The iconic Halo 3 theme (more specifically the track titled Mjolnir Mix on the Halo 2 soundtrack) is now available as a playable track for Guitar Hero 3 on the Xbox Live Marketplace for the low low price of zero Microsoft Points (or zero dollars). So, if you like the theme (and my wife loves it), you can try it out and see how well you can “play” it yourself in the plastic musical instrument game. Hopefully they’ll add it to Rock Band as well.
Microsoft has gotten XNA Game Studio, its tool for creating games that run on both the PC and Xbox 360, out with the first beta of its version 2 release, showing the fast maturation of the platform only a year after the first version. New features include support for Visual Studio 2005, multiplayer games that use Xbox Live or System Link, among the usual refinements and enhancements. Users of the free XNA Studio Express can get the beta and run it side-by-side with the free 1.0 by following the instructions here.
Doritos’ Unlock Xbox competition has ended, with fans choosing the the fan-created Doritos-themed game that will be released for the Xbox 360 next year. The promotion, where fans sent in game ideas and had the best of them created into simple online games, then everyone voted on the best one which would become an Xbox Live Arcade title, certainly turned up some strange game ideas, especially the winner.
The winning game is Doritos Dash of Destruction. In the game, designed by Mike Borland, you race a dinosaur and a Doritos delivery truck. The truck must make its way out of the city, while the T-Rex must catch the truck and eat it (presumably because he likes eating Doritos, not trucks). When you absolutely have to create a game based on a chip company (and you can’t use the creepy Burger King as a crutch), this is what you get. I bet the game will be at least somewhat fun, and certainly worth checking out at its price of free.
Expect to see Dash of Destruction as a fully realized Arcade game by Summer 2008.
Proposing marriage is hard. I mean, it’s been done to death for so many years and by so many people, and you want to be original and romantic, that deciding on a method of proposing can be tough. One Halo 3 player decided that the best way to do so with his girlfriend of two years, also a Halo player, was to propose in the game itself.
Thanks to the Forge map editor, you can place objects on a map and then hold matches in your custom map. Moviesign set up a large weapons cache in the shape of “MARRY ME?” and led girlfriend furtive penguin to the spot, promising a powerful weapon was waiting there. Oh, there were weapons, but I think she was more than a bit surprised.
Me and the missus, we dated for over four years, so I proposed to her in a more traditional romantic way, showing up at her doorstep with flowers, champagne and the ring. I figured that she had been waiting so long that if I surprised her, she might have a heart attack, and I think I was right, since even as is she was overwhelmed. Guess I picked the right gal.
Today is the five-year anniversary of Xbox Live, and Microsoft is celebrating by giving away some free stuff. All Xbox 360 owners should head onto Live today or tomorrow before midnight and download Carcassonne, a board game for 1-5 players either on your console or Xbox Live (you can read more about it here). Players in Korea get Hexic 2 instead.
Also, Microsoft is giving 500 free Microsoft Points to users who have been active on Live since 2002, a $6.25 gift for the early adopters.
Along with the freebies, Microsoft is announcing a new section to Xbox Live which will launch December 4 (confirmed as the day of the Fall update). Xbox Originals will sell games from the original Xbox for download for 1200 Microsoft Points, or $15. The initial lineup of games will include the legendary original Halo, Psychonauts, Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge, Fable, Indigo Prophecy, Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath Of Cortex, and Burnout 3, with the final list of launch titles still being finalized.
I spoke to PR and they explained to me that these are almost exactly the same code as the original games, meaning the downloads are about the same size they were on the original DVD9 disks. Games will run between 2 and 7 gigabytes, using the same backwards compatibility as if you had just popped in the disk itself. That means the feature is not an option for Xbox Arcade consoles without a hard drive, and 20-gig drives will have to manage drive space to hold these.
Games will support Xbox Live if they originally did, and there are no Achievements. Microsoft has a page listing known issues with Originals titles, including occasional framerate issues, HDMI 720p not supported for PAL users on Psychonauts and random audio static in Fable. Additional unnecessary content, like game trailers and demos for others games, have been removed, so selecting them will cause the game to crash.
This December’s Xbox Live update will include a new feature that lets parents keep their kids from playing too many darn video games. The Family Timer, similar to a feature in Windows Vista, lets the parent set a certain number of time per day or per week that the kid can play games, and will cut them off when they reach their limit. Parents will love it, kids will hate it, and the kids will try figure out a way to get around it.
Your wedding anniversary? Great password, mom. Never would have guessed that!
One thing Microsoft could have done was integrate it with Vista, letting you update the settings from a connected PC. This would help encourage parents to set up the 360 as a Media Center Extender, too. Of course, maybe Microsoft wants to encourage parents to pick up a controller and become gamers, so there are good arguments on both sides.
Microsoft and ESPN announced an agreement to bring ESPN content to the Xbox Live Video Marketplace. The deal will bring both sports events and original programming to the video download store, starting with select NCAA college basketball and football games. The NCAA games will cost $3, or 240 Microsoft Points, in standard definition, and $4.50/360MSP in high defintion.
Original ESPN shows, like Madden Nation, the X Games, World Series of Poker, The Contender and others will cost the standard Xbox Live rate of $2/160MSP for standard def and $3/240MSP for high def. After the break, the full press release.
If you’re getting bored and are desperate for something new to play, and find your wallet sort of empty, you can get a totally free game off Xbox Live Arcade, called Yaris. Yaris is the name of one of Toyota’s cars, and the game is a promotional vehicle for the, er, vehicle, which is why it’s free. It’s not the greatest game in the world, but for the price, it’s pretty worth it.
Yaris is a racing action game. You drive down a mostly tubed corridor, with a tentacle arm attached to your car that shoots at obstacles and enemies. You need to collect coins, kill enemies and thus earn the money to buy better weapons, shielding and vehicle types. If you get into it, and get to be good at it, you could really enjoy the game. Either way, it’s free, it has Achievements and online play, so there’s no good reason not to give it a shot.
The Doritos contest to have fans design a free Xbox Live Arcade game has reached its final stage, and the five finalist games are available online to play right now. You have to install the “3D Life Player” browser plugin to run them, but if you do, you’ll be able to vote on your favorite, with the winner being turned into a full-fledged Live Arcade title this summer (and the online versions will remain available. The five games are:
â€œDoritos Dash of Destructionâ€ by Mike Borland of Sewickley, PA
In â€œDoritos Dash of Destruction,â€ players can choose to control one of two characters. Either a hungry T-Rex chasing a delivery truck loaded with crunchy Doritos tortilla chips or the delivery truck driver, racing to escape the clutches of the T-Rex. As the chase begins havoc ensues as the lumbering dino barrels through the completely destructible city resulting in an intense game of cat-and-mouse.
â€œDoritos Presents UDC: Ultimate Dodgeball Championsâ€ by Devan Moore of Panama City, FL
In this futuristic dodgeball game, inspired by Devanâ€™s favorite childhood game and the intensity of Doritos, players start by creating a customized team from a handful of colorful characters. Then, using special â€œpower upâ€ features to create fire balls, teams go at it in futuristic stadiums and compete for ultimate dodgeball dominance.
3. â€œMonkeys from Mt. Doritosâ€ by Juanito Lagasco, of Algonquin, IL
In this quick-play, high-fun, retro-style game, one or more people play as monkeys that collect Doritos chips exploding out of Mt. Doritos. The more Doritos players collect, the more points they earn and the closer they get to winning. But, watch out as fellow monkeys and lurking monsters want to steal your prized Doritos chips.
â€œPBâ€™s Quest for Flavorâ€ by Jeremy Mattsen of Colorado Springs, CO
In â€œPBâ€™s Quest for Flavor,â€ PB – the gameâ€™s pill bug hero – goes on his quest for the perfect chip flavor. Throughout the game, favorite Doritos flavors are introduced as weapons giving PB unique abilities. With the strength and power of Doritos, players guide PB through a household of obstacles and enemies to successfully complete his quest.
â€œRythum Racingâ€ by Kenneth Parker of Warner Robins, GA
In this original racing game, players turn up the volume in game play as they import song files and use music to â€œdriveâ€ the game. Players race around the equalizer race track, where sounds, beats and rhythms will alter the track. Deep bass sounds for example might cause the race track to ripple, throwing the race cars up in the air while other elements of the music generate power-ups.
Voting runs through November 18, so get in there now and pick which game you’d like to be playing in the future.
This deal is Europe only, but if you help Microsoft sell an Xbox 360, you can get ten free Xbox Live Arcade games. Convince a friend to buy a new Xbox 360 between November 1 and January 31 of next year, fill out a coupon and send it with a receipt, and both you and the friend get ten free Live Arcade games to download. The games are:
Depending on how much effort you are willing to put in, a good deal at Buy.com today can turn into an amazing deal at Buy.com tomorrow.
Buy.com today has a 13-month card for Xbox Live (12 months, plus a 1 month free bonus) for just $38.59, with free shipping. That’s a really good deal all by itself, over ten bucks off the regular $50 price. However…
New users of Google Checkout can get an additional ten dollars off, making the final price $28.59, again with free shipping. Now we’re talking almost half off. However…
Buy.com offers a special promotion on the Shopping Cart page. With this promotion, you get a free one-year subscription to a magazine of your choice (either weekly TV Guide or monthlies Maxim, Redbook, Blender or Computer Shopper). Now, that’s a good deal, getting Xbox Live for $28.59 plus a free magazine subscription. However…
You gonna get a better deal anywhere else? Of course not! Now, you may not be able to get the magazine offer when purchasing through Google Checkout. I’d check with Buy.com before the purchase, or complain after it, and you might get it. If you don’t, $28.59 is a great deal. If you do, either enjoy your magazine or enjoy the $18.59 deal. Also, if you can’t get the Google Checkout promotion, the $10 magazine rebate is just as good. No matter which way, you’re a winner, and you saved a bunch.
Want to enjoy a little Xbox Live (especially if you bought Halo 3 but not Live Gold)? Burger King will email you a code for two free days of Xbox Live Gold if you give them your first born, or at least your email address, birth date, GamerCard and another thing or two. Head over here to get it and enjoy.
Lots of people are talking about WarPong, an XNA video game that is a take-off of Pong, only with guns attached to the paddles. The reason they’re so excited? The game was created entirely by a tenth grader from Canada. Really goes to show how easy it is to create games with XNA.
WarPong is exactly what it sounds like, and thatâ€™s a very good thing. Think Pong, but armed to the teeth. In addition to bouncing the ball back and forth a la Tennis for Two, your paddle is weaponed up and ready to dispose of the opposing paddle as best it can. Power-ups cause the size of the paddles and their weapons to grow, providing a surprisingly fresh experience for a title that until now had been done to death.
The real story though isnâ€™t about WarPong as much as it is about XNA. Microsoft has been beating their chest about the flexibility and accessibility of XNA for a while now, and it seems as though at X07 they set out to prove it. WarPong, one of three XNA demos on show at X07, was developed by a 10th grader. Not only that, but it was designed by a 10th grader to be a multi-platform title. Thatâ€™s right â€” WarPong is Games for Windows ready.
Microsoft introduced this new “Art Of Office” website, a place for people to submit artistic documents created using the Mac versions of Microsoft Office. The idea is to show off how Office can be used by creative types to create stunning documents.
Some Mac users are angry that Microsoft took the time to develop this site at the same time Mac Office 2008 was being delayed.
Google Maps, Windows Live Maps & Others In Flash
Flash Earth now lets you use a Flash interface to get around Google Maps, Windows Live Maps (aerial and labeled), Yahoo Maps, Ask Maps (aerial and physical), OpenLayers and NASA Terra daily satellite imagery.
(via, via, via)
I Beat Halo 2!
Just thought I’d mention that I finally finished the damn game. First game I played till the end in a while.
Halo 3 Goes Gold
Don’t worry about Halo 3 or some sort of unexpected delay. Microsoft announced the team at Bungie finished the game, certified the code, and sent it off to that big factory that prints shiny plastic disks for your gaming pleasure. Huzzah!
Halo 3 Countdown Gadget
Can’t stand having to wait three more weeks for Halo 3? Download this Gadget for Windows Vista’s Sidebar and stare as the clock ticks ever so slowly.
Family Guy Comes To Xbox Live
Xbox Live now offers downloads of episodes of the hit cartoon Family Guy, with all the episodes from the first two seasons as well as the straight-to-DVD “movie” for $2 worth of Microsoft Points. No other TV download store, including iTunes, currently has Family Guy.
Microsoft announced a partnership with Limelight Networks, a competitor of Akamai (which Sony and Nintendo use) to deliver better media streaming to Xbox Live. Live users will benefit from Limelight’s better servers and pipelines when downloading music, movies and games, an increasingly important part of Microsoft’s online service. Limelight powers Facebook and MySpace, so you can trust them to get this big job right.
(via OLGn > Digg)
The headphones come with an IR transmitter that sits between the Xbox 360 and your TV, grabbing the audio signal and still passing it onto the TV through a pass-through cable. The headphones play the game audio in your ears, perfect for gaming without waking up the spouse, and they also have a microphone so you can speak to your teammates (which will wake her up).
Smartly, it even has a feature that boosts chat volume if game volume gets too high, so you can hear your teammates over the gunfire, and lets you adjust chat and game volume independentally. It also plays back a small amount of your microphone audio, in order to eliminate that thing where you yell into a microphone because you can’t hear yourself. It even has a suction cup and velcro tabs so you can clip the IR transmitter to the side of anything to get a better signal.
It looks like a solid product, and even if they didn’t eliminate the cable between the controller and the headset (and jacked up the price a lot more), it’s still a useful accessory for gamers. It’s supposed to retail for $100, but Amazon’s got it now for as little as $82.68.
A new version of Geometry Wars, the arcade-style space shooter that evolved from a PGR2 minigame into an Xbox Live Arcade classic, is coming, and it will be available exclusively as a minigame inside Project Gotham Racing 4. Geometry Wars has become a surprise hit, showing up as an arcade game in the garage in PGR versions, then achieving cult status on Arcade and coming to the Wii and mobile phones.
It’s a shame you’ll need a copy of PGR4 to get the new version, but it seems like Geometry Wars: Waves will not really be a sequel, just an update, and it’s fitting to have it go in the game where it gots its start. I doubt you could make a good full sequel to this game anyway.