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Short Shorts

Tech Fiction with an expiration date: Ultra-short stories about technology news-of-the-day

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Moving Pictures ('05)

A band of Garage CGI Spielbergs, a Machinima movie and Hollywood's establishment

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Trojan Horses ('03)

P2P networks, portable digital media, the MPAA, Brooklyn Technical High School, the US government and terrorism

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How to improve Xbox 360?
Better use of 16:9
Avoid the Uncanny Valley
More inspired art direction
Breakthrough gameplay
More stuff like Gotham TV
Screw the games. Give me DivX, XVid, HD-DVD and a TV show download service!


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The Art of the Possible. Commentary. Writing. Miscellany.
- - - - - - - - - - - -=[ Thursday, December 22, 2005 ]=- - - - - - - - - - - -
7 Things About 30 Days of Xbox 360

We're completing our Xbox 360 trilogy (REVIEW: Xbox 360 Media-Centric Features, 7 Days of Xbox 360) with a few more impressions now that the newness has worn off and we can go a few days without playing.
  1. Still most impressed with...: The overall user experience, especially the consistency (props to the Xbox Guide button) and the truly "multi"-media integration of USB, Windows Media Connect (we prefer to earn PGR3 Kudos to the soothing sounds of Paul Simon, j/k), Media Center Extender, Xbox Live (PGR3's Gotham TV) and perhaps most importantly Xbox Live Marketplace (which begs to be cross-bred with iTunes TV show downloads).

  2. Games aren't hitting it out of the park: You can see Singles (Tiger Woods' shadowing), Doubles (most of Call of Duty 2, NBA2K6' cloth simulation) and Triples (Gotham TV's appearance and function) all around, but nobody's put it all together.

    We're worried that not even Elder Scrolls (16 square miles of randomly generated forests), Ghost Recon (intriguing screen-in-screen gameplay) or Gears of War (purty, but eerily familiar) are going to make it over the fence.

  3. Note to Developers ... it ain't about "the shiny": Yes, go ahead and use all those cores and all those rendering pipelines, but let's not forget that Pac Man, Defender, the first Tomb Raider, Half Life and World of Warcraft hit it out of the park (critically and commercially) without per-pixel shading and sub-surface scattering.

    Now that we've seen triple-core 3GHz HD gaming, we never want to go back, but please put some innovation on top. We need more work on putting not just MIPS and polys to work, but on stuff like:

    • 16:9 HD: Give me one big 4:3 screen and three small 4:3 ones down the side, now put multi-location gameplay into those and let me hot-switch between them.

    • Xbox Live integration: Save the telemetry of the performances of the very best, and let me emulate/study them in picture-in-picture mode while I'm playing the game.

    • Better art direction: How about we use that per-pixel shading and depth of field, but do it in a black-and-white Film Noir style?

    • The opportunities at the intersection of "consumption" and "interaction": All this stuff looks good enough now to "just watch" (e.g. Gotham TV, NBA2K6 replay) some of the time, so how about an "auto-pilot" button that allows me to sit back and watch my character being played for me, either because it's just that pretty, or I need to learn how to get past that impossible boss.

  4. Gamertag: Dirt simple. Oddly motivating. But, unevenly executed in the games (it takes all of three games to get to 1,000 in NBA2K6, but Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2006 won't give us a single point unless we play on Xbox Live Gold).

  5. Economics of next gen consoles must worry ISVs: The need to live up to the graphical opportunities of these $300 pocket Goliaths must be causing team sizes and development budgets to swell disproportionately to revenues. Add to that two underperforming quarters from #1 EA and #2 Activision caused by the Osborne-like effects of console generation transitions (e.g. gamers stop buying old gen games, and there aren't enough new consoles out to make up the difference, much less provide upside), and it's going to be a nervous year leading to what they can only hope will be the promised land of Holiday '06.

  6. Something very good is going to happen to Michel Ancel: From Rayman to Beyond Good & Evil, and now the highly cinematic and visceral King Kong (which shuns icons and health meters to give you a wall-to-wall movie-like experience only hampered by too much button mashing and a low contrast level so egregious that it's apparently barely playable on non-HD Xbox). Of the three he's helmed, only Rayman was able to match its critical praise with financial performance. Something tells us he now knows how to come back to combining the two, and we can't wait.

  7. We're bored ... where's the next batch: Mostly kidding, but if we don't start to see stuff like DOA4, FF XI, Burnout Revenge, Splinter Cell 4, Ninety Nine Nights, Resident Evil 5 and Blazing Angles soon, we'll have to learn how to read again.

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IMPRESSIONS: 7 Things about 30 Days of XBOX 360
REVIEW: XBOX 360, media-centric features
PSP E-BOOK: Moving Pictures
REVIEW: Gateway Connected DVD Player
REVIEW: DirecTV High Def TiVo
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