Red Ring of Death

There are four words that any Xbox 360 owner fears may come to visit their system: Red Ring of Death. I knew the signs that foreshadowed their coming; last weekend while playing Rock Band the Xbox froze.  It had never done that before.  When I turned it back on, everything seemed to work... but there was no video.  No video?  Oh, the horrible seed that was planted in my mind.  Surely, I had done everything right to stave of this spector of evil. I tried turning the system off and then back on - and everything worked.  Hours of Rock Band were played that day. Today, while doing the menial task of streaming "Frasier" video the XBox's Media Center Extender function (turning the xbox into, basically, a dvr), it froze again.  Same deal.  I turned if off.  When it came back on, no video.  Turn it off, wait a few moments... turn it back on and everything worked just fine. Ashley's episode of Fraiser was over and she went downstairs to make one of our favorite dishes, which I call "the noodley thing."  Basically, noodle and spices and cheese and chicken.  So I fire up Rock Band, working on the last leg of the solo drum "hard" gigs. It froze again.  The reality set in.  I stared at the Xbox, not wanting to know what would happen.  I turned it off.  Waited.  Turned it on:


The horror of red staring me in the face, taunting me with it's evil electrical glare.  Blinking, flashing to get my attention.  Like I didn't see you, Red Ring of Death!  You, who swoop down from mysterious origins, held at bay by proper air flow!  What did I do wrong to deserve you?  Your electrical current is stable and even!  You rest side ways, surrounded by free air!  You should not be here, you vile symbol of death and destruction! And yet, here you are.  I reject you, Red Ring of Death.  You will be exorcised from the circuitboard of my faithful 360 by the nice techs who work for your maker.  Oh, 1-800-4MYXBOX, your promises of safe passage for my beloved box of virutal worlds must hold steadfast and true! You were one of the first off the assembly line, turned over to my service even before launch due to the power of HEX168.  Fly with the speed of Kazooie, be protected by the guns of Master Chief, and let not your promises of safe return be simply a Fable.  Be this not a goodbye, but a new, healthier, less heat-enduced stress beginning!
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E3 2008: My Opinions

Pardon the geekiness of the post, but... if you know me then you know that as far as my hobbies go they are wrapped up in video games and comic books.  So, for me, E3 is one of the most important "entertainment" events of the year for me.  Basically, it's the week where all the big publishers trot out their upcoming releases for the remainder of the year and a little beyond. The biggest news usually always comes out of the big three press conferences: Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony.  The nature of the video game marketplace is very competitive, with people investing their time and money into usually one system or another and wanting their chosen system to have the best showing and "win."  However, since my dad was a 'gamer' before there ever was the term 'gamer,' we've usually always had all the systems in any given generation (Atari and Intellivision, Sega Master System and NES, etc etc). Now that I'm older anad on my own, well... that hasn't changed.  I won the 360 through a contest, the Wii was bought on day one, and we got a PS3 because it was the cheapest blu-ray player... and anticipation of LittleBigPlanet.  So, for me, seeing what was presented at the press conferences basically sets up what I'm going to be playing for the next 6-8 months or so.  Microsoft Microsoft's Xbox Press Conference was, imho, the 'winner' this year.  For me, the most important part of gaming is having new experiences.  I've literally been gaming my whole life, so innovation is important.  This fall, Microsoft is recreating the Xbox software, changing the dashboard and adding new features.  What's the real innovation? Xbox Primetime Appearantly, there's going to be set gaming times where people can come together to play a game show like 1vs100.  The idea is that one person will get picked to actually be the contestant... and actually win stuff for real.  Instead of just watching 1vs100, you literally get to be a part of the mob.  Color me impressed.  Basically, Microsoft just created an entirely new genre of games, and redefined what we will come to call "episodic gaming." What else did the announce to take up my time?  Fable 2 is going to rock my world.  In this game, everything effects everything.  You can buy any house, save - or kill - any character, etc etc.  Viva Pinata 2 will likely do a repeat of 2006 and manage to literally steal 3 full days of my life.  They also announced "You're in the Movies" which seems... interesting.  Basically, you play mini-games with the camera, and then the game pulls out the video of you playing the game and makes a movie out of it.  Could be a blast... could be a bomb.  I'm interested enough that I'll give it a look... if I can buy it w/o buying another camera. Nintendo Oh, Nintendo.  How you wound me.  I bought the Wii with such high expectations.  I dreamt of wonderful gaming, new experiences and pure, unadulterated fun.  You delivered akward gameplay and Dreamcast/Gamecube graphics.  Zelda was fun.  Thanks for that. So this year, I had high hopes.  The Wii has been around for awhile.  Animal Crossing was due to be revealed, and surely they had some suprises.  And then... you bombed.  You failed.  It was almost embarrassing. Wii Sports 2 was announced, with a new add-on to the controller that makes it do what the Wii should have always done: let you have sword fights.  This does look good... but doesn't come out until the Spring.  And you've burned me enough already... so you'll need more than swordfighting in Wii Sports 2 to interst me.  (I say that now... but c'mon.  It's sword fighting.  I'm buying it.) Animal Crossing for the Wii is starting to show the limitations of the Wii.  Their online service is just way too lackluster.  It's almost painful, guys.  No central server, only 4 (i think) people in a town at a time.  And you need to let me do more than go fishing with my friends.  Sigh.  That's it for the highlights that interested me.  You guys fumbled big time. Sony Sony had a very strong showing this year.  Resistance 2 almost has me more interested than Gears of War 2 (for the Xbox) does... I'll only be buying on this fall.  I might actually have to take reviews into consideration. LittleBigPlanet is, hands down, the gaming reason I bought a PS3.  They used it in the conference to show off their numbers and data.  I cannot wait until the first time I get to make a presentation at work on "interactive media" and end up using LittleBigPlanet to do it. Sony also showed a preview of what could have made them win the show for me... but they didn't announce any kind of release for it.  DC Universe Online is going to pick up where Microsoft fumbled (they cancelled their Marvel online game).  It's going to steal my life when it comes out.  Jim Lee on stage sealed the deal for me.  DC Universe, by itself, could make Sony the winner at next year's E3.   So...  I now get to sort out what I will be playing the next few months (outside of Rock Band 2).  It looks like Microsoft will be getting the most of my time and money, with Sony coming in  strong second.  Nintendo?  Step up your game, please.  I want to like you again.
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Hollow Gamerscore Points: Rock Band and the Pixies

My buddy Kris and I have played Rock Band far too much.  Last night, I purchased the Pixies Doolittle album for it (mmm... such good music!).  While joyously reliving my teen years through the album, we were jamming out to one of the tracks, "Silver," when we decided to try it on expert (we usually play on hard, with the occasional expert setting). 'Silver,' on Rock Band, on Expert, on the drums, is quite possibly one of the easiest songs in the game.  And, for my efforts, I got 100% on the song.  And the first 100% you get on expert comes with a little chime:

Oh, the torn emotions!  On one hand I was estatic because it's an achievement I've been working hard for, furthering my drumming skills since we got the game.  But... I feel like it's a hollow victory.  I didn't get the achievement from doing the hard work that it suggests!  I will always feel empty with these 10 pts, because it feels like I should have done more to earn them.  Alas, alas. (But I have to admit... it feels good to have unlocked it, within the confines and rules of acquisition.  So if you're fed up and need to unlock this achievement... go buy Silver.  You, too, will earn the hollow victory that will now plagues my conscience.)
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Macromarketing vs Micromarketing

It's an ugly word that's surrounded by controversy into today's hyper-transparency culture: marketing.  But is there a difference between macromarketing with one consistent message, and micromarketing and targeting the real needs and interests of individuals?  Is there a place for marketing ideas in the Church?  And, if so, what are the macro and micro messages we are sending? [ appKey=MarbachViewerEmbedded&embedId=32464978&uri=channels/30223/149163]
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Top 5 Free Xbox Live Arcade Games that I Want to See

Occasionally, Microsoft lets loose a few Xbox Live Arcade (XBLA) game, such as the horrible Yaris, the briefly free Texas Hold-em and the Camera-Only TotemBall.  Here are the top 5 games I want Microsoft to make free for the community. 1) Magic: The Gathering Starter Kit What is it: Magic the Gathering singlehandedly created a business in the collectible card game.  I was there almost when it started, buying packs of Antiquities.  Players build decks and fight it out using a a handful of the thousands of cards available in the world.  Unfortunately, all digital attempts have not been nearly as successful. What the Community Gets: Give us the tools, the software, and a tournament-legal starter kit.  The first hit is free, and after that we will buy pack after pack and deck after deck.  This one is a complete no-brainer.  The only problem is that Wizards of the Coast may not want to play nice with MS.  Solution: MS should just buy them, and in turn own the ips of MANY successful franchises, including Dragonlance, HeroScape, etc.  Would Hasbro sell? What Microsoft Gets: Millions of dollars in digital sales of random decks and packs.  Run special promotions where past sets are available only one month out of the year.  Create special promo packs featuring MS characters.  This would be a major win if it was a first-party release. 2) You Have to Burn the Rope What is it: One of the best commentaries on gaming, ever.  Go, now. What the Community Gets: Achievement Unlocked: You Burned the Rope.  200pts. What Microsoft Gets: Build it in XNA, turn it into a marketing piece. 3) MMO Pong What is it: Pong controlled by the average input of all users in the game... truly social gaming. What the Community Gets: A giant way to waste time.  Imagine a giant hall of voices.  Or the background made up of images fed from the XBox Cameras.  Yes, it's just a time waster... but sometimes that's all you need.  Or, perhaps this could just be the loading screen for an online games? What Microsoft Gets: A live test bed for connections.  They can test the stress of how many concurrent connections can happen in a game before hiccupping.  How many audio feeds, video feeds, etc.  Who doesn't love live statistical data? 4) Zork HD

What is it: Zork, a text-based game, was first released in 1980.  Essentially, it hearalded the way for interactive fiction and storytelling via digital gaming.

What the Community Gets: A trip down memory lane and a piece of gaming history.  Plus, an actual gaming use for the Chatpad.

What Microsoft Gets: A second round of marketing for the Messenger Kit.  Surely it couldn't take THAT much effort to convert Zork to an Arcade title?  Would definately generate more interest and noise from the gamer community about the messenger kit than any magazine or web ad would.

5) Zune Store

What is it: ok, so it wouldn't really be an arcade game, but more of a utility.  If I can stream any song I want to my computer when I have a Zune Pass, and my Zune Pass is tied to my GamerTag... why can't I straight stream via the XBox, too?

What the Community Gets: A great way to create playlists on the xbox for background listening.  Just load up a playlist from ANY song on the service, save it, and the Xbox become the center of any party involving music.

What Microsoft Gets: More Zune Passes sold, and deeper integration between the Xbox and Zune communities.  If you have the Zune software installed, Microsoft could push you playlists for the music of any upcoming game easily...

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XBox Surface

When we were in Seattle, John let us play with the Microsoft Surface. [youtube=] One of the questions I asked (you can hear it in the video) is when I can use it with my XBox.  John's answer was that it could play Games for Windows, so I could play Halo 2 on it... But this guy got confirmation that it could be used as an accessory to the actual 360. Sweet, delicious table-gaming on the XBox.  Now go make me a Magic: The Gathering game to go with it, please!
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