Category Archives: Video Games

Xbox Music Now Available Everywhere Else

The absolute best value in music is now available wherever you need it to be!

Microsoft now allows you to access your Xbox Music from any browser. The site looks almost exactly like the new Windows Store version. (I don’t know when I would use the web version myself as I will no doubt continue to use Xbox Music on my PCs, Xbox, and HTC phone.)

Like I’ve said before, the Xbox Music Pass is the really great deal here. For $9.99 a month or $99.90 a year, you get unlimited access to the entire Xbox music library. You can get a 30 day free trial at

Do you have an Xbox Music Pass? What features would you like to see added to Xbox Music?


Holodeck on its way to your living room?

“Where does he get those wonderful toys?” – Joker [Jack Nicholson]

The IllumiRoom has got to be the coolest thing at CES – hands down! I’ll definitely keep an eye on this. Microsoft Research has a bunch of great stuff and I highly recommend keeping an eye on what they are doing. (I still like Pex and I’d love to see that built into the next version of Visual Studio.) So, this appears to just be today’s Kinect, but with an associated projector.

This video is amazing and I just wanted to call out what I saw as some highlights:

  • First – just WOW!
  • “Xbox – go big” Even the initial room scanning is pretty cool. This is really the Kinect doing what it already does, but I’m guessing the projector helps by projecting light onto the scanned surfaces. (0:13 mark of the video).
  • (0:20) In this part of the video, you see how the shots from the player and opponents are seemingly breaking the boundaries of the television screen. This alone creates a slightly more immersive experience as it simulates the player’s peripheral vision. I especially like the fire effects at the 0:26 second mark too.
  • Note that this effect isn’t limited to the wall behind the TV, but it even projects objects onto the floor. The peripheral vision gets even better (0:32). They system essentially treats the entire room as a screen. When you think about it, the data for the game world is really there. I know game developers use clipping achieve greater performance, so I’d assume games will have to be written to support the IllumiRoom.
  • Custom code would probably be mandatory to achieve special effects on the projected game world (0:36). Here, you can see that the projected world is more of a black-and-white skeleton of the world on the TV.
  • The feedback effect (0:42) is a real highlight for me. It appears that the Kinect scan of the room was re-projected and then a vibration effect is applied to make the room look like it’s moving. (Virtual acid trip anyone?)
  • Finally, check out the snow effect at (0:49). Imagine that happening during Ghost Recon Future Soldier, Assassins Creed, or Skyrim!

It looks like MS research will release more info this Spring at ACM CHI 2013.

My most anticipated game of the year!

I’ve been a HUGE fan of the Assassin’s Creed series since the beginning! While I love the action + role-playing concepts, the backdrop of a massive, history-spanning conspiracy involving religious groups, governments, and “aliens” is just a perfect mix for me.

Assassin’s Creed III will be available at the end of October and it looks to be Ubisoft’s most ambitious venture to date. (Official site).

The DLC content of the previous series hasn’t been especially compelling to me. I haven’t cared much for the multiplayer aspects of the game and the other DLC seems like just really small missions and don’t add much story. I have to say I’m really intrigued about this new announcement though. An alternative where it seems “absolute power corrupts absolutely”. After turning back the most powerful nation on the planet, General Washington sets himself up as King!

Funniest April Fool’s joke I’ve seen!!

One of my colleagues sent out a link to this very funny video that almost looks plausible.

This one is pretty good too:

New Gaming Computer

It’s been about seven years since I purchased my last gaming computer. (I bought a nice Sony Vaio about two years ago, but I bought it for presentations mostly because laptops just aren’t that great for gaming.) Today, I thought I’d share the specs on my new machine. I still buy most of my games on the XBox 360, but you just can’t beat a desktop PC for the really awesome graphics! What are you playing on?

  • Case: Rosewill Thor V2 Black Gaming Case
    • It’s a full-sized case for plenty of future expansion.
    • It’s got exterior fan speed controls to control noise vs. performance.
    • It’s got external USB and eSATA ports in the front.
    • There is a fan grill on the side that gives you some visible access to the interior.
    • At the bottom of the case, I’ve mounted a Red Liquid Neon Thunder Pattern Light just to add a cool effect and so you can see the insides electronics even when the case is closed up.
  • Power Supply: 1000 Watt Extreme Gaming Series
    • I needed a big power supply for my video card and its future siblings. 🙂
  • Processor: Intel Core i7 3960K Processor
    • 6-core 3.2GHz with 15MB L3 cache
    • And, it just looks awesome in Task Manager!

  • Motherboard: ASUS Rampage IV Extreme
    • Intel X70 Chipset
    • 8x DIMM, max 64GB DDR3
    • 4 PCIe 3.0 x16 slots, 1 PCIe 2.0 x16 slot (support only x16 and x8), 1 PCIe 2.0 x1 slot
    • 2x SATA 6Gb/s ports
    • 4x SATA 3Gb/s ports
    • 2x external SATA 6Gb/s ports
    • Support for NVIDIA 4-way SLI
    • On-board Bluetooth
    • 8 USB 3.0/2.0 ports and 12 USB 2.0/1.1 ports
    • Currently, I’m using the on-board Gigabit LAN support
    • I’m also using the on-board sound
  • Memory: 16GB Corsair Vengeance DDR3-1600
  • Video Card: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 560
    • 2GB RAM
    • I’ll expand this to dual cards sometime later to take advantage of SLI.
  • Monitor: ASUS VG236H
    • 23″ LCD that supports 1920×1080
    • The most exciting part of this monitor is that it supports 3D! It comes with a pair of NVIDIA glasses. The glasses connect wirelessly to a tiny box that I just stuck right under my monitor. I wanted it close by so I can adjust the depth effect whenever I want. The glasses charge off of USB as well.
  • Hard Drives: 120GB Kingston HyperX SSD & 2TB 7200RPM 6Gb/s
  • Optical Drive: 12x LG BLU-RAY Reader
    • Also acts as a DVD burner
  • Network Adapter: LinkSys/Cisco Wireless Adapter
  • I love this thing because it looks like a USB key and just plugs into one of my plentiful USB ports

My wish list for future upgrades includes

  • I’ll be loading the Windows 8 beta when it drops on February 29th
  • Aforementioned second (or third!) video card
  • New speakers
    • I’m using my old Altec Lansing surround sound speakers right now
    • I should probably research the latest dedicated sound cards too.
  • More monitors
    • First, I need another ASUS to act as my secondary monitor so I can play games across two 3D monitors.
    • I’m also looking to get a touch screen monitor for my third monitor.

Any suggestions?

Here’s a quick update on what I’m playing too:

  • Witcher 2 (PC) – I never got very far in this game because the requirements were so high – not a problem for me now. It’s a very cool game and looks awesome in 3D.
  • Kingdoms of Amalur: The Reckoning (XBox 360) – This game seems as big as Skyrim! It holds up well to my expectations, which were quite high. Why such high expecations? Writer is R.A. Salvatore (creator of Drizzt Do’Urden of fantasy novel fame); Designer is Ken Ralston (pen-and-paper RPG and Elder Scrolls veteran); Art Director is Todd McFarlane (one of my favorite comic book artists). Finally, the game studio is owned by Curt Schilling of MLB fame.
  • Darkness II (XBox 360) – I just beat the single-player game and it was as great as the first game. I started playing through the vendetta missions, but I think they’ll be better co-op.

What have you been playing?

My Two Favorite Things!

Visual Studio + Xbox Achievements?!

Now, you can earn achievements while you use Visual Studio!

Mo Games Mo Problems

There are a plethora of video games releasing at the end of this year. This is the list of games I’ll be spending my kids’ college savings on this year…
Civilization V (9/21/2010)

Fable III (10/26/2010)

Dance Central (11/4/2010)
Kinectimals (11/4/2010) *My kids are crazy anxious about this one!
Kinect Sports (?) 

Medal of Honor (10/12/2010)
Fallout New Vegas (10/19/2010)
These are games I’m on the fence about and will probably just rent…
Mafia II (Released!)
Kinect Joy Ride (11/4/2010)
Dead Rising 2 (9/28/2010)
Way off in the future…
Dragon Age 2 (3/8/2011)
Gears of War 3 (4/5/2011)
Batman Arkham City (9/30/2011)
Mass Effect 3 (Winter 2011)

Civilization V

2010 is going to be the best year EVER!
I absolutely love the Civilization series. My megalomaniacal side is released without constraints. There are a million ways to play this game and win, but my favorite is racing through the technology tree. I typically spend the majority of the beginning years claiming as much space as I can and just defending. All the while, I’m pumping everything I can into tech.
I not only have a goal to beat the game, but I love to ‘race against time’. It makes me happy to discover technology WAY ahead of what happened in real history. Once I’ve conquered the tech tree, I take my advanced weaponry, culture, and diplomatic advantages out on the rest of the world. Most of my cities start churning out tanks, missiles, and bombers, while a select few build the remaining wonders.
The most frustrating part of the game for me is utilizing land. My OCD won’t let me overlap cities and at the same time I use up every available spot regardless of its value.
If you love this series or want to find out more, keep on an eye on this space.