Sunday, October 1, 2017

Xbox Live - Benefits of Gold Membership

When the whole question of subscribing to Xbox Live (paying in other words) came up years ago, the issue that decided it for me was that some games basically required you to be a Gold Level Member just to access the online features for those games - and since I wanted to do that and assumed that other games would follow suit, I subscribed.

Just to be clear here, I am not being paid for this glowing endorsement...  And I also subscribe to the PlayStation Network's Social Community too.

But then what I assumed to be true turned out not to be.  Basically it was mostly the free or reduced price games that had that requirement - the vast majority of AA and AAA titles didn't do that.  But by the time I figured that out, I was already hooked on the features of Xbox Live - and this was before they did the whole Gaming with Gold program mind you. 

Arya Stark is TOTALLY a Young Lara Croft
Among the Gold features that I discovered I liked a lot was equally split between the social aspects that help you find other gamers to play online with, and the Achievements Scheme with its Gamerscores and bragging rights.

That kept me hooked until the whole membership thing exploded with the release of the Xbox One and a massive expansion to Live which included a selection of free games every month.  Speaking of that - this month the selections you can download and play for free are:
  • Gone Home: Console Edition for X1
  • Oxenfree for X1
  • Rayman 3D for X260
And later in the month will be added:
  • The Turing Test (for X1 from 10/16 thru 11/15)
  • Medal of Honor: Airborne (for X1 from 10/16 thru 10/31)
All of the 360 titles can be played on X1 so really if you think about it they are all X1 games, you can just play some on your old X360.  You don't even have to download the games immediately either.  As long as you click on the get game button and thus have the game license added to your console and Gamertag before the offers expire, you can download the games whenever you like.  Just saying.

Add to that the other Gold-related features of membership that include discounts for purchasing the digital versions of games via the "Deals with Gold" in the online Xbox Store, which range from 50% to 70% off selected titles. 

Regular "Free Play Days" offers (currently that includes the game Paladins) and an Xbox Live Quests Contest that's giving away a 55" Samsung 4K TV...

 I'm telling you all this because if you own an X360 or an X1 and you're not a member you should join.  When you factor in just the free monthly games that more than offsets the cost of membership, and the 50% to 75% off on game buys from the Xbox Store is like gravy on top of that considering it only costs $4.99 a month!?

The primary benefits of Gold Membership:
  • 12-Player Racing (in games like Forza: Horizon);
  • Contests with great prizes; 
  • Discounts of 50% to 75% off games and game add-ons / Expansions / DLC;
  • Free Games every Month  (worth more than $700 a year);
  • Game DVR;
  • Online Multi-Player Play;
  • Upload Studio;
  • Xbox 360 Multi-Player Gaming on Xbox 1.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Original Xbox Games Coming to Xbox 1

If you have not heard it yet, prepare yourself for some exciting news indeed!  You see games from the original Xbox? Yeah, they're getting backwards compatibility added so you'll be able to play THREE generations of games on ONE Xbox - your Xbox One (of course).  Heh.

The wizards at Live have not yet released the list of the first batch of backwards compatible Original Xbox titles - but we expect them to do so any day now.  We'll keep you informed.

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, 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
  • 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.