Xbox 360 at 170 MPH

Along with playing with my friends in sci-fi and otherwise impossible scenarios [Halo 2, Chromehounds], much of my enjoyment in playing video games comes from doing things that I’ll never have the skill, guts or money to do in reality.

Driving a Lamborghini Murciélago R-GT at 150+ mph through the streets of New York City certainly fits all three of those at once.Murciélago R-GT If you should ever get the opportunity, be very careful that you don’t over-accelerate through the turns, lest you find yourself sideways – quickly.

I like Project Gotham Racing 3, it’s a good arcade racing game and a ton of fun. I do wish though that the “Kudos” – the points earned – weren’t mostly based on “tricks,” such as drifting through turns or catching “air” over a bump in the road surface. I know that drifting is an important skill, but it should be just as valuable to win a race by driving a good line and keeping the all four wheels on the pavement.

Xbox 360 Games – It’s All About LIVE

I indicated last week that I finally got my Xbox 360, so the obvious follow-up question is ‘what games am I playing?’ First of all there’s plenty of life left in Halo 2 and other “Xbox 180” games, and they look better than ever played through the 360 on my HD display.

Rockstar Table Tennis game boxThe future’s in the new games, though. Based on my friends’ recommendations and the games they’re already playing, I bought two games right away along with my 360. Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter (GRAW), has become my Halo 2 clan’s 360 home for FPS gameplay, with not only a challenging solo campaign but a multiplayer that’s as good as – while still different from – Halo’s. My other purchase was Rockstar Table Tennis.

Table Tennis – in a video game? Yes. Lots of fun, challenging and terribly addictive.

I’ve also rented Kameo, which doesn’t do much for me, and Eric let me borrow Project Gotham Racing 3 (PGR3) and Perfect Dark Zero yesterday, so I’ll be giving them a try over the next few evenings, and several of my friends and I have Chrome Hounds on order to pick up tomorrow.

We’re also really digging the Xbox Live Arcade games including Hexic HD, and my wife’s having a great time with both it and Feeding Frezny.Xbox Live

For me, the games are fun but the real enjoyment comes from playing with friends. I’ve got online friends that I play with regularly all across the U.S. — family members, co-workers, and friends, not all of whom I’ve yet met face-to-face, and there are always new people to meet in a game (alas no, I haven’t played with Gajit, Derk or Kendo yet) — we all share a fun evening together. Of course, a few of them don’t have a 360 yet, one reason for the continued playing of Halo 2 mentioned above.

Which game we’re playing, and how well we do, almost become secondary. It’s like having the gang over for a poker party, albeit long-distance. Long thought of as the refuge of the loner, gaming is becoming a social experience.

I can’t emphasize that enough, there are very few non-online games that I’ll buy. Without Xbox Live, I probably wouldn’t have gotten my Xbox 360 at all.

Bingbing Diggit?

Crystal Quest

Oh my goodness – as if you didn’t need one, here’s the reason to be looking for an Xbox 360. Major Nelson just broke the news of an upcoming game to be added to the Xbox Live Arcade… none other than Crystal Quest!

Screenshot of Crystal Quest on a color Mac

For those who might not remember, or who weren’t fortunate enough to have stumbled across it way back when, Crystal Quest was a really fun game that I played on a Maicntosh SE and the original Color Mac back in the late 80’s/early 90’s. It’s an excellent arcade game, very addictive. Every now & then since then I’ve thought of it – I can still hear some of the sounds from the game in my head – and gone looking to see if anyone’s re-published it. I’m really looking forward to this release.

Rumors of Xbox 360 Shortages

PirateT7I haven’t played much Xbox recently; we’ve been busy and it doesn’t help that the good TV’s out of commission. I’m looking forward to Xbox 360, though we may not get one the first week or two of release – we didn’t pre-order.

There are rumors that even those who did pre-order may not get theirs anyway. This was recently posted on one of the forums, by an assistant manager at an EBGames:

I just learned today that we are only getting TWENTY NINE X-Box 360’s on launch day, so I just wanted to tell you all to goto your local EBGames/Gamestop and ask them if they are going to have enough X-Box’s for everying.

His story is somewhat backed up by this Arstechnica item.

True? Not true? Time will tell. Just don’t say you weren’t warned.

update: I’m told that the number of Xbox 360 units initally shipped to each retailer may be different and may be based on the number of orders and the number of accessories & 360 games pre-ordered. An interesting and confusing policy, the way it was described to me. Folks who pre-ordered need to check and if they didn’t order early may be disappointed on first-release day.

Xbox 360 Pricing

picture of the 360
Well, if you care at all about the upcoming Xbox 360, you’ve probably already seen the news but here it is anyway: $399. Console, wireless controller, detachable hard disk, headset, remote control and cables.

Oh yea, and there’s also a lower-cost option, the Xbox 360 Core System, but get real – why bother?

It’s not just the wireless controller ($49), hard disk ($99), media remote ($29) and headset ($19) that you’re getting for the extra $100, it’s access to your current library. That’s right, if you choose the option without the hard disk you can’t play Halo 2, Fable or any of the other games that you enjoy today.

I’ve said all along that the biggest mistake Microsoft could make would be to not make it compatible with older games – the Nintendo mistake. Well, instead of making that mistake, they’re letting customers choose to make it themselves. And you’re too smart to do that, now aren’t you?

Johnson on Video Games

“What is the current reigning technological paradigm — combined with both market and public-sector forces — doing to our minds?” Steven Johnson, who I heard interviewed on the radio this afternoon, tackles that in a book that I’m very much looking forward to reading: Everything Bad Is Good for You. I wrote a paper back in high school, Video Games, Benefit or Blight — and then re-wrote it in college. I wish I still had a copy of it around. Here’s Malcolm Gladwell’s review (of Johnson’s book, not my old paper).

Xbox Next

As Rob and others have pointed out, there are rumors that XBox 2 won’t be backwards-compatible – that it won’t play games from the original. If this is true, would be a immensely stupid mistake.

If none of my old games will work, and I’ve got to start over when I get a new console, what’s the impetus to stay with the Xbox platform? There is none. The stack of games already sitting on the shelf is the only “loyalty” many people feel to a game console maker. This is what killed Nintendo in the console market, that every time they came out with a new box all the old games were left behind. (Their handheld group did things right – my GameBoy Advance/SP will play GBA, GameBoy Color and even most games made for the original GameBoy.)

Sony’s just looking for Microsoft to make a big mistake and this would be it.

However… note that the folks at Microsoft aren’t usually that stupid. There’s been no official announcement, so I suspect that these stories are nothing more than pulp fiction. I know that there are ‘softies thinking “Xbox fans are smart enough to distinguish truth from sensational reporting,” but with the number of publications spreading these rumors it would be a good idea for MS to make some sort of official statement and throw water on this smoldering pile of embers.

much later: check out the Xbox 360 Backward Compatibility FAQ.