I am so tired of Microsoft (cancel auto subscribe)

Actually its both Microsoft and PayPal. Between these two companies they make it a pain in ass to cancel an auto-subscription. Paypal just hides where you manage "pre-approved" payments and Microsoft does the same. At least when using PayPal you have to hunt around to get instructions on how to prevent an auto-payment.

This should be 100% easy to find and easy to manage. A few clicks. But no!

In fact, you can't even block an auto-payment from PayPal from the source. You have to block it from the PayPal account info. And its very well hidden. I am so sick of this crap. I mean, its your money but they do their best to try to make you mess up and keep auto-pay even though you clearly want a way out.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

I am just frustrated with corporate America at the moment. Please fix this.

37 Comments

Amazed at the amount of false promises and for the love of Pete...

After seeing a number of articles on Sony and Microsoft and how they are "working on" and "wish-listing" new features for their respective consoles, I must admit, I am a little fed up. When I watched the PS4 press conference last year ,they made it seem like load times where a thing of the past and games would be seamlessly loaded in the background. Well, so far, load times are as present as ever and I am not seeing real improvements in online management of downloadable games. It still takes forever to download patches and you are still left waiting for updates. What happened to "background downloading" and a second processor that can always downloading withut needing to interrupt your gaming?

I call B.S. Both Sony and MS have given out a lot of false promises with little or no evidence of improved management of online content, load times, etc. You still need to download and wait for a 350MB patch on day one. What happened MS? With the 360 the patches were very small and fast, but with the new and improved Xbox One, the patches are about the same size as the disc you bought at Walmart. And even if you downloaded the game digitally, you still have to wait for another "update" of anywhere from 300MB to several GB. And that is only tolerable if you have a good bandwidth ISP. What about the folk who have lower bandwidth connections. It must be incredibly frustrating.

Anyway, I just think the first few months with these "next gen" consoles are plagued with the exact same problems as the previous generation. I have to ask myself "Why do you keep reinventing the wheel instead of making incremental improvements?"

Ok, end of rant but I am still waiting for better/reduced load times. For the love of Pete, where are my improved load times?

22 Comments

Xbox One: Don't Box up Your 360 Just Yet!

Well, next gen is here in the form of a shiny new Xbox "One". So, how does the next gen look? Well, at least for Microsoft, it looks like a big black box. But at least it's a quiet box. In fact, its nearly silent unlike any of the previous generations consoles.

Its not About Power This Generation

As far as "power" the new Xbox is not great in terms of CPU/GPU when compared to a high end PC but it does has enough memory, bandwidth and processing power to support true multitasking of games and other applications (apps). And the game performance can keep up a mid-range PC. I am disappointed with the power ceiling of the Xbox One and PS4 after such a long previous generation but I think I know why both companies did not step up the performance. One reason is diminishing returns for the typical 1080p display. The other reason, of course, is the serious cost savings using less powerful hardware. PCs are different and need more graphical power because the screen resolutions are typically more than double 1080p. PCs will continue to "wow" PC enthusiasts with there higher resolutions and better graphics so PC fans can continue to rejoice. Keep in mind, this is cumming from a console enthusiast who no longer plays PC games. With this limitation in mind, it makes sense to build the console with just enough power to drive 1080p and no more (less in fact) . Until TVs move to 4K, which won't happen in time for it to be a selling point, the Xbox and PS4 have just enough power to make great games at 8 feet away on a 1080p display.

I Still Don't Need (or Want) Kinect

While I am a bit more impressed with the 2.0 Kinect I still just don't feel comfortable using voice commands and I don't need or want to use them. Fist of all, they don't always work. You have to keep you voice up and clear for this to work and it often just does not respond or responds incorrectly. While this will certainly improve, even if the voice commands were 100% accurate I just don't like the experience of barking commands at my TV. The only good news here is that the new interface "pins" make it so that all my favorite things are just one or two clicks away. The whole Kinect experience is like a feng shui nightmare. Its big and ugly and makes you act loud and obnoxious to get things done. Seriously, I can't say how much I still dislike the Kinect and voice commands in my gut. Sure, voice commands are kind of "cool" at first but I quickly realized that for every time I had to figure out what to say, how to say it, and have to say it twice, I could have done much more with a remote and it could have been done in silence which is golden.

There is Not Much To Do (Depending on your Tastes)

There are simply not that many games that I want to play or pay $60+ dollars to play. In fact, I struggled with deciding what to buy since I was not looking forward to most of the launch offerings. Forza? Love the graphics but I never play Forza for more than a few hours. Dead Rising? Didn't like the first two, not going to get the third. Killer Instinct? I am not into fighters. Ryse? This looks to be an average brawler with great graphics but I will wait for a price drop. So, I ended up picking up NFS Rivals because I really enjoyed NFS: Hot Pursuit and I liked the idea of seamless multiplayer. I have played for a few hours and I certainly enjoyed it but there is nothing "next gen" about this game. So now, I am left with a bit of post-purchase depression but I am still looking forward to the games that will certainly be coming in the upcoming months.

The Good News for the "One"

Even though I am waiting to be impressed with games, overall, I am impressed with the Xbox One...

  • For the first time, I don't hate the GUI and there is one main reason for that; a customization page (i.e. pins). Just don't put adds on this page and I will be happy.
  • Plays all your disc based media without any fuss.
  • The System is fast enough to switch tasks and do downloads in the background. The GUI is also snappy.
  • Kinect still has potential. Its more accurate and could do cool things. I am crossing my fingers on this one.
  • The controller is great with only one minor improvement needed. The shoulder buttons are just a bit too stiff and I suspect this can and will be fixed by MS with a tweak to the design.
  • Apps run better and have huge potential.
  • 8gig memory and more bandwidth should improve load times significantly over last gen. Unsurprisingly, most of the launch games do not seem to fix the load-times but I believe they did not have time to truly optimize these early games.

Keep the 360 Connected for Now

With GTA V still in progress and Diablo III characters to play, I have plenty of gaming left on the 360. And its a good thing because, I don't see a lot of games coming that I really want to buy other than Watch Dogs which looks like 4+ months away or more. So, I sit and wait on the new games.

10 Comments

Tired of the Negative Xbox One Press, Getting the Xbox One Regardless

I don't know why but I am going with the Xbox One as my first next gen console purchase. With all the negative Xbox One press and positive PS4 press, you might think the PS4 would be the obvious, gamer choice. But I actually do have some reasons why I am sticking with Xbox as my primary game system.

  • The Xbox One controller looks to be the absolutely best controller for gaming EVER! Seriously, its a refined version of the best controller for the current gen. Even most PlayStation fans will admit that the Xbox 360 controller is one of the best console controllers of all time. The controller is the thing that makes a game system. Its your interface to all games, all the time. Its like the speakers for an audio system. No audio system is great without great speakers because they are the interface to the sound. I feel the same way about the controller.
  • The Xbox 360 had the best online experience. Why forget that? So, they are likely to have the best online tools, voice, chat, etc for the next gen. People seem to be very willing to skim over this fact but it certainly more likely that Xbox will improve on all aspects of online network play and chat.
  • The performance difference will not make much difference. Like it or not, 3rd party developers will simply not spend much time optimizing for the higher performance system (which looks to be PS4) so nearly all games, other than exclusives, will play nearly identical on PS4 and Xbox One. Of course I would have preferred to have Microsoft raise the bar a bit higher to match or exceed the PS4 specs but the reality is that 3rd parties will work to ensure the games perform the same on the least common denominator. As far as 1st party games, I can wait and see. But when great PS4 exclusive are released, I can reconsider a PS4 purchase.

Mostly its that I want that Xbox One controller. I am lucky enough to be able to get a PS4 later, if it turns out the Xbox One messed up the design/performance on the Xbox One. I also feel that all this PS4 hype is simply not as deserved as the current press would imply. But if the PS4 turns out to be seriously superior, I have no problem changing consoles. I have no "brand loyalty" and I think both systems will turn out pretty good. Since they may be the only consoles for the next 10 years, I just want to be sure I get one on release day.

Also, I don't plan on buying any Blu Ray discs. I am going 100% digital. So, it bummed me out how the Xbox One had to trash some of their plans but whatever... I know digital distribution is just a matter of time. I will be holding on tight to my 360 game collection as it is likely to be my last!

P.S. I hate the Kinect! I wish I did not have to pay for it etc. This almost made me switch to PS4. The Kinect has potential but its just not been realized and may never reach it. I still highly doubt it will be anything more than a paper weight after the initial launch.

P.P.S. I immediately regret my decision :)

75 Comments

Microsoft's Opportunity Lost: Digital Distribution

I think the biggest mistake of Microsoft and the Xbox One, was to focus attention on disc based DRM instead of just focusing on the transition to full digital media. Its like getting into a war when the war is all but won. Sure, used game trading will have an impact for the next few years but all that time, a large percent of gamers, at least the adults who actually pay for the games, could transition to a Steam-like full digital distribution model. Instead of getting into the physical media used game war, they should have gone the Sony route and just left it up to the publishers. Why be the bad guy if its not even your job to do so? Instead, creating a great infrastructure for digital games would have been much more productive. For example they could have presented how much better things will be in this "future" model for both gamers and publishers by providing a digital distribution network that would support amazing features:

  • Fastest way to get games without trucking to the story and putting it in boxes (go green!)
  • Allow publishers s to have sales and specials over time (aka Stream) and create revenue where none existed.
  • Create ways to both "turn in" digital licenses for a discount on your next digital purchase (support used games!)
  • Create ways to "transfer license" to a friend for a discounted "re-activate" price (support game trades!)
  • Support an independent digital store and allow "digital self publish" (support indies!)
  • Plan to provide an "Xbox Classic" service to play 360/Xbox Original games. this could be done with cloud gaming like "On Live" and you could even provide a discount to classic game access if the user had the original disc (future proof compatibility)

All of these things and much, much more could have been done by MS to move to a new age of digital publishing. Instead, all they did was present the negative side of things and explain how they would kill the current one. And all its doing is getting people upset and letting Sony play the innocent and get all the good press. Way to miss a great opportunity :)

14 Comments

Ken and 2K ruining Bioshock Infinite?

 
One of the things that was so compelling in Boishock was that you had no idea the motivations and relationship the Big Daddy and Little Sister, yourself, the world under the sea, Andrew Ryan, etc.  And there was a great sense of discovery playing through the game. By just listing to a few interviews with Ken Levine, I feel I already know way too much about this sequel. I still avoid the videos but if you really want the best experience, I guess you have to be diligent and avoid all media about the game (not to mention headlines, images, etc). 
  
While, I know you can avoid media about a particular game, its not all that easy. Especially if you like to keep up on gaming in general. I think its a mistake for 2K to give too much away or starting the media blitz way too early as I think Infinite has.  I think the net effect may be a negative one in that many people playing it will just not have that same sense of wonder because they kind of see it coming.  I wonder how much this will take away from the magic of this game. There's just nothing like playing through a game and discovering everything for the first time in-game.  
 
Of course, Infinite does seem to be shaping up as an amazing game, but It would be even more so if nobody knew that already :) 

13 Comments

E3 2011 Microsoft Kinect Focus :(

The MS press event was about as dull as I thought it would be. And way too much Kinect stuff and not much else. I just don't understand MS focus on the kinds of motion gameing that the core gamers will only see as a distraction. If motion gaming was the right direction, the best Wii games would not be games that barely use motion controls (or not at all). Also, having a weapon customization interface that works on grand Kinect gestures?! What are you supposed to do, put down the controller while you config your weapon? Sure you could probably do it with the controller in your hand but at that point, just use the controller. It will be  faster, easier, and less prone to errors.  So, I can't get excited about MS in 2011/12 other than the great games that are coming.  Halo anniversary and Halo 4 were fine but not all that exciting. 

Basicly, MS E3 focused on the one aspect of Xbox that I could just not care less about, Kinect. I guess if you are a Kinect fan, you will be very happy since they are still touting the features of this device.  

9 Comments

Razer Onza Review

There is a lot of negative feedback on youtube about this new controller but most of the negativity is due to the fact that the reviewers expected it to work much like the standard controller.  The shape of the triggers bothers them, the shorter throw buttons bother them, etc.  I will say that it takes a bit to get used to, but some people (like myself) will really like the differences that this controller has to offer. Also, many of the reviews are for the premium version with the variable tension and a lot of people don't like that feature because it makes the sticks (at higher stiffness settings) more spongy. Since I was not interested in that feature anyway,  I ended up getting the less expensive basic version which is pretty much the same except the sticks are not adjustable and there is no backlight on the buttons. I would have liked to have the back-lit buttons but it turns out, I like the standard sticks just fine.

Why I like it....  

Re-mappable Bumpers: I have mapped the stick-click to the extra bumper. I have always hated using the thumb stick click for most functions in games. Its just unconformable to me. With the onza. You can also map A/B/X/Y to either button as well as start/select and bumpers. Although it would have been better if you could also map the d-pad and not be Left/Right side limited (you can only map left stick click to the left side for example) it does open up a number of possibilities. And for game that let you chose different mappings you can fix quite a few of those games where you just don't like the one button. That is of course if you like the idea of two-bumpers. Takes a bit getting used to but I do like it better than using the click-stick buttons so that is a definite plus. 

Stick Movement: I like the feel of the sticks better on this controller. It feels a bit smoother and less jerky then the Xbox sticks. The tension seems a bit lighter but it still has a definite spring back to center that feels right. I even used the FPS Freeks on the sticks to extend them and they still had a nice feel. 

Fast Action Buttons: These are quite different from the standard controller. They have a very short throw and fast but light click response.  Not at all mush like the 360s. However, I though the Xbox 360 buttons were pressure sensitive (the original Xbox were) which is why they were mushy but apparently this is not the case.  That explains why I can't think of a game since MGS2 on the original Xbox that used pressure sensitivity anyway. So, I found with these buttons I was navigating quicker and able to hit the buttons much faster with less fatigue. 

The 4-Button D-Pad: The D-Pad is ok for many game that use it for weapon select or just use 4 directions but if a game does use it as an 8-way pad its a bit rough. However, most shooters only use it for weapon select and even games that use it with 8 selections (like oblivion) I could not use all 8 directions with the standard pad either. So, I pretty much prefer the Onza d-pad. But I am sure for some games (fighting games) it may not be good. But I don't play those so for me, the d-pad is also a plus. The d-pad buttons are also in a true up/down direction unlike the standard controller which points sort of toe-in. The idea is that when you move you thumb its moving in an arch so up should be a bit to the left but I prefer a 100% straight up/down direction relative to the controller and not the arch of my thumb.

Things that could be better... 

Why not wireless?: I don't mind the wire too much but its a shame that MS seems to not license out the wireless tech to 3rd party control makes (or its too expensive). Its nice to have to have batteries for at least on controller but its hard to get used to after using wireless for 5 years.

Full button remap: There are a number of odd limits on the L/R side buttons must map only to the same side. It would be better if you could map them anywhere. Being able to map all 4 bumpers would also be nice. Being able to map the d-pad too. Basically fully re-mappable 4 bumpers would be just one step better. 

Triggers: These are not as comfortable as the standard triggers. I like the lighter throw on the triggers and I like that they extend out a bit more but because the extended part is thin and just a tab, it makes the trigger feel cheap and a bit uncomfortable. Basically, the trigger should feel like a single well-rounded trigger, not a trigger with a nub on the end. But this is by no means a deal-breaker. The triggers are good, just not as good as they could be.

Rumble: Rumble feel was not as good as standard controller.  Better rumble with maybe a bit heavier weights would give it a better feel.

Enclosure: The plastic feels a bit cheap on the basic model. Maybe just a bit too thin and light. 

Conclusion 

I really like the base model. For 39$ its a very nice 3rd party controller with some extra features.  If you don't like the extra bumbers you could just map the standard bumpers to both and you would still have a very nice controller. Its generally has a lighter pressure feel  and is more responsive on all fronts (buttons, triggers, and sticks) and the dpad is certainly no worse. From what I hear, most people don't adjust the tension up on the pro-version so you may want to just go with the base model. Also, if you like to use the FPS Freeks definitely go with the base model because they don't fit well on the pro model.  I really like this 3rd party stick and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a controller with a lighter more responsive feel than the original. 
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Boxee is a Bust HTPC Still Not Ready for Prime Time

Well, I did end up with the Boxee Box but after only a few weeks, returned it. It was pretty much 50% broken for watching internet content which was the main reason for getting one. So, look like the perfect internet media streamer for you TV is still no where to be found. All of the current contenders Apple, Google, Roku, Boxee, etc all have major issues.

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Google TV makes TV..... Complicated. I am getting a Boxee

Just saw a demo on the Google TV and I have to say, there is no way soccer moms and dads are going to use this thing. Its too complicated to get working with your cable box or   satellite  system and relies to heave on the browser interface. The whole thing is a half backed mess. I just don't see this thing becoming part of TV the way it is advertised. They are expecting this thing to be put  directly  into TVs, cable, and  set top  boxes? I don't see it. 
 
For myself, I have been playing with (and even putting together an app) for the Boxee. This thing is cool. And even though I don't see this thing being too big, it has huge potential because, unlike the other internet streaming boxes, it is very easy to add all your RSS feeds to it and even write apps. Sure there are problems with licensing network content etc but once the providers realize that incorporating the ads into the stream itself is the only way to get people to watch it, they will do just that and these streaming players will take off in the popular market. Its already taking off as Netflix has already stated that they are now for all intent a video streaming service that just happens to rent physical DVDs.  
  
And no one wants to have 10 different set top boxes for watching 10 different streaming services providers. Using a single, low energy streaming box that can provide multiple networks is the way of the future. I think Boxee is a first glimpse at doing it right. It will probably flowder and fail to sell but its a great piece of software that is closer to anything else at being able to provide many diffrent and changing internet TV channels in a simple and easy to understand way. 

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