29 November 2010

Kinecting Part 2

Well it turns out that my xbox thought my NAT was too strict which might have been stopping my kinect fitness from keeping track of how many calories I'd burned. The good news is I found this article here which explains that this really means - the firewall needs some ports opening to work properly. In case the site vanishes, these ports are:

UDP 88
UDP 3074
TCP 3074

24 November 2010

Xbox Live - Is it worth it?

I was curious about Xbox live when I heard about it. My first impression was... "well that sounds like a con" and to some extent that holds true. It's a bizarre concept for sure. I buy the xbox, I buy the games, I pay for the internet connection and then I have to pay a gamers tax to connect to on-line servers? Microsoft are really earning their M$ tag with this as I've discovered from the free one months trial.

At the time of writing this, it's possible to get a 12 month Xbox-Live membership for around £30 from Amazon. The question is why would you want to? You really do need to research this topic as I could walk into M$ tomorrow with a list of things which should be done differently with XBL.

Ok so with XBL you get to download lots of demo's so I can sort of see the point for that. At £2.50 per month it's cheaper than a magazine with a disc on the front and you have a better selection of things to try. I will also admit that the ability to unlock full versions of games from within the console is also good (although warning bells are ringing on that one - I'll explain later). There is a certain amount of stuff which is naff though which deserves to be explored.

First of all the points system. Yes I credited my account with 2000 points for £17 and I used 800 of those to unlock the full version of my all-time favourite driving game - Outrun. Here's the problem though. Everything is listed in terms of points so you have to be numerically dextrous to figure out how much you're paying for things. 800 points equates to (17.00/2000*800) which is £6.80. In the case of Outrun I would say that's a bargain but at the same time I've lost the resale value. With a disc I could have put it on eBay in a year or two and perhaps got some of my money back. Not so easy with data on your drive.

I also quite like the idea of film rental via the xbox but here in the UK we get to access Zune rather than Netflix. The upshot appears to be a really limited number of films. Again you need to check the prices of these very carefully. When I looked, some of the more appealing and more recent films were being offered for around 590 points for a 24 hour loan period. Working this out at £5.02 reveals it's a lot more costly per film than other services.

Yet another cash-sink for the financially astute is the avatar system. Yes some of those coveted points can be swapped for customised clothing and accessories for your digital representation (or wii-mii on Nintendo). It's true that some of these can be obtained from games when you obtain specific achievements but I can't imagine who would really want to spend money on them? If they were outfits for in-game characters that you played a lot then maybe but as the avatar is purely a dashboard (and online) feature there appears to be little incentive to spend money on them as far as I can see.

Then there are the things which XBL is not so good at. Ok everyone can have their own profile (and avatar) which enables M$ to sell 'family subscriptions' so why then do the parental controls apply to all profiles? Surely it's logical that I only want my young son to be blocked from the online blood-n-gore fests? Also where is the option to pay for a months XBL subscription with the points I have left over? The real scary part however is that my profile now has my credit card linked and I can't help wondering how easy it will be for my son to switch to my profile and start clicking on the 'unlock this game now' buttons. There are so many warning bells ringing that I could be mistaken for thinking I'm just outside the Vatican.

I've also noticed that on the xbox there's currently an offer to get two months XBL membership for the price of one. I'm not sure how regular this is but paying for 6 months sounds more appealing than paying for 12. I think I will now have to wait until my trial membership ends to see if I miss it enough to consider paying for it. At the moment though I can't see the point. Maybe if they threw in one full price new release game into the deal it would be worth an annual subscription. At the end of the day, those demo's exist to part me from my money. If I'm not playing them, I'm probably not buying the full games either.

15 November 2010

Get Yourself Kinected

I will be the first to admit that I have often found reason to criticise Microsoft in the past, but every now and then they do something which deserves attention and credit. Of course you can guess from the title I'm talking about Kinect. I've seen a lot of people (read teenagers) making comments on Youtube videos about how awful Kinectimals is. Well I have a four year old son who thinks it's the best thing ever and I've been surprised at just how quickly he's taken to this new control system.

Ironically we bought it to prolong the life of the TV as we had visions of wii-motes going flying into things. Just a couple of days after we got the new console he flew one of his planes into the TV and we now have a small line across the screen. That's kids for you.

So is this new toy worth the asking price? Well I beleive it is but I would have changed some of the software. For example, I would have produced a sports disc which has the same games which are available for the wii. Think about it... I now have to find golf, bowling and softball before I can think about offloading the wii. That got me thinking even more though. Why should we be paying £30-40 for a disc with half a dozen mini-games and invariably end up with some we will never actually use. It would make more sense to offer some sort of compile-your-own-sports-disc or in the case of the X360 you could opt to download the ones you want.

Just looking through the available compilations there are many which have some sort of appeal. I can see my wife enjoying the horse-riding in kinect motion sports and I expect my son would like the hand-gliding. American football however is not likely to appeal to any of us. So what's the answer? Well for us I think it's sit back and wait for some of these to appear in the pre-owned section of the local Game stores. The xbox does seem to excel in this area because for some reason pre-owned xbox games appear to sell cheaper than their wii equivalents. Maybe that's all the teenagers trading in their old titles for the latest call of duty. Whatever the reason, £10 for a pre-used title for the xbox does more to sell consoles than £17 for the same pre-used title on the wii. For this I am glad to now be "Kinnected".