Category Archives: Games

XBoxOne’s Problem With Mixed Metaphors

Blue Ocean Strategy is a powerful thing. The Wii took great advantage of this, as has Apple and others. Some people try to cite this as an example of the direction for Microsoft’s upcoming XBoxOne. But that ocean isn’t blue anymore. Older parents and grandparents that bought Wii’s aren’t looking for another box. Certainly not one with 3 Operating Systems and a camera.

The Wii was an innovative and mass-market product that hit big before tablets, and during the early days of touch phones. They have taken over the “casual” gaming market.

So what does that leave? The Smart TV / Living-Room audience. That was the stated goal of the XBox project when it launched… to “invade the living room.” IGN in particular has been jumping all over this point when defending the strategy. Saying the mass market is so much bigger than the gaming market. So what of that argument? Sony and Nintendo aren’t making serious runs as the all-in-one living room box. Is that the win for Microsoft?

That argument forgets Roku players, Apple TVs, Google TV, tivo, smart TVs and all of the other sub-$100 products in this market space. Sure, they don’t do as much. And that innovation could come at a much lower cost.

How hard would it be for Apple or Roku to make an ipad app with Siri features that controls an Apple TV or Roku box? Now I have a touch screen remote and voice commands for my entertainment.

And all of those companies are good at consumer devices. Much more consistent than the Microsoft track record with Zune, Surface, etc.

Add to it things that don’t work in a new digital world. Take today’s Penny Arcade discussion on backwards compatibility for digital assets. Microsoft didn’t think that one through.

I’m not trying to pile on. I hope there are multiple good next-gen consoles. But if you’re going to play in the consumer device model, you have to remember who’s already there, and what they have conditioned consumers to expect.

A 4 Year Old Netbook… The Best Portable Gaming System?

I have an Acer netbook from a couple of years back. I use to get a fair amount of use, for times when I wanted to read pdfs, browse the web, etc. It was great to have at the hospital to upload pictures and post updates to facebook when my daughters were born. All that aside, I don’t use it much these days, given I have an iPhone and regularly borrow my wife’s iPad.

But I’ve found a really good use for it. I’ve loaded up all the PC games I’ve saved over the years, and a few new ones that have low requirements. The netbook serves as a great portable gaming system. Sure, it’s not a pocket system, but many of the newer portable systems aren’t. The iPad and Playstation Vita aren’t pocket systems, and the 3DS and PSP are a bit of a stretch. And you can find large numbers of great games still available new on Amazon, or used on EBay and Amazon.

Netbook and Games

The notebook has:

  • 1.6ghz Intel Atom Processor
  • 1.5GB Ram (Upgraded)
  • 802.11g Wifi
  • 150GB 7200RPM Sata Drive (Upgraded)
  • Third Party Hi Capacity Battery (Upgraded)

The games I have installed:

The system has great battery life, and is very versatile. You can use just the trackpad for more keyboard centric games, or use a usb mouse for games like Diablo or Torchlight. You have support for an external monitor if you want it, but it’s certainly not needed. For extended gaming sessions, the power-brick is very portable.

One limitation was games that required the cd to play (mostly the Blizzard games). This required taking an external dvd drive with me, and cut battery life considerably shorter. I lived with the limitation for a while. I own all of these games (see the photo above), so I wouldn’t feel bad legally about a no-cd hack, but just don’t trust that such programs aren’t viruses or trojans.

Finally, I realized all I needed was a virtual iso mounter. I ripped all the discs I needed and put them on the netbook. With the larger drive installed, there was plenty of space. And I use the free Virtual CloneDrive to mount the iso files as needed. Load times are drastically improved from when the cd drive is used. I may or may not be in a gray area of the EULA for these games, but I sleep at night. I’m certainly not violating the spirit of them, as I own licensed copies of each game. And given these aren’t games that have been patched to deal with modern systems that may not have disc drives (as many games have for distribution on platforms like Steam), I don’t have a problem circumventing the drive requirement.

I’ve been playing a lot of Diablo and Starcraft in particular on the system. It reminds me that gameplay is king. These games have very dated graphics, music, etc. But at the end of the day, they are unforgettable games with addicting campaigns. If you can find a buddy who likes the idea as well, imagine how easy it is to setup a LAN party with these systems. Anyone who enjoyed pc games over the last 15 years or so should consider such a setup. It’s a relatively cheap setup that can provide hundreds of hours of gaming time.

Wii Hating is the New Black

Sarcastic Gamer, Many of the IGN staffers, they are all jumping on the bandwagon.  It’s Wii bashing time.  All you hear is that they are ruining the market for hardcore gamers.  And shovel-ware abounds.

Shovel-ware always abounds on the hottest selling platform.  Atari, NES, PS2.  All systems that had tons of bad games released.  This isn’t new.

And there are things about last generation games that have been helped by the “casual market”.  Parents and grandparents playing games exposes them to the variety of games in the market.  Hence, they will be more informed about the shaped of the market the next time they hear some jackass like Bill O’Reilly ranting on a game like GTA IV.  Also, a lot of games are shorter.  If you have the substance, I can enjoy a 40+ game (rpgs, etc).  But do I need a hack-n-slash game to add 20 more levels of filler?  Heavenly sword was a bad buy for it’s length, but it was a great rental.

Finally, you can enjoy both.  I have a Wii, and like that my wife will play Big Brain, Wii Sports, or Mario Kart with me.  I don’t care that Wii Sports has trimmed down options and one course.  I used to spend hours playing combat and warlords on the Atari growing up, how much variety did those games have?  And I play some more “hardcore” games myself on the Wii (Mario Galaxy, Zelda, Battalion Wars, Fire Emblem).  Even some of the Wii Ware are worth mentioning, I’ve been getting a kick out of the Crystal Chronicles mini-game.

I have other platforms, and I can play more traditional games there.  I’ve been through Mass Effect, Portal, Heavenly Sword, FF3 DS, Halo 3, and more in the last year.  I’d say that takes me out of the “casual” realm.  But that doesn’t stop me from playing Wii Sports.

If you still aren’t convinced, answer this question.  My in-laws have a Wii, and play games on it even when they don’t have visitors under the age of 30.  If you put a PS3 or 360 on their TV and took away the Wii, would that continue?  No way.  What’s going to keep them going, Viva Pinata?  Calling all Cars?  Pixeljunk Monsters?  As “casual” as those games are, the traditional controller still pushes away a lot of older users.

Mass Effect, Halo 3, Mario Galaxy, Bioshock, Metal Gear Solid 4, GTA IV, and CoD 4 were all released in the last calendar year.  I’d say the hardcore gaming market is doing just fine.

Recommend and Rant

Professor Layton and the Curious Village was given to me as a Birthday
present. I’ve been making quick work of it, as it’s very addicting.
I highly recommend it to anyone who likes puzzles, mystery or fun.

You control the professor and his assistant, Luke, as they visit the
town of St. Mystere at the request of one Lady Dahlia. They find a
strange village full of mysteries which you investigate. The gameplay
consists of some point and click adventure, and solving puzzles. I
seem to be nearing the end at about the 10 hour mark, though your time
will vary with your success at the puzzles.

Normally, in the course of playing a puzzle game, I find a lot of
questions that I have a gripe with. The instructions are poor,
unclear, etc. I have only hit one puzzle that has me wanting to track
down a developer and smack him in the mouth.

This is not a spoiler, I merely give you what the instructions should
read. For the puzzle “Seven Squares”, it should read draw a line
between each and every pin…

I came up with numerous solutions that placed 7 or more squares on the
board while not using a pin twice, but only one answer is accepted.
If you use the above instructions, then the one answer will truly be
the “one and only answer”.

Regardless of that one snag, get this game if you have a DS.

3 Cheers for Sarcastic Gamer

They led a successful boycott against Battlefield: Bad Company.  The game was going to sell weapons that were clearly developed before launch for an additional $10.  It’s the kind of DLC that rubs most people the wrong way, and it’s great to see a giant like EA get the message that a game shouldn’t be unbalanced for this kind of stupid marketing gimic.

Nicely done, Lono, Doc & Company…