Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Austin Game Conference is on!

The Austin Game Conference is on!

The 2005 Austin Game Conference starts tomorrow (October 27), and continues Friday at the Austin Convention Center.

Related conference events (the Game Technology Association meeting, Khronos Developer University, Women's Game Conference, Game Writers Conference) actually started today, with the latter two continuing through tomorrow.

The conference looks even more feature packed than last year, with some impressive speakers, a big recruiting event the Technology Pavilion, and even more diverse tracks than last year:Microsoft's Xbox 360 is the conference sponsor this year, but I'm noticing a big Sony contingent (11 high-caliber speakers, versus 5 Microsoft's), which I find interesting ...

And a talented buddy of mine, Adam Langley, will be the emcee for Thursday night's kick-off party, sponsored by K2 Network. Make sure and support Adam -- the dude rocks.

I, unfortunately, will likely not be there, due to a bunch o' factors:
  1. Life stuff (life happens, can't be helped)
  2. My prioritizing the toy job over this (which sucks, because they didn't make a reciprocal prioritization for me), and
  3. A bit o' sour grapes
The sour grapes thing stems (<snicker/>) from my trying to get a hold of a specific person regarding refund policies for a certain life situation (see #1 above), and not getting a response. Which made me go back to the last year-plus of attempted interactions with specific Austin Game Conference and Austin Game Initiative folks -- not general mailboxes -- and I realized I've never gotten the courtesy of response of any kind from these folks (even when the request was for things like buying conference audio and the like). Given professionalism is a huge deal to me, this rubs me the wrong way.

Be that as it may, I wish I could go the next couple of days -- not attending something like this for a voice actor who loves video games is a bit of a kick in the teeth. Plus I miss out on meeting new and very cool folks, and catching up with folks I met last year.

Ah well. For fun, check out my last year's summary of the conference:

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Wal-Mart Xbox 360s shut down; New live is ... not really ...

  1. Wal-Mart Xbox 360s shut down
  2. New live is ... not really ...

1. Wal-Mart Xbox 360s shut down

Turns out something in the Xbox 360s is interfering with Wal-Mart's wireless "hand scanner" <immatureGiggle/> system, so the Bentonville, Arkansas, headquarters told all stores to shut down the 360 kiosks.

Microsoft said it found and deployed a fix for the problem within 24 hours.

I'm wondering what part of the console conflicted -- are they using wireless controllers in the kiosks? Or do they have wireless adapters for each one, so that people can play head-to- head at the kiosks?

More info at

2. New live is ... not really ...

I mentioned a couple of days ago that and Xbox Live were going offline for a couple of days for some sweet Xbox 360 Live upgrades and the introduction of My Xbox.

So, today it's back online. Sort of. And it has sweet features. Not.

As of late this afternoon, if can't resolve to your locale (like "/en-US/"), it was still serving the "under construction" page.

And the "new pages"? Not much substance. There's nothing behind My Xbox -- just a bunch of teases that I think I touched on with more detail.

Actually, they've removed functionality. You can't sign in with your .Net Passport anymore. (Still works at, though.)

Oh, and that MSN Messenger thing I mentioned?

See the pict below, and you'll see that I was partially right.

The Xbox tab is back online. But, again, functionality has been removed. It's not tied to Xbox Live, so it looks like for a month you won't be able to use Messenger to see if your friends are playing Xbox.

What's the deal?

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Xbox Live/ outages on Monday and Tuesday

  1. Xbox Live/ outages on Monday and Tuesday
  2. My Xbox is coming
  3. Xbox 360 kiosks are out there
  4. Get Xbox 360 games early
  5. New maps for Doom 3
  6. Florida attorney Jack Thompson is outta control
  7. Am I bugging you? How 'bout now?

1. Xbox outages on Monday and Tuesday

Xbox Live, Microsoft's premiere onling gaming service, and (including the forums), will be offline Monday and Tuesday (Oct. 24th to 25th), to prepare for the launch of Xbox Live on Xbox 360 -- A month in advance of the new console.

Everything'll be back online Tuesday, with a new look, tighter integration, and -- My Xbox.

2. My Xbox is coming

Along with the relaunch of Xbox Live and, My Xbox will be "a seamless integration between Xbox 360, Xbox Live, and". You can log onto My Xbox from, and see your friends, games you play, and -- new to the Xbox 360 world -- achievements you earn, Gamer Zone, reputation (out of 5 stars), and gamerscore in real time.

You'll be able to get to your info -- and that of other gamers -- from or from the Xbox Live dashboard. You'll also be able to share your own gamer card -- on MSN Spaces, the Xbox forums, on your personal Web page or blog, or as your active Windows® desktop.

More info online (once it's back online). You'll need to link your Gamertag to a Microsoft Passport account.

Oh, and they haven't said anything yet, but I'm calling this one early -- integration with MSN Messenger.

I said last week that Microsoft and Yahoo were joining forces on the Instant Messaging front. I also notice that my Xbox tab on MSN Messenger has changed to the new Xbox 360 logo. So I'm just saying ...

3. Xbox 360 kiosks are out there

Reportedly, Wal-Mart started getting playable Xbox 360s last week. has a running list of comment from readers claiming their local Wal-Mart has the new consoles.

The most interesting? Not that they'll be playing "videos of 10 games expected to make the console's launch", (slightly more interesting is allegedly playable demos of King Kong and Call of Duty 2), but that "customers will be able to download content from the kiosk, provided they bring in a memory card". Hmm ...

GameStop stores started outfitting Friday, and should all be outfitted within a month.

Seems to me Microsoft's being unfortunately close to the vest as to when Joe Gamer is going to get some hands-on time with the new console.

4. Get Xbox 360 games early

Supposedly, Best Buy will have a number of titles available November 15 -- a week before the console -- including Call of Duty 2, Condemned: Criminal Origins, Dead or Alive 4, Kameo: Elements of Power, Need for Speed: Most Wanted, Quake 4, Perfect Dark: Zero, and Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland. King Kong will supposedly ship when the console ships, and Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion may be pushed to December, and Project Gotham Racing 3 my be slipping into 2006.

Keep in mind, J Allard kind of hedged on the console launch date of November 22, saying some retailers "may make the console available early" -- probably a nod to retailer Wal-Mart/Sams Club, who historically don't honor publishers or manufacturers release dates.

5. New maps for Doom 3

"Surface" and "Communications" were part of Doom 3's stand-alone expansion, Doom 3: Resurrection of Evil, and download the maps for free.

6. Florida attorney Jack Thompson is outta control

Jack Thompson seems to hate video games. Possibly game makers. Maybe gamers, too. The arguably reactionary Florida attorney regularly attacks games with (again, arguably) frivolous lawsuits or non-calls to actions.

Most recently, Thompson has gotten into a pissing contest with Web comic Penny Arcade -- the funny, crass, video game culture comic that inspires a huge fanbase.

Check out summaries on, Penny Arcade (search for "oh nos it's teh feds!"), and Game Politics.

7. Am I bugging you? How 'bout now?

How about now? Now? How about ... right now?

Anyway, a bunch of you are on E-Mail for this blog, so this is a heads up that I'm going to be doing a lot more with this blog.

If you get bugged by the volume, get a hold of me and let me know if you want me to remove you from distribution list. You can also sign up for XML feed distributions, too.

Or just set up an Email filter and let me live on blissfully with my perception of readership ...

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

"Stubbs the Zombie" hits the streets

I've been looking forward to Stubbs the Zombie: Rebel without a Pulse, that upcoming quirky weird (and Rated "M" for "Mature") zombie game from Alexander Seropian (Halo's daddy) over at Wideload Games (and published by Austin company Aspyr Media, Inc.).

It almost looks like I've got a near fixation with Stubbs. I started hyping the game since before I know what it was (and here, revealed here, music mumblings here, recently chatted up the announced co-op feature, and even gave a nod to The Animation Farm folks for their recent cinematic).

And the game is supposed to hit the street this week. Check out the official press release below, and look forward to me blogging about it soon.

And if you want to tag team the "Unholy Flatulence" zombie power in co-op, call me ...

PRESS RELEASE -- Zombie Mania Hits Punchbowl, PA

Aspyr Media and Wideload Games today announced that the Xbox version of their upcoming Stubbs the Zombie game has gone gold. The game will hit stores in late October at an SRP of $49.99.

In this action-packed, gut-throwing Zombie game, players take on the role of Stubbs the Zombie. Before his premature death, Edward "Stubbs" Stubblefield was just another traveling salesman trying to get by during the Great Depression. His lifelong losing streak reached its logical conclusion when he was brutally murdered and ignominiously buried in a remote Pennsylvania field. Flash forward to 1959, opening day of Punchbowl , PA “City of the Future” when Stubbs emerges from his grave and he is HUNGRY…for brains.

In this game with lots of humorous twists and turns, players control Stubbs as he lurches through several environments in and around Punchbowl , PA , a perfect city free of crime and pollution and full of hovercars and helper-robots. Feed on the brains of the populace, which includes militia men, riot cops, prisoners and much, much more . Once attacked by Stubbs, they become Stubbs minions and help him in his battles, which erupt everywhere from farms to police stations to the Punchbowl plaza.

Players can choose to play as Stubbs alone, or grab a friend named Grubbs for multiplayer co-op action. Grubbs was also once a traveling salesman who, through a series of unfortunate coincidences, ended up in the same unmarked grave as Stubbs. Heck, Grubbs even dons a similar suit to Stubbs and sustained the same fatal stomach in jur y. To double the brain-eating, arm-throwing, head-bowling, gut-tossing fun, players need to grab a friend and start feasting.

Stubbs has many "organic" (and not so organic) weapons at his disposal to help build his Zombie hordes. These include:
  • Conversion - Death is not the end! When Stubbs kills an enemy, they become one of his zombie followers. These zombies will attack humans when possible and attempt to follow Stubbs in his crusade. Building and maintaining a horde of zombies is crucial to beating the game's biggest encounters.
  • The Hand – Stubbs can detach his hand, throw it and control the hand as a separate character. The hand is faster than humans, can go places where Stubbs can't fit, is expendable (so it can be sent into certain death), and can possess human characters.
  • Possession - Using his detached arm, Stubbs can possess human characters, giving him access to their weapons, speed, and other abilities.
  • Gut Grenade - Stubbs can throw gut grenades, a ranged area-of-effect weapon. He can reach into his gut, pull out some viscera and lob it like a grenade to cause damage and stun opponents.
  • Unholy Flatulence – Stubbs can unleash unholy flatulence, a local, last ditch area-of-effect attack, which will kill humans in the immediate vicinity.
  • Zombie Strength – Stubbs' super-strength allows him to smash through boarded-up doors and lay waste to the humans cowering behind it with powerful melee attacks.
  • Bowling Heads -- Strike! Stubbs can bowl his head into enemies and strategically detonate it. After the head explodes, it turns anyone in the vicinity into zombies.
More information can be found at Stubbs will be released this fall for Xbox, PC and Mac.

Signs revealed (!

  1. Signs revealed (
  2. Fable redux ships
  3. National Instruments to test Xbox 360 controllers


1. Signs revealed (

So, the ARG I mentioned yesterday has been revealed, and it's a contest.

If you go to, you'll find an Roswell-esque dossier of "Hex sightings" compiled by "Dr. Jason Lutz" -- basically, the weird, the bizarre, the unusual -- that are supposed to be the result of the Hex effect".

If you submit something equally bizarre (photo with caption, video, etc.) you might be one of 360 people to net an Xbox 360 early. Other prizes include three Xbox 360 games (Perfect Dark Zero, Project Gotham Racing 3 and Kameo: Elements of Power), a one year GOLD Xbox LIVE membership, and a three day/two night trip for the winner to an Xbox 360 event.

The rules?
"Researchers should keep in mind the Priciples of the Hex:

     "Some of These Things Are Not Like the Others."
     "Some of You People Are Not Like the Others."

Anything else, Dr. Lutz?

"usually emits its strongest vibrations in groupings of 1, 6, or 30."

"Truly, the beginning is nigh."

2. Fable redux ships

Fable: The Lost Chapters (Microsoft Game Studios and Lionhead Studios) shipped to stores today as a Platinum Hits (MSRP of only $19.99) title for Xbox.

The expanded title includes the original game, with added new areas to explore, new weapons, new spells, and new quests.

3. National Instruments to test Xbox 360 controllers

Microsoft has picked Austin-based National Instruments LabVIEW and PXI-based test solution for its Xbox 360 controllers. This is a virtual instrumentation solution (developed in Microsoft's design validation lab) is now part of the production line to functionaly test every Xbox 360 controller.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Master Chief is a chick! YA(ARG)!

  1. Master Chief is a chick (not really)
  2. YA(ARG)!
  3. Windows XP Media Center Edition Update supports the Xbox 360
  4. Hell hath frozen over (Microsoft and Yahoo join forces)


1. Master Chief is a chick (not really)

I mentioned earlier that there was going to be a HALO unlockable character in Dead or Alive 4.

Turns out that character is Spartan-458 -- a female Spartan warrior. I told you Team Ninja likes the ladies. Wonder if her armor will be pink? Or sensible, for that matter.

Also, it turns out a stage from the HALO universe will make it into DOA4.

I wonder when this will become a playable model online in HALO?

2. YA(ARG)!

Is it a new month already? Must be time for Yet Another Microsoft/XBox 360-related Alternate Reality Game; Because ilovebees,, and OrigenXbox360 were not enough ...

This weird sign has been showing up everywhere in the last week -- on the beaches of San Francisco and Jacksonville (Florida), on the sides of trucks driving through the U.S., theater marquees in Seattle and San Francisco, projected on buildings in LA, on NY City street corners -- everywhere (seriously, it's on my computer monitor right now!).

Anyway, Microsoft's Deep Throat (no, not that one) has been contacting the folks over at

The most recent communique`:
On October 18 (Tuesday), "the true purpose of the sign will be revealed, and the truly committed will have their chance to experience the New Beginning before the rest of the world."
So, people get to play the Xbox 360 earlier than everyone else? A month plus earlier?

Ah, but the most intriguing is the last little bit of the message:
"Your readers have until then to solve this first puzzle."
3. Windows XP Media Center Edition Update supports the Xbox 360

The update lets Windows XP Media Center Edition Update support the Xbox 360 "will enable customers to stream digital music, videos, photos, and standard and high-definition television and movies from Media Center PCs to any television in their home via the Xbox 360 gaming system."

I downloaded the rollup update when it was released October 14. I downloaded the critical fix that was released for it on October 15.

And I still can't get it to scale correctly for a 1280x720 27" LCD HDTV. But it will scale to 1280x768, which the TV doesn't support cleanly.

1280x720 is 16:9. 1280x768 is 16:9.6. It is 1.66:1 -- which my TV is not.

4. Hell hath frozen over (Microsoft and Yahoo! join forces)

Well, kinda. Microsoft and Yahoo! are going to link their Instant Messaging Services. This means people on Yahoo! Messenger and MSN Messenger or Windows Messenger will be able to talk to each other, share contacts, etc., without using a third-party like Trillian (which rocks, but limits functionality of the supported IM clients).

Since Microsoft's messaging will likely be mostly or totally supported in Xbox 360 Live, this moves the available IM base to somewhere south of 300M worldwide users.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Xbox 360 launch titles

  1. Xbox 360 launch day titles
  2. Xbox 360 launch window titles

(*) = games I particularly care about
(?) = Xbox 360 versions of Xbox games
         (might not have new content)
[Unmarked] = Da rest (yo')

1. Xbox 360 launch day titles

OK, Microsoft has been stupidly mum on what next month's launch day titles for the Xbox 360 are going to be (uh, it's October, yo?).

Anyway, thankfully, third-party publishers have stepped to tell us what titles will be out no later than November 22 (some, like Need for Speed Most Wanted and Madden NFL 06 are supposedly going to be ready for lucky sods who get their 'box early).2. Xbox 360 launch window titles

OK, Microsoft has been hedging the games list for the 360 launch by talking about the games that will fill in the consoles "launch window" a three-month span that will take us through February.Check out my separate blog on the backwards compatibility list.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Peter Jackson to Produce Halo movie! Halo character in DOA4! And other stuff ...

  1. Peter Jackson to Produce Halo movie
  2. Halo character in DOA4
  3. X05 Xbox 360 game announcements of note
  4. Other X05 stuff

1. Peter Jackson to Produce Halo movie

People were wondering what the big announcement would be at this year's XO -- the Xbox brand experience -- and it turned out to be a doozy.

Triple-Academy Award winners Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh will executive produce HALO, based on Microsoft’s phenomenally popular video game from Bungie Studios. Weta Digital Ltd. and Weta Workshop Ltd. will provide the creatures, miniatures and visual effects for the production. A Weta Brute? Weta Active Camouflage! The creative powers behind The Lord of the Rings trilogy and King Kong pushing Halo? Omigosh ...

Alex Garland (28 Days Later screen writer and The Beach novelist) has written the original adaption for Halo, and a director will be announced shortly.

Peter Jackson is wrapping both the King Kong film and his hands-on video game from Ubisoft (which includes Weta assets from the film).

Previous XO reveals included pricing for the original Xbox (2001); Xbox Live and the acquisition of Rare (2002); a partnership with Epic Games and the new Xbox branding (2003); and major announcements from third party publishers and developers.

But this year's announcement? Awesome!

2. Halo character in DOA4

Yeah, so Bungie Studios confirmed the rumor -- A HALO character is going to be unlockable in Dead or Alive 4. Not only will this be an unlockable character, but pains have been taken (as per usual in the DOA world) to integrate the character in a "believable" way to the rest of the mythos. Bungie's saying, "You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the explanation for a Halo character in the DOA universe, even if it’s a bit tongue in cheek."

I was telling some buddies last night while we were muddling through Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects) that I think this character is likely to be AI construct Cortana (face it, Team Ninja likes the ladies). We'll see if I'm right.

If ever there was a reason for me to stop sucking at fighting games, this is it.

Head .. going to ... explode ...

3. X05 Xbox 360 game announcements of note

Electronic Arts Inc. (EA) -- Announced FIFA 06: Road to FIFA World Cup (Xbox 360 exclusive), and new franchise Superman, and confirmed Godfather, Burnout, and Battlefield.

Ubisoft Entertainment -- Announced Splinter Cell 4. (I fully expect Ubisoft to get bought by EA at some point.)

id Software Inc. -- Announced Castle Wolfenstein is on its way to the Xbox 360. (id recently staved off a Activision takeover bid.)

Microsoft Game Studios -- Announced Xbox Exclusives Crackdown (developed by Real Time Worlds, and created by the creator of the Grand Theft Auto franchise); Too Human (Silicon Knights); and Action RPG Mass Effect (BioWare Corp., the folks behind Star Wars, Knights of the Old Republic, Jade Empire, and this new game that may be up there with Epic Games's Gears of War).

Eidos Interactive Ltd. -- Announced Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Legend for the Xbox 360.

4. Other X05 stuff

X05 is just getting started, so more updates to follow.

In the meanwhile, check out the X05 page over at I expect a bunch of new screenshots, video, and a few game Website announcements this week.