Where is Gaming Headed?

There are plenty of people out there itching for the announcement of Microsoft and Sony’s next generation consoles.  Personally, I’m not.  The graphics of the current generation are quite good, awesome in fact, and I’m not really in need of “better” graphics.  I could try to speculate on where I think things are going, but instead, I’m going to just list out what I would love to see as the next step.  Seeing as my preferred console is the Xbox, I’m going to talk in their terms…

The great thing about technology is that it keeps getting faster and smaller.  I’d love to see the next Xbox be just another revision of the 360.  I’d want it to be a stand alone hand held system, a portable 360.  However, I’d want it to also be a traditional console.  When totally unplugged of all it’s cables, it’ll be a hand held, with a screen and controls, just like current hand helds.  But when you plug in an HDMI cable and flip the switch, it transforms into a traditional console.  Suddenly it’s playing on your TV and through your surround sound system, and those 360 controllers you have sync up with it just like they do today.

Other peripherals, like Rock Band instruments, would also sync up, and things like the Kinect would continue to be a USB addon to the device.  There would have to be a new disc drive addon since you’d have to lose the internal one to make it portable, and you might need to have external HD addons since drive space might be limited in a smaller unit, mostly because the portable has to make room for a battery.

To make things even better, games, all games, should be able to be purchased through the marketplace and re-downloaded at will, as needed, anywhere you are connected to the Internet.

In either mode, the console should support adhoc multiplayer against other consoles in range.

Wii U

As you no doubt may have heard, Nintendo announced their next console: Wii U.

The short of it is this… pretty much a Wii on steroids.  Better processors, better memory, better graphics, embraces HD, wiimotes and the balance board are supported as are all Wii games.  The early word is that it will beat out the 360 and PS3 for power, but don’t expect that to matter too long as Microsoft and Sony will probably launch their new consoles a year after this and put it to shame… unless the market decided to go sideways instead.  I mean, it’s very possible that the next Xbox will be the same as the 360 but with better processors, memory and graphics (and maybe 3D) with an integrated Kinect over a separate peripheral.  Sony could do that as well.  Iteration over innovation.

But then you get to the other part of the Wii U: the controller.

 

Aren't you a little big for a game controller?

 

Yes, that is a screen on the controller.  The obvious bits are that you can use it like a tablet and surf the web, and you can also use it as a main display (freeing up the big TV for other activities if needed), it even has a stylus for drawing, but it can also be used as a secondary screen.  Immediately many people pointed out it could be used for maps or inventory or other bits of a normal game that could be shuffled off to this second mini screen.  I started trying to think of other things…

How about an Aliens game where the pad if your motion sensor?  Even just as a large controller with extra touchscreen buttons and virtual keyboard, MMOs become much more possible.  A flight or driving simulator where one player controls the action while another player with the pad navigates, does damage control and performs other duties.

So many lost hours...

My best idea yet?  Dungeon Keeper.

In the original game, you play the overlord of a dungeon.  You set up traps and other things to run your dungeon and protect your treasure room from the heroes who come seeking to steal your loot.  It was great fun.  But with a setup like this, you could have one player being the hero on the main screen, hacking his way to fortune and glory.  On the tablet you have the second player, the overlord, playing the RTS similar to the old game, laying traps and scrambling to react to what the other player is doing.

Really, any game that requires one person to have hidden information from the other players would work beautifully.  The only shame here is that thus far word is that only a single new controller will be supported and so card games and board games played local multi-player may be out.

I’m excited for the possibilities… now I just need some people out there to make games like these.  Just in case, I’m going to start putting away a couple bucks per paycheck so that I can afford this when it comes out.  For once, I actually might want to be an early adopter.

A Week of Tweets on 2011-04-24

  • Insanity, day 5: feeling the burn… #
  • What wicked week waits before us, stalking us through the tall grass, the pounce inevitable, so let us not turn our backs. #
  • Insanity, day 6: I only had to take twice as many breaks as the guys in the video. #
  • Snicker-snack! #
  • "That doesn't work on all browsers. It's Microsoft specific code." "Can't you make them all obey Microsoft?" #
  • Luke Perry's Goodnight for Justice is unsurprising yet pleasant. DVD reviewed for @Shakefire http://bit.ly/fZvOmO #
  • Insanity, day 8: I forgot day 7 because it was a rest day. Today was easier than day 1. #
  • If you run or work for a charity, send email whenever you can. Spending money to send mailers to ask me for money makes no sense. #
  • Oh boy! This looks nifty! http://www.projectzomboid.com/blog/ #
  • Insanity, day 9: Pure Cardio makes my heart want to explode out of my chest. #
  • Yael Naim's She Was A Boy was a delight to listen to from the first track to the last. @Shakefire http://bit.ly/h5uB9u #
  • Insanity, day 10: Am I supposed to sweat this much? #
  • Insanity, day 11: Stretching it out… oh yeah… #
  • Anyone seen rising from the dead today should be considered a possible threat and not the foundation of a religion. #zombies #

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Zed-box 360

Last week, Undead Labs announced their partnership with Microsoft and plans to release their upcoming Zombie MMO title exclusive to the Xbox 360.  As an owner of a 360 who does not own a PS3, this news excites me greatly.

They followed that up with a Q&A of their own and a rundown of links to other sites covering the news.

It is safe to say that there is no other MMO, or even game, that I am looking forward to more than this.  I just hope it doesn’t disappoint.

I also hope that Capcom is watching, because a Dead Rising 3 with even more multiplayer capabilities would be kinda awesome.

Anyway, here is a gaggle of concept art lovingly swiped from the Undead Labs site.  Hopefully they won’t mind.

A Week of Tweets on 2010-10-17

  • It is a b e a u tiful day. #
  • Mellow Mushroom for pizza for my birthday. Sweet! #
  • Got 4800 Microsoft Points for my birthday… what should I spend them on? #
  • http://www.cubo.cc/creepygirl/ #
  • The wife makes good chili. #
  • @BenRacicot Due to a typo and a budget incapable of reprinting, the 4th of July will be held on the 5th next year. in reply to BenRacicot #
  • Work day is done… only made three infinite loops today. Hooray for test environments! #
  • How fast? I'll get it done so fast that I'll have to take a short break to make sure my parents dance at the Enchantment Under the Sea. #
  • Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse tonight! It approaches me slowly, just like a horde of Romero zombies… #
  • I'm at Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse (4215 Thurman Rd, Mistflower Rd, Conley). http://4sq.com/a8CKys #

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Innovation and Iteration

This is an interesting article about how Nintendo and the Wii “invented” the casual game market (spoiler: they didn’t).  It is a long but good read, and while it is a couple years old and not every prediction toward the end has come to pass, it does paint an excellent picture.

One thing is certain.  The Wii came in and got millions of people who never would have bought a 360 or PS3 to buy a console entirely based on casual “silly” games, and this year both Microsoft and Sony are chasing that market with the Kinect and Move respectively.

Read and discuss…

One Step Closer

The 360 takes another step toward closing the Console-PC gap with its upcoming release. Check out the details over at gamerawr.

The biggest thing to me, and the step I’m saying they are taking, is the addition of the keyboard. Frankly, voice communication has only come so far, and for games supporting multiple chat channels, like MMOs, voice is severely limited. Some games just need text, and without a physical keyboard its just too hard to do. If you don’t believe me, trying using virtual keyboards, or even your 10-key phone pad to write long messages. There is a reason people invented text message short hand. (And deep in my heart of hearts, I hope this goes toward the erradication of needless short hand.)

Should this take off as I expect it to, we could be seeing the beginning of the end of PCs as a gaming platform. Though some might think this is great, its not entirely all roses. How do indie game devs break into the console? Maybe Microsoft could start offering a program to burn viable 360 discs so that indie games could be run… but I don’t really see that happening because it opens alot of doors to piracy. Also, if game modding continues to be popular, consoles do not exactly support making mods, at least not modeling and creating textures. As, of course at this time I don’t believe Microsoft supports external game servers… the PS3 claims it will though (or will support paid hosting of game servers).

In any event, the 360 is adding something new that may have an effect on the industry as a whole. Time will tell…

Why I Dislike Oprah

Most of my life I have been a skeptic and a pessimist. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

This is why I dislike Oprah.

I’ve gotten into a bit of a tiff with a friend of mine because I mistakenly used the word “hate” while talking about Oprah, and I appearantly wasn’t clear that my dislike has nothing to do with Oprah Winfrey personally but only with the brand Oprah that she has created. Much the same way I have a dislike for Microsoft, or any large brand.

If you read up on Oprah, she has done some wonderful things with her life, her show, her magazines, her charities… she’s made a few mistakes along the way, most famously is James Frey’s book A Million Little Pieces where she and her people didn’t bother to do the minimal background work that thesmokinggun.com did that proved his book was a pile of lies. But, overall, she does good, and that’s why when she suggests or recommends something I give it attention and look into it for myself.

Sounds like I don’t dislike her, right? Let me continue…

Where I start to get uncomfortable is the cult like following that she has engendered and nurtured. There are literally millions of people who will take her at her word and do what she says without thinking for themselves. She says a charity is worth giving to and suddenly that charity gets record donations. She’s probably not wrong, but I am worried by the blind faith that people have… almost the same problem I have with many organized religions. Follow, don’t question.

Is it really her fault? Can she stop people from just doing what she says? No, not really… people like knowing that other people know better, following a strong leader is easier than trying to lead themselves. But what I dislike is that Oprah, as a brand, seeks to gain by maintaining this blind following, and not once have I ever heard her openly state that people should do research on these ideas, books and charities themselves before acting. It would be bad for business to give people advice and in the same breath tell than that you could be wrong and they should really figure it out for themselves.

Most recently, Oprah has funded the building of a school. The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy. Building the school is clearly a good thing, but to prove a point, I discussed the school with some coworkers, and while all of them said it was good, not one of them could tell me why Oprah felt the school needed to be built beyond “because they needed a school for women.” No one could tell me why that school, why there, why now… all that was lost in the Oprah publicity of the school being built and how great it was.

Along with that, I find I am put off by the fact that she puts her name in the forefront of everything, on everything. I watched one of the TV specials about something she was doing, it may have even been the school, but I completely lost interest because in the ten minutes I watched, Oprah was always center frame, even when she was talking to someone who, in the context of the special, should have been more important than her. With Oprah, it seems that the subject is never “Here is something worth knowing about…” its always “I’m Oprah, and behind me is something worth knowing about…” There is a distinction there that I think is very important.

In this argument with my friend, she brought up other brands (Microsoft, Nike, etc) latching on to the idea that it must be brands that I “hated”, not Oprah. But the truth is, I bring the same skepticism to those brands. I never buy software because its Microsoft, I buy it because I need the functions that it does and from my research it fills my needs. Microsoft Office is a great example, I love the product, but only because I’ve gone down the road of using other software. I’ve installed Star Office and used other email readers, and in the end, after trying dozens of other products, it turns out that Microsoft Office is the one that does everything I need in the best way possible for me. And Nike, well, I’m a skinflint when it comes to shoes and refuse to spend more than $30 for any pair. I’m rough on shoes, and spending $100 for a pair is like throwing money out the window. Again, I’ve done the footwork, pardon the pun, and realized that buying Ocean Pacific sneakers for $19.99 was a much better fit for my lifestyle.

In a way however, these companies are more honest than Oprah, because they are trying to directly sell you on their products… Oprah, on the other hand, is often trying to sell you other people’s work, their books, their deeds, their charities. And while you can look into Oprah’s eyes and see if she is sincere, she has put a layer between you and the product, potentially hiding from you if the original purveyor was sincere, and you have to trust that she has done all the proper background work, which she has shown on occasion that she (or her staff) has not.

So what am I trying to get at with this blog? In the end I suppose the core of it is that I am adverse to any person or group that encourages, actively or passively, people to stop thinking for themselves.

9 November 1999

Damn… missed a day…
But I did watch “A Fistful of Dollars”. That is a damn good movie. I’ll need to watch “For A Few Dollars More” and “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” later this week or next week.
For a moment, let me share with you the pain of many of my work days… Microsoft.
Now, I’m not one of those people who slam MS every chance they get… I happen to like many of their products. My true pain is http://www.microsoft.com. This is probably one of the worst designed web sites that I have seen a corporation put up in a long time.
Their site used to be good, you could just browse around and find what you wanted. Most importantly you could pull up the list of all available downloads and drill down to what you needed.
Now everything on that dag blamed site is using Active Server Page rendered search engines. If you can’t find the archaic encrypted keyword combination to pull up what you need you end up with one of two results.
1) No results returned.
or
2) 900 billion products served.
You either get nothing, or every article about every product they ever put out. And even if you pull up a page that tells you how to install the files you are looking for, odds are that there is no link to actually GET THE FILES!!!
Time and again I have to go looking for files or information at their site only to spend 4 or 5 HOURS!!! looking for what should take a handful of minutes at best.
You want an example of the bizarre layout of Microsoft’s webpage? Go there and look up the MS SNA Server 4.0 Service Pack 3 (search for keyword ‘sna4sp3′). Then find the list of Fixes included in the Service Pack. They refuse to give you a single document that explains the fixes, they insist of breaking it out into a separate page per fix. And even then, they usually only give you a two line description of the problem (not enough to tell if it is the problem you are having) and then the fix… the fix, of course, always being: “Install the latest service pack.” Did they really need to waste this much space and time when for all I (or really anyone in the technical field) care to see is a text file listing as much info as possible. I don’t need the beautiful graphics and “user friendly” ASP designs… I’m already an MS product owner, lay off the hard sell!!!!
Now I’m going to take my pills, relax, and blow people up in a friendly game of TeamFortress.