Tag Archives: xbox-live

Microsoft Discontinues the Xbox Live Gold Family Pack

Apparently Microsoft decided to do away with their Gold Family Pack.

As for why the pack was discontinued, the rep said, “We continually evaluate our business focus and work to offer services that make the most sense for our customers and Xbox.”

This suggests to me that either A) Microsoft was losing too much money on the package, or B) they simply weren’t selling enough ‘units’ to make it an economically viable product.

[via Joystiq]

The Joy of Halo 3

I avoided Matchmaking in Halo 2 like the plague. I played a lot of Rumble Pit early on when I first got Xbox Live, and I’m sure that certainly helped me develop a lot of the necessary skills to be a somewhat competitive player. My favorite type of match to play, however, were custom games with friends. There were two reasons for this.

The first was that Matchmaking was rife with Timmies. For the uninitiated, a Timmy is a play – usually a child or adolescent – who, regardless of skill at the game, mouth of with words that would make a sailor blush, verbally abuse anyone and everyone around them, declare themselves video game gods when they are playing well and accusing everyone else of cheating when they don’t, and spend a large portion of their time teabagging the virtual corpses of their opponents – whether they were actually the one who defeated them in battle or not. The Timmies still exist in Halo 3 Matchmaking, of course. It’s just a lot easier to put the mute on them and to stick bullets into them.

The second was that I was never quite able to match up competitively with most of my opponents. In all my games of Rumble Pit, I can count on one hand the number of games I actually won. When playing with “my fellow Gunslingers”:http://tiedtheleader.com, I always felt like the dead-weight who was more of an impediment than a help. In Halo 3, I’m _very_ competitive, having achieved skill levels so far in the 18-19 range, where I never consistently made more than a 12 or 13 in Halo 2. I’m enjoying Halo 3 much more than Halo 2 – and for those who know me, they know how much I raved about Halo 2. The games seem much more balanced now, and I feel like I still have room to go up in skill points.

The game itself is visually and audibly stunning, taking advantage of the full processing power of the Xbox 360 to provide a cornucopia of delights. Forge is a beast, allowing you to customize maps to your heart’s content, and Saved Films, Screenshots, and File Share are revolutionary pleasures. I’ve joked in the past that Halo 3 is probably the most expensive video game to date, since many of us acquired an Xbox 360 for the sole purpose of playing this game. It’s no joke now, though. Halo 3 is worth every penny, and I look forward to many more hours of enjoying this game with my friends and the Halo community.

Potlucking It

Quick note before I dash off again.

  • I’ll be telling you all soon about an interesting and exciting new writing project I’m starting on with several others. Details to follow in the next day or three.
  • I have a book review I need to write up on “Tobias Buckell’s”:http://www.tobiasbuckell.com/wordpress/ _Crystal Rain_. Again, details to follow in the next few days.
  • Lots of stuff happening lately, including the possibility of adding another 30 acres to our property. Lots of research going into this, and we’ll see if things go through.
  • Good night of Halo last night. Good friends, good games, lots of laughs. Makes me want to jump again real soon and play some more.
  • I’m working on polishing a short story. I missed my August submission goal, but I’m going to shoot to have this one done in the next two to four weeks. I want to finish up this first draft, get a critique, revise again, possibly go for a second critique, do a final polish, and submit. That’s the plan, folks.

Aight, I’m audi…

Simplify

I’ve been learning a thing or three about simplifying my life.

I’m one of those people who’s curious about and interested in just about everything. This has always been both a blessing and a curse because it has always made it difficult for me to figure out what subjects and hobbies to pursue. It’s the sort of thing that gave me trouble in college because I couldn’t decide which major to pick, so as a result I graduated with one major, three minors, and enough knowledge in other fields to technically have given me at least two other minors. It’s the sort of thing that has always made it difficult to use my free time well because I want to do too many things with those minutes.

But life these days has become incredibly full, so I’m learning to trim things. It’s a tough process because I don’t really want to trim things out of my life. But I’m learning that I really can’t do them all, even less so now that I have the obligations of a family and livestock and a property to keep up. I’m figuring out how to identify those things that are truly my passions and those that are simply my interests and hobbies.

I’ve more or less eliminated everything but my music, my writing, and Halo. I’ll be getting a piano around Christmas, so I’m eagerly anticipating getting back into lessons and picking up where I left off. I miss visiting my music, and I’m itching to really nail some ragtime and start learning how to play by ear and improvise. It was something I was just starting to learn when I had to give up lessons several years ago.

My writing has quite possibly surprised even my love of music as my number one passion right now. There are so many stories to tell now that I can hardly keep track of them all. I have a blog to write to, a flash fiction site to run and occasionally contribute to, an anthology project in its planning stages, short stories to write and submit, and at least one good novel idea in the making. I’d love to see my name sitting on a bookshelf somewhere and be able to give up working a ‘regular job’ in favor of becoming an author.

Of course, there’s always Halo. I don’t have as much time for video games as I used to. I do miss being able to play, but there are only just so many hours in a day. What free time I have is given to relaxing and to some writing. But I still have Friday nights reserved to join the guys on Xbox Live for some Halo 2 multiplayer action. Somehow this first-person shooter has captured my devotion, even to the point of joining up with one of the most renowned and respected clans involved with the game.

These are my passions, the hobbies that I am fanatical about. All the others I have had to set aside for the time being. Perhaps one day I’ll have time for some of them again, but if not I doubt that I will even really miss them that much. There are certainly plenty of other things to hold my attention.

Mondays

Sheesh, has it really been three days since I last updated? I didn’t really think the weekend had been that busy, but I suppose it was. How about some highlights?

  • Friday night was Halo night. Terrible night for me. I have absolutely “zero game”:http://www.bungie.net/Stats/PlayerStats.aspx?player=Demag0gue. Dunno what happened. I guess we all just have our off nights.
  • Saturday involved guests over in the morning and early afternoon, followed by carriage driving downtown for the evening. Nasty little thunderstorm made for a shorter night, so we were home early, horses fed, and in bed by 2AM. Quite nice by comparison to most Saturdays.
  • Sunday was my day to complete my third flash challenge at “Liberty Hall”:http://www.libertyhallwriters.org. It’s funny how being able to complete one of those challenges always gives me a sense of accomplishment and productivity for the weekend, no matter how badly other things go. Over 1000 words for this one, and another story that, with some expansion and polish, may be submission worthy. I’m starting to get backlogged on stories that need polishing…
  • Then, of course, this morning everything gets wacky. How is it that Mondays end up being the days where so many things go wrong? The horse feed this morning was done in the pitch black, in the pouring rain, with thunder and lightning all around. Plus a large tree branch fell while I was out there and sprawled across my car. I had to move it before we could leave for work this morning. And wouldn’t you know it? Just when I go inside to get cleaned up for work, the rain stops.

Busy week ahead. Much to do today and tomorrow. But the bonus is the upcoming 3-day weekend. That’ll be a nice relief.

Total Geek

Ok, bear with me for a few moments. My inner geek needs an audience.

Those of you who have been reading me for a while know that I’m an avid Halo/Halo 2 fan. A little while back, I was invited to join the writing staff for a relatively new blog for gamers called “Dead Man’s Hand”:http://deadmanshandblog.com. The guys (and gal) who ran this blog were members of a Halo 2 clan called the “TTL Gunslingers”:http://tiedtheleader.com. At the time I joined the staff, I was the only writer for the blog who was not already a Gunslinger.

Earlier this week I finally completed the application process for the clan and received my invite. And in purusing the “clan discussion forum”:http://forum.tiedtheleader.com, I noticed that the software they were using was not the popular “phpBB”:http://www.phpbb.com/. It was a relatively new forum software called “Simple Machines”:http://www.simplemachines.org/, and it didn’t take long in playing around with it to be very, very impressed – so impressed, in fact, that I have since converted my own discussion board – “Open Dialogue”:http://open-dialogue.com/forum – to the SMF(Simple Machines Forum) software.

Here’s where the gushing comes in – the features in SMF(Simple Machines Forum) are, quite simply, amazing:

  • The installation of SMF(Simple Machines Forum) had a significant “WordPress”:http://wordpress.org feel to it – upload the files, run the install, complete the very simple form, and let the install program do its thing. All I had to do at that point was sit back and watch. It _did_ take a little longer to install and setup than WordPress does, but then again, SMF(Simple Machines Forum) has quite a few more files and tables.
  • I was hugely impressed with the fact that the SMF(Simple Machines Forum) installation actually paused several times throughout the process. The reason for this is to give the server a break by not chewing up all the site’s bandwidth. It was a very conscientious touch on the part of the programmers, and I was very impressed with the foresight and consideration put into that bit of code.
  • One of the things that discussion forum administrators dread when switching from one forum software to another is converting the old forum into a format that is usable with the new one. It’s not generally a simple process, and things almost always end up looking and acting screwy. The conversion from phpBB to SMF(Simple Machines Forum) was every bit as easy, clean, and simple as the installation process itself was. You can browse the forum now and never see any indication that it started out as a phpBB site.
  • Adding modifications to SMF(Simple Machines Forum) is likewise a breeze. With phpBB anytime a modification or hack is added, you have to follow a rather complicated and time-consuming process. Half a dozen or more files have to be opened, specific bits of code located and either modified or have new bits of code added around them. It’s always a rigorous task and not much fun. And the downside is that whenever the forum software undergoes an upgrade to a new version, all those modifications are overwritten and have to be put back in place. With SMF(Simple Machines Forum) the modification folder is simply uploaded to the ‘Packages’ folder inside the forum directory structure, then click the ‘Install’ button in the admin panel, and within second the modification is active. No files to open, no code to hack, and the modifications are persistent through upgrades. I was nearly weeping for joy at this point.
  • In phpBB the admin panel is an almost completely separate environment from the forum itself. It sometimes feels like you are interacting with two completely different websites whenever you have to go into phpBB’s admin panel to take care of some issue in the forum. With SMF(Simple Machines Forum) the admin panel is actually built right into the forum itself. The headers and footers are all there, and the level of administrative integration is astoundingly comprehensive.
  • phpBB includes only the basic and most commonly used features in their base installation. Everything else has to be added as a hack or a mod. SMF(Simple Machines Forum) has a lot of those extra features built right in. For instance, you can easily print a printer-friendly version of any discussion thread. You can email a friend with a link to a particular discussion right from the thread itself. Offensive posts can be quickly and easily reported to a moderator. Private messages can actually be sent to multiple recipients at the same time. SMF(Simple Machines Forum) even has RSS built in. All this is automatic, with no additional work aside from the installation needed on the part of the forum administrator. Did I mention that I was impressed?
  • One of the things that I have always wished phpBB could do was have sublevels of certain discussion boards. For instance, an entertainment and media discussion board could be broken down further into a music board, books and literature board, games board, and so on. Again, SMF(Simple Machines Board) has this feature built right in. Any board can have child boards, which themselves can have child boards, etc. It’s a great way to organize specific types of discussions and keep them all together. I’ve been working on reorganizing much of the content on “Open Dialogue”:http://open-dialogue.com/forum in a more logical fashion.
  • SMF(Simple Machines Forum) also gives both administrators and users a higher level of control. Users can select their own custom titles, attach files to forum posts for ease of sharing, and create custom text to display beneath their avatar. Administrators jobs are made easier by automating certain functions. If a user selects an avatar that is too large, SMF(Simple Machines Forum) will automatically resize the image to manageable dimensions. No more need for people to play around in Photoshop to crop the image just so.

As I’ve said, SMF(Simple Machines Forum) is a truly remarkable and impressive bit of software. The only modification I wanted that didn’t come standard was a spoiler tag, to hide spoiler information in certain movie, book, and video games threads on the site. And the activation of the modification was so simple I couldn’t believe how quick and painless it was. I’m looking forward to using this software more and trying to get the forum active again.

I’ve been considering broadening the scope of the board to include more than just theological and philosophical discussions, though I do still want that to be an important board. I tend to think that there might be interest in a board that does more, and now that I have the ability for child boards, I think managing a higher level of content will be a much more manageable process. So, come on over, check us out, and please offer up suggestions of new boards that can be added and what sort of directions “Open Dialogue”:http://open-dialogue.com/forum should go in. It’s a community project, an open marketplace of ideas, and the more people who share in it, the better and more successful it will be.

I’ll keep the door open and the light on for you.

Discomfort and Euphoria

Well, after two days of hard work, much of our yard is finally free of fallen trees and debris, barn wiring has been re-run, portions of the grass mowed, fencelines mended, and things generally closer to being what they are supposed to be. The body aches, though, and I feel as though the palms of my hands have been flayed – or at least rubbed really fast with sandpaper. It’s all worthwhile, though, to have some of these nitty-gritty items out of the way.

At long last DSL service has been reacquired at home. Internet was something my wife and I had to give up for the past 6.5 months when we moved. Finances have only just now allowed us to purchase service again. I am hoping that this will provide me with greater opportunities to write. It also means that I am back on Xbox Live, which is something else I sorely missed. (Yes, I’m a geek.)

I have several articles coming about some of my writing thoughts. Look for those over the course of the next few days.

Dead Man’s Hand

I was recently invited to join the writing staff of “Dead Man’s Hand”:http://dead-mans-hand.blogspot.com/, a blog dedicated to gaming, written by gamers. I just posted my “inaugural article”:http://dead-mans-hand.blogspot.com/2006/05/glitch-happens.html, so feel free to jump over and check it out. I plan to funnel more of my gaming content over there from now on, so bookmark the site if gaming interests you, subscribe to the “Atom feed”:http://dead-mans-hand.blogspot.com/atom.xml, and keep tabs on what’s happening in the gaming community!