if you were there. As I’ve stated before, I’ve been given an opportunity to go this year, and I’m extremely excited. I’m not sure how I’m going to approach it though. I don’t know if I want to live-update blog posts, or just blog at the end of each day. I’ve pretty much decided that I want to just stick in the Xbox-related section of the event, but I’m not really sure of where to go from there. I was also thinking that I could have anybody that happens to be on my blog at the time comment about what they want me to do. For instance, if you’d like me to check out a certain game, I could do that, and then tell you what I see. This would all depend on if I had time, of course, because I might be going to the developer meetings as well, but we’ll see.

I’m also going to try and grab as much free stuff from the booths as possible. Then, if I end up getting more followers, maybe I can have some giveaways or something (or just grab some stuff for people if they want something). We’ll see when the time comes. I’m just super excited to go, and I figured I’d ask everyone reading this if they’re already hoping to hear specific news about a game when E3 hits. I’m sure Halo 4 and COD will be there, and so I’ll probably try to check those out. I’ll also look for any new hardware accessories while I’m there. Most of all, I’m hoping for some brand new IP’s. These last few years have been dominated by sequels and and continuations of old games, and I’m really hoping to see some fresh new games out into the market. It’s not that I don’t like playing a bunch of trilogies (Halo, Gears of War, Mass Effect, Modern Warfare, etc.), but when every game ends in a number, then I just don’t get the same level of excitement. I want new experiences, new worlds, new characters, and new stories. Is that too much to ask?

Life Achievements

I thought it would be a fun post to think of a couple “life achievements.” You know, things that you do in real life that could earn you gamerscore in a game (they don’t have to be game-related though). A lot of places have already done this, but I think it’s still fun to do. Now obviously I could just name off a bunch of the common ones like, “go to school,” or “get a car,” but those aren’t as exciting. I’ve gone to a couple websites for inspiration, so I’ve used some of theirs, as well as some of my own. I’ll list some up here, but I’d love to hear what others can think of. I’m sure there’s a bunch of hilarious ones that I totally missed, but that’s why I have you! Just submit your own in the comments section! I’m excited to see what some of you can whip up.

1. Fight in a war.
2. Parkour your way across your city.
3. Play video games for 24 hours straight.
4. Get struck by lightning (and survive).
5. Choose to go live in another country for a whole year for no particular reason.
6. Guess on every question on a test and pass (or better yet, get an A).
7. Marry a gamer.
8. Finding out that your kids love video games too.
9. Punch someone in the face.
10. Get on a game show (and win).