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Adam Creighton, Computer and Video Gaming (Subscribe)

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Free Xbox Live weekend (this weekend)

  1. Free Xbox Live this weekend
  2. Games added to Xbox 360 backwards compatibility list
  3. GDC Rumors and Rumblings
  4. adds "friends management"
  5. I'm excited for/worried about the X-Men 3 game
  6. Beowulf Sleeper Hit?
  7. Battlefield 2, G.R.A.W. demos available on Xbox Live marketplace
  8. Austin's Wolfpack shut down

1. Free Xbox Live this weekend

Microsoft and Verizon are offering the first free Xbox Live Gold Weekend this weekend, March 31 through April 2.
You get 72 hours of multiplayer gaming bliss as we grant every U.S. Xbox 360 gamer Xbox Live Gold status for the entire weekend!... to give gamers tons of great programming, contests, and surprises.
The events kick off at midnight tonight (PST), and go through Midnight Sunday.

Check out the full schedule of events: 2. Games aded to Xbox 360 backwards compatibility list

Black, Star Wars Battlefront II, and World Soccer Winning Eleven 9 have been added to the list. Yes, Black -- now that I'm almost finished with it ...

The full list of supported games: 3. GDC Rumors and Rumblings

Lotta news, nuggets, and nuances from this year's Game Developers Conference (GDC)
  • Microsoft to buy Lionhead -- Peter Molyneux didn't show for his D.I.C.E. appearance, and last week he didn't show for his GDC "Inspirations for Next Generation Designs" session. "However, word on the GDC show floor was that Molyneux hadn't shown up because he had pressing matters back at Lionhead headquarters in the UK." says those "matters" are the "final stages of negotiation" between Microsoft and Lionhead.

    Molyneux is the guy behind Fable, Black and White, The Movies, Populous, Syndicate, and Dungeon Keeper.
  • Crysis steals the show -- Rumblings from last week's events say Crysis and the new CryEngine blew away attendees. Crysis is the next game from Crytek, the studio behind the successful Far Cry franchise. Crysis will be published by Electronic Arts.

    Check out for the trailer and assets.
  • Sony Online Entertainment losing Star Wars Galaxies? -- Not really new or limited to GDC, the rumors nevertheless seem to be picking up.

    Galaxies has had a rough time of it, LucasArts has shown it can manage its hosting (a al the Star Wars Battlefront franchise), and partnerships may be coming up for renewal.

    Add to that the recent formation of BioWare Austin (and BioWare's success with the Star Wars license), and things could be ripe for change.

    A lot of pieces though -- BioWare's success with KOTOR, the Austin studio staffed with ex-SOE big guns, a futuristic MMO, the unique opportunity for LucasArts to move the license, but move it to people experienced with the product and IP, etc.

    Or maybe the Austin studio could be working on another iteration of the license, and that's what there unannounced "futuristic next-gen MMO" is all about.

4. adds "friends management"

You can now use to send, receive, and decline a friend request or remove a friend from your Friends List, from a PC, rather than your Xbox.

On the one hand, it's a cool start. On the other, it's almost a concession to how hard it is to do the stuff I want to do with Friends manangement via the Xbox.

Plus, the functionality I want isn't there yet.

I should be able to send Friend requests to play a game, or respond to requests from the Website. I should be able to group friends the way I can in Messenger, so rather than doing an "Invite all" to my entire Friends list, I can "Invite co-workers", etc. I should be able to manage alerts so I get SMSes only for the people I want to know are online, versus everybody in my friends list (during spring break, people on my list jumped on-and-off titles and Xbox Live multiple times, every day for 10 days. In one week, I exceeded by SMS limit for the month. Thanks, kids.

And I want Microsoft to integrate this functionality into MSN (Windows Live) Messenger. And I want the Web version of Messenger to be as full featured as the client version.

Usage wise, I don't leave open (I rarely go there), but I do leave Messenger up, and I'm on the Xbox 360 dashboard way more often then on

"I want! I want! I need! I need!"

5. I'm excited for/worried about the X-Men 3 game

I'm excited about the X-Men 3 tie-in game from Activision. The game is looking to do a movie franchise tie-in right -- by being the transition vehicle between the 2nd and 3rd film, not regurgitating either, and letting players partially play as franchise favorite Nightcrawler (who won't be in the third film).

And, Activision brought on "the" X-Men writer Chris Claremont to cowrite the game with Zak Penn, who cowrote both X2 and this summer's X-Men: The Last Stand.

And Activision has done really well with the X-Men Legends franchise.

So, why am I worried?

The PlayStation 2, Xbox, and Xbox 360 versions of the game are being developed by Z-Axis (Hypnos Entertainment is doing the GameCube version, Amaze Entertainment is working on the DS game, WayForward Technologies is doing the Game Boy Advance, and Beenox Studios is developing the game on the PC).

Z-Axis was behind such "hits" as Aggressive Inline, BMX XXX, and Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX 2.

Maybe Activision will be managing them super tightly, so it will almost be like an internal development project. I'd feel better if I knew who the Activision producer for the tile is. Here's hoping ...

6. Beowulf Sleeper Hit?

The literary powerhouse Beowulf is coming to next-gen consoles, courtesy of developer 4HEAD Studios and art and animation studio 3D-IO.

Beowulf is a combat-driven action adventure game set in the realms of nordic mythology.

I'm a sucker for anything Norse, and Rune is a seriously under-rated game.

Plus, the Beowulf game's Website teases at some good stuff.

7. Battlefield 2, G.R.A.W. demos available on Xbox Live marketplace

Just in time for the free Xbox Live weekend, Electronic Arts has released the Battlefield 2: Modern Combat (BF2:MC) demo for free download from Xbox Live marketplace, and Ubisoft just posted the Ghost Recon Advance Warfighter (G.R.A.W.).

For BF2:MC, the demo will be multiplayer only and will allegedly support up to 24 gamers.

For G.R.A.W., there won't be any cooperative modes in the demo, but all multiplayer competitive modes will be available and up to 16 players can play at once.

Somebody over at those two publishers was thinking ahead.

8. Austin's Wolfpack shut down

"Yes, Ubisoft will be closing its Wolfpack studio on May 15, 2006," a representative of the company told GameSpot News. "The decision to close Wolfpack is part of an overall strategy to concentrate Ubisoft's development in its larger studios where more resources are available."

I'm thinking they mean China, where Shanghai did such a "stellar" job on the Xbox version of G.R.A.W.

I don't know how this'll hit Shadowbane, the Wolfpack-developed MMO. Earlier in March, Ubisoft made the game free to play.

Ubisoft did say they're "looking for relocation opportunities within Ubisoft for all Wolfpack employees."

Maybe they should check out BioWare Austin's job opportunities.

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