Xbox One Game Discs: Gaming Like it’s 2001

Long ago, in the days of yore, gaming consoles lacked local storage. Everything was stored in the game cartridge – or, in later years, on a CD or DVD – because putting rewritable storage on a console was expensive and complicated. It was easier to create one-time writable storage that the customer would buy, and put into their console to play the game. You want to play a different game? You put in a different cartridge or disc. That was fine for the early years of gaming, but when consoles with hard drives came along (the Xbox was the first), things started to change for the better. Hard drives grew larger, and eventually you could install entire games to the drive. The sped up loading time and made it easier and faster to play games.

This trend continued with the Xbox one, and as broadband proliferated, entire games could be downloaded with relative ease. What continues to dismay me though are the number of games who, despite having been installed onto the local hard drive, insist on having the game inserted before you can play them. This is clearly a DRM enforcement issue to stop people from sharing game discs, and while I wouldn’t mind it if it asked for the disc once a week, the current method of having to have the disc inserted every single time you play is quite frustrating. It wouldn’t be so bad if I lived in a household where I was the only one that ever played the Xbox One, but my son also enjoys gaming, and he tends to play different games. So what’s happening is a never-ending disc swap battle where, when he wants to game, he has to take out the disc from my game, and I have to do the reverse.

Digital games obviously have no such limitations; once you install them, they will load immediately. When I think about the reasons why Microsoft makes digital games so easy in this regard, and disk-based games so irritating, the cynical part of me might actually think that Microsoft wants to encourage digital purchases of games over discs. Why? Pretty simple in my view: they want to kill the used game market. Microsoft makes no money when people sell their old games, or when people buy used games. Their ultimate business model is based upon Xbox customers buying new games regularly. We know that they don’t make much money on the console hardware, but they do make a good amount of money on games, and accessories.

At this point, I would be willing to pay $50 for an Xbox multi-disc changer that would allow me to load up five or 10 games and leave them there for the Xbox hardware to authenticate against. I’ve never heard of anything like this though, so maybe I’m in the minority…would you buy one?

The Best Show No Longer on TV: The Newsroom

When we moved to the USA four years ago we didn’t get cable, and instead have relied upon a combination of Netflix, Amazon Video, iTunes, and for a short while Hulu, for our media consumption. Being cord-cutting video streamers means we don’t often watch shows until they’re off the air and we’re usually behind the mainstream in terms of watching hit shows. We’re OK with that. Every so often though, we run across a show we wish we’d watched sooner because it’s just so damn great. The Newsroom is one of those shows. I came across this clip on Facebook and marveled at the lines written for Jeff Daniels (as well as his delivery).

(apologies that you have to click through to watch that video, the “owner” disabled remote embedding for some reason)

Leaving the politics out of it – to call it  a left-leaning show would be an understatement – the writing of Aaron Sorkin on this show was just so intelligent, witty, and…sharp. Every line is clever and cut like a razor blade. I wish I could live in a world where people were that consistently witty! The other aspect I really enjoyed was the way the show talked about real events – it brought a sharp reality to the otherwise normally fictitious world of TV.

Sadly, The Newsroom was cancelled after only three seasons. The reasons why vary, but I’ll forever wish we could have seen more seasons. Imagine what Sorkin would have written for Will McAvoy to say about Trump!

Amazon Gets Video Rental Time Right

My wife and I love watching, and collecting, movies. We both have a passion for great stories and big action movies, so we’re not one of those couples where one person likes the romantic comedies and the other only watches horror movies. I feel very grateful that I have a wife who is excited when I say I want to watch Braveheart or Black Hawk Down for the seventh time. 😉

One of the realities we faced though when we had our first child almost seven years ago was suddenly watching a movie would take two, three, even four nights (depending on the length of the movie – I’m looking at you Lord of the Rings Extended Edition) because you always don’t have those 2-3 hours uninterrupted stretches any more as a parent. That’s fine if you own the movie, but digital rentals have traditionally been 24 hours. You click play at 7pm on a Monday night, you’d better be finished by 7pm the following night. There have been two instances in the past where we’ve had to re-rent a movie a second time in order to finish watching it.

Clearly, the people making this change to the rental window timeframe know what it’s like. Thank you Amazon for understanding what it’s like!

And for the record, John Carter was quite entertaining – nowhere near as bad as it was said to be. 🙂

Embracing Digital Storytelling: The Season Recap

We’re in the midst of a massive shift in the way entertainment is consumed; more “cord cutters” are making the switch every day, and the future of TV is changing. What still baffles me though is how so many content producers still confine their thinking to the way things used to be instead of the way they can be.

Case in point: last night season two of Daredevil was launched, and in typical disruptive fashion Netflix released all the episodes at once for binge watching. What was more interesting to me though was the four minute season one recap they started automatically playing when I hit play on episode one of season two. In four minutes I was reminded of all the major plot points of season one, and I can go into season two enjoying that context. It was wonderful! Continue reading Embracing Digital Storytelling: The Season Recap

October Baby: Powerful Trailer

Wow. Powerful trailer about a powerful issue. I definitely want to see this!

American Idol & Self-Delusion

I’ll be transparent: the above tweet had been ratting around in my head for a few weeks and I think it’s pretty damn clever (yes, I know that’s egotistical, but there it is). I’ve been watching American Idol this season thinking as a parent…wondering how the parents of some of those tone-deaf, completely awful singers could live with themselves as they lied to their kids and told them to “Just go for it!”. Does loving your kids mean lying to them? I don’t think it does. It’s definitely something I want to write more about in the future…in fact, I’ve adding parenting as a new category for this blog, and this is the inaugural post.

Chrysler Eminem Super Bowl Commercial – Imported From Detroit

Five Reasons Why DISTRICT 9 is Frickin’ Awesome

Last night I watched the movie DISTRICT 9 on Blu-ray. It was, in a word, amazing. I knew very little about the movie before watching it, and beyond knowing it was about aliens in an internment camp-type scenario, I had no idea what it was about. If you haven’t already seen it, don’t read any further – go rent this movie.

Here are five reasons why I think this movie is absolutely fantastic.

1) The story is gripping and realistic; other than the fact that it’s based on aliens landing on planet earth, everything about the plot and characters is extremely realistic. It has a documentary feel that draws you in. The writing team of Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell is responsible for some great stuff here. It helps that one Mr. Peter “Lord of the Rings” Jackson lent a hand as a producer.

2) It moves you emotionally; at the beginning of the movie when humans are spouting racist remarks, many of them black South Africans themselves the victims of institutionalized racism, it’s shocking and repulsive. The movie doesn’t shy away from the inherently tribal nature of human beings; the fear and dislike we have of outsiders, of “The Other”. I felt very emotionally invested in the movie – I went from disliking the main character, to feeling pity for him, to hating him, to cheering at his redemptive act. The movie will move you.

3) The computer animation is jaw-droppingly realistic; never in my life have I seen computer animation this realistic. If you look at a lot of movies heavy with CG, much of it is done in dark scenes; CG is easier to pull off when the unpredictable nature of sunlight isn’t scattering across every inch of the scene. There was only one time in this entire movie when I saw something that didn’t look realistic with the CG: a dust cloud kicked up when one of the aliens was thrown into the ground. The rest? Amazingly real. In fact, watching this movie made me a little mad at every other CG-heavy movie for being so painfully obvious about the CG. I really had no idea that CG could be done in such a realistic fashion. The CG in this movie isn’t gratuitous – every scene that has it needs it, and it all feels very real. When watching this movie I kept saying “It looks so…real!” over and over again. The aliens in bright sunlight looking like actors in a costume – a freakishly realistic costume – were very life-like.

4) It was made on a budget of only $30 million dollars; that’s small change in the mainstream movie industry today. $30 million is the budget for a romantic comedy with mid-level Hollywood stars. The fact that this movie was created at a level of such perfection, and for only $30 million, makes it all the more impressive. To date, it has grossed $204 million dollars. How would you liked to have been an investor on this project? I know I would have!

5) It was created by 30-year old, first time writer/director Neil Blomkamp; he’d never created a feature-length movie before this one. Previous projects include the Hal0 3 Landfall short, and Tempbot, another short. For a first-time feature length effort, calling this movie a home run is like saying Babe Ruth just swung a stick at a ball. If I could buy stock in a human being, I’d invest heavily in one Mr. Neil Blomkamp. Assuming he doesn’t get destroyed by the Hollywood machine, he has a very bright future. It’s a shame the funding for the Halo movie fell through; he was set to helm it, and he could have done something amazing with it. He has an un-named project set to come out in 2011; I know I’ll be watching for it…