For some reason, the other night when I was trying to play some Gears with my brothers, my Xbox Live connection was freaking out ... I couldn't connect to a hosted game and I was seeing lots of lag. Lag! I haven't seen lag like that since Quake CTF over a 56kbps modem.
So, at some point I must have changed one of my routers or switches, because when I went to check my network connections I got a "Moderate" for my NAT settings. Ah, so I must have to tweak some firewall settings. Funny I didn't have this problem before. Well, since I'm pretty sure I'm not going to find "Old Pentium running shorewall on Gentoo" on the list of Xbox Live certified devices, I try to find out what port forwarding I need to do.
Here we go: "Xbox 360: Port settings for Xbox Live". Looks like port 88 UDP and port 3074 UDP and TCP. So I put those rules in the firewall, reload the config, and test the network connection again. Now I get "Strict" instead of "Moderate"! That's no good. Well, it turns out that you have to route TCP on port 88 as well as UDP ... I put that rule in as well and now everything works as it should.
So, moral of this story: forward both UDP and TCP traffic on ports 88 and 3074. Port 88, eh? I never knew that Xbox Live used Kerberos. Learn something new every day.
I haven't had any time for gaming lately, so I've been kind of watching the next-gen console fray from the sidelines. I have wondered, though, why Sony let Microsoft get such a big jump -- the PS3 will be released a full year after the Xbox 360. I just read one analysis, though, that makes total sense. From the article "Top Industry Figures Muse PS3", Michael Pachter, Senior Analyst at Wedbush Morgan Securities, had this to say:
Blu-ray is key to Sony's strategy. This isn't a battle between Sony and Microsoft; it's a battle between Sony and Toshiba. The PS3 and high definition DVD are coming out at roughly the same time, as compared to a 3 1/2 year lag between DVD and PS2. This time, hardcore MOVIE buffs are allowed to choose between standalone high def DVD players and the PS3. There are a lot of them, and I think that people with video game blinders on have completely overlooked the significance of Blu-ray. The high def features of Blu-ray will sell PS3s, and Microsoft can't compete with that. Add to that the fact that it doesn't make sense to buy a next gen box without an HD monitor, and all HD monitor owners want more content (meaning movies), and you can see why this strategy is so brilliant. So the "delay" in launch of PS3 is more related to the high def DVD strategy than to anything else.Ahh, that makes total sense. HD-DVD is just starting to warm up, and all those people that bought the HD sets over the past couple of years are going to jump at the chance to be able to really take advantage of their "investment". So, for Christmas 2006, they are going to be faced with a choice: stand-alone HD-DVD player for $350, or a PS3 for $500?
I'm thinking Sony's going to win, even with their late start and their recent fumbling. If they have a good online strategy (and they've been able to see what's good and bad about Xbox live for a while now), it'll be a PS3 2007.
Another one of those cool emergent behaviors that sometimes happen in massively multiplayer games. This time, there's a blood infection that is spreading throughout the land in World of Warcraft.
If an infectous disease is this hard to control in a virtual world where the programmers are, literally, God, what chance do we really have if an avian flu pandemic takes hold in the non-virtual world?
My daughter Jessica is not quite three yet, and we've lately started a new evening tradition of playing Katamari Damacy together. I'm not sure if I should be concerned about long-term psychological damage, but she rocks out to the fantastically trippy intro video ("Cows! Ducks! Panda bears!") and then enjoys telling me which things to run over ("Run over the mouse, Daddy! Now go get the beach ball!"). Soon she'll be able to work the controller herself I'm sure.
If you haven't played this game, it's really unlike anything you've seen before. Here's that intro video, which is a psychedelic wonder:
Hilarious commentary from a bunch of modern-day 10-13 year olds that are sat in front of some "classic" arcade and console games mostly from the 80s. Having played most of these games "in the day", I can't help feeling both indignant and somewhat abashed.
EGM: Do you feel like you're in the middle of the Star Wars universe?
Parker: It feels like we're in some barely 3D universe.
Bobby: Maybe it feels like we're in the Star Wars universe where you can't see that well.
Source: Child's Play Part II from 1UP.COM
What's the true promise of RSS? That it fades into the background, becoming as ubiquitous and invisible as HTTP. Producers, consumers, intermediaries ... all speaking this language of streaming information, shuttling all kinds of data.
Here's a great example: Halo 2 uses RSS to send stats about the online games's you've played. Awesome.
Quite an amazing month if you're a gamer and don't mind sequels.
What a great idea for an IM bot: a portal into the old Infocom text adventures like Zork and THHGTTG. These games were formative for me when I was growing up and playing them on an Atari 800, and it's great to be reminded of them again. AOL is tossing the bots off the network because they're exceeding message limits (nice to see some things haven't changed since we created the Spyonit.com IM bots), but hopefully that will get resolved.
I had never really thought about an IM client being a "universal dumb terminal with a third-party distributed directory service" before. I mean, we've done some cool stuff with two-way IM bots before, but the "save" and "restore" functions tied into the IM identity are really innovative. Also makes playing these games from an AOL IM-equipped mobile phone a reality ... you can even pick up where you left off from your desktop. Good job, Andy Baio.
I've been in a bit of a gaming slump the past, oh, year or so, and haven't been playing much: something to do with having an 17-month old baby and getting a new company off the ground, I imagine. Oh sure, I still play Golden Tee a bunch and the wife and I have an ongoing game of Animal Crossing that I check in with every so often, but no good shooters or platformers or whatever for a while now. Christmas brought a batch of new enticing games, though, so I've made some time to get back to playing, and I just finished Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (for the PS2) last night.
I remember playing the original Prince of Persia game on, what, an old Atari ST computer? Must have been. Oh wow, check it out -- here are some old screen shots. Anyway, that was a good game.
This updated version is a very good game. Beautiful, smooth, good gameplay, not too hard, not too time-consuming (funny how that has become a virtue for me). A decent combination of fighting and puzzles in a very constrained world (there's almost always one way and only one way to do things), you're not wasting a lot of time wandering around wondering what to do. The game is broken into nice bite-sized chunks so it's not a problem playing for an hour here, a half-hour there.
All in all, a great game, but my favorite game in this genre would have to be the way-under-appreciated masterpiece ICO. So let me just say this: if you liked Prince of Persia, you'll love ICO, which I'm sure you can pick up in a bargain bin somewhere.
P.S. If anyone would like to buy my copy of Prince of Persia for the PS2 for the blog-special price of $20 + shipping, let me know!
There's another online community opening today: "There". One interesting thing about this community is the intersection of "Therebucks" (the virtual currency) with "actual bucks" and a published exchange rate (see tbux.com). The emerging economic system in these virtual communities is always intriguing to me (see this earlier entry for another example).
Of course, the community is only as good as its ability to foster real relationships and communication, and the early word from There beta participants has been good. We'll keep an eye on it.
When you work with the same group of people for several years, there get to be defining moments in your communal online experience: the first time you all played Capture the Flag in Quake together, sharing Onion headlines, having your IM client make fart noises, and getting Costolo to not use Outlook and stop spreading email viruses.
One of those defining moments was when Matt found this "blew up my monitor" game review at the end of 2000. I submit it now for your amusement:
Well, I went to a charity auction last night expecting to get, you know, a weekend getaway in Galena or maybe a Ravinia "wine and dine" package or something. Instead, I ended up with a brand new Golden Tee machine. Yes, that golf game that you see in the bars that has the four obnoxious guys huddled around it. Well, it was just too good of a deal to pass up, and now it's got a home in our basement.
What's interesting about the game is not that it's got amazing graphics (no better than Links in 1998) or sophisticated gameplay (well, it's one of those "minute to learn, lifetime to master" things). It's that the developers (Incredible Technologies, based right here in Arlington Heights IL) figured out how to network all the machines in the country together. Just that, and it's the most popular bar game in the country, with leagues sprouting up and nationwide tournaments being held (with real cash prizes). Since I'm now an "operator", I can see how the revenue split works between Incredible Technolgies and the machine operator. No wonder these are popular in bars ... you could realistically make back what you paid for the machine in a matter of weeks!
Well anyway, another example of "the network's the thing". I think I'll go downstairs and play a round now, because I really suck and I don't want to be embarrassed in my own house if someone comes over.
I've always found Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs) facinating from a sociological perspective: how the economic system develops over time, for instance, or how "real-life" social groups and relationships get expressed in virtual worlds.
Second Life is a relatively new entry that borrows from the old MUD model: it allows the inhabitants to create new objects and structures with associated behaviors. Cool -- let your user base keep things fresh.
Well, back to the point, in order to combat the hyperinflation that has occurred in other MM games, the developers decided to institute a graduated tax. The article "On the Second Life Tax Revolt" looks at how the players in this world revolted against this tax within the constraints of the world itself. Neat stuff.
It's been almost 5 years since we all played Half-Life, which remains the finest single-player game I have ever experienced. For the past couple of years, I've kind of been focussed on playing games on the PS2 and (more recently) the GameCube, and I've pretty much ignored games on the PC except for an occasional game of Links with my brother online. So the buzz for Half-Life 2 has gotten pretty buzzy lately, so I thought I check out what's what.
Oh. My. God. So I just watched the demo that the Valve guys (the developers) gave at E3, and it is without a doubt the most impressive display of interactive graphics and gameplay I have ever seen. I don't toss compliments like that around like chicken feed ... I mean it's jaw-dropping unbelievable. The file itself is a 610MB (!) Quicktime movie, but I can't recommend it enough: it's worth the wait and registering for fileplanet. Go to Planet Half-Life and download the first video on the page (the "Download GameSpy's Exclusive Half-Life 2 Gameplay Video" one), wait a few hours, and then watch. It's about 22 minutes long, and it's just incredible. If you want me to put it on a CD for you (and I, like, interact with you in meatspace) just let me know. Oh, the "Source DirectX 9.0 Trailer" further down the page is a good movie too.
They're still saying that the game will be released on Sep 30 for PC and XBox, but don't count on it. I'd be happy if it was out by Christmas. It's time to give the underused Radeon 9700 in my machine something to live for!