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



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]

When Hyper-V on Server Core actually sucks

After seeing a post that the Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V bits are now feature complete in the form of Release Candidate 0 (RC0), I decided its time to get a machine up and running to play with it.

I decided to go with a Server Core installation instead of the usual Full installation and it was great, I ended up at a command prompt after installation, reboot and logging on for the first time. So I proceeded to type in the following commands to configure Hyper-V:

bcdedit /set hypervisorlaunchtype auto
start /w ocsetup Microsoft-Hyper-V

A reboot later and my server is now enabled with the Hyper-V role. One problem, how do I configure a virtual machine? It seems like the only way is from another Windows Server 2008 machine running the Virtual Machine Manager. This kind of sucks big time as I don’t have another one to play with. Apparently Windows Vista will be able to run the Virtual Machine Manager at some point but right now it looks like my lean and mean Hyper-V server is going to have to become a bloated full installation.

[tags]Windows Server 2008,Hyper-V,virtualization,rant[/tags]

How to switch Silverlight UserControls

One of the guys on the official Silverlight community forums posted an interesting question, namely how does one change the currently visible UserControl in a Silverlight 2.0 application. To put things in context the new Silverlight 2.0 project template creates two classes for you: a System.Windows.Application derived class named App with the associated App.xaml and App.xaml.cs files; as well as a System.Windows.Controls.UserControl derived class called Page with the associated Page.xaml and Page.xaml.cs files.

The App class takes care of the initialization and basically you assign a new instance of your Page class to the App.RootVisual property and through the power of Silverlight it appears on your screen. 🙂

So if you wanted to change the currently displayed UserControl for another instance naturally you’d try and set the App.RootVisual property to another instance of a UserControl. This sounds great in theory but it seems that its a single assignment property. Pete Brown’s blog post happens to make mention of this.

So in a quest to solve the problem I’ve implemented a very simple UserControlContainer class that allows the developer to switch controls at runtime without having to deal with the set once RootVisual property.

Simply create a new UserControl called UserControlContainer and copy the following into the UserControlContainer.xaml.cs file:

    public void SwitchControl(UserControl newControl)
        if (newControl != null)
            Height = newControl.Height;
            Width = newControl.Width;

Next set your Application instance RootVisual to an instance of the new UserControlContainer in the Application_Startup method.

    private void Application_Startup(object sender, StartupEventArgs e)
        // Load the main control
        this.RootVisual = new UserControlContainer();
        Page page = new Page();

Then wherever you need to switch out the active control, simply call the following if you are inside App.xaml.cs:

    TestControl1 testControl = new TestControl1();

Or the following if you need to switch controls from elsewhere:

    TestControl1 testControl = new TestControl1();

If you find this useful or find any issues with this method, let me know so I can improve it for all.


Updated 2008-03-13: Added Application_Startup example. Thanks to Maurice for pointing this omission out.

[tags]Silverlight 2.0,code,example[/tags]

Xbox 360 price cut in South Africa

Xbox 360 price cut For those that haven’t heard the good news yet, there was a rather awesome bit of news out of Microsoft today. No Xbox LIVE isn’t officially available in South Africa yet, rather the Xbox 360 product range got a cool R600 to R700 price drop depending on the model. This finally brings the bottom of the range Xbox Arcade into under R2000 which will make a huge difference when the average consumer is in the store about to buy a new console.

This price drop follows the price drop announcement for Europe and is clearly going to boost the local sales. Hopefully the market will grow significantly so that Microsoft’s next major announcement will be Xbox LIVE available in South Africa. Well officially that is.

The official local press release follows:

SOUTH AFRICA – Monday 10th March, 2008– Microsoft today announced that it is lowering the estimated retail price (ERP) for its Xbox 360 family of consoles in Europe and South Africa.  Now with an entry-level ERP of R1999.00, Xbox 360 is a mass market entertainment proposition with something to offer for every interest and budget.

From Friday, 14th March, Xbox 360 Pro, which includes a 20GB hard drive and one wireless controller, will have an ERP of R2999.00, a saving of R700.00 on the current ERP.  The Xbox 360 Elite, which comes with a massive 120GB hard drive enabling consumers to store huge quantities of content, such as their own music, will have an ERP of R3999.00, a saving of R600.00.  The Xbox 360 Arcade console, perfect for those wishing to make their first foray into the gaming and entertainment world of Xbox, will have an ERP of R1999.00, a saving of R700.00.

Xbox 360 is the number one next-gen console in EMEA, owning 42% of the market in terms of life-to-date revenue.  Xbox 360 continues to enjoy the highest software attach rate of any game console in Europe with more than 7.0 games sold per console (PS3: 3.8; Wii 3.5) after 26 months on the market.

The new ERPs are part of Microsoft’s ongoing strategy to open up the ultimate in high-definition gaming and entertainment to an even wider audience, with an offering for everyone:

Best Choice for Families:

  • Xbox 360 grows as your family does, offering games and entertainment for every member of the family – from movies to games to music videos
  • With over 150 3+ rated games and unparalleled parental controls, parents can feel good about their kids playing Xbox 360

Most Diverse Entertainment:

  • Xbox 360 offers great choice in high-definition entertainment
  • It’s easy to view and enjoy video and photos on Xbox 360 as well as connect wirelessly to share content with a Windows Media Center PC

The Best Games:

  • There will be over 1,000 games available on Xbox 360 by the end of the year, with something for every skill level, interest and taste
  • Blockbuster franchises like Grand Theft Auto IV and Rock Band
  • Xbox 360 exclusives for 2008 include Fable 2, Gears of War 2 and Too Human, setting new standards for next-generation gaming

“Xbox 360 is now mass market in Europe and South Africa,” said Chris Lewis, Vice President, Microsoft Interactive Entertainment Business in EMEA.  “We have reached and surpassed several key milestones that form part of our long term strategic plan to achieve critical mass in Europe and South Africa; and our portfolio now offers the kind of mainstream entertainment experiences that secure wider appeal for Xbox 360. These factors allow us to execute on our strategy to widen the market for Xbox 360, as planned. 

“We continue to offer intense, immersive gaming experiences for gamers – but now we’re priced in a way that will allow new consumers to find out for themselves why Xbox 360 is the ultimate in high-definition entertainment.” said Lewis.  “History shows that R1999.00 is the price point where a console’s audience begins to expand, and with these new ERPs in place we’re ready to bring more consumers into the Xbox 360 world.”

[tags]Xbox 360,South Africa,price cut,press release[/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]

Internet Explorer 8 Beta 1 out now

Internet Explorer 8 Beta logo Just announced at MIX’08, Internet Explorer 8 Beta 1 is available for download after the keynote completes. It looks like they’ve added some very cool new features with sites like Ebay and Facebook already taking advantage of them. I kinda like the idea of having my friend’s status updates available on my toolbar at the click of a button, apparently this is called a WebSlice. See the list of new features here.

One of the cool new features is finally the standard compliant rendering with a button to enable IE7-like emulation for older sites. HTML5 and CSS3 are all included. Oh and the speed is apparently greatly improved.

[tags]Internet Explorer 8[/tags]

Silverlight, Nokia and Apple

Microsoft Silverlight logo Well things seem to be picking up for Microsoft’s Silverlight technology. I enjoyed Silverlight 1.0 but detest JavaScript so my attention immediately turned to the Silverlight 1.1 Alpha build that came out last year at MIX’07. Awesome stuff, managed code in the browser with a lightweight multi-platform plug-in that doesn’t require much skill-up for the developer.

In the interim I’ve noted some interesting stirrings on the web, namely that Nokia has announced support for Silverlight on its Series 60, Series 40 and Internet tablets. This is a totally awesome thing, finally a managed code execution environment built on the .NET Compact Framework for mobile devices other than Windows CE powered devices.

Espoo, Finland – Nokia today announced plans to make Microsoft Silverlight available for S60 on Symbian OS, the world’s leading smartphone software(1), as well as for Series 40 devices and Nokia Internet tablets.  Adding support for Silverlight will extend opportunities for developers to create rich, interactive applications that run on multiple platforms in a consistent and reliable way.

Next in the way of news is an article quoting Apple’s Steve Jobs where he proclaims that the hugely popular iPhone mobile device won’t be getting Flash or Flash Lite technologies as they don’t perform well enough even on the desktop never mind the mobile device. I could agree more.

Turning back to the iPhone, don’t expect support for Adobe’s Flash technology anytime soon. The full-blown PC Flash version “performs too slow to be useful” on the iPhone, and a mobile version called Flash Lite “is not capable of being used with the Web,” Jobs said. Without an option that falls in between, it sounds like Flash is not going to be supported on the iPhone until the performance of the underlying hardware improves.

So the big question on everyone’s lips is when are we going to be getting the recently announced Silverlight 2.0 Beta 1 build. Most people are expecting it later today during the MIX’08 keynote in Las Vegas. Personally I’m chomping on the bit waiting for the announcements. It really does mean a completely new era for application development.


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]