Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Microsoft LIVE Xbox Game Pass


Earlier this year, Microsoft announced a new subscription-based service called Xbox Game Pass -- describing it as a new digital gaming subscription service for the Xbox One community offering  incredible value for the relatively low monthly fee of $9.99 per month.

Basically the subscription would grant access to a library of game titles - with new titles being added each month, which potentially could serve as a go-to for retro and classic gaming as well as provide the means for gamers to download and play titles from the past few years that, for whatever reason, they've missed.

Similar to the services already offered by Electronic Arts on the Xbox One -- EA Access and on Sony's PlayStation 4 streaming service PlayStation Now, both of which are video game subscription services that, in exchange for a monthly subscription fee, gamers can download and play games from the library offered by each service. 

For Xbox Game Pass gamers who subscribe choose the games they want to play and digital copies are then downloaded directly to their Xbox One, with a license and, as long as they remain a Game Pass Subscriber, they can play the games from the library as much as they like.



Xbox Game Pass offers unlimited access to over 100 Xbox One and Backward Compatible Xbox 360 games for $9.99 USD per month. 

In the category of AA and AAA games the library boasts all three titles in the BioShock series, both games in the Viva Piñata series, and most of the Gears of War series as well.

The service was tested extensively by the volunteer members of the Xbox Insider Program, then was fine-tuned via their feedback before being launched system-wide on 1 June across 31 markets (see below).

The LIVE service is offering gamers a 14-day free trial -- anyone with an Xbox Live account and not just Xbox LIVE Gold level members -- can start their 14-day free trial and play as many of the more than 100 games currently in the game library as much as they like. Subscriptions are be available for purchase online at xbox.com/game-pass, with a retail offering expected later this year.

Online gaming subscription services are only as good as their catalog of titles, which may be why Microsoft opted to cherry-pick from its Xbox One and Backward Compatible Xbox 360 games to offer some of the most popular games of the past few years to gamers.

The current Xbox Game Pass Library consists of :
  • #IDARB
  • A Kingdom for Keflings
  • A World of Keflings
  • Age of Booty
  • Banjo-Kazooie
  • Banjo-Kazooie N n B
  • Banjo Tooie
  • BC Rearmed 2
  • BioShock 1
  • BioShock 2
  • BioShock Infinite
  • Blood Bowl 2
  • The Book of Unwritten Tales 2
  • Borderlands
  • Bound by Flame
  • Braid
  • Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
  • CAPCOM Arcade Cabinet
  • CastleStorm
  • Comic Jumper
  • Comix Zone
  • D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die
  • Dark Void
  • de Blob 2
  • Defense Grid
  • Defense Grid 2
  • Dig Dug
  • DmC Devil May Cry: Definitive Edition
  • Double Dragon Neon
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara
  • Electronic Super Joy
  • Fable III
  • Farming Simulator 15
  • Final Fight: DblImpact
  • Flock!
  • Galaga Legions DX
  • Gears of War
  • Gears of War 2
  • Gears of War 3
  • Gears of War: Judgement
  • Gears Ultimate Edition
  • The Golf Club
  • GRID 2
  • Halo 5: Guardians
  • Halo: Spartan Assault
  • Hexic 2
  • Iron Brigade
  • Jetpac Refueled
  • Joe Danger 2: The Movie
  • Joe Danger: Special Edition
  • Joy Ride Turbo
  • JumpJet Rex
  • Kameo
  • Knight Squad
  • KOF98UM
  • KYUB
  • Layers of Fear
  • LEGO Batman
  • Lumo
  • Mad Max
  • Massive Chalice
  • The Maw
  • Max: Curse of the Brotherhood
  • Mega Coin Squad
  • Mega Man Legacy Collection
  • Metal Slug 3
  • Monday Night Combat
  • Ms. Splosion Man
  • MX vs ATV Reflex
  • N+
  • NBA 2K16
  • NEOGEO Battle Coliseum
  • OlliOlli
  • OF: Dragon Rising
  • Pac-Man Championship Edition DX+
  • Pac-Man Museum
  • Payday 2: Cromewave
  • Perfect Dark Zero
  • Pumped BMX +
  • Resident Evil 0
  • Roundabout
  • Sacred 3
  • Saints Row IV: Re-Elected
  • Sam&Max Beyond Time
  • Sam&Max Save the World
  • Samurai Showdown II
  • ScreamRide
  • Sega Vintage Collection: Alex Kidd & Co.
  • Sega Vintage Collection: Golden Axe
  • Sega Vintage Collection: Monster World
  • Sega Vintage Collection: Streets of Rage
  • Shantae and the Pirate's Curse
  • SOULCALIBUR
  • SOULCALIBER II HD
  • Splunky
  • Splosion Man
  • Stacking
  • Sterndenn
  • Streets of Rage
  • Strider
  • Sunset Overdrive
  • Super Mega Baseball: Extra Innings
  • Super Time Force
  • The Swapper
  • TEKKEN Tag Tournement 2
  • Terraria
  • Toy Soldiers
  • Toy Soldiers: Cold War
  • Virtual Fighter 5: Final Showdown
  • Viva Pinata
  • Viva Pinata: TIP
  • WWE 2K16
  • XCOM: Enemy Within
Each month the Xbox Game Pass service will add a new set of games to the library catalog - and as an added benefit, Xbox Game Pass members can purchase all Xbox One games in the catalog - and related add-ons - at an exclusive discount if they like. It's our understanding that the LIVE Marketplace will detect your Access Membership and adjust the title prices on the Marketplace to reflect that status and discount.
 
In terms of its offerings, Access at the present time includes some of the most popular Xbox LIVE Arcade category games in the history of the LIVE Service - with examples including the two games in the hugely popular Keflings Series (A Kingdom for Keflings and A World for Keflings) the two most popular titles in the Toy Soldiers Series (Toy Soldiers, and Toy Soldiers: Cold War), and the cult classic Perfect Dark Zero.

In the category of AA and AAA games the library boasts all three titles in the BioShock series, both games in the Viva Piñata series, and most of the Gears of War series as well.

Gamers interested in classic arcade and retro games will be very pleased to discover that among the offerings in the library can be found CAPCOM Arcade Cabinet, and the full suite available in the Sega Vintage Collections - including Alex Kidd & Co., Golden Axe, Monster World, and Streets of Rage.

Assuming that the wizards behind the service are active in selecting prime titles for the coming monthly updates, Microsoft's Xbox Game Pass appears to be a genuine bargain in entertainment.

What's our conclusion?  After evaluating the service via the free 14-day trial our judgement is very positive - this is certainly a value for the cost, and is loaded with entertainment.  The only drawbacks that we can see are down to the actual games, which have to be downloaded to your local storage - which means you will need to have adequate space available which is typically between 3GB and 6GB per game (more for the larger titles like BioShock Infinite.

If storage is an issue for you - check out our feature piece on console storage -- Storage Problems Solved! -- (Speaking of 24 April '17) as that may be your fix straight away!

Xbox Game Pass is available in 31 Xbox markets at launch: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, UK, and the United States.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Storage Problems Solved!


Recently I discovered I was in a little trouble - my Xbox One started acting really funny and at times would slow down to a crawl.  That got my attention - and I took a look via System and discovered to my horror that the internal drive was down to 7% capacity - while my 2TB external (a Western Digital My Book) was down to 11% available capacity!?

I don't know how I let it get this bad - honestly.  I am usually pretty good about keeping an eye on that sort of thing - and yet it happened.

I moved what I could from the Internal drive to the External - it was not much - and then made the hard choice of deleting some of the games.

Deleting Games...

This is almost always the choice of last resort - because even if you pick smaller games you are usually going to take a hit in terms of re-installing and then patching them.  

Who could predict how nasty this situation could get?  The Xbox One came with 1TB of Internal storage (when my original X1 died I ended up replacing it with the 1TB Forza Edition X1) and as I had the 2TB external storage I was thinking - great!  I have 3TB of available storage - I will be just fine for-ever!  Cha!

So yeah, here I was with no more room and the lack of swap space on the Internal is slowing everything down.  There was really no choice to it - okay that isn't true - there were choices to make.  Should I just buy another My Book and  plug it in?  That'll give me however much the second device has as more storage.  Right.  OR should I outright replace the My Book with something bigger?

On the plus side, Peter needs a drive and, if I replaced the current one I could then pass it on to him.  But if I replaced the current one, how big should I go??

How Big to Go?

If someone else asked me for advice on what to do here, I would always say "get the most you can afford - bigger is better!" but, do I follow my own advice?  Huh.

Instead of just making a decision based on desires I ended up doing the educated thing, and looking up the stats and cost of a wide array of units - the idea being to find the fastest ones and then compare their prices and the cost per TB of these units.

Fast in terms of external storage is 7200RPM.  Cost per TB though - that varies and especially if you are getting the unit on sale.  But overall and narrowing it all down I decided that there were basically two choices: Seagate or Western Digital. 

Doing my due-diligence, and discovering that my local big-box had sent me a 20% off computer purchases - I ended up going with the 6TB Seagate unit.  It's fast, it's small, and with the coupon the per-TB price was not even close to being painful!  Just so you know, $28 per TB is the average cost.

The Verdict?

The Segate is installed - and it took a LOT less time than I thought it would to transfer the contents of the old drive to the new.  I am wicked pleased with the performance and the ease of installation for this device.

If you are looking for an external drive / storage for your Xbox One, I am happy to recommend  Seagate's 6TB Backup Blus Hub.  Good times were had.  Good times.

Updated Notes 

In the process of moving the contents from the Western Digital My Book to the new Seagate drive I have noticed an odd event - for games with less than say 20GB the transfer is wicked fast.  For games that were more than 21GB they were noticeably slower.

When I started looking around I discovered that the Internal Storage was actually down to just 6% available space.  I didn't think that could be it - after all it should be copying external drive to external drive, right?

Except when I freed up some space on the Internal Drive (I took it to 20% free by moving some of the games to the new Seagate Drive) that slowing down problem?  It went away.  So if you are in the same boat I am in I suggest you make a chunk of room available on your Internal Drive just in case.


Monday, April 3, 2017

Retro Games, Rotation, and the Gamer

- or -
 
A Question of Retro Games, 
Game Play Rotation Lists, 
& Modem Gamers


Well unless Angry Birds happens to be in his Game Play Rotation List that is!
The Most Dangerous Gamer (Comic)
by Nicole Wakelin on December 10, 2012
 

PREFACE


There has never been a better time to recover from lazy gamer syndrome or its counterpart - no-time-to-play-itus - than today.  Now.  Bear with me, all will become clear.  But first we begin the lesson... 
 
The Importance of Context

Contexts is wicked important.  So are ideas like “logic” or “expression” or even “thought” and “emotion” just to name a few.  One position on these matters can be found in the school of Epistemology -- which is the philosophical science and discipline under which we study and define how we know what we know - and the best was to both communicate and illustrate those points.

At its most basic of definitions “Epistemology” is defined as the study of the nature and scope of knowledge, as well as its justified belief and related systems that extend from there. Epistemology
analyzes the nature of knowledge -- and how it relates to similar notions such as truth, belief and justification -- and then defines those words and terms and their meaning in useful ways, so that we can thus carry on dialogue together.

The discipline also addresses our means of production of knowledge, and skepticism about different claims therein. I find this immensely appropriate and even poetic when I consider the alternate worlds that I have most recently existed in, and in particular that of the Japan and its northern-most island, Hokkaido, in the world of Hitman (2016), and the world that exists within the construct of the game “Thief” which was for all practical intentions, created in the late 1990s and refined in 2014 but depicts an industrial-age society on some alien world.

Sure, those are fictional worlds - or are they? I can tell you that at times they felt very real to me - and in particular the moral codes that appear to have usurped that of the courts and Common Law in them.

And the Darwinian approach to moral justification - something akin to Python Law rather than Common Law - when it comes to the significance of and importance for “getting even” or revenge - two themes that play significant roles in both of those manufactured worlds.

Despite the fact that humanity - let alone an individual citizen from one of the many different tribes that human call “nation-states” under which the species has been divided -- often and under conditions of grave danger seek that sort of satisfaction. I'm just saying.

To have meaningful exchanges about these - and other - topics we all need to agree on the basic foundation points like the actual meaning of phrases like “Retro Games,” or “Game Play Rotation List(s)” and even “Modern Gamer(s),” and what about “Preface?” That being so, for the record as I write this I am working from the following foundation points:

Retro Games = Any game that is older than the current season - but can be a very old game too.

Game Play Rotation List(s) = Any game title you play regularly but especially one you have yet to complete to your satisfaction.

Modern Gamer(s) = Me. You. Any gamer currently gaming even if they began their gaming career in the 1970s. As long as they are still gaming and doing it on modern hardware, they are a Modern Gamer.

Preface = The bits that come before the meat of the story.

See? That wasn't so difficult, now was it?

The Meat Part

Moore's law is an observation made by Gordon Moore back in the day that the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years. His observation turned out to be spot-on accurate, which is why they named it after him. It probably didn't hurt that Gordon Moore was also a co-founder of Fairchild Semiconductor and a little tech company called Intel.

The paper that Moore wrote and published in 1965 described the doubling - every year - in the number of components per integrated circuit, and projected that the rate of growth would continue for at least another decade - which turned out to be a very conservative time estimate, hindsight being 20/20 and all.

Borrowing from his experience I would like to introduce to you:

Boots-Faubert's Law

So yeah, this is the paper I am writing and publishing (well, article not so much as paper but still) that history will draw upon to phrase what will become known as Boots-Faubert's Law of Game Play Rotation - a simple law in gaming that dictates that the typical Game Play Rotation List for a gamer will double in size every 12 months as more games are added to the list thanks to two basic principles:

(1) The wizards at game studios continue to pump out games at a staggering rate, many of which are classified as “must-play” titles; and

(2) The average gamer will not have sufficient time in any given year to spend on completing these games, which will cause a backlog of incomplete games (and games they never got a chance to start playing in the first place) due to the lack of sufficient time to play them all.

The reasoning for this has to do with how big the video game industry has grown, and the fact that it continues to grow, with new studios appearing practically every day.

2014

A good example of this trend and its effect can be found in the year 2014. Bear in mind that a decade ago the typical gaming season - which runs from September through May - generally produced around six AAA titles in the “must-play” category, and so was certainly within reach of the typical gamer. Which was why we didn't really have Game Play Rotation Lists of the sort we have now back then.

Fast forward to 2014 however, and the situation has changed. Peruse this sampling of just the primary “must-play” titles for that year:
  1. 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil
  2. Alien: Isolation
  3. Assassin's Creed Rogue
  4. Assassin's Creed Unity
  5. Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate
  6. Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel!
  7. Bound by Flame
  8. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
  9. CastleStorm: Definitive Edition
  10. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2
  11. Chariot
  12. Child of Light
  13. Dark Souls II
  14. Defense Grid 2
  15. Destiny
  16. Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition
  17. Dragon Age: Inquisition
  18. Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z
  19. EA Sports UFC
  20. The Elder Scrolls Online
  21. Elite: Dangerous
  22. Escape Dead Island
  23. The Evil Within
  24. Fable Anniversary
  25. Far Cry
  26. Fez
  27. FIFA 15
  28. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn
  29. Forza Horizon 2
  30. Goat Simulator
  31. Grand Theft Auto Online
  32. Grand Theft Auto V
  33. Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition
  34. Halo: The Master Chief Collection
  35. Halo: Spartan Assault
  36. Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft
  37. How to Survive
  38. Infamous: First Light
  39. Infamous: Second Son
  40. The Last of Us: Left Behind
  41. LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham
  42. LEGO: The Hobbit
  43. The LEGO Movie Videogame
  44. Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII
  45. LittleBigPlanet 3
  46. Madden NFL 15
  47. Mario Kart 8
  48. Mario Golf: World Tour
  49. Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes
  50. Metro Redux
  51. Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
  52. Minecraft for X1 / PS4
  53. MLB 14: The Show
  54. NASCAR '14
  55. NBA 2K15
  56. Need for Speed Rivals: Complete Edition
  57. Persona 4 Arena Ultimax
  58. Pinball FX 2
  59. Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare
  60. Pokémon Battle Trozei
  61. Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire
  62. Risen 3: Titan Lords
  63. The Sims 4
  64. Skylanders: Trap Team
  65. Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition
  66. Sniper Elite III
  67. South Park: The Stick of Truth
  68. Sunset Overdrive
  69. Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS
  70. Terraria
  71. Thief
  72. Titanfall
  73. Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition
  74. Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark
  75. Tropico 5
  76. Valiant Hearts: The Great War
  77. The Walking Dead
  78. Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate
  79. Watch_Dogs
  80. The Wolf Among Us
  81. Wolfenstein: The New Order
  82. World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition
  83. World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor
  84. Worms Battlegrounds
  85. WWE 2K15
While not every gamer is going to like every genre - so there will be some selective removals depending on personal choice, the list above contains 85 games! And it does not help matters that some of those titles don't really include official endings - particularly the MMOs.

Sure I could have summarized that list - but then it would not have contained the gut-punching impact that the full list contains. And if you think that is a lot of games to be released in one year, consider the fact that that list only presents the AAA games - there are three times that number of lesser and niche titles released in 2014 as well.

This is why the average gamer's Game Play Rotation List is going to continue to grow with each passing season.

Another Problem

If you think that the paractical limits that usually apply - like only being able to afford X number of games in any given year - is helpful, consider this new problem: Microsoft has started GIVING games away for FREE to members of Xbox LIVE Gold.

Consider it - today when I checked the list of free Gold games - under the Game With Gold Program - I found the following titles:
Ryse: Son of Rome
Evolve Ultimate Edition
Darksiders

So there you have three more titles I want to play. I WANT to play mind you. But I guarantee you that I won't have the time to fully play them to my satisfaction, so as sure as Bob's Your Uncle those three titles will end up being added to my Game Play Rotation List.

What's the Solution, Kenneth?

I don't know about you lot, but the idea of my GPRL simply ballooning forever bothers me. There are loads of entertainment withering there just waiting for me to play!

Fortunately I have a solution. I say we set aside Sunday afternoon through early evening for ME time. Game Time. We dedicate ourselves to removing titles from our GPRLs by really digging into a game every Sunday. Set Sunday aside for gaming! Free the Games! YEAH!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

. . . Status Update and Buzzard Luck.

I have good news and I have bad news. The good news is that I am not dead. The bad news is that at various points over the past 8 weeks or so I found myself almost wishing I was.

You lot have sent me piles of email asking after me and why I suddenly went silent and why my progress on current active projects was so sporadic and almost random. I did have some health issues - but that is largely at this point in the past. Which is to say that I am on the mend and feeling a LOT better.

I sincerely apologise to those of you who have been waiting very patiently for the final expansion section for Hitman (2016) - which is long over-due as a result of my illness - but is (I swear) very very imminent in arriving - as I am in the last few hours of wrapping up the video edits and insertion of the video illustrations for the main active project (Watch_Dogs 2) as I write this.


Once the WD2 WTG project is completed I will immediately segue into completing Hitman - which only has the Japan-expansion left to it.

I am not going to go too in-depth on the health issues other than to reveal that I experienced a combination of a cold that turned into an URI and a bad reaction to some new meds -- simple as that.

So thank you all kindly for the emails and your concern - it is very much appreciated. Please be relieved to know that I am better and I have resumed work.

Cheers!

Chris