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Adam Creighton, Computer and Video Gaming (Subscribe)

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

An Xbox Live Arcade game a week, and Microsoft makes handheld(s)?

UPDATED:Added the free title 360 Texas Hold 'Em on August 23rd.
  1. Xbox Live Arcade Wednesdays
  2. Microsoft Handheld(s)?
  3. Gaming optical media updates
  4. Real-Time Radiosity Tech
  5. Game Updates

1. Xbox Live Arcade Wednesdays

Xbox Live Arcade is cool, but has been lacking on the new release front for way to long.

Why that is was revealed by Microsoft today, as they announced Xbox Live Arcade Wednesdays, program that will regularly launch Xbox Live Arcade titles on the Xbox 360 every Wednesday at midnight PDT -- starting today!

Here's the schedule through August 9th, with no indication if this will continue beyond summer.
  • 12th July – Frogger (classic); $5
  • 19th July – Cloning Clyde (new); $10
  • 26th July – Galaga (classic); $5
  • 2nd August – Street Fighter II’ Hyper Fighting (classic); $10
  • 9th August – Pac-Man (classic); $5
  • 23rd August – 360 Texas Hold 'Em (new); Free

Most games will be $5, with Capcom's Street Fighter II’ Hyper Fighting and Cloning Clyde to be $10.

Hey, where's Contra? That was announced at E3.

2. Microsoft Handheld(s)?

Rumors are surfacing that Microsoft is working on not one, but multiple handheld devices, and the first could hit by Christmas.

Bloomberg reported the device will have built-in Wi-Fi, so users can download music without a computer.

Then the Seattle Times ran a speculative article about the handhelds, the first code named Argo.

And I think they're mnissing the bigger picture. If Microsoft adds Wi-Fi to one or more of these devices, then creates the devices as showpieces of how to mobile integration of their upcoming Live Anywhere concept, these devices could be competing with Sony's PlayStation Portable, Nintendo's GameBoy and Nintendo DS, Apple's iPod, and be forging in a new direction for handheld "necessity".

3. Gaming optical media updates

Sony is building Blu-Ray into their PS3. Microsoft is going a safer route with an add-on for the competing standard (HD-DVD).

Then came a couple of folks to shake things up.

First, MATTERIS Ltd., an Israeli startup, has created a holographic medium that puts one terabyte of data on a DVD sized disc (HD-DVD holds 15GB and Blu-Ray discs hold 25GB). I'm a little irritated by this article making rounds this week because (A) It's old news (I wrote about it last year), and (B) the initial market is enterprise storage and backup, and it's going to have to see some economy of scale before it becomes applicable to the consumer market.

OK, so that's them, and then there's the announcement from Thomson's Technology division that most HD-DVD manufacturers are going to use their new "Film Grain Technology" in HD-DVD. For videophiles, the technology can be use to "add the look and feel of conventional film to digitally captured or rendered imagery." For pro-Microsoft bigots, it allows for more efficient packaging, so you'll actually be able to fit more on an HD-DVD disc with the technology than without. And it can be deployed easily with H.264 compression.

Then Microsoft announced they've picked ATI's H.264 decoder for the Xbox 360 HD DVD player add-on.

Then Ricoh threw a wrench in the works. They created technology that allows reading and writing of both HD-DVD and Blu-Ray discs. Even more significant is this tech is "simply" a diffraction plate that sits between the laser and the lens, so it could conceivably be added to devices not yet manufactured.

I'll write more about the significance of these things in a separate post.

4. Real-Time Radiosity Tech

Well-done ighting effects in games are cool, but they're usually not "real". Look at the well-implemented flashlights in Doom3 or Condemned, or the headlights in Chromehounds, and they're nice, but don't reflect like they should (if turn on a million candle light while stomping across snow, I should see a ton).

Company Geomerics has announced cool technology in the form of Real-Time Radiosity, which allows for real-time computation, rendering, and reflection of light and its effect in games.

This is "good tech", and I hope it gets picked up and added to some games, or SDKs.

5. Game Updates

  • Painkiller: Hell Wars has gone gold -- so we may see this seminal PC title on the old Xbox before year end. I'm upset that I've stopped caring about one of my favorite games.
  • New Oblivion download -- OK, this sounds cool. For $1.89, download the "Vile Lair ", where you play as a betrayer vampire in the Dark Order (assassins guild). Looks like Bethesda is making up for that over-priced horse armor.
  • Chromehounds has shipped form SEGA. And it looks like they fixed their first-day online bugs.
  • Halo 3 -- Supposedly, the next iteration will sport a better interface, especially for creating and announcing custom games (joining the PC age).
  • Electronic Arts -- Hey, they're still the numbe 1 worldwide publisher, and they're shipping 20 games over 11 platforms in the rest of 2006. Check out the article for the full list.

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SOURCES:,,,, IGN, GameInformer, Official XBox Magazine, CNN,, and others.


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