For those that aren’t familiar with Stepto, he’s head of the Xbox Live Policy and Enforcement Team. Basically his team is responsible for banning cheaters, hackers, or suspicious accounts. The hacker, known as PredatorSik, recorded himself toying around with Stepto’s account after he was able to gain access. PredatorSik then threw the video up on YouTube and sort of nerded out and cussed his way through a string of words of disbelief. We’ll see if the video remains up on YouTube, as I’m sure this kid will be running from Microsoft’s lawyers in the coming days. Check out the video.
At PAX East last week Microsoft demonstrated a little bit of their moderation process for Xbox Live. Below is a video showing one of the tools they use and how the moderation works. It’s pretty cool to see how it’s handled, but as the video says, there are more tools involved than what is shown here.
Microsoft announced today that there would be a price increase coming to Xbox Live Gold. Here in the United States it will be an extra $10 per year for Xbox Live Gold, making it $59.99 each time it renews. While it is common for the price of products to increase over time in many instances, there’s really no excuse for Microsoft to do it here, and it’s highly dubious given their statements back at E3 that ESPN would be coming to Xbox Live and that it would be free for Xbox Live Gold subscribers. Well now, ESPN hasn’t even hit yet and Microsoft is upping the price by $10 per year. Doesn’t it seem like we are indeed paying for ESPN, just through the back door rather than upfront?
What do we pay for when it comes to Xbox Live anyway? Let’s break it down.
Playing Games Online
When it comes to playing multiplayer games online, Xbox Live is nothing more than a matchmaking service. When you log into Xbox Live and go to play a FPS game or a racer, you’re not connecting to Microsoft servers, you’re actually being paired with other players and one of the gamers in your session will host the game on his Xbox. All the bandwidth during multiplayer gaming is being shouldered by the gamers through their own Internet connections, nothing passes through a Microsoft server. The expense for this part of the service isn’t even remotely near what we pay for Xbox Live.
You can use Twitter, Last.FM, and Facebook on you Xbox 360, but why should these be costing any money to either Microsoft or the end user? All three of those services are free ANYWHERE ELSE YOU CHOOSE TO USE THEM. I have all three on my cell phone, netbook, laptop, and desktop and I’ve never paid a cent for any of them. If these are part of the “value” Microsoft touts when talking about Xbox Live, the US Government should be talking about how much value they provide in the way of breathable oxygen in the atmosphere.
Access to Game Demos
Yeah, downloading these does use bandwidth on Microsoft’s end, but each one is basically a sales pitch to the gamer. The cost to Microsoft in bandwidth for a game demo is so minimal that if only 1 in 1,000 people that downloaded a demo bought the game, they still come out very much ahead in licensing fees to the 3rd party developer. You should not have to pay to be advertised to.
Netflix and ESPN (ESPN is coming soon)
Netflix on Xbox 360 is still using yours and Netflix’s bandwidth to stream the videos to you. Microsoft’s role is to act as a 3rd party application to browse videos, and it’s not even the full catalog! If Microsoft is factoring this into the cost of XBL, it’s another ridiculous claim as you get a lesser experience on the 360 than you do on the Netflix.com site. You also still have to pay for your Netflix subscription independently from the Xbox Live Gold account. Like the PS3, Netflix should be free to use for all 360 owners. ESPN on the 360 is the same thing you can get for free online right now at ESPN3.com. Also, that will be limited to the same people who can already use it now. Check ESPN3.com to see if you can already use it. Again, this isn’t anything that should be costing Microsoft much, if anything.
Friends Lists and Profile Management
This is basically all Xbox Live does for you that they’re not actually making you do for yourself. Yes, Microsoft maintains space for your profile and your friends list, but that’s such minimal content that it’s silly to think that it costs them anything worth passing along to the consumer.
Add up everything there and it doesn’t really make any sense why Microsoft charges the $50 they do for Live and why they need to up it to $60. Also, Microsoft serves up advertisements to subscribers that can’t be filtered out, so despite adopting a paid subscription model, you still get nagged with ads that generate money for Microsoft. It’s a shame that PSN is so far behind in regards to overall quality of experience, because Xbox Live’s pricing is out of control. It was always bad, but we’ve dealt with it. At this point I am extremely dissatisfied with the “value” of Xbox Live and really hope that going forward Sony and Nintendo (fat chance) can catch up in their online support and force Microsoft to reevaluate their pricing scam, er, scheme.
So back when Street Fighter IV came out I was really excited. I hadn’t seriously played any Street Fighter games since Super Street Fighter II. Even with the Alpha series I barely touched them, and the SFIII family of games were just something I never got into even passively. I’ve always loved fighting games, so it’s weird that I went so long without playing. Anyway, I picked up SFIV and was really excited about it for about a week or two. I thought it was my return to playing Street Fighter regularly. It wasn’t. It’s not because I didn’t really like the game, I did, it was because I had no time to invest in learning the game and the new fighting engine. Eventually I sold it off, figuring I would pick it back up when SSFIV came out, if ever.
Well, I picked up SSFIV a little while back, modded my arcade stick to put authentic arcade parts (Sanwa stick with an octagonal restrictor plate and Seimitsu buttons), and sat down to play. This past weekend was the first weekend I went online to compete, and boy did it feel like old times when I’d walk down to the arcade with a pocket full of quarters to test my growing skills against the other kids and teens that were sucked into the game. Right from the get go I had success, winning my first 5 online ranked matches and earning a handful of achievements in the process. I noticed that the same sorts of players still exist–the special move spammer, the combo master, the rushdown aggressive type, the defensive player, the guy who keep jumping into your uppercuts, and that one guy that everybody hates…the cheeser.
A cheeser is a guy who basically knows 3-4 tough to defend moves and he relentlessly throws them at you. Typically this guy will just hold to this strategy, whether it’s successful or not. These guys will find out what move you’re not familiar with defending and it’s all they’ll do until the round ends. If you can’t figure out a good counter, you’ll lose.
I ran into a guy playing as Vega, and here was his strategy. Hold down and back to keep a move charged. If the other player approaches, quickly do an aerial special attack. If the player throws a projectile, he’d do a backflip to avoid it and return to his crouching charge state. It was all very annoying. After the first round where I got beat by a Super finish, I was already irritated. This was the first time I had faced Vega in SSFIV, so I was totally unfamiliar with which of my moves would take priority over his, and what counters were open to me. I reverted back to old standby strategies and made short work of him in round 2. It helped that he was being somewhat cocky and careless. In round 3 he came at me with his cheese tactics 100% again, so I had a tougher time. After a throw, he had me down to 0% on my health bar, just a sneeze would do me in. He had about 50% of his bar left, and he just let loose special move after special move. I got lucky and was either dodging or countering every single move. The round ended when he tried to unleash his Ultra 1 move, which I managed to jump over and hit him with a dragon punch to finish the round. The next 10 seconds were nothing but a stream of curses coming through his mic (I wasn’t wearing one, so it came through my TV speakers). Ahhh, it felt good. I saved that replay, and I’ll show it to my kid one day to demonstrate why his mom would choose to marry a guy like me.
Throughout the weekend I ran into many more cheesers. They don’t seem to be as rampant as they did in the past, possibly due to the punishing Super and Ultra moves, but already I’m remembering how to deal with them. In round 1 it’s best to just play your game and see what they’re going to throw at you. If you can adjust in the first round, do it, but don’t worry if they best you at this point. In round 2 you have to start punishing those moves. Even if you win the round, they’ll stick to the moves into round 3. If you can get a lead, they’ll typically panic and start trying something else, this is when you hit them with everything you have, because they’ll be so flustered they’ll incorrectly block on cross-ups and it’ll be over quickly. After that, you’ll just have to grin and hold your tongue as they whine and cuss you out on the mic.
Ah yes, whine does go best with cheese.
Microsoft always seems to do a pretty good job at Tokyo Games Show, and this year is no exception. Much like they did at E3, Microsoft gave some pretty strong focus to their new dashboard for the Xbox 360, which is coming November 19th. We also saw new Halo announcements, release dates for big name games, and plenty more. See below for some of the show highlights thus far.
Halo 3: Recon, coming Fall 2009
The game will feature a new playable character, an ODST Marine. Check out the debut trailer.
The Flood confirmed to be in Halo Wars
Everybody’s least favorite enemy ever is going to be appearing in Halo Wars. Deal with it. Pic with info below.
The New Xbox Experience Coming November 19
In what looks like it’s a cross between Vista, the current Xbox dashboard, and Nintendo’s Wii channels, the upcoming dashboard for the Xbox 360 is going to be sweet.
Several announcements for XBLA
Here are some upcoming titles for Xbox Live Arcade. Some are due out this year, others in the first half of next year.
- Super Arkanoid (2008 release)
- Space Invaders Extreme (2008 release)
- Metal Slug 7
- The King of Fighters ’98: Ultimate Match
There was plenty more from Microsoft at TGS, especially from 3rd parties. We’ll keep you all updated, so keep an eye on the blog (or go to a site that updates faster, I don’t care).
Sorry for the sloppy format, but it’s the best we could do for you. Here are the notes from the conference, in case you missed it.
-Biggest sellers touted (Call of Duty 4, Mass Effect, Assassin’s Creed, BioShock, etc.)
-New franchises driving market expansion (Rock Band, Scene It, etc)
-Fallout 3, Resident Evil 5, Fable 2, Gears of War 2
-Retro black and white video intro showing “ad” for Valut-Tec
-Pans out to desolated city, man holding a gun
-Rest of trailer will debut online in hours, will show harshness and humor of Fallout 3
-Live demo of Fallout 3…started by controller issues ;)
-Looks incredibly detailed, smooth
-Post-apocalyptic Washington DC
-Can play in 3rd or 1st person
-Character’s wristwatch shows skills, stats, perks, etc.
-Can play stealthy, combat-driven, or use speech to influence
-Can cue up moves when attacking enemies
-For some reason, Yankee Doodle and other patriotic songs are playing in the background
-Pretty gory…body parts are flying about
-Game has over 100 hours of gameplay, can explore massive areas of Washington DC
-Can be good, bad, or somewhere in between
-Demo ends with character using “The Fatman”, a mini-nuke weapon
-Game will have “substantial” DLC for 360 and PC
Resident Evil 5
-First time RE series on a MS console
-Demo shown, played by RE5 director
-Resident Evil 5 takes place in Kijuju, Africa
-Hero of the game, Chris Redfield investigating bioterrorism incident
-New organization called BSAA sent Chris
-Online co-op mode shown
-Chris’ partner named Sheva Alomar
-Also an agent of BSAA
-Chris tosses Sheva over a gap that neither could cross alone perviously
-As expected, it looks a lot like RE4 done in HD
-Teamwork very important to getting past obstacles and enemies
-I see exploding barrels everywhere
-Chainsaw man variant from RE4 attacks as demo ends
-Out March 13, 2009 in North America
-Fable 2 is already finished
-Trailer shown, apparently a glimpse at the opening of the game
-Setting is in a snowy environment, Albion has a strong European vibe
-Bird poops on a kid’s head…kind of an odd way to introduce your character
-Orbs on the screen represent your friends playing the game, can invite your friends to co-op by heading up to orbs
-Your hero/world will be unique to your experience
-Marriage shown off
-Same goofy communication/interaction system using d-pad
-Game will be out in October, 2008
Gears of War 2
-Huge battle going on, Marcus Phoenix looking on as he’s using a an enemy as a body shield
-Voice has changed for Marcus (seemingly)
-Cliff Blezinsky (sp?) says that response has been very positive
-Co-op play shown with Dom and Marcus
-Buildings are burning, crumbling, story dialog happening as the game is being played
-Scale is much more open than we saw in Gears 1
-Cover system looks smoother
-Using downed enemies as body shields before cracking their neck
-Already new enemies shown, some huge
-Graphics definitely better
-Flamethrower looks nasty and mean
-Escape sequence from a burning building that leads right to a Brumak
-They saddle up a Brumak and prepare to ride it to close the demo
-New mode announced, called Horde. 5 players take on waves of Locusts
-Out November 7, 2008 exclusive to 360
Back to Don Mattrick
-People will spend estimated $48 billion this year in games
-Games leading driver in entertainment spending
-Over 5 million units ahead of PS3
-$2.7 billion in sales (software) last 12 months…leading industry
-Highest revenue of the big 3
-Saying 360 WILL SELL more consoles than PS3 this gen (pretty bold to say at this point)
-12 million Xbox Live members, a new member every 5 seconds
-Xbox Live sales over $1 billion since 360 launch (includes DLC and media)
-Over 10,000 movies and shows on Live larger than any satellite or cable operator
-Movies and shows 1/3 of paid downloads in the US on Live
-NBC and Universal joining TV and movie lineups, USA, Sci Fi channel as well
-Movie clips shown of what’s available
-Audience gives a pity applause (all we care about is the games, MS!)
New 360 interface
-Looks nice, but might slow navigation a bit
-3D avatars (I told you!)
-Avatars are very customizable, will show on Gamercard, ideas proposed by Rare
-Community channel added, integrated with Avatars
-Live Party supports up to 8 people chatting, interacting, or playing games
-Neat photo sharing ability with the party
-Xbox Live Primetime channel coming this fall
-Primetime full of game shows for Live Party players to play along
-Primetime demo shown with game show (1 vs. 100)
-Attempting to open up a new frontier in interactive entertainment
-Dynamic content and scheduled programming coming to Live
-New Games Channel coming
-Uno Rush announced
-Games can be launched for entire Live Party by party leader
Geometry Wars 2 coming to Xbox Live Arcade
-Enemy attacks look more organized
-Seems like a beefed up Geometry Wars: Galaxies
-Looks like Galaga with the Pac-Man: CE upgrade
-Available next month, exclusive to Live Arcade
Portal: Still Alive
-GladOS voice fills the arena
-2008 timed exclusive to 360
-New levels, achievements
-Coming to Xbox Live Arcade
-No real details, just a 5 second teaser
Xbox Live Community Games
-Coming in Fall
-Tons of indie devs putting out content
-Looks like WiiWare
Netflix Partnering with Microsoft
-Only game system allowing to watch streamed videos
-NO ADDITIONAL COST
-Uses an “instant watch queue”
-Can share and watch Netflix videos with Live Party…pretty amazing stuff
Shane Kim on stage
-Mentioning already announced big games (Prince of Persia, Mirror’s Edge, Call of Duty)
-GTA IV DLC exclusive this year on Live
-Showing Rare’s newest efforts
Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts
-Trailer is a mix of gameplay and pre-rendered footage
-Banjo is taking supplies and parts into a building/workshop
-Banjo game will be on air, land, and sea
-Vehicles and customizing them are important to game progress
-Available for the holiday season
Viva Pinata: Party Animals
-Trailer looks all real-time
-New regions allow for over 100 different types of pinatas
-Xbox Vision camera allows gamers to scan pinatas in via cards
-Available for the holiday season
Scene It: Box Office Smash
-Very Wii-esque trailer showing different gamer types joining in to play
-Can play with Live Party
-First retail game to use avatars
-New questions via Live Marketplace
You’re In the Movies
-Will ship with Vision camera
-Make, uh, you’re own movies
-Share them and whatnot
Guitar Hero IV
-Metallica’s new album exclusive to GH III/GH IV
-Will be available same time as digital and disc download debut
-Microsoft’s karaoke game
-Comes with microphone
-You can use your own music
-Blonde girl on stage demos the game…terribly annoying song
Rock Band 2
-Debuts in September exclusively on 360
-Entire soundtrack for the RB2 disc announced…can’t see it because it’s SO FREAKING SMALL
-Noteworthy tracks/artists – Chinese Democracy track (Guns ‘n Roses), Bob Dylan, AC/DC exclusive to RB2, Metallica, Pearl Jam, Motorhead, Devo, Modest Mouse, Beck, Jane’s Addiction
-20 Bonus tracks available in the Fall
-Most tracks ever on one disc
-All DLC forward compatible
-Almost all tracks can be imported from RB1 disc to RB2
-Over 500 songs by end of the year
Yoichi Wada – President of Square-Enix
-The Last Remnant, Infinite Undiscovery, Star Ocean shown to be coming
-Last Remnant trailer shown
-Final Fantasy XIII shown for Xbox 360
-Sony fansboys just crapped themselves out of frustration
-MS fans suddenly will love Final Fantasy
-Honestly, it’s a true megaton score for MS, especially if launches at the same time
-Planned for release in both North America and Europe
End of show.
Great showing by Microsoft, overall. Lots to go over in the next few weeks.
I’m giddy like a kid in a candy store with a fistful of money. One of my favorite games from the GameCube and Dreamcast is making its way to Xbox Live Arcade tomorrow. Ikragua, developed by Treasure, is one of the most addictive and challenging shooters of all time. The game introduced a very unique combo system that begs the gamer to play the game endlessly as there’s always improvements to be made on each level. It’s been since Pac-Man: Championship Edition that we’ve seen a game so perfectly suited to the Xbox Live Arcade environment.
Now might be the right time to get one of those custom arcade sticks for your 360, huh? I know I’m going to either build my own or start pricing them. With stuff like Pac-Man: CE, Ikaruga, Street Fighter II, and others on the service, it’s probably time to ditch that piece of crap d-pad and analog stick found on the 360 controller.
To help make amends for the terrible connection issues that 360 owners have dealt with since Christmas, Microsoft is going to give every 360 owner a free Xbox Live Arcade game. Posted over at Major Nelson’s blog, the letter from Microsoft says that details on how to get your free game will be coming soon. We still don’t know if you’ll be able to choose any game, or if MS will simply make an upcoming release a free download. The offer is good for both Gold and Silver members.
Source: Major Nelson
SNK’s Metal Slug franchise is one of the best old-school shooter series out there. This Wednesday, you’ll be able to download Metal Slug 3 for 800 MS Points ($10).
I own Metal Slug 3 for the Xbox, PS2, NeoGeo (MVS cartridge), and Wii. This won’t stop me, however, from picking the game up once more when it hits XBLA next week. I’m hoping the achievements help to reignite my love for the game. There was a time when I could complete it in under 5 credits, but that’s back when I pretty much had the game memorized. I don’t have details yet, but online co-op would be killer.
The Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare patch is still coming, it’s just going to show up a little later than originally planned. According to a source inside Activision, Infinity Ward has completed the patch and it is now in the hands of Microsoft awaiting certification. It looks like the patch, which is meant to address several online multiplayer issues, will most likely come out in early January. Some of the fixes are a direct reaction to feedback that Infinity Ward received from the gaming public.
The patch will sure be nice, it’s too bad the Microsoft certification process takes so long. I hear all the time about completed patches, updates, DLC, and XBLA games that are just in the long line of the Microsoft Xbox Live certification process. Ah well, better safe than sorry…