Author name: narcogen

Cooler Xbox 360 CPU Rumored For 2007

Supernostro pointed out an article at IGN suggesting that in Q1 of 2007, the CPU in the Xbox 360 will get an upgrade that will make the console more reliable:

Chartered Semiconductor will update the 360 CPU to a 65nm process, the current state-of-the-art in chip manufacturing techniques. The new Xbox 360 CPUs will benefit from lower power consumption, and thus much lower operating heat. The change will likely have a dramatic impact upon Xbox 360 reliability, as the console, especially the first batch of units manufactured before January 2006, has something of a reputation for being prone to hardware failure and the dreaded "Red Eye of Death."

Of course, I'm sure Microsoft would rather that hordes of potential buyers don't skip out on buying a 360 this holiday, assuming they haven't already, so don't be surprised if this upgrade either gets moved up, or denied altogether.

News Roundup For September 29

More links about the ever-expanding Halo universe:

In With The New… And Push The Old Stuff Over A Bit

To cope with all the new things we're tracking now, we've made some additions to the site. There is now a Halo Wars image gallery and a mirror of the QuickTime version of the Halo Wars trailer; this is a mirror of the same file provided at HBO and re-encoded by Louis Wu.

The image gallery has the five official images from the website, as well as a series of 17 screen captures from the QuickTime trailer.

There are also keyword tags for Ensemble Studios, for Halo Wars, for Wingnut Interactive and for their upcoming series of Halo games, which for the moment we are codenaming BLAM because no title has been announced.

The Features menu in the left sidebar has a new widget for Ensemble, and this is where the Halo Wars content will live. If you've got javascript enabled, each of the hierarchical menus with a triangle sign can be open or closed without reloading the page by clicking the triangle.

Deadly Encounters Of The Spirit Of Fire

From Ensemble Studios' own web page is this announcement for Halo Wars, which may assuage some of those already screaming that the meagre amount shown in the trailer contradicts known canon:

Breaking News - Ensemble Studios is bringing real-time-strategy to the Xbox 360 and to the Halo universe. Designed exclusively for the Xbox 360, Halo Wars allows you to take charge of the human UNSC armies and see the Halo universe from a totally new perspective.

Halo Wars is set during the UNSC's first deadly encounters with the Covenant, allowing players to lead the crew of the UNSC's "Spirit of Fire" from initial skirmishes to an all out war against the evil Covenant.

It's been pointed out that the very first Covenant-Human encounter was at Harvest, when no Spartans were present. However, I certainly think there are enough gaps in the record of the Human-Covenant war as presented in the novels to place a ground battle on a human colony world with Forerunner artifacts the Covenant want access to, where Spartans are in play and the Covenant are not yet glassing all Human worlds as a matter of policy, or are perhaps avoiding glassing one in particular for specific reasons.

Everybody calm down.

Long Lasting Rampancy Bar

Long Lasting Rampancy Bar

DoomBatINC created this image for a SomethingAwful Photoshop Phriday feature fusing food and videogames. Certainly, the "long lasting rampancy bar" enriched with "Strauss protein blend" must be how an ordinary cybernetic security guard was able to face down the Pfhor and two rampant AIs over three games without ever once sitting down to a real meal.

Detailed Comparison Suggests Return To Franchise’s Roots For Halo 3

Gravemind80 has produced what may well be the single most exhaustive commentary on the Halo series to date, covering not only comparisons to Halo 1 and Halo 2 including each weapon and every vehicle, but single player and multiplayer level design as well. He caps it off with a series of mostly level-headed suggestions for Halo 3.

Despite his predilection for citing some pretty sketchy sources, he also is familiar with the analyses of Finn, Mothergoat, and Mike Miller.

Certainly not everyone is going to agree on all points; as he confesses himself in the HBO forum post linking to the article, he generally prefers Halo 1 over Halo 2 although he did enjoy the latter, and many of the suggestions amount to "make Halo 3 more like Halo 1". Luckily Frankie has already said that at least in some respects this is going to be true.

There's almost too much meat here to pull out any one morsel as representative, but since Campaign is close to my heart, one particular suggestion tastes pretty good to me:

As for the stage designs themselves, they should be huge. The stages in Halo 2 were supposed to have been really big. In fact, it was claimed that you could fit the entire Halo 1 Campaign into a single canyon in Halo 2 — an obvious exaggeration. However, due to the huge draw distances upwards of 13 or 14 miles made possible by the 360’s graphics capabilities (see below), there’s no reason that the stages cannot span a rather huge distance. Most of the larger stages in the previous games were only a couple of miles long from beginning to end, so I fully expect the stages in Halo 3 to be two or three times as long as that at the very least. Furthermore, I expect the outdoors stages to have parts that are much more wide open than even what was seen in Halo 1. It’d be neat to test your sniping skills against enemies that are a kilometer away. I want to see something that gives the effect of Assault on the Control Room or Two Betrayals, but on a much grander scale.

Be warned: this is a very long and detailed read; it might have been easier to digest as a series than as a single long piece, but here it is. Take breaks if you have to, but it's well worth it.

Always Leave Them Laughing

Although two panelists-- Al Lowe, Leisure Suit Larry creator and Erik Wolpaw, better known as Old Man Murray and a writer on Psychonauts were no-shows, attendees at the Game Writers Conference were treated to a few laughs by Wideload Games' Matt Soell and Tom Abernathy of Pandemic, makers of Destroy All Humans!

Making gamers laugh is a serious business, made more serious by the fact that comedy is not as well established a subgenre of games as it is of film. Still, said Soell, comedy has its place:

Mainstream games might include too many serious-themed games, Soell suggested, probably owing to the first-person shooter genre where the hero character is a grim, gun-toting killer. But even Doom had the "BFG," Abernathy said, which was funny if you knew what the initials stood for, and the brooding Max Payne had joke moments. Comedy can be the glue to hold stories together, or as Soell put it, provide moments of levity so the player doesn't become exhausted.

Gamasutra has a short article summing up some of the pair's observations at the panel.

Microsoft Foxes Halogen Project

Halogen, an unofficial fan project to create a real-time strategy game in the Halo universe, is shutting down due to a request from Microsoft. From their homepage:

Hours ago, we finally recieved the words we've been dreading since the mod started to get noticed. Microsoft has decided that we are infringing on the intellectual property of Bungie Studios and has asked us to stop development on Halogen.

The site notes that the forum and other areas will be shut down within a week.

Second Game In The Works At Bungie

San Jose Mercury News columnist Dean Takahashi, also author of books on the Xbox and Xbox 360, has a new column up saying that a small team of developers within Bungie Studios, led by Jason Jones and Chris Butcher, aren't working on Halo 3. They're working on something else:

They are on a small project that is exploring something new beyond the Halo universe. These guys are the cream of the crop in terms of the key talent at Bungie. Without them, neither Halo nor Halo 2 would have happened. Jones took about a year off after the launch of Halo 2, traveling around the world. Now he’s back and is trying to come up with something new.

The next step is clear: we must find out the code name for this project, or invent one ourselves. Any suggestions?

Conference Comments Cause Cutscene Controversy

Gamasutra reports that Alexis Nolent, Editorial Story Design Director for Ubisoft, delivered remarks at the Austin Games Conference on the integration of stories into games. He seems to favor the Half-Life 2 brand of "scripted events" versus the more traditional, cinematic sort of Halo-style "cutscenes":

First, he saw a trend toward fewer cinematics, and more scripted events. Nolent says Ubisoft is trying to get rid of cinematics entirely, but they do sometimes sneak back in when a map has to be scrapped or there's some other unexpected problem. Nolent expects to see more "playable cut scenes" or scripted events where the story moves ahead, but players still have opportunities for interaction.

Over at Kotaku, commenters have weighed in on both sides; some don't want the game to wrest control of the camera away from them and force them to watch a cutscene, reminding them that they're consuming a pre-set story in a medium that is supposed to be interactive, and others dislike having "down-time" in an area when they can't leave and a set of predetermined NPC actions takes place, except without dramatic camera angles or stirring musical score.

What do you think? Are games better off with cutscenes, or scripted events? Vote in our poll!

Making Games The Wideload Way

Excellent online gaming magazine The Escapist has an article called The Wideload Way on Wideload Games this week. Those who have read previous articles focusing on Wideload's outsourcing-heavy business model will find little new here. There's a confirmation that Stubbs sold well enough to fund Wideload's next project, but there's still no information on what that project might be.

Finding A New Voice

Captain Spark fired up his Halo dialogue website at the end of last month, upgrading to a new CMS-- PHP-Fusion. Be sure to check it out, even though he admits the current design is a placeholder (now where have we heard that before?). He's also working on an IWHBYD skull tutorial which I'm sure many will be eager to check out.

Rampancy Upgraded To Drupal 4.7

As of now, is running on the latest and greatest stable version of the Drupal content management system, Drupal 4.7. This version has been out for some time, but just now supports all the contributed modules the site needs to run. Some features (like the gamertag database) are offline for the moment but should be back soon.

If you see any errors, drop me a line at