Me on the Xbox 360 Updates

None of the stuff Microsoft is adding to the 360 is a particularly bad idea, but the implementation of most of it is kind of awful. For starters, the current 360 dashboard (the good ol' NXE) is getting more and more cluttered and it's getting harder to simply get to stuff on it. It's also a bad way to present features that should be more integrated. Like Netflix before it, all of the new stuff feels really tacked on and crammed in. 
 
Facebook: The Facebook stuff is good for looking at photos of your friends on your TV, and that's about it. The slideshow stuff is pretty good and it shows the captions. But the rest of it, which tries to use the NXE-style panes to show you different information, is a pretty poor way to convey things like your friend-based news feed. This thing should be custom-built for TV screens, not thrown together using existing Microsoft UI ideas. 
 
Twitter: Twitter is, at least, not just another NXE design with new data splashed onto it. It has a custom look that better supports what Twitter is supposed to look like. But the main screen is limited to the last 50 things your followed users have said, getting around to see your replies/mentions isn't plainly obvious, and the lack of a web browser prevents you from seeing what URLs your followed users are linking to. It's kind of a mess and I can't really envision an actual use for this. Anyone currently using Twitter is using a better interface for it (though I recommend TweetDeck if you aren't already using it), and anyone not using Twitter already probably won't have a very good experience if they're only using it on the 360. I really don't see the point beyond the obvious bullet point of "EVERYONE IS TALKING ABOUT TWITTER AND YOU CAN USE IT ON OUR GAME MACHINE." The whole thing stinks of suits.
 
Zune Video/Music Marketplace: The streaming tech for video downloads is a welcome change. I don't watch many movies, but since I've had the same two discs from Netflix sitting on my desk for close to a year now, I'm thinking about scaling that back to the lowest possible Blu-Ray-friendly plan, primarily using the 360's Netflix streaming for movies, and occasionally renting a movie via this new Zune-branded stuff. $6 or so for an HD movie isn't a great price when you consider the different Netflix packages, but if you rarely watch movies, it's probably cheaper to pay this on demand price than it is to pay a monthly fee for a service you barely use. It all makes me wish that Netflix had a streaming-only plan. 
 
Oh, and it's weird that these new stores launch you off into a separate application instead of letting you sift through content directly from the dashboard, and it's even weirder that the Music Marketplace is actually just a Video Marketplace for music videos. Paying $2 for an SD download of a music video feels like just about the dumbest thing in the world. Aren't music videos supposed to be promotional tools to get people to buy albums? Considering MTV has free streams of most music videos and YouTube has bootleg copies of plenty of stuff, I don't see the appeal. 
 
Lastly, the Zune branding doesn't make any sense. It comes from the same store, but it's not like you sync your Zune to a 360 or something now. It makes all of it feel like "Video Marketplace, brought to you by Zune." Maybe someday you'll be able to use a Zune Pass to actually listen to music.
 
last.fm: I mainly like last.fm from a data perspective. It's neat to see what I've been listening to broken down into charts and graphs. The streaming side of last.fm still feels like a poor man's Pandora, and the NXE-style content displays probably aren't the best way to convey last.fm's data. There also doesn't seem to be any sort of support for the social side of last.fm, like seeing other users, groups, and so on. Considering that most of this stuff also doesn't exist in last.fm's iPhone app, I can only assume that most people don't care about any of that stuff and only want to hear music. I've mainly used the site for the data and recommendations, but I'd rather sift through a lot of text and user profiles to get those recommendations and then make a decision to listen to specific tracks instead of just hitting some kind of "recommended for you" station. Oh, but the nice thing they've done is the video ads (which are mainly just Brutal Legend and a house ad for last.fm at this point) are the same volume as your music. So the ads don't blare at you to get your attention. 
 
So yeah, none of these ideas are awful, but I also feel like the 360 has already outgrown the "new" dashboard. They're trying to do too many different things and cramming all of it into the NXE's panes leads to a lot of confusing interactions. Also, I'm not really sure who the audience is for some of this stuff. Twitter especially sticks out as some kind of executive mandate to add to the Xbox 360 "story."

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Trophy Research (Missing PS3 Games On Profile)

OK, I've spent the evening taking a longer look at the way Sony provides data, and my early conclusion is that there are some games that will never show up on the public version of your profile. 
 
By public, I mean the page you'll see if you view your profile while NOT LOGGED IN to playstation.com. If you're logged in, everything that the server side knows about will be displayed on YOUR profile, but not other profiles. 
 
That means when I go to... 
 
http://profiles.us.playstation.com/playstation/psn/profiles/GiantBombing  
 
...I see everything I've got, including unreleased stuff like Brutal Legend. But when YOU go there, you shouldn't see BR, as well as a number of other games that have been available for some time. 
 
So I'm trying to compile a list of games that aren't showing. Here's what I've noticed so far... 
 

  • Shatter 
  • The Beatles: Rock Band 
  • Guitar Hero: Metallica 
  • UNO 
  • Digger HD 
  • Bionic Commando
  • Katamari Forever
  • FIFA 10
  • Wolfenstein 3D
  • Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection
  • Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2
  • Need for Speed: Shift
  • Guitar Hero 5
  • Prototype
 
Also, Brutal Legend and Uncharted 2 aren't showing up yet, but since those games aren't out, it's understandable. I'm not sure what the Sony policy is for publicly displaying trophies for unreleased games. 
 
If you have other games on your profile that aren't showing here on giantbomb.com or your public-facing playstation.com profile, comment here and let me know. Maybe we can assemble a list and send it off to Sony to help them correct the issue.
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On the Subject of Endurance...

I don't know that anyone out there thought that we would still be going strong on these Persona 4 Endurance Run videos after ten weeks. I don't really know if I'd ever considered doing them for this long when we first started doing them. I figured someone (you or us) would lose interest, or perhaps we'd ruffle some feathers over at Atlus and they'd politely ask us to stop broadcasting their game start to finish. I reckon that our pacing is such that anyone who wants to play the game will certainly have plenty of time to do so before we start spoiling things about it.


But here we are, 50 days later, still going. I get the impression that there's a decent number of people out there who picked up Persona 4 after seeing us play, people who wouldn't have given the game a first look, let alone a second look, under normal circumstances. I've always felt that one of the main things people in my line of work are supposed to do is connect people with the right games, especially when those games might otherwise go unnoticed. While that isn't quite what our aim was when we kicked this off, that's really where it's ended up. With the way the game's progressing, I feel that I really can't recommend it enough.

Though we haven't finished the game (yet), I feel like I can safely say that Persona 4 is one of the best RPGs I've ever "played." Of course, I haven't seriously played a console-only RPG in ages... mostly because they're so boring and so predictable. That's probably my favorite thing about Persona 4. Every time you think it's heading one way, they go in a slightly different direction, or at least get to the point in an unexpected way. And I've been totally impressed with the dialogue. The characters seem to call each other out more than I'd expect. More than once I've started getting exasperated at a dumb line of dialogue only to have the in-game response call it out, too. It's well-written and localized in a way that retains the Japanese feel without feeling overtly "foreign." That's a tough balancing act.

It's kind of funny to see the reaction to the videos. I've been doing a little googling to see what people are saying elsewhere. It's funny to stumble upon some serious-style RPG forum and see people complain about how we're "the worst Persona players ever" or something. I think they're sort of missing the point, and that's part of why RPGs have fallen out of the mainstream. The genre has become more and more impenetrable over the years, to the point where picking up the average Japanese RPG now is nearly impossible for the average player. The games have been built upon one-another to the point where if you haven't been paying attention all along, you're going to have a tough time getting in.

There are a lot of things that Persona 4 does well, but I feel like it leaves too many of its systems unexplained... or at least poorly explained. Things like the way fused persona randomly inherit skills, or the actual importance of Social Links... the game just sort of mentions that stuff in ways that make them seem totally optional, but stuff like that ends up being pretty core to the experience. So when we're fumbling through parts of the game, it's because we're not sitting there with a FAQ, figuring out the exact best way to spend every day... and it's because we're spacing out our play time in such a way that we rarely remember anything for very long.

Anyway, my thoughts will become a bit clearer on the subject as we keep playing, but with a UI overhaul, some pacing adjustments, and more in-game descriptions of core systems, there's no reason Persona 4 couldn't appeal to a larger crowd of players. Of course, at that point you have to start worrying if those changes would alienate the game's existing fanbase. The RPG dudes seem pretty set in their ways.

On top of all that, Persona 4 is currently the most popular game page on the entire site. That's pretty cool.
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New Theme: Motorsports

Motorsports is a new theme in the database that can be applied at the game level.

I'll be going back to my last blog post about genres and themes and adding ones that seem meaningful in the near future. (So consider this post a second chance to suggest some).

Additionally, we will be moving to a new maximum of one genre per game. This means, obviously, that we will be adding a lot of genres to the system, like "Action-Adventure," which is used primarily to differentiate between the console definition of adventure (Legend of Zelda, Fable II) and the PC definition (Maniac Mansion, Broken Sword). Multiple themes will still be possible.

Also still thinking a lot about how to split the Shooter genre to account for the following types of game:

  • Modern third-person shooters like Gears of War and Max Payne
  • Forced scroll arcade shooters like Gradius and Xevious
  • Fixed-screen shooters like Galaga and Space Invaders
  • User-controlled scrolling shooters like Commando or Contra

Any thoughts that don't include the terms "shoot-'em-up" or "shmup" would be sincerely appreciated.
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Do you own a PAL copy of Formula One 06 or F1 Champion Edition?

Hey, looking for a fact check from someone with a European copy of Sony's Formula One 06 or Formula One Champion Edition for PS2 and/or PSP.


Do me a solid! Look in the credits and tell me if this Keeley Hazell chick is actually credited in the manual or in the in-game credits. "Marketing models" typically aren't credited and this page is up for deletion. Scans/photos of the manuals/on-screen credits would be preferred.

Thanks.
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Killzone 2 wiki page fixed

I went in and fixed a problem that was preventing the Killzone 2 page from accepting updates. Had to cut a couple of images while I was cleaning it up, but that page could really use some clean-up. There's some out-of-date info in there, some typos... all kinds of stuff. Anyone up to the challenge of (re-)writing a kick-ass KZ2 page?

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Disturbing

  


Have we, as a society, become so pathetically insecure that we now must rely on fake praise in order to avoid the crippling grip of depression and convince ourselves that everything is going to be OK? Unless they're buying it as a joke, who gets this? Who decides "heeeeey, I could really use a little pick-me-up in my life!" and gets a CD full of people clapping to play when they feel down?

And how much better is this "metal" version of the above video?

  


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UT3 on Steam

Steam tossed out a news post yesterday stating that you can register your retail Unreal Tournament 3 key with Steam and effectively integrate it into your Steam account. Just did that, totally redownloading UT3 now via Steam. It's cool when developers work to make all this stuff play together nicely, rather than separate the disc users and Steam users. Now I can get Steam acheviements in UT3... when they release the next patch, that is.


UT3 got a bum rap. It's a heck of a game, but shooters have kind of moved on from the sort of thing that the UT series offers. So I guess I agree that it feels a bit stale these days. Plus, it probably didn't change enough to automatically appeal to the ridiculously heavy mod scene that popped up around the previous game. I'm going to check and see if there are any decent maps and mods out there these days, as I haven't played it in a pretty long time.
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