With the Xbox One's release this past Friday, November 22, we have the final piece to the next gen console puzzle. Whether you consider the Wii U next gen or not, or that neither the PS4 or Xbox One can truly be considered next gen in the face of a good PC, the fact remains that the Xbox One represented the last major new system we were waiting on for the forseeable future. Certainly the Steam Box will get some buzz once that's released, but price and compatibilty may represent hurdles to the type of adoption both the Xbox One and PS4 have thus far received. Plus, there's the argument - which I tend to agree with - that you don't necessarily gain any benefit investing in a Steam Box over a good PC. Final judgment will be reserved though once Valve's Steam Box initiative gets fully underway.
Naturally, both the PS4 and Xbox One launches can be considered a success, with each selling over 1 million units in the first 24 hours. The Xbox One needed 10 or 11 more countries with which to reach that number, but it was also priced $100 more, and faced similar supply constraints (meaning its arguable both could have sold more if stock was there). Like the PS4 and Wii U before it, a small percentage of Xbox One launch consoles were affected by technical issues, but, luckily, overall, all three seem to be solid hardware out of the gate. That does nothing to soothe those who actually have a unit with issues, but it seems that, based on percentages, all three major new consoles had reasonably smooth launches. To wrap up the sales commentary, if sales don't pick up for the Wii U this holiday and beyond, it's certainly reasonable to think that both PS4 and Xbox One will surpass total Wii U sales by or before June 2014 (as some analysts have suggested), which would also put to rest the idea that the industry's new norm is greatly reduced sales, i.e., the Wii U's sales issues are its own. No matter what, console gaming is still small change compared to smartphones and tablets, but we at least have the potential of still being a very vocal percentage of the technology ecosystem if sales for both the PS4 and Xbox One maintain positive momentum into 2014.
Now, with all that out of the way, I'll provide my impressions of the Xbox One. Since my wife and I are writing a book on the Xbox One, My Xbox One, follow-up to My Xbox, which covered the 360, we needed our usual two consoles: one to play with, and one to keep pristine so we could methodically document the goings on. For now, I just opened up the one to play with.
Episode 8 of Randy Kindig's Floppy Days Vintage Computing Podcast, entitled, The TRS-80 Model I (Part I), gives another shout-out to two of the upcoming books I've co-authored, CoCo: The Colorful History of Tandy's Underdog Computer and Vintage Game Consoles: An Inside Look at Apple, Atari, Commodore, Nintendo, and the Greatest Gaming Platforms of All Time. Though Kindig messed up our names again (they're not easy--we've since given him a pronunciation guide), his support is of course still much appreciated. Kindig will also be receiving review copies of both books for future episodes of his podcast, plus he will be interviewing Boisy and me on an upcoming podcast (we want to wait for him to get a copy of the book). One other correction, the CoCo book should be out by the end of December, not November! Check out the episode here, which is part one of a two part interview with the authors of a popular TRS-80 book, as well as additional info on the computer itself. The TRS-80 was the first major personal computer Tandy did before the Color Computer (CoCo), and was part of the original 1977 trinity, which also included the Apple II and Commodore PET.
I'm happy to report that CoCo: The Colorful History of Tandy's Underdog Computer has officially gone to press. This means that it should ship out to retail locations worldwide roughly on schedule near the end of December. If you'd like to read more about the book, you can visit the Amazon link or go to the publisher's (CRC Press, part of Taylor & Francis Group) Website.
First off, it's clear that there have been widespread reports of PlayStation 4 (PS4) consoles that have had various technical issues, requiring a call to Sony technical support. The resolution for many of these individuals seems to be a roughly 10 day turnaround to get a replacement console. Not good. With that in mind, I can report I've had no issues with mine, so I can safely judge the PS4 on its own merits rather than frustration with a damaged unit. Hopefully the Xbox One consoles we ordered will be similarly trouble free in the coming week.
Anyway, I have the PS4 console, the camera, a second controller, and three retail games on disc: Knack, Killzone Shadow Fall, and Assassin's Creed IV Black Flag (the latter two games got various pre-order add-on bonuses, and in fact Killzone itself was free from Amazon with the purchase of the other two games). I was able to supplement that with two free games thanks to my PlayStation Plus subscription, as well as a third game with a $10 credit in the PS4 box. I have some of that credit left still and will likely get one more games from the digital store: Sound Shapes. Anyway, the three digital games I have now are: Contrast, Flower, and Resogun. There was also a free offer for Warframe, which I believe is a freemium game where pay for additional in-game items. As a Plus member I got a bundle of in-game items to get me started.
I integrated my smartphone, a Galaxy Note II, with the PlayStation app, as well as my PlayStation Vita with the PS4 Link app. There were no issues with either pairing--just enter the numbers that appear on the PS4's screen and you're linked. The smartphone app gives you access to various account settings and the digital store and allows you to connect to the PS4 for control purposes, but there's nothing particularly intriguing about it. It's functional, but I probably won't use it much except to prepurchase items.
The Vita integration on the other hand is incredible. Taking the Vita's previous integration with the PS3 to a new level, the Vita can now display anything that the PS4 displays on its screen and also play any of the games the PS4 plays. My PS4 is hooked into my network via a powerline network adapter, and my Vita of course connects to the same network over WiFi. While I haven't tried it from every room in the house yet, there was little lag or delay in streaming the one game I tested with the setup so far, Knack. It felt nearly as good as playing it on the TV. This is a VERY promising feature.
Anyway, back to the console. It was easy to set up the PS4 and login to my existing PSN account. I was also able to integrate Facebook and use my Facebook picture as my account picture. Speaking of Facebook, the PS4 automatically records the last 15 minutes of whatever you're doing, which can be uploaded to the social network (live streaming to other services is also an option) either in screenshot or video form. The videos can also be edited and cropped. Simply hit the "Share" button on the controller and you're in business. Again, a very nice feature.
Here are some links to videos I posted on Facebook (I trimmed the latter videos on the PS4 itself):
Hewson Consultants was a software company founded by Andrew Hewson in 1980. Hewson has a reputation for making highly playable games with a high production value that were very innovative. Fine examples are classics like Uridium, Paradroid, Avalon, Dragontorc, Gribbly's Day out, Exolon, Cybernoid, Nebulus. Even to this day Hewson games rank among my favourite video games of all time. In the 90s Hewson transitioned into '21st Century Entertainment' which was responsible for classics like Pinball Dreams, Pinball Fantasies, Pinball illusions and many others.
The games by both Hewson and 21st Century Entertainment play a huge role in my personal gaming history and when I found out that the man behind those companies has created a Kickstarter project, together with his son Rob, I just had to find out more. The purpose of this article is to inform you about the Kickstarter for a book entitled 'Hints & Tips for Videogame Pioneers'. And here a link to Hewson Consultants Ltd's website. I pledged and invite you to check out this Kickstarter project as well.
Below you can watch the interview I did with Andrew.
Update November 16th 2013:
11,481 Pounds have been pledged by 270 backers (10:29 GMT+1), so only 519 pounds to go with a couple of days left! I think there's a good chance this Kickstarter will make it! :) But do consider pledging to the Kickstarter as there are some benefits as a backer! Check out the Kickstarter page.
As I recounted previously, I decided to replace my Asus touchscreen Ultrabook (4/128 SSD, 13" screen, Windows 8.1) and Apple iPad 2 (64GB) with a Microsoft Surface Pro 2 (8/256 SSD) and Type Cover 2. My thinking was that the Surface Pro 2 would effectively replace both devices in my man bag. Yes, there would be some concessions here and there, like a smaller screen (~10") than the Asus (which my youngest daughter now uses) and a weak app selection in comparison to the iPad 2 (which now sits on a dock on my nightstand), but ultimately, the increase in portability (a lighter bag!) and convenience of a single device outweighed the negatives.
While I used my iPad 2 for many things, my favorite function was as an e-reader. Since the iPad 2 does not have a retina display, it sometimes required me to zoom in a bit for certain types of reading material not optimized to the screen size (I'm looking at you, UK's Retro Gamer Magazine). Overall, though, it was a great reading experience for me and I've spent countless enjoyable hours in the Kindle app. It was also great to read at the gym when I was doing cardio (which I find dreadfully boring) after weight training (which I adore).
Naturally, the Surface Pro 2 would need to replicate the functionality of the iPad 2 for reading purposes, with the added bonus of its 1080p widescreen allowing for sharper text, which would hopefully translate into no longer needing to zoom in on very small details. Overall, the Surface Pro 2 performed well for me in this regard, though there were some quirks. For one, the iPad 2's screen is a 4:3, square-ish ratio, while the Surface Pro 2's is a 16:9, rectangular ratio. That basically means that the iPad 2 is more enjoyable in portrait mode (like a normal book), while the Surface Pro 2 feels a bit awkward (overly tall) in portrait mode (like all large, 16:9 tablets, really), making the Surface Pro 2's ideal reading mode landscape. Now, this was something I resisted on the iPad 2 because of the lower resolution and screen ratio, but it turns out that landscape (multiple columns) is actually a quite enjoyable way to read when you're doing it on the right device. Of course, I still sometimes read in portrait mode on the Surface Pro 2 - like at the gym - because that's what fits best on the various cardio machine holders with the Type Cover 2 attached (I'd rather not detach it and leave it on the gym floor) - and it's just fine like that, but, oddly enough, I think I now prefer reading in landscape. We'll see how that evolves going forward.
Google is joining together their YouTube and the Google+ platforms, whether users like it or not, but also has something else up its sleeve. By January, Google strives to have complete control over Chrome extensions and will turn off support for all third party extensions that are not downloaded from the Chrome Web Store. This all to supposedly make the browser a safer one.
Downloading Chrome extensions outside of Google's Web store will be prohibited come January. Until then, it is possible to download and manually install third party extensions on the Windows version of the popular Google browser. You can still do so by dragging the extensions to the Chrome://Extensions/ folder.
With this action, Google will gain complete control over their Web browser. Only Google will be able to decide which extensions will and will not be included in the store. A sign of things to come is the fact that earlier this year Google already removed ' Adblock' and ' Adaway' from the Google Play Store. And in January this will be a reality on Windows too.
Developers who want to publish an extension for the Windows Chrome version will have to pay a 5 dollar registration fee, and Google will take 5% off any revenues...
Just when I said I wasn't going to regularly post about the amazing Humble Bundles, where you pay what you want for great games and can divvy the proceeds between various charities and the publishers, came word just now about the Humble WB Games Bundle. So much for that! Now it's pay what you want for Batman: Arkham Asylum Game of the Year Edition, F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin, F.E.A.R. 3, and The Lord of the Rings: War in the North. Beat the average price (presently at $6), and you’ll also unlock Batman: Arkham City Game of the Year Edition and Scribblenauts Unlimited. All games are available on Steam for Windows, while Arkham City is also available on the Macintosh. Check it out here!
While we don't always promote the Humble Bundles due to their increasing frequency (and the fact that you should already be on their list!), we just couldn't resist passing along the info on the latest Humble Weekly sale, which features a whopping 10 of Team 17's games in the popular Alien Breed and Worms series. Pay less than $6 and get access to six of the games, or pay $6 or more and get access to all the games, each of which is accessible from Steam. As always, you can set how the money is distributed between all parties involved, including some very cool charities. Most of these games are exclusively for Windows, but a few of the games are also available on Macintosh and Linux. In any case, this is a great way to gain access to some amazingly fun games for very little money. If you haven't been following either series since they got their start back in the Commodore Amiga days, you'll be in for a real treat. Check it all out here.