New Xbox 360 hardware announced

Kinect controllerFirstly the much anticipated new motion controller previously known as Project Natal has been given the name Kinect. Its going to be available in North America in November 2010 and I’m expecting it will be available locally soon after – stock dependent. Oh and before you get all worried about upgrades, etc., it will work on your existing console. Yes, how is that for good planning and design.

The controller totally revolutionizes the way games are played and opens up complete new game genres at the same time. I can somehow see myself doing yoga in front of my TV and getting achievements for doing so. There goes that image of the fat kid on the couch.

New Xbox 360 SKUNext off we have a new console SKU announced available immediately in North America. Its basically a slimmer, sleeker and might I say sexy new Xbox 360 console featuring a 250GB hard drive, 802.11n WiFi built-in and its whisper quiet. And no, no Blu-Ray player from what we’ve been told yet.

Good news is the pricing is supposed to be the same in the US, no idea when it will be available in South Africa but I’ll keep you posted.

From the game demos during the live E3 coverage, Kinect is going to ship with 15 titles from day one built specifically for the new Kinect controller – I can’t wait to get my hands on one. Its game changing… excuse the pun.

Xbox LIVE launches in South Africa Summer 2010

Hot off the heels of the E3 game conference in the USA, Microsoft South Africa confirms that Xbox LIVE is heading to South Africa.

South Africa – 14 June, 2010 – Microsoft today announces its commitment to launching Xbox LIVE in nine new countries – Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Poland, Russia and South Africa – delivering the core gaming and entertainment features that have made Xbox LIVE the world’s premier online gaming destination.

“Xbox LIVE is about building communities and connecting people to each other and to great content. This expansion is another step toward our vision for LIVE – to deliver the entertainment you want, shared with the people you care about, wherever you are in the world,” said Marc Whitten, General Manager, Xbox LIVE.

The service will be available this summer and will focus first on delivering the core gaming and community features that have made Xbox LIVE the world’s premier online gaming destination, including matchmaking, friends list, Achievements, Gamerscore, a tailored Games Marketplace and more.

“This is an exciting step forward in the experience we can deliver to our loyal and committed Xbox communities,” states Yvette van Rooyen, Product and Marketing Manager, Xbox 360 South Africa. “Xbox fans in South Africa will now be able play the best games in the industry with the 23 million other Xbox LIVE users across the world who have made this their online gaming destination of choice. “

Naturally this is fabulous news for South African gaming, but we all knew it was coming, just didn’t know when exactly. It makes sense though with the rollout of Windows Phone 7 using Xbox LIVE features. Now all we need to get is a firm date of when and what will happen with Xbox LIVE accounts for early adopters – will we need to/be able to migrate across countries for billing purposes or will the restrictions be lifted entirely.

I told you all Xbox LIVE will be coming to South Africa.

Time to monetize your gaming creativity

XNA Creators Club Online We all knew it was coming and finally its confirmed and coming to an Xbox 360 console near you later this year. Using the free XNA Game Studio 2.0 coupled with Visual C# Express Edition from Microsoft you can now not only design and build your own games to run on Windows and the Xbox 360 gaming console, but now you can share them with the community through the Xbox LIVE network of over 12 million members. I’m assuming the new feature will be delivered with the New Xbox Experience later this year called Xbox LIVE Community Games.

As a Premium member in the XNA Creators Club, you’ll be able to submit any complete Xbox 360 game you’ve created in XNA Game Studio to the Creators Club community at http://creators.xna.com, for peer review. Other Premium Creators will check to make sure your game is safe to play. If it is, you’ll set a price point – between 200 and 800 Points – that people will pay to download your game.

Once the game is reviewed and the price point set, you’re done. The game is listed on Xbox LIVE Marketplace, and you’ll get a check every quarter, for up to 70% of the game’s total revenue in your own currency. Depending on your game’s success, you may even have your game advertised on Xbox 360 and other Microsoft online properties.

Just imagine – your game in the hands of millions of Xbox 360 gamers around the world: that’s the power of Community Games.

Make games, Make money But wait, that isn’t even the best part. You can also put a price tag of between 200 and 800 Microsoft Points on your game and you’ll get a quarterly payment from Microsoft as users buy your game. Well you’ll actually get 40% to 70% of the revenue depending on how its marketed but normally it will be a 70% revenue share. Wicked stuff isn’t it? I think so.

The only big drawback right now is that its only available to XNA Creators Club Premium members in the U.S., Canada, U.K., France, Italy and Spain for now. They plan to add more countries to the list later in the year.

Head on over to the XNA Creators Club site and sign up, download the tools and while you are at it, enter the XNA Dream-Build-Play Challenge 2008 and win. Thanks Microsoft, this is an awesome idea for the aspiring game developer and a great way to grow the game developer community.

Grand Theft Auto launch follow-up

I know, its been over a week now and I still haven’t posted the pictures on the web from the launch event. My bad!

The event was very well attended, unlike some previous attempts. MooDy and the team at ZAPS with the help I believe from Megarom had done an awesome job in setting up some consoles outside the store for people to play GTA IV. I heard something about some guys having played almost the whole day – talk about liking the game. I don’t think I could play for a full day standing in front of one of the kiosks machines, its just too uncomfortable.

Just after midnight the queue was out the door and around the corner already. People really seemed to want to get hold of their copies of GTA IV.

Well here are a few choice picks:

 The AnimeWorX guys getting into the swing. Proud new GTA IV owner. He hobbled in for a copy.

You can find the rest of them over here.

Anyone else excited for Too Human?

Too Human

The Gamerscoreblog team are going to be having a chat with Denis Dyack about the upcoming Xbox 360 title Too Human. Here is what Chris Paladino has to say about it:

If you were to stop me on the street and ask what my favorite game of all time is, I’d reply “Diablo 2 with the Lord of Destruction expansion“.  You’d then ask “I never played that game, are you old?”

I’m pretty excited about our upcoming game Too Human which has been described as similar to Diablo 2, or Titan Quest.  The game has classes, random loot, and skill trees.  The older gamers out there may read this and think Moria, NetHack, or Rogue.

We will have the opportunity to speak with Denis Dyack about Too Human very soon.  Rather than ask questions that I think are interesting, we’d like to ask questions that you think are interesting.

So take a moment and drop some comments on his blog post over here.

In the meantime local community member Havok ZA has posted some IGN screenshots of the game over on the Xbox 360 South African forum here, I’ve linked them below for your viewing pleasure.

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[tags]Xbox 360,Too Human[/tags]

Viking: Battle for Asgard Review

Viking: Battle for AsgardSeldom do I get a game for review that I really enjoy right from the start, Viking: Battle for Asgard is one of those games. The opening cinematic sets the tone for the entire game and I was immediately drawn into the world of the Vikings and was set for an adventure.

Hel, goddess of death, orders her merciless army of undead soldiers to enslave mankind and destroy Asgard, the realm of the gods. As Skarin, last hope of the Vikings, control every vicious blow of your sword and axe and drench the battlefield with the blood of your foes.

Viking: Battle for Asgard is a single player only action adventure game that is set in the time of, you guessed it, the Vikings. It carries an 18 age restriction due to the strong bloody violence.

Viking: Battle for Asgard

Initial impressions of the game aside, I got the hang of the game quite quickly although there are no starting tutorials or guides to help you. By wandering around you just happen to see characters with a question mark above their heads and when you approach it turns into the B button which initiates a dialog with the character in question. The subtitles system during in-game character dialogs is a bit clumsy as the voice over isn’t synchronised with the subtitles and requires the user to press the A button all the time. I suppose one good thing about that is when you prefer to read fast and skip ahead. Although this is not always the case, as pressing A during the cinematic characters dialogs results in skipping of the dialog. Never fear, all important dialogs are preserved in your journal which is accessible by hitting the Back key and navigating using the LB and RB buttons.

Action packed fight sequencesBeautiful Viking scenery

The graphics in the game are surreal and lively however I am not too excited about the 3rd person camera which tends to stay where you left it, which can be a good thing, but can also be an irritation during combat scenes. Thankfully the camera is easily adjusted with the right stick.

If you enjoyed playing Overlord as much as I did, then I’m pretty sure you’ll like Viking: Battle for Asgard. Its available for both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 consoles. A quick price shop reveals the following online pricing:

[tags]Viking,Xbox 360,review[/tags]

Halo 3 Legendary Map Pack due out April 15th

For all the Halo 3 fans out there, there is good news. More downloadable content is on the way for just 800 Microsoft Points. The pack will consist of three new maps and some new Forge options. Bungie has some articles on two of the three new maps namely Ghost Town and Avalanche. For your viewing pleasure here are a few screenshots of the new maps.

Ghost Town:

Ghostly Exteriors Using the Back Door

   

Avalanche:

The Wraith Looks so Small Capture This Flag

Mancannon Into the Base Ominous Forerunner Spires

 

The press release follows:

The Fight Continues – Halo 3 Legendary Map Pack Arrives in April
The award-winning “Halo 3” multiplayer experience continues to evolve with three new maps available only on Xbox LIVE Marketplace

More than 7.3 million copies of “Halo 3” have flown off store shelves, upwards of 500 million hours of frag-tacular online gameplay have been logged on Xbox LIVE and the Heroic Map Pack has been downloaded by 1 million plus gamers and counting. But it’s not over yet…

Microsoft and Bungie today announced that April 15 will mark the release of the next wave of “Halo 3” downloadable content. Available exclusively on Xbox LIVE Marketplace for 800 Microsoft Points, the Legendary Map Pack will introduce three new maps to the title’s award-winning multiplayer experience, Ghost Town, Avalanche, and one map yet to be revealed. And with the addition of some exciting Forge options, fans can explore new ways to create and share their custom “Halo 3” content.

Ghost Town is a battle-scarred maze of narrow passages and dangerous ruins outside the once-prosperous city of Voi. Collapsed ceilings and shell-battered buildings provide both valuable cover and deadly traps, as catwalks and stairways take the fight from claustrophobic ground combat to dizzying rooftop battles. Ghost Town is a mid-sized map ideal for Team Slayer games and smaller, objective types.

The second map, Avalanche, is a tribute to Sidewinder, a “Halo: Combat Evolved” fan-favorite. This massive, vehicle-oriented objective map adds a twist to its classic predecessor with all new interiors, dramatically reshaped exteriors and brand new vehicle variants. Take a ride and admire the visual variety from the cockpit of the retuned Hornet.

The third map to be included in the Legendary Pack has yet to be announced, but stay tuned to Bungie.net for full details on another returning classic… fans of smaller Slayer maps, it’s time to get excited.

Be sure to check out www.xbox.com  and  www.bungie.net for all the latest information and screenshots of the new maps.

[tags]Halo 3,Xbox 360,DLC[/tags]

Lost hits the SA stores today

Lost the video game If you are a fan of the TV series Lost then you might be interested in picking up a copy of Lost the video game. The game has a Teen ESRB rating so it should be suitable for most of the family and apparently feels very much like the TV show although GameSpot says it struggles with some of the characters. According to Metacritic the game gets a metascore of 53 out of 100.

Fourways, South Africa – March 7th, 2008 – Today Megarom Interactive (Pty) Ltd. , one of South Africa’s leading video game importers and distributors, announced that Lost the video game releases today.

As a passenger of Oceanic flight 815, you survived the crash and find yourself on an uncharted island somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. As you begin to unravel mysteries of the island, you begin to discover secrets of your own. You will have to understand your past mistakes in order to survive and find your way home…

Players will play as a survivor of Oceanic Flight 815, where they will have to confront their dark pasts, seek redemption and ultimately find a way home.

The game provides player with an authentic ‘Lost’ experience. Players get to explore familiar locations, unravel mysteries and interact with the main characters from the show.

Players will have to survive the challenges that the island throws their way by solving puzzles, outsmarting enemies, battling the smoke monster and outsmarting many other challenges in order to survive.

Lost the video game is available on Xbox360, PC and PS3.

[tags]press release,Lost,Megarom[/tags]

Shoot Master Chief and win

Master Chief from Halo 3 Fancy yourself as a movie producer? Microsoft invites South Africans to enter an international competition to shoot and upload a video of the character Master Chief, the star of the Xbox 360 exclusive game Halo 3, in circumstances outside of his usual world. Note that entrants need to be 18 years or over and the winner will be required to travel to the USA to take part in the movie making course. The guidelines are to keep the video under 10 MB in size and no more than 3 minutes long.

The official press release follows:

JOHANNESBURG March 2008–Microsoft today announced the launch of a unique competition looking for fans to help create and show the unseen adventures of Master Chief. Whether its Master Chief’s “Meet the Parents”, a Spartan high school reunion, or even break dancing to MC Hammer, the “HALO: RECUT” contest is encouraging gamers and filmmakers alike to be as creative as possible, with the lucky winner scooping a once-in-a-lifetime masterclass trip to Los Angeles.

Microsoft is looking for innovative movie makers to construct their own original video of Master Chief, which sees him taken away from the Halo universe and remixed into different scenarios.  Whether created using a traditional video camera, gaming footage, old school animation or the latest video editing software, the point is just to be creative.

To enter the competition participants simply have to visit the following site www.xbox.com/en-ZA/halorecut and upload their video until 21st March 2008. The entries will then be judged by a panel of experts from the gaming industry to find the most creative concepts. One winner from each country will win themselves an Xbox 360 video game and entertainment system and a copy of Halo 3.  Terms and conditions apply, please visit www.xbox.com/en-ZA/halorecut for details.

Each country’s winning video will then be put through to the grand final which will be judged by the creators of the game, Bungie Studios. The overall winner will win a trip to Los Angeles to study for one month at the New York Film Academy, where they will learn all they need to know about making movies. The prize includes return transatlantic flights, accommodation, car rental and $2,000 spending money.

Brian Jarrard, Bungie Studios added:  “This competition is a great way to showcase the creativity and passion that drives the Halo fan community. We can’t wait to see how people infuse their own style and personality into Master Chief and deliver a whole new take on the Halo phenomenon. May the best Spartan win!”

Have you got what it takes?

[tags]Halo 3,Xbox 360,movie,competition[/tags]

Steam no longer Civilized

Sid Meier's Civilization IV CompleteOn the weekend Andre happened to show me Sid Meier’s Civilization IV and in particular the Beyond the Sword expansion pack. I immediately decided I wanted to get a copy for myself, having strangely enough, never played any of the series before even though others peoples I know like Ruari have spent way too many hours engrossed in building civilizations.

So apparently the quickest and easiest way to get a copy of the game is through Valve’s Steam service. But lo and behold it seems that 2K Games no longer supports delivery of content to South Africa and doesn’t even offer the game to South African users or make mention of the fact that we live in an unsupported country. Wonderful.

I happened to notice our country code in the game page‘s URL so I tried changing it to the UK and lo and behold, I can now see pricing for the game.

image

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Unfortunately clicking on the Purchase button resulted in a “Game unavailable” message box telling me that “This subscription is not available in your country.

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I ended up waiting until the following day and calling my local BT Games store where I actually picked up a copy of the Sid Meier’s CivilizationIV Complete for less than it was available on Steam. Now I can understand content restrictions but then Valve must not lie to its customers. If you take a look at their Get Steam Now page it clearly states:

Fast access to games: The full Steam library and all future Steam releases are at your fingertips. After you’ve purchased a game, download it immediately and start playing.

So what’s the story Valve, why the misleading advertising?

[tags]Valve,Steam,Civilization IV,South Africa,rant[/tags]