Angry Robot

360 Second Impressions

I’ve been heavy into the vids since getting the 360 a few weeks ago, so there are many more games posts on the way. Anyway, this is some further thoughts about aspects of the 360.


First, achievements. That is a very clever idea. In a nutshell, accomplishing certain goals in a game (clear level 3, survive one minute without dying, etc.) earn you “achievements”, which have different point values; these points accrue in your “gamerscore”, a number on your “gamercard”:

which basically measures how much of a nerd you are. Now it’s not so much for the gamerscore, I don’t think, but I find these achievements damned addicting. (As if the games themselves weren’t bad enough.) Perhaps it is the score, in that it tricks me into thinking playing games is adding to my value.

But one of the nicest details of this system is that the achievements you earn are tracked by the system and are added to your profile. So you can look at anyone’s profile and see in alarming detail what games they have been playing, how recently, and how far they have gotten in them. I was playing Gears with a friend of a friend and he said “I see you’re in the thieves’ guild in Oblivion,” because yeah, he can see that. So we chatted about how to do a particular mission, etc. This is a good thing, in that the image of one’s self is primarily constituted by one’s achievements, unlike say MySpace, where it is made up of one’s spam image of one’s self.

Live Arcade

Fucking A! Not to argue that Microsoft’s version of the downloadable vintage/casual game marketplace is any better than, say, Nintendo’s, but that the overall service is something very nice to have. You can now get Castlevania: Symphony of the Night for the equivalent of $10. That’s sweet; apparently it’s one of the best games ever made. I’ve never played it. I am able to fill in the gaps in my knowledge of the canon, I get games far below the typical $70 CDN new game price, and it doesn’t even require my lazy ass to pop in a disc, it’s right on the HD. I can see why some people wouldn’t be happy paying money for 25-year old arcade games that they had poured all their hard-earned quarters into as kids, but it really all comes down to pricing. Frankly, Microsoft should include more free Live Arcade games on the system, since it sounds like a lot of people don’t even think of downloading them at all. Worth it though!

HDTV watch: here's a good one

I’ve been speccing out HDTVs for a while now and thought it was time to share what I have so far. Long story short: Sharp Aquos 42in LCD 1080p. Reasons: good reviews, good stats (1200:1 contrast, 6ms response, 2xHDMI), 1080p. Compared to what you could get for $2300 CDN even a year ago, this is pretty sweet. However, there are new models coming out soon, and the main difference is that they operate at 120hz. What does this mean? These articles (1, 2) can tell you more than I can, but it has to do with the refresh rate and it sounds like:

  1. 120hz, since it divides equally by 24 and 30, will yield a ‘smoother’ image no matter whether it is video- or film-based
  2. response time will be faster, around 4ms, which is of interest to gamers.

That said, I’m not sure whether these things will make any real-world difference. I haven’t exactly heard current HDTV owners crying out for smoother refresh rates; not a whine from HD gamers saying their TVs make them suck at games. Whenever I’m ready to buy (crosses fingers) I’ll see which way the wind blows. Maybe when they clear out the existing models there will be Hott Dealz.

It hasn’t escaped my attention that the thing that drives my home theatre upgrades lately is gaming, not film viewing. Having surround sound speakers for films is a nice touch, but for games it’s a performance advantage. HD will likely be the same. This is odd for a film-school grad.

Oh, while we’re on the subject: apparently Blu-Ray won.

Sony's Home

Sony announced a new online virtual world for the PS3, which will be free (with every PS3). The video is pretty impressive. It’s a combination of Xbox Live, Nintendo’s Miis, and Second Life. It reminded me of an article I wrote six years ago for Joystick 101, now lost to us, called “the Game OS”. It proposed an online, virtual world that would function as a wrapper for all games played, and it’s almost exactly what Sony is going to do. Not to gloat at my own foresightedness or anything.

There remain questions of implementation. For example, Sony is clearly planning on selling advertising in this world, and will charge you for special clothes for your avatar. But can you make your own clothes? Can you get an adblocker? Can I look like a dinosaur but with the face of “Scooter” Libby? How customizable is it, how open-ended is it? Are we in Snow Crash or Sony’s corporate fantasyworld?

Merlin Show

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Merlin Mann’s Merlin Show launched this week and that I am enjoying it.

Multitouch Displays

From the would-love-it-to-be-true department, via matthowie, multitouch everywhere. The comments on that SBJ link are interesting, especially the anecdote about Jobs attempting a multitouch on a Cinema Display, and the one mentioning that Fingerworks had been bought by Apple. And yeah, it’s worth watching the video again.