Monday, September 29, 2008

Hugging my Xbox360

So my Xbox360 wrote something decent about me over at

"Ken Lee FH's Xbox - Sep 27 2008
I thought maybe the power was out yesterday... imagine my surprise when Ken Lee FH hit the switches! Gamerscore stands at 4,330. That is a profit of 275 points over last time! He rallied BC:Rearmed finishing 1 achievement, Mercenaries 2 adding an amazing 12 achievements, Castle Crashers, and then he almost hugged me, but I was like back off dude."

I vehemently deny any and all allegations that I was felt compelled to have any physical relations with my 360.

So maybe it was my Xbox360...

... that's a little wonky. I've had to re-evaluate my situation with Mercs 2, as it seems that it may be a hardware problem after all. I was playing Call of Duty 4 last night and the same problem occurred again: The game froze on me, leaving a still image on the TV with no sound, and my Xbox360 still running.

It's going to be a challenge for me to diagnose the problem. Potentially it could be the incompatibility of NTSC/PAL combo, or it could just be a console problem. But I've watched DVDs, played Bionic Commando and Bioshock without any hiccups before so there isn't a set precedent. And I can't test that because I don't have 1) a PAL Xbox360 to test with my TV, or 2) another NTSC Xbox360 to compare it to.

One possible (but seemingly unlikely) solution maybe that I remove my Wii that's been sitting on top of the Xbox360 for the past week or so. But right now, I'm almost willing to try anything.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Mercenaries 2: Shoulda, woulda, coulda

If I could have used one word to describe Mercenaries 2: World in Flames, it would have been fun. It should have been balls-to-the-wall fun. Everything about it should have been, would have been, could have been fantastic. But I may never know because the game continually crashes on me.

A friend brought me a copy of the game from Singapore which I needed for my Singapore-bought Xbox360; I brought it along with me when I relocated here. It was in turn hooked up to a brand new TV which I bought here. So I had a NTSC-J game inside a NTSC-J machine hooked up to a PAL TV. Everything worked beautifully with a bunch of my other games, including the ones I got off Xbox Live.

Mercs 2 started off brillantly: Lots of room to explore, lots of explosions, lots of cars and tanks and airstrikes and bombs and people running wild, with guns blazing and shouting and screaming and indignant pointing. So you know, FUN. I was having a ball of a time when the game froze on me, right around one quarter into the game. So I turned off my machine, give it a reboot and started the game up again. And about 5-10mins into the game, it hangs again. So reboot, start-up, and it hangs again. And again and again and again and again. I cannot get the game to run any much further than 5-10mins after each time I reboot.

I deleted my initial save game, started from scratch again and the same thing happens. Right around the same point, the game freezes and refuses to run. And each reboot ends in the same result.

I've updated the game, deleted possible corrupted save files, left the machine to cool before I run it again. I don't think it's a hardware problem, neither is it a problem with the NTSC-J game/console with PAL TV combo. I've called EA tech support but that's not much help at all. The problem persists and I don't know how else to resolve it. And it's frustrating as hell.

Mercs 2 shoulda, woulda, coulda been great. But at this rate, I wouldn't really know.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Albury, NSW

I drove up to Albury, NSW to attend BorderCon 2008 over the weekend. It was a leisurely, pleasant 3½-hour drive, mostly because I was in the backseat. We arrived there Friday evening, stayed in a quaint motel and immediately got right into gaming.

It was less of a convention and more of a game group meeting, but it was still loads of fun. I met many nice people and played a bunch of new games, which is always the aim of attending any convention.

Albury seemed like a nice town, and it was bigger than I thought it would be. I wasn't expecting a rural backwater, but I sure wasn't expecting clean, wide, well-paved roads with plenty of street lighting. The city centre was also bigger than I thought it would be. Overall, I'm pleasantly surprised.

Games played:
Battlestations x2
Cash & Gun
Crokinole x2
Mystery Rummy: Jack the Ripper
Zopp x2

Thursday, September 18, 2008

My Xbox blogs

Apparently my Xbox360 has a mind of its own. Or at least, it always had one and now has finally found a voice. And it's been writing blog posts about me, most of which have been snarky remarks about how I don't play it often enough.

"Ken Lee FH's Xbox - Sep 17 2008
Ken Lee FH was nowhere to be seen yesterday... maybe he needs some new games or something... get some motivation up in this place..."

I played some Bioshock last night, so hopefully it'll have something a little more pleasant to say in a couple of days.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Getting Lost?

I take the train to work everyday, and sometimes there are interesting conversations that you can't help picking up. Maybe it's people talking about their failed relationships, or a funny story about a drunk mate of their's.

This lady, sitting two seats to my left, was chatting to friends about some country she visited (I didn't catch that part). And she casually mentioned how she could never get her bearings because over there, the sun rises in the west. And she couldn't drive on the roads, because although they were marked heading 'north' and 'south', she didn't know which 'north' and 'south' they were referring to.

Lady, you absolutely blew my mind. Wherever you were visiting, you must have been high the entire time.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Seeing it in new light

We just moved into a new place, and spent most of the weekend packing, moving and setting up. And we also got a new TV, which I promptly hooked my Xbox360 into. I'm getting some mixed results, and I'm not sure if I did everything correctly, or if I'm missing something.

Bionic Commando: Rearmed looks really good on it (I've been playing that alot recently). But the improvement on GTA IV wasn't great. I'm not sure if it's because 1) now that it's in HD, I notice the flaws more easily, or 2) I haven't hooked everything up just right to fully take advantage of the TV.

There's a bit of 'ghosting' and motion blur when I pan the game camera quickly, and much of the background has taken on a slightly diffused look, with ambient bloom lighting all around. Is this the price of clarity? Am I now seeing the game in all its true technical detail? If so, someone please pull the wool over my eyes once again.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

New laptop? Maybe soon? Hopefully?

I've been thinking about getting a new computer for a while, and I've still torn between getting a desktop or a laptop. The benefits of getting a laptop is that I can use it in bed, and I am entitled to salary sacrificing (some odd procedure that allows me to pay lower tax or something?). I'll probably not be getting a mac... OSX is pissing the shit out of me. I use it at work, and I suspect it hates me as much as I hate it.

So I've got my eye on a couple laptops. And I'll qualify that by saying I really want to do some massive gaming on the machine. There's a slew of PC games I'm keen on, and I want a small monster to play it on. So my current choices are raw power versus even more raw power. A tough choice, really.

Intel Core 2 Duo T9400 (2.53 Ghz)
4Gb DDR2 800Mhz RAM
500Gb 5400RPM SATA HDD
Nvidia 9700M GT 512Mb VRAM
DVDRW Combo Drive
15.4" Display
Approx. AU$2499.00

Dell XPS M1530

Intel Core 2 Duo T9300 (2.5Ghz)
4Gb DDR2 667Mhz RAM
500Gb 5400RPM SATA HDD
Nvidia 8600M GT 256Gb VRAM
DVDRW Combo Drive
15.4" Display
Approx. AU$2199.00

Monday, September 08, 2008

The Saga of Seven Suns

It's been a long while since I picked up a real book, so it was on a whim that I decided to buy Book one of Kevin J Anderson's series, "The Saga of Seven Suns". But once I got started, I couldn't put it down, and in a short span of 2 months, I've finished all seven books in the series. I've enjoyed his previous Star Wars novels, and I've heard praise for his work on the Dune series, so the decision to jump into a fictional world of his own creation was not hard to make. If you are a sci-fi fan, and love big, sprawling space operas, this is one to pick up.

The story, told from the perspectives of multiple characters, really helps to layer and weave a complex storyline together. While seemingly unfocused in the beginning, the story slowly becomes ever more coherent, and flows smoothly from one character switch to another. By jumping from character to character, Anderson allows us to see events through different eyes, as well as enticingly reveal new information that continually keeps you hooked in. Through this form of story-telling, Anderson draws a fascinating backdrop, filled with truly unique alien races, and political intrigue.

As with any space opera, the focus is always on the characters, and Anderson paints his with believable motivations and actions. And all the space battles and tech and politicking only serves to enhance the characters' personalities, revealing their strengths and weaknesses.

I really enjoyed the series, and I would highly recommend it. Book 1 may start off slowly, but it builds up to an resounding crescendo, and by the end of the series you will be throughly satisfied.