Category Archives: xbox one

Screenshot of gameplay from the Brown Box, precursor to Magnavox's Odyssey 1972

The Odyssey – What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been

Today, Nov. 15, 2013, the latest in modern console gaming drops. The Playstation 4 features 8G of RAM, a 1.84 teraflop graphics chip, a 500G hard drive and an eight core CPU running somewhere in the neighbourhood of 1.6 GHz per core.

Now, follow me back through the murky mists of time.  Here, just put your hand on my arm, I’ll lead you through. Watch out, don’t trip over that original Playstation, it’s grey and hard to see in this fog.  Look, there’s Panasonic’s 3DO Real console, that monster is hard to miss. Be careful not to trip over those joystick cords for the Atari VCS.  Wait… ah, here we are.

The Odyssey, released by Magnavox in 1972. Developed at military contractor Sanders Associates by Ralph Baer, it was the very first home video game console. The Odyssey didn’t have gigabytes of RAM, nor a graphics processor, nor a multi-core processing unit.  It didn’t have ANY CPU or any of that other stuff; inside it was a board made up of discreet components like capacitors, resistors and transistors. Its black and white graphics were so rudimentary that packaged with the console were mylar overlays you would slip onto your TV screen to simulate various backgrounds.  You then played virtual Ping Pong, or shot at dots with an available light gun accessory. The Odyssey didn’t transport you onto a fully-rigged sailing ship as you plied the green waters of the Caribbean, nor did it place you on a frantic battlefield full of soaring jet fighters or rumbling tanks.

The Odyssey did, however, take the first tentative step towards those later worlds.  It was the starting point, with the PS4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One as the current destination. We will keep moving forward, but on these occasions, it’s good to also take a look back at where we’ve been.  For more information on the Odyssey, consult your local Dot Eaters article.

Image of the Xbox One, a home video game system by Microsoft 2013

Microsoft Does a 180 On Xbox One DRM

Microsoft’s DRM scheme for their next-gen Xbox One was announced at the just-passed E3, and the hue and cry against it by gamers quickly followed.  Nobody wanted a console that needs to phone home over the Internet to Microsoft servers every 24 hours to keep access to all your games, online or off.  Nobody wanted onerous restrictions on the loaning, trading or selling of used games.  Nobody wanted anything to do with Microsoft’s new order.

Still, Don Mattrick, President of Interactive Entertainment Business at MS, stated in interviews that the new rules would hold no matter what, and anybody who didn’t like it could stick with the Xbox 360.  Tweet responses from the Xbox Support Twitter feed echoed this.  Even in the face of merciless ribbing by competitor Sony on how their next-gen PS4 wasn’t having any new DRM added on, Microsoft held firm with their new gaming paradigm.

Until now.

Mattrick has posted on the Xbox blog that they are completely reversing course and dropping the new DRM from the Xbox One.  An Internet connection will be required only when first setting up the system, and not required for one second longer than that to play offline games. Also, there will be no limitations on the trading or purchasing of used games.

It’s a perfect example of the power of the Internet, the very channel that MS wanted to use to keep tabs on all their consoles.  Instead, via social media vectors, the DRM of the Xbox One was dissected, and all ramifications exposed.  Of course, Microsoft paints this as a “You spoke.  We listened.” situation.  Well, we definitely spoke.

Hopefully their memory is as good as their hearing.

source: Giant Bomb

Sony Drops the Hammer On Microsoft at E3 2013

The Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3 as the hep cats like to call it, is underway in Lotusland. It is here where game makers flaunt their upcoming wares to industry insiders, and this year the show has a particularly keen edge due to the unveiling of the next generation consoles for Sony and Microsoft that will hit the market later this year. Yesterday, the stage at Sony’s E3 press conference was awash with a series of uncannily wise moves by the company.

It’s exciting for a video game historian to watch as a new generation of game consoles is unveiled, as so many have been before.  For sure, we all want to find out about the specs under the hoods, and about the new games that will use all that fancy tech to bring new experiences to our screens. New IPs are marvelled at, and continuations of old favourites are warmly welcomed.   Amid endless sturm and drang, systems and games are paraded across giant screens to the accompaniment of driving soundtracks amid flashy stage lighting, all designed to get a rise out of the crowd.  The biggest audience reaction, however, came during the Sony E3 conference.  For a lot of people, E3 2013 was Sony’s show to lose, after Microsoft had unveiled their new console, the Xbox One, earlier in the day.  The reason?  Not a lack of hardware specs on the new Xbox’s part.  Not a dearth of exciting games.

No, the talk of MS having already fumbled this next video game console cycle comes because of the draconian DRM system for the Xbox One.  While video games may not stir passions quite as much as Mel Gibson’s famous speech in Braveheart, the people in the audience watching Sony explain the lack of any extra DRM on their machine, and likely those around the world watching the live stream, were standing and cheering their freedom.  The freedom to trade in, buy and play used games without additional fees.  Freedom from being denied the ability to play your games, even in single player mode, if you lose your internet connection or otherwise can’t authenticate your honesty with a company’s servers.  The freedom to sell or lend your legally bought game to a friend.  They may take our free multiplayer, but they’ll never take our FREEDOOOOOOOOM!!!

Oh SNAP!

Oh SNAP!

Even President and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment of America Jack Trenton seemed suprised at the visceral reaction of the crowd. The other devastating broadside Sony launched at MS towards the end of the conference, that the PS4 will be $100 cheaper than the Xbox One, was the only other announcement that got a similar response. It goes to show that while gamers want the latest and greatest in games, they also want the ability to play those games. Without onerous restrictions.

In this day and age, with the twisted type of “free market” capitalism we’ve grown accustomed to, where there never seems to be anything approaching a level playing field, there always seems to be fair amount of industrial collusion going on.  This time, though, Sony is not playing ball.  They came on strong at E3 with a big FU to DRM, and I think Microsoft just got Xboned.

Here is video of Sony’s E3 2013 press conference.  The fireworks start at 1:24:24.