Category Archives: Facebook

Xbox LIVE Update: Social gaming revolution or shameless franchise spamming?

The modern world is all about sharing. Whether it’s your best friend uploading those potentially career-damaging drunken photos of you to Facebook or your brother ranting about the state of the economy on Twitter, everything has something they want to say.

Microsoft’s latest addition to the already jam-packed NXE (New Xbox Experience) will bring these household names direct to your Xbox, along with the likes of Zune, a video downloading service, and Last.fm, the sophisticated Spotify, which lets you stream music direct from the internet.

The icing on the cake for sports fans is the Sky player, which will allow you to subscribe to Sky packages through your Xbox and enjoy the latest football match with all your friends’ avatars from around the world.

While it may all sound exciting in theory – in fact the round of applause from E3 has only just died down – it only goes further to hammer home the stereotype of the near-institutionalised computer games fan, hiding away from the world in a dark room out of touch with the real world.

Of course this is nonsense in this day and age. Gaming is more diverse than ever before, with the average UK gamer aged around 28 years old and over 59% (26.5m) of all 6-65 year-olds playing computer games, in no small part due to the user-friendly nature of the Wii.

Microsoft’s vision is to fight back by turning the Xbox 360 into a multimedia super entertainment centre. The vision falls short in reality though as the update itself (after a lengthy download) doesn’t ‘wow’ right away, just causes Facebook and the like to feature in the dashboard menus, prompting another download each time one of the applications is selected.

Sadly the lack of integration doesn’t end there, with each application being treated almost as a separate game rather than part of the dashboard, meaning you can’t have any part of Facebook or Twitter running in the background, so if you wanted to share with the world that you’d just nailed the ‘Seriously 2.0’ achievement on Gears of War 2 you’d have to exit out of the game.

Teaming up your happy-go-lucky avatar with your real self is a little unnerving at first as well, but once the update is released worldwide you’ll be able to add friends to Facebook from Xbox LIVE and vice versa, as well as all the usual Facebook features such as viewing photos and spying on your enemies from your primary school days.

Being keyboard-less on the 360 is one major drawback for the text-heavy knitting circle Twitter and though you can splash out on a ‘Messenger Kit’, you might find it easier to dig out the laptop to tweet away than navigate through the swarm of menus to share your thoughts through Xbox LIVE.

For music fans Last.fm offers a colossal range of music from almost any artist imaginable, though you need to pay to sign up to the premium version of the service to unlock the most useful content, such as the ability to play just your ‘loved’ tracks, making endless CD burning for summer BBQs a thing of the past.

Zune, the least well known of the new additions, jazzes up the already popular Video Marketplace to offer a wider choice of films, though the choice is currently fairly limited. As well as feature films, Zune also highlights the best bits and bobs from the web to keep you entertained when you fancy a break from failing to beat ‘Scatterbrain’ on Expert for the 18th time.

Sky Player is the most illusive inclusion to date, with Xbox LIVE’s message stating it will be rolled out on October 27 and that users won’t need a Sky dish to access content. What it does reveal is that there will be plenty of on-demand movies available, possibly creating a bit of competition between Sky and Zune to control the download rental market.

The features are determined to show of their usefulness to gamers but for those without a lightning-fast internet connection even updating Twitter can be a strain, making the prospect of downloading a feature length full 1080p HD film a daunting prospect, though luckily you don’t need to wait for the download to finish before you start watching.

There’s masses of potential here, and now Microsoft has these big companies on board things will only become more refined and sleek but at the moment all the new features seem very tacked-on, giving more of a sense of bewilderment than appreciation of a revolutionised multimedia interface.

James Michael Parry

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This Is Entertainment’s comprehensive E3 Summary: Part 3 – Microsoft

Here it is then, the one you’ve all been waiting for, at least I hope so! After watching Microsoft’s mammoth E3 press conference in full I’m going to digest that down as much as I can to get you all clued up on the latest and greatest information.

You may have heard a few things blowing around on the internet, so first let’s answer a few quick questions:

– What do you mean there’s going to be Metal Gear Solid on Xbox 360?!
– Well the creator of MGS announced the next title: Metal Gear Solid – Rising, will be coming to 360, but there’s little chance MGS4 will make it over as well, sorry about that! Don’t rule out MGS1 on Xbox Live Arcade though…

– I hear Microsoft is partnering up with enough different companies to be declared serial bigamist of the year?
– That’s right, well, the partnering part at least, not sure what you’re going on about…MS announced partnerships with Facebook, Twitter, Sky, Last.fm AND Netflix. (more on some of these later on)

– So Xbox is trying to be some sort of all-in-one box of entertainment then really?
– That’s the idea. They’re pushing all possible avenues to bring gamers full 1080p HD video with instant streaming, music, social networks, everything you could possibly want bar going and getting you another beer from the fridge basically.

– Halo Reach? ODST? WHAT IS GOING ON?!
– Calm down! Yes there are now officially two Halo games in the works over at Bungie. Halo 3: ODST (Orbital Drop Shock Trooper) is an add-on to Halo 3 which will include 3 Halo 3 multiplayer maps and a 10+ hours campaign focusing on the ODST troops around New Mombasa, set between Halo 2 and Halo 3. Halo Reach is a “top” secret Halo project Bungie have been working on. My reliable sources tell me that from the name it would suggest it has something to do with the first Halo ring over Reach, which was destroyed in the first game and was a pivotal moment in the war. Not much official info on it exists just yet, but it’s due out late 2010, for now, just check out the teaser trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MqIEvH7sGQ0

– What on EARTH is this Project Natal thing?
– That’s a very interesting question. In a nutshell it’s some fancy new technology which lets YOU be the controller, including facial and voice recognition and full motion capture without the need for any strange suits or anything. It’s essentially MS’ answer to the Wii’s motion capture, but done in true MS style…they had to go one better. If it really works like it claims to then it genuinely a big step forward in potential for MS, but the videos seem a little contrived to be convincing, take a look for yourself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oACt9R9z37U

Also, you can check out a blog post on Natal from a good friend of mine, Andy Hemphill: http://tinyurl.com/ndz9m7

Now, I think it’s time we had a look at what’s the most important thing about a games console, aside from the fancy deals and new technology, which is its games.

The first game to take the floor was Tony Hawk Ride, which uses a skateboard controller to track the gamers motion and movements on the skateboard, and let them have more control than the plethora of Tony Hawk titles of years gone by. The man himself was there to show it off, just the first of MS’ star guests of E3, but despite the ‘bigging up’ it still could be an excellent and innovative game.

Next up was a biggie: Modern Warfare 2. So major it made the cover of the latest OXM, the game is the sequel to the phenomenally successful Game of the Year that was Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. The trailer, which you really should have seen by now (but here it is if not), was impressive enough, but the gameplay shown was the most interesting element. It sees a new recruit, codename ‘Roach’, following COD4 hero ‘Soap’ McTavish in a snowy blizzard through which the player must claim an icy rock face to the next encounter. The weather plays a massive part, marking the shift between stealth, as you sneak around stealthily before the blizzard clears and colossal frantic fire-fight takes place. The game looks outstanding and the single player was a personal high point so it’s good to see that Infinity Ward haven’t relied on the predecessors ridiculous success on Live.

Joyride, a FREE XBLA game, will be the first racing title to use your avatars for some funky Mario Kart-esque action. The game certainly gives a decent platform for UGC, and while you do have to pay to get the best tracks and cars, only one of you’re friends has to have bought them to play them with you, which is a neat idea.

Teaser trailers for Crackdown 2, Left 4 Dead 2 and Splinter Cell: Conviction mark the emphasis of MS’ focus on ‘Only on Xbox’ titles this E3, and admittedly come of impressively for it. Conviction in particular looks to break free a little from the traditional Splinter Cell format, as Fischer takes off his tri-goggles and dons a distinctly Bruce-Willis-in-Die-Hard attitude as he tries to find out who killed his daughter. A couple of slick design features make this release stand out, namely super-imposing credits and objectives on the landscape of the levels, immersing you in the world while keeping the real-time narrative going, and a refreshingly tasteful use of slow-mo.

Not to be left out, Epic Games, the kings of Gears of War, demoed their old-school 2.5D side-scrolling platformer, which showed a nice level of depth, ironically, for the genre through Xbox Live Arcade.

Halo was always going to get some hype, and the play-through of ODST delivered everything fans of the series have been waiting for, complete with ill-fated TV show Firefly voice actors, which is always a plus.

Natal proved to top off what was near to being a continuous round of applause for most of the press briefing, but where can I hear all this news for myself I hear you ask? Just head over to Gamespot to check out their full press conference video, but be sure you have two hours to kill!

The year looks set to be a good one, and if MS delivers on what it has promised then it will certainly give Nintendo some sales figures to contend with by the time the Christmas spending spree begins.

Twitter: Fad or fabulous? It’s in your hands


It was bound to happen sooner or later, a post about Twitter. (Follow me here)

In recent months, Twitter has been heralded and criticised all across the cybersphere, and little more so than in Blogs.

Opinions are divided, as they often are, over it’s value and whether it is anything more than the latest ‘thing’.

As Facebook was the phenomenon of 2008 (and to a point even the year before that), Twitter has conjured a media firestorm, with everyone from Jonathan Ross to Oprah Winfrey Twittering away.

Recently cyber-history was made as Aston Kutcher became the first Twitterer to get over a million followers (shortly followed by CNN).

But what exactly does it all mean?

For those of you who haven’t been bitten by the twitterbug, Twitter sees you posting answers to the question “What are you doing?” and connecting yourself to other users to see what they are up to as well.

With the post limit at 140 characters, these so called ‘micro-blogs’ are limited, but often contain urls to interesting sites or news stories, or, in the case of QI Master Stephen Fry, simply the day-to-day interesting goings on in their lives.

You can also reply to people’s posts, or ‘tweets’ as they are known’ and send direct messages to them.

Peter Schwartz of the internet newspaper The Huffington Post today voiced his views on Twitter. You can read them here, but if you’re too lazy for that the gist of it is that he’s not a fan. He feels it’s been over-hyped, no doubt by blog posts like this one, and is only a passing fancy which people will soon grow tired off, and far from the “transpersonal communications organism” it’s founders are claiming it to be.

Despite Facebook and Google both reported to be trying to acquire Twitter, the site, according to Schwartz, is yet to make money:

“While no one is suggesting Twitter can support the $15 billion valuation that Facebook received for its Microsoft investment several years ago, the mania surrounding Twitter surely indicates the Web 2.0 frenzy has probably peaked.” Peter Schwartz

Like many things though, Twitter is what you make of it. On the most basic level it’s just a website, but if you involve yourself in it you can connect yourself to people you may never have had the privilage to meet. While it’s easy to be bogged down in the spam of people’s everyday lives, there are some interesting things to be found on there and through there, it’s just up to you to find them.

Is it a fad? Perhaps for some people, but for others it’s a serious exchanging of information, and right now it’s not going anywhere but up.

Now here’s a few of my personal favourites:

1) Xbox 360 Game Left 4 Dead re-enacted
2) 10 Gaming Characters on Twitter
3) Terrible Twilight Fan Art
4) Anything tweeted by qikipedia
5) Classic reply to one of my latest tweets about now being unemployed from VividEphany:

@James_Parry Sorry to hear that you were laid off. Keep your chin up. This might be an opportunity in disguise. If you need help, I’m here” – Just knowing that makes me feel safer…thanks