Wednesday, January 31, 2007

How Much is My Blog Worth?

I found a cool utility that calculates how much your blog is worth based on "using the same link to dollar ratio as the AOL-Weblogs Inc deal." I was curious how much by blog was worth, especially with the large fluctuation in traffic that occurred recently. Here's what I ended up getting:

My blog is worth $564.54.
How much is your blog worth?

That being said, if anyone is interested in giving me $500 for my blog, I'd be more than happy to oblige.

Jack Thompson - Sword Killing Expert?

Last week a teenager from South Dakota killed his mother, injured three others and was killed by police officers responding to the call. Apparently the teenager was an avid sword collector, which he used to assault his mother and the police officers.

Jack Thompson responded immediately, urging the police officers to check the home for violent videogames and claiming he was an expert on such matters. Jack Thompson has a history of stretching the limits of logic in order to connect violence to videogames, but this a new low.

Thompson wrote a letter to the police chief citing previously unknown "credentials" in regards to swords. Here is an excerpt:

"Re: Sword Killings

Dear Chief Schmitt:

I am an expert in the above type of attack, as I appeared on 60 Minutes and roughly 80 other national television programs as to such incidents."

It appears that Jack Thompson not only studies law, but he is also a sword killing expert. Add that to an already impressive resume and you have yet another factor in the degradation of his credibility and another reason to laugh.

[Via GameSpot]

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

NES Auction Rockets Back Down

It appears the NES auction featuring 670 licensed Nintendo games has slid down from an earlier high bid of $240,300 to a mere $25,350. The auction includes 670 licensed Nintendo games in addition to an NES in its original casing and a dozen or so accessories including notables such as the Power Glove and ROB the robot.

In the description of the item, the seller mentions the possibility of retracting false bids, which is a great reassurance for those looking to place legitimate bids. However, I didn't expect the amount to fluctuate so quickly. This might end up being an unusually exciting auction after all.

I'll be keeping an eye an on this auction, as it still has four days left and the potential to garner some serious cash flow. The seller describes the games to be in "Good-to-mint condition" with no abnormalities included on the games themselves. It will be interesting to see, four days from now, how high the auction ends up getting. I'd especially be wary of fake bidding to throw the price around quite a bit. More as it comes.

Monday, January 29, 2007

My Personal Rise to the Top of the Music Industry

When it comes to music, I find myself constantly amazed at the reason people like or dislike certain artists or type of music. Don't get me wrong, I'm not attacking personal preference. Everyone has their own reasons for liking a particular artist, whether the music they listen to invokes feelings of nostalgia and wonderful memories, whether it just makes them want to dance, or usually in my case, if the music has a conscious message behind it or features a well told story.

I guess this is the part where I go into a little episode of personal history. Please be patient, as this is relevant and important to the discussion I will eventually present. I went to Benson Polytechnical high school in Portland, Ore., where we had the opportunity to experience both technical and health-based programs. I chose to focus on the technical side of the curriculum, almost certain I was going to become a graphic designer much like my step father and uncle. I had been exposed to the art since I was about 11 years old, so I had been doing it awhile and I rather enjoyed it.

One of the cool things about the technical division of Benson was the sheer diversity of the programs offered. On the most basic level there was construction, manufacturing, transportation, communications, electronics and more available, with our freshman and sophomore years spent going through the rotations in order to get a feel for each of the different areas of study in order to spend the remaining two years of high school majoring in a chosen field of study. Additionally, each division further branched out into all sorts of cool classes like microcomputers, plastics and molding, photography and video, and radio broadcasting.

Sometime before actually designating my major at Benson, I ended up meeting a few members of the street team and even one of the on-air personalities from the local hip-hop station in Portland - Jammin' 95.5 - at a promotional event at the mall. I told them about some of the programs we had at our school, including radio broadcasting and my small but growing interest in it. From there I ended up shadowing Bootz, the on-air DJ I met at the mall. I asked lots of questions and tried to understand the seemingly complex equipment employed at the commercial radio station. At that point, something seemed to click inside of me which would help reveal what I wanted to do with my life, but I wouldn't actually become aware of it for almost two years.

Well, after going through all the technical class rotations I ended up deciding I wanted to further investigate the field of radio broadcasting (big surprise). I even went so far as to take the entry level class twice, even after getting an A- the first time, just so I could improve my grade and ensure my entry into the major. The radio broadcasting major at Benson was one of the most competitive majors to get into, allowing a maximum of 25 applicants the privilege of actually majoring in it, and I did my best to make sure I got accepted.

Thanks to my large amount of dedication (for once in my life), I got into the radio broadcasting program. Over the next two years, I developed a passion for radio and spent all my time absorbing as much information as I possibly could and spending countless hours running the boards and developing my own on-air show. At that point in my life it was very possible in my mind that I could focus on developing a career in radio with possible graphic design freelance work thrown in for good measure.

In the end, my hard work and networking skills paid off when I turned 18, the minimum age required to intern at a radio station. I applied to Jammin', utilized my relationship with Bootz and quickly got an interview. I guess I did alright, because they ended up hiring me on at the radio station. At the time it was merely a position running boards for syndicated shows and music over the weekend at unsightly hours of the night, but I was hoping to eventually land either an on-air gig or get involved with the production side of the radio station in time and this was my foot in the door.

Even though the position I had was closer to an internship than anything, everything was going great, especially since the work I was doing entitled me to actually get paid. I participated in any extra activities available in order to show my motivation and learn as much as I could as quickly as possible about the radio business. Bootz only helped by encouraging me, giving me advice and always being patient with the endless onslaught of questions I directed at him regularly.

For the first time in my life, I was actually able to apply myself in a way I had failed to do so throughout high school. I struggled throughout my entire high school career with having enough motivation to get my homework done, studying for tests and applying myself to my fullest potential. The problem was obvious enough that it actually caused my parents to force me into taking a "Study Skills" class.

In my mind, the problem is still with me to this day, and I'm still fighting with it, but knowing that I could really do something if I focused on for the first time was the biggest affirmation for success for which I could have asked. At this point, my confidence soared and all signs were pointing towards a good future in radio if I kept up at the pace I was going.

To be continued...


Why Am I Still Playing Excite Truck?

Right now I'm sitting in my friend's apartment watching him school the computer in Excite Truck. My friend hasn't been a gamer since the days of the Sega Genesis, citing motion sickness caused through the newer onslaught of 3D games as his reason for eventually giving up gaming. I also get the feeling the overwhelming complexity of today's games aren't exactly extending him a warm welcome back either.

Most of my friends would describe me as a hardcore gamer (or a nerd), but I'm not bold enough to declare it about myself. I enjoy games a lot and probably always will, but I've noticed something peculiar after having my Wii for about two months. Normally by now, I'd get tired of most games and let them sit in a box somewhere, unbeaten for several months with the likelihood of regaining interest almost nonexistent. So it surprises me that I'm still playing Excite Truck - your average racing game - after having it for so long.

I thought about how the control elements play a part in truly immersing the gamer into the gaming experience. I've never been a fan of arcade racers with the wheel and pedals, but maybe it's because I don't spend a quality amount of time with them because of my general indifference to most arcades and an even smaller desire to spend tons of quarters just to play a game. Although the game experience for racers in arcades are truer to life than most regularly-controlled racers, the majority of people I know won't spend the amount of time needed to fully grasp the immersive potential of the arcade racer.

What I'm getting at is - in a sense - Nintendo has brought home gameplay either previously unreachable by any means or simply not as accessible as home console gaming. How many people do you know who have arcade-style coin-op machines at home? I know maybe one or two, but it's definitely not as common as finding a Playstation 2 in someone's living room.

The reason I can't stop playing Excite Truck is that it really is a gameplay experience unlike anything I've managed to feel at home before. And that is something I never could've seen while the hype for the Wii was being built up. Sure, developers and publishers talk about immersive gameplay, but you don't realize how important it is until you feel it.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Google = The New Internet

Every once in awhile you read something online that strikes you in a way similar to having an epiphany. The realization of something that seems completely obvious under normal circumstances hits you, and then you laugh about it.

This just happened to me after considering my own personal necessity in using Google as an address bar. Why type in "" when I can simply perform a Google search for it to get me where I want to go? It's not that I don't mind typing the extra few characters, but I've grown used to the availability of Google everywhere. It's the most common home page I see pop up when using other people's computers, whose popularity is further fueled since both Firefox 2.0 and the new IE 7 include convenient integrated search fields.

Of course I'm going to use Google over the address bar field. URLs are ugly pieces of information that I'd prefer not to utilize based on the syntax alone. I guess that's just too much work for me. Google is slowly taking over the internet, and I've fallen prey to its dominion.


Friday, January 26, 2007

Dear Nintendo

It looks like you're getting popular again. The direction you took with the Nintendo Wii was a good one and I commend you on it, but some people feel you're alienating the Nintendo fans that have stuck with you in good times and in bad in order to attract a new sort of fan base. "Why won't you give us Mother 3?" demands the big N community. As a matter of fact, I've got a few questions and suggestions myself:

1. The friend codes are not user-friendly. How has your online strategy evolved and is online gaming any more important to you?

Microsoft and Xbox Live have clearly demonstrated that online is what the people want. I am thankful that you decided to include online, even though early reports indicate we'll be in 12-digit friend code hell pretty soon here. Pokemon Battle Revolution - the first online Wii game - features game-specific friend codes independent of my Wii's friend code. I've heard people suggest this may have something to do with connectivity between Battle Revolution and the new DS versions of the Pokemon series. I sure hope this is simply an isolated example.

Please Nintendo, try to focus more on the online component this round. Xbox Live has shown me that I don't have to worry about child predators, but only those with a longing for gratuitous use of the N word. The community-driven experience is something beautiful in itself (AKA "I like making new friends... online") and I would consider even a partial emulation of what Xbox Live has accomplished a success on your part. It also wouldn't hurt if you were able to work in voice chat.

2. The bait is in place. Now watch the third parties flock like geese.

Last time around third party developers for the GameCube wound up being the guy who showed up who wasn't actually invited to the party. C'mon, let's show them some love. Now more than ever, ease of development is more important than any other factor in a console's potential for success and you hit the nail on the head. It also appears Nintendo is at the very least considering
indie game development for the Wii with simple development tools a huge reason behind it.

To me at least, it seems like the creative part of many developers brains have been desiring a new type of outlet (and I'm not talking about Brain Age either). It turns out gamers aren't the only ones clamoring for something new. The Wii is the place to be for developers wanting to create entirely new game experiences. As soon as I heard Kojima was interested in Wii, I knew we had something special.

3. What's next for the Wii's interface?

A few people who just couldn't wait stumbled upon the fact that Nintendo launched the News Channel earlier than anticipated. One of the things I like about being an early adopter is seeing the firmware advances and the console growing up. Soon it'll be in kindergarten with all these new skills and abilities and you'll wonder where all the time went.

On a slightly more serious note, I'm eagerly anticipating new additions to the firmware. Now is your time to unleash the potential of firmware revisions and integrating new features. If Nintendo can utilize customer feedback and keep the ball rolling with new features to overjustify my $250 steal of an investment, I'm going to be one happy Nintendo customer. Once again Xbox Live has set a great standard for you to meet or exceed. Now it's just up to you to show us what you're capable of, especially with that nifty motion control gizmo.

4. Refined control, plzkthx.

This falls on both Nintendo's first party offerings and the third party offerings we've had the chance to partake in thus far. I know it's hard to believe, but control is a pretty important part of a Wii game. I feel like we've had a mixed bag and that it isn't just the result of a new learning curve for a completely different way of controlling your games.

Case in point: the bounding box. I am a first person shooter freak, so my control needs to be spot on. With my 360 launch purchase, two-thirds of the games I bought were first person shooters, but for this exact reason I decided to refrain from purchasing any first person shooters for Wii. As of right now I feel like the bounding box is a slap in the face for FPS fans; a poorly thought out alternative to the fast and tight control I'm used to. Until they find a way to tighten it up, I may have to wait or possibly keep my FPS' action on my 360. I'm hoping Metroid Prime 3: Corruption helps to rectify the current situation.

Parting Words

If it helps you at all, I think you can handle this. I know you weren't the most popular kid on the block last year, but it's all changed thanks to your good attitude and hard work. Don't let 'em forget who was on top all those years back and you'll be fine.


Cameron Hermens


Monday, January 22, 2007

Ready to Rock on 360

I was expecting a minor graphical overhaul for the 360 version of Guitar Hero II. I was not expecting this:

He has no nipples...?

Harmonix put a lot into improving the graphics rather than just rushing the 360 version and bumping up the resolution. Prepare to shred graciously in the comfort of HD Guitar Hero gaming with improved lighting techniques. Guitar Hero II for Xbox 360 is going to shine brightly and show off the extra work Harmonix put into it.

March 2007 can't come quickly enough. I was already looking forward to being able to download new songs off Xbox Live marketplace. I hadn't considered the tremendous increase of replay value through achievements, the sheer amount of time I'll spend just to increase my rank on the leaderboards and the dead sexy design of the new X-Plorer controller.

We will also be seeing additional included tracks, which I for one give both RedOctane and Harmonix an ovation for. A lot of publishers are using microtransactions available through the Marketplace to charge for trivial additions (coughEAcough) and even more infuriating, content that was included as an in-game unlockable years before. The Marketplace is supposed to influence creation of new content, not be an additional revenue plug for content that should be included with the game as it is.

I'm thankful the rumors I heard many months ago about a 360 version of the cult-classic Guitar Hero series was in the works. Harmonix has done a great job of making this the best version of Guitar Hero II to own with additional songs available through the Marketplace, graphics that completely blew away my expectations and a refined controller with a smaller neck for additional comfort, as well as a few new ports that suggest possible foot pedal accessories for your guitar down the road. I just hope Guitar Hero III will offer a wireless guitar (damn you, Microsoft!) and the addition of multiplayer gameplay over Live. I'll end this post with the inclusion of the new tracks made available for this version.

Billion Dollar Babies (as made famous by Alice Cooper)
Hush (as made famous by Deep Purple)
Dead! (by My Chemical Romance) - Master Track
Life Wasted (as made famous by Pearl Jam)
Rock N Roll Hoochie Koo (as made famous by Rick Derringer)
The Trooper (as made famous by Iron Maiden)
Salvation (as made famous by Rancid)
Possum Kingdom (by Toadies) - Master Track
Drink Up (as made famous by Ounce of Self)
Kicked to the Curb (as made famous by Noble Rot)


Japan Finally Gives 360 Some Love

This is one of the very few times I've seen good news come out of Japan for the Xbox 360. After glowing reviews from Famitsu, Gears of War has sold out across the entire country. Microsoft is scrambling to restock the store shelves. Reports from Japan indicate the game has received lots of attention, with flocks of people gathering around the demo.

I find this funny because the tradition is that western-developed games in particular never score high with the gaming public in Japan. First-person shooting games especially are almost nonexistent as it is so commonly the cause of motion sickness and Japanese gamers just usually aren't interested. Gears is a third-person shooter but it has the familiar swinging camera associated with most FPS'.

I wonder if the noise surrounding the game coming from the US had any influence on the unexpected success of Gears. To date it has already sold 3 million copies. Microsoft has had a hard time with both the 360 and the original Xbox in Japan, but Gears of War has received countless Game of the Year awards already.

I'll place my bet on the graphics. I can't name many other games that best the graphics of Gears of War, especially on a console level. Epic did a fine job with this game, and it looks like it's the first example of a typical western game with not-so-typical market penetration.

Lionhead Teases with Fable 2 Goodies

A post from an administrator on the Lionhead Studios message board includes a nice piece of concept art for the upcoming Fable 2, as well as some small hints to go along with it:

... and we would like to add the following 3 points, for you to speculate:

  • This is a castle
  • "Own all the world's property"
  • Located in a city

I'm not entirely sure, but I believe this is a castle located in a city. In addition, I'm hearing things about being able to own all the world's property. I'm looking forward to hearing more speculation on this as it comes.

Halo 3 Beta, Round One.

I received an e-mail in my inbox informing me that the first round of Halo 3 beta testers would be e-mailed within the next two days (1/22 - 1/24). The registration process for phase one of the beta testing is officially closed and now all I have to do is wait, and hope.

If you haven't yet registered to participate in the beta testing, which will cover the multiplayer aspect of Halo 3 over Xbox Live and is scheduled to launch in Spring 2007, there are still two ways for you to get in:

Rule of Three Program
The "Rule of Three" program is currently planned for gamers (17 years and older) in the 50 United States (includes District of Columbia) and Canada who have access to an Xbox 360 Pro console or an Xbox 360 Core console with hard drive, a valid Xbox Live Gold subscription and the Halo 2 game.

It is a two-step process:
1. Participate in at least three hours of Halo 2 multiplayer sessions on your Xbox 360 console via Xbox Live during the three (3) day period beginning February 1st at 12:01 am EST and ending February 3rd at 11:59 pm EST.
2. After the three day window is over, head back over to on February 5th and register.

If you are one of the FIRST 13,333 to do this (and meet the above requirements) you will receive an invite notification in February to participate in the Halo 3 Beta.

Please note that if you registered to participate in the Halo 3 Beta during Phase One and were not selected, that does not preclude you from registering again for during Phase 2.

When Crackdown hits store shelves (Feb 20 - North America, Feb 22 - Asian territories, Feb 24 - European markets), and you still haven't secured a place in the Halo 3 multiplayer public beta you can still get in via specially marked boxes of Crackdown. These boxes of Crackdown include an invite to participate in the coveted Halo 3 multiplayer beta program when it becomes available. When the Halo 3 multiplayer beta surfaces in spring 2007, those owners of Crackdown that have access to an Xbox 360 Pro console or an Xbox 360 Core console with hard drive and a valid Xbox Live Gold subscription simply need to load their copy of Crackdown into Xbox 360 and use the disc as a key to download the beta from Xbox Live Marketplace and join the battle in Halo 3 multiplayer.

I expect sales of Crackdown to get an enormous boost in sales because of this sneaky marketing scheme. Just make sure you look at the box before you buy it to make sure you have the "specially marked packaging."

Input Strikes a Nerve

What started out as a comment on Maunderlust's blog turned into a full-fledged entry. That's what these things are for I suppose, right? I've seen a few articles on how FPS' utilize the motion control capabilities of the Wii today and it seems like it's struck a chord through the blogosphere. Everybody is writing about it now.

I believe this is because as soon as gamers laid their eyes on Nintendo's new controller, they almost immediately made the "perfect for first person games" connection. I'll admit the Wiimote has the potential to best mouse and keyboard gaming in first person games. The level of precision I'm already seeing is something I can be extremely comfortable with and these first gen games are nothing compared to what we'll be seeing a year or so down the road, and hopefully sooner.

Now we're getting into some of the ideas that expanded my "comment-into-a-blog." I'll just paste what I wrote already because I'm lazy and tired and cranky...

"The article I read suggested creating a system on the Wii that detected whenever you put your hands down, and rather then the camera going all wonky on you it would revert to the center of the screen after a predetermined amount of time. I think the main problem is that although most gamers are used to focusing their eyes, we're not quite at the same point with keeping our controllers steadily pointed at the screen.

"I still understand the first generation of Wii titles disappoints somewhat because developers are still learning how it's best to integrate controls. I still can't figure out Elebits controls at times - at one point it seems spot on and the next its out of control and I'm actually keeping my hand still [while this is happening].

"I like to look at it like this. Just as this new console possesses a learning curve for development (like all others, and even more so for the PS3), there is also a learning curve for this new method of input. I'm sure we'll see many different solutions for controlling different types of games. The beauty of it is that the Wiimote offers far more versatility in how the developers can set up their controls, so you never really know what to expect. There is no assuming in knowing exactly what it will feel like to control a game until you've played it. Does it work for you?"

Me personally, I don't believe this 'bounding box' method of input is the best solution for gamers. To me it's a clunky system that will never offer a true level of precision that's required in almost all first person shooters. What happens when the Wii goes online and you're ready to frag your friends? Are we gonna be left fighting with the controls half the time? I sure hope Metroid gets it right and the rest of developers either take notice of a system that works or find something bigger and better.

I've Got a Lot of Homework for Tomorrow...

I'm never leaving my laptop home again. Last night I didn't want to bring it with me because I figured my buddies and I would be busy enough at it is. We headed to the Tech N9NE show at the Roseland, which was my first time seeing him live and being at the Roseland. It was a good show and I was impressed by the amount Tech was actually rapping up there and not just letting the record play on. Lip syncing seems to be a favorite of a lot of big rappers out there; it's pathetic.

I ended up working at Subway today. Yes, I work at Subway. I'm looking for a new job, preferably something that has to do with web or graphic design. Honestly however, I don't have quite enough experience yet. At least I'm en route to getting it currently, although I'm definitely interested in learning programming as well. On the positive side, I might have some graphic work coming up. More updates on that as it comes (Wish me luck!).

I've got Calculus II and Writing 122 in the morning. I'll update more tomorrow. I've been hearing some cool things around the internets - mainly stuff I picked up with digg - including a guy whose managed to figure out how to play Ocarina of Time with the Wiimote. He's using Project 64, a "homemade" sensor bar (can't wait to look into that), and a few other things. I may actually try this myself and report on how it works back. It'd sure be cool to find a way to use the Wiimote to control Mario in SM64 via Project 64, don't you think?

Friday, January 19, 2007

Family Sues Station After Wii Contest Fatality

Well I figured it would happen at some point. The family of Jennifer Strange, the mother of three who died in a "Hold Your Wii for a Wii" contest at Sacramento's KDND-FM, announced they are suing the station responsible. The Entercom-owned station hasn't responded yet because their phone lines have been completely busy since the announcement.

"The station knew this was a dangerous and potentially deadly stunt, but flippantly dismissed the dangers," their lawyer, Roger Dreyer said in a statement. "Hearing the tape (of the radio show), it's very clear they knew of the dangers and could foresee that this could lead to Jennifer's death."

After Jennifer Strange was found dead in her home, where she was suspected to have consumed up to two gallons of water without urinating, the station responded by firing 10 people connected to the contest and canceling the "Morning Rave" show the contest was featured on. The hosts of the Morning Rave show were joking about the possibility of water intoxication.

"Can't you get water poisoning and, like, die?" asked one host.

"Your body is 98 percent water," a co-host replied. "Why can't you take in as much water as you want?"

The hosts clearly didn't pay enough attention to the possibility of water intoxication. I'm more or less on the fence about most lawsuits because today people sue for a lot of insignificant reasons. I wish the Strange family the best of luck. After all, it's not like they're suing a shoe company for falling down or anything.

Top 5 Tech Stories You Won't See in 2007

1. Social porn

Ever felt like the experience of sitting at your computer downloading porn just isn't quite the same as you're used to? Introducing social porn, the latest advance in a frantic search for new Web 2.0 applications. Now all your friends can please themselves without the inconvenience of having to leave their mother's basement. It's like the internet equivalent of a circle jerk!

2. Apple doesn't release a new iPod in six months.

In a stunning and extremely surprising move by Apple, the iPod manufacturer decides flooding the market with another expensive iPod with minimal upgrades isn't an effective marketing strategy. Instead, they focus on advances in production in order to cut the cost of making an iPod down. Not only will this possibly allow the average consumer to be able to stay focused on any given member of the iPod family without being confused by a new model, but now Apple has made the iPod cheap enough that it has increased its target audience to include your unborn children!

3. DRM will be accepted willingly.

Bush will ignore all laws once again and get re-elected to a third term, with no objection from anyone! Later, Congress will approve mandatory DRM-integration into all hardware. The sound of a thousand music and movie pirates steadily moaning is heard across the nation, but no one objects as everyone is distracted by Halo 3 multiplayer.

4. The RIAA/MPAA holds back from new lawsuits.

-Sharing content is stealing, but the RIAA decides NOT to sue every man, woman and toddler who downloads the Pussycat Dolls' latest single. In addition, the MPAA simply ignores downloads of Superman Returns because... well, it's not like they're losing money from it anyway.

5. Social shopping introduces the concept of social shopping, which fails miserably when identity theft increases tenfold due to sharing all information in what was an effort to introduce a revolutionary new way to shop online. Oops! Maybe they shouldn't have allowed the entire online shopping experience available to whoever cares to look.

Get a Wii for $209!

It's rumored that this Sunday, Best Buys across the nation will have Wii's in stock. You can visit the Circuit City website by clicking the image above to print out your own $40 off total purchase of $199 or more coupon to get a shiny new Wii for the amazing price of $209, as if the price weren't attractive already. Make sure you arrive early for this one.

My only regret is already picking up my Wii. Then again, I've had enough fun to warrant the $249 price tag many times over. Good luck!

Nothing Rhymes with Orange

For those who don't have the PC hardware to support it, now you can finally revel in the high definition goodness of the previously inaccessible piece of heaven known as Half-Life 2 . Not only that, but the new console release of the Half-Life 2: Orange (also known as the Orange Box) includes several extras that truly justify the not-so-heavy-on-your-wallet price of $59.99. The Orange Box will include the original Half-Life 2 as well as Half-Life 2: Episodes One and Two, Portal and Team Fortress. The Orange Box will be released for Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and PC.

In addition, the Black Box will be released exclusively on PC in Summer 2007. It includes Half-Life 2: Episode Two, Portal, and Team Fortress 2. Valve plans on releasing the Black Box for a price of $39.99.

Oh, the possibilities...

Many fans are simply anxious to try out Valve's new game Portal, which is similar in nature to Prey in it's use of portals to solve puzzles and fight enemies. You have complete control of how you place your portals. For instance, one could trap an enemy by placing a portal beneath him and the output portal right above the first portal, causing your enemy to fall in an endless loop. It has been reported but not confirmed that Portal will eventually be available for download by itself on Steam.

I'm personally looking forward to finally getting my hands on be Team Fortress, which will obviously be supported by Xbox Live. My only gripes are concerns that Valve is falling into an almost "forced bundle" stance on the new games. Why alienate PC gamers by forcing them to by games they might already have? Let's hope we get some more details on when Portal will be available independent of the package.

Additionally, people like me who bought the original version of Half-Life 2 for Xbox are kinda peeved for essentially paying for the same game twice. I guess it was to be expected that Valve would capitalize on both markets, but I still feel like a guinea pig of a successful marketing strategy. Damn you Valve!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Why We Love Gears of War

Gears of War is a shallow game. It doesn't innovate. The story seems like it was thrown in almost as an afterthought. The multiplayer component includes three game types which are essentially the same when it comes down to it. And I can't stop playing it. I've spent many nights up 'til 3 in the morning on multiplayer, and at first I couldn't figure out why.

CliffyB and the rest of the Gears of War team at Epic did not set out to create a game that blew away all expectations with its innovative game mechanics. Bleszinski acknowledges this himself. "Sometimes, the more unique your game and universe design the more difficult it can be for millions of gamers … to latch onto your game mechanics and characters." He points towards Psychonauts as an example, a critically acclaimed and innovative game that fell short commercially. Many game designers today suggest that game publishers aren't interested in originality, sometimes provoking the symptom known as "sequelitis."

The reason why Gears has been so successful is because Gears did what other games did better. The most intuitive part of the game is its cover system. Certainly other games had invoked the use of a cover system before, but none placed as much emphasis on it as Gears of War. The multiplayer level design also shines. It's very necessary to communicate with your team and set up flanking positions.

Gears of War is as addictive as it is because Epic set out to create a great game, not a piece of gaming revolution.

Xbox Live for Free?

It appears someone has found a way to subscribe to Xbox Live Gold without paying a single dime. The user 'thedalmeny' shows he is subscribed to Gold via the one month trial that ships with all new 360's, although exactly how he does it still remains a mystery.

'Thedalmeny' has reported the bug to Microsoft in order to minimize future exploiting of this hack. It also appears Microsoft threatened legal action had he gone public with the glitch. "As far as I know from developers this is the first time this has happened, especially as I can still play online with the Xbox 360 where it should be reseting my account to expired when i log into the Xbox Live services."

Many users on Digg report similar bugs, including adamnikyo. "I called to cancel my Live account so as not to be charged in the meantime. The guy on the phone was really confused. He said my account looked different from any account he'd seen before. He said my account had no expiration date, which was wrong. I told him it was probably because I was a beta tester. I wanted to tell him 'nevermind, don't cancel it', but I knew it was too late. The guy said if I hadn't drawn attention to it, I probably would've had Xbox live for free forever."

It appears this really is a widespread problem, although never has an exploit to this extent been shown. Hopefully Microsoft does a good job of cleaning up before the inevitable release of how this glitch is performed. Godspeed, Microsoft.

"Hold Your Wii for a Wii" Update

As you may have already heard, a Sacramento woman died of water intoxication as a result of participating in the "Hold Your Wii for a Wii" contest held by 107.9 KDND. Jennifer Strange was found dead in her home and was believed to have drunk two gallons of water without urinating. The contest had listeners drinking increasingly large amount of water as time passed, with the winner declared by who could hold the water without peeing for the longest.

Already ten people connected to the contest have been fired from the Entercom-owned station and the Morning Rave show has been canceled. From

“The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department and Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office are launching an investigation in the death of Jennifer Strange, who was found dead in her home after taking part in a radio station water-drinking contest.”

I wholeheartedly agree with the dismissal of the radio jockeys and all those involved with the contest. You can even hear them joking about the possibility of water intoxication here, even after they're warned by a listener who called in. I bet they feel like asses now.

Still Using a Mouse?

Slightly less than a year ago, Jeff Han unveiled a new multitouch technology. Jeff Han is a researcher at the computer science department at New York University. In the video below, Han is working with a 36" by 27" multitouch display which he uses to manipulate a "lava lamp"-type screen saver program.

Traditional touch screens often used in tablet PCs and PDAs are limited in that they can only receive input from one source at a time. Both Han's multitouch display and the new iPhone sport technology allowing multiple inputs to be accurately interpreted, offering an intuitive new way to control computer applications. I find it interesting that although the two technologies are almost exactly similar in nature, the inner workings of the two differ dramatically.

The technology behind both products are quite impressive. An optical sensor technology is utilized in Han's display with an accuracy up to 2.5 mm. The technology behind Apple's iPhone is provided by a company called Fingerworks, which has been making multitouch technology pads. Fingerworks has recently ceased operations as a business.

The difference between Han's technology and Apple's is that Han's is meant to take advantage of bigger screens. "The only thing that the touchscreen is not particularly good for is typing text," says Yann LeCun, a professor overseeing Han's work at NYU. It remains to be seen how well Apple's iPhone will receive input, but if Apple's dedication to intuitive user interfaces as demonstrated by the iPod family is any indication, I don't believe we'll have anything to worry about.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Mystery Behind iPhone's "OS X"

Apple's iPhone runs OS X. It was announced at the keynote, but not a whole lot of information has actually been released on the finer points of the no doubt modified version of OS X running on the new phone. John Gruber goes into excellent detail regarding the misconceptions formed by referring to the UI present on the iPhone as "OS X."

Macworld's own report of the iPhone reveals the actual space taken up is a mere 500 MB. Clearly a full-fledged version of OS X isn't present, as most OS X installation system folders are in excess of 2 GB.

OS X has many features that aren't necessary for a mobile phone, from hardware drivers not necessary for the iPhone to all applications developed for the Mac UI. In contrast there are several features required for a cellphone that OS X does not offer, as well as the new multi-touch screen support.

In actuality the iPhone may not run a bit-for-bit translation of OS X, but at it's heart you can be assured you're getting something very similar in nature.

Dugg Down for Compatibility

It sure would be nice if the folks over at Digg would take note of the new Blogger. As it stands, I still can't set up my blogging preferences in Digg because my account has been migrated from the standard Blogger account to the newer Google Account, which currently isn't supported by Digg. I figured the migration would make everything easier and that the ability to blog worthy articles from Digg would work with the new Blogger just as it did with the old Blogger.

I'm still receiving the error message "IXR_Error Object ( [code] => 0 [message] => The given Blogger account has been migrated to a Google Account on the new Blogger )." Who knows when they'll actually fix it. Has anyone found a work around for this problem yet? I'm anxious to start blogging my favorite Digg articles.