In my Hands (Gaming on a Surface Pro 4)

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So I didn’t pick this up for the express purpose of gaming (I built a new PC for that last year (I should probably write a post about that)) but I do expect to do some gaming-on-the-go when the opportunity arises. I don’t expect to pump out the eff pee esses at an alarming rate, but I do plan on putting this Surface Pro 4 through its paces.

So far, I’ve installed Steam on it and I’ve installed Dota 2 (Because of course that’s what I’d do).

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I spectated some of the Manila Major and it did just fine. I was running it at its native resolution (2736×1824) and it looked great. (Seriously though, the screen on the Surface Pro 4 is FANTASTIC. I can’t stop raving about it). I haven’t tried playing Dota 2 on the Surface Pro 4 yet, so I can’t comment on in-game performance yet, but I anticipate having to back down the resolution and tone down the settings. That remains to be seen.

The other test I was able to try so far was using Steam In Home Streaming. This harnesses the power of my gaming PC (Seriously, I need to write about that) and play anything in my Steam library on the Surface Pro 4.

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For this test, I hooked up an Xbox 360 controller to the Surface Pro 4 and streamed some Fallout 4. Aside from a slight (but noticeable) input lag, the game ran fine and looked pretty good on the little screen. I’m not sure what resolution the game was playing at but it looked fine. This will probably prompt me to buy a new wireless Xbox One controller, as this can be synced directly with the Surface Pro 4 (and I could eventually stream Xbox One games to it (if I ever breakdown and pick up and Xbox One)).

So my initial impressions are that it’s not going to replace my PC anytime soon but for gaming, the Surface Pro 4 seems like it’s going to be a competent little machine.

(And yes, this post was written using a Surface Pro 4)

Xbox One: What I think

So I, with half the internet, watched this afternoon’s Microsoft Xbox ONEne Reveal. (Is it “ONE” or “One”?). Here are a few thoughts that I think pretty much sums up a lot of the feeling I got watching Twitter and chatting with fellow blogger James during the event.

  • Games: Where were they? This whole EA partnership makes me feel icky and the lack of NCAA among the four “Pillars” of games was disappointing. I would bet real American Dollars that NCAA games sell better than both UFC games and NBA games (but of course couldn’t touch FIFA or Madden). I could take or leave Call of Duty: Ghosts. The feed I was watching wasn’t in HD, so I didn’t get the full effect of the compare and contrast to MW3 and MW:G, so maybe that could have made an impact, but EA and COD did not get me excited about playing games on the Xbox One.

    I will play games on this machine, right?

  • Details: Sure, they had a few technical details (processor speed, RAM) but what about the harddrive? The optical drive? I know it has been reported elsewhere that the new Xbox would have a Bluray drive, but I would really like to have that confirmed.
  • That controller: It’s a thing of beauty.

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  • The other stuff: The TV/Cable/DVR integration is really, really slick. I know a lot of people poo-poohed it, but I think that if it seamlessly, it’s going to be awesome.
  • The Kinect 2: The new Kinect has promise. Clearly there is potential there. If nothing else, telling the Xbox to turn on and it recognizes me and logs me in, that is pretty slick.

So, am I getting one? Probably. Most likely. For a host of reasons (brand loyalty, the Halos, the achievements). But is it possible I’ll opt for the Playstation 4 this generation? It’s a possibility. A slim one, but a possibility nonetheless.

Will you be getting one?

Next Generation can wait

Xbox 360 SlimI’ve always worried that the five-year cycle of consoles was going to rear its ugly head soon. Maybe, I thought, it might turn out to be six or seven years, but it was coming. Either way, I’m not ready for the next generation. It definitely looks like we’ve got some time, especially after Chris Lewis, Microsoft’s executive VP of Interactive Entertainment in Europe said, “What you’ve seen is with this new sleek design and Kinect for Xbox 360 we’ve got at least another five years of this generation…”

Music to my ears. Especially when I end up trading in my old, 20 gig Xbox 360 in for a new Slim 360.

A little rant

rantBy hitting control-option-command+8 in Mac OS-X, you can invert your screen colors (make them go negative). I’m sure there’s a reason why someone would want to do that, but I’m most certainly not that person. Nevertheless, the other day, I opened up my laptop only to find my colors have been inverted. Somehow, my two year old had hit this improbable key combination and plunged me into bizarro negative world. It took me a little internet sleuthing to get back to normal.

After another flurry of precise key presses, the same two year old bought me a subscription to Guitar Hero on my cell phone. Best three dollars I never spent. I have no idea how he did it, but there it was.

I relate these stories in preface to a rant about Microsoft’s ridiculous Xbox Live Arcade refund policies. (Hint: they don’t have one)

Up front I am going to admit that this was my fault. It was me that left the controller out in the open with the 360 on. While I was up at the computer I get an email from Xbox Live, thanking me for my Games on Demand purchase of GTA IV. Sure enough, in the space of no more than THREE FREAKING MINUTES, my two year old had navigated to the XBox Live Marketplace, located Games on Demand, selected GTA IV (at least the kid’s got taste) and purchased it. My heart sunk as I see the “no refunds” disclaimer in the XBL email. Great.

So against my better judgement, I give Xbox/Microsoft a call. All I was looking for a little understanding and maybe a little compassion and maybe to get the purchase wiped off my credit card. I explained the unlikely sequence of events that had got me to this point (I mean come on! I own the game. Why would I buy it again?) and asked for the refund. I made my way through about four levels of “you can speak to my manager” before I was met with utter silence on the other end of the line when I declare, “I find it hard to believe that a company as large as Microsoft has no way to remove a purchase from an account. At all. That is mind boggling.” “You have to dispute the charge with your credit card company, sir. There is nothing else I can do,” she finally replies.

Yeah, so we had to dispute the charge with our credit card company.

I am still flabbergasted that Microsoft, in their infinite wisdom, did not build in any mechanism to deal with this type of issue. It’s nigh unexecusable. I wonder sometimes why I stick around.

Curse You, Microsoft

Curse you, Microsoft, your crappy UI design, and that piece of junk called a dashboard. I loathe your ten step click and move process to do anything. My son and I booted up the 360 to play a little LEGO Indy co-op and by a combination of button presses on both controllers, we just purchased ‘Splosion Man. There goes my Fallout 3 DLC. This arcade game had better be good. (Just another in a long line of reasons I cannot wait for our 360 to bite it.)

Let Me Know When It’s Over

While Tony will be writing about E3, I’ll be the devil’s advocate. As gamers we gut FUD all year long. For events like E3, it just goes over the top.

Bill Harris says it much better than I can.

In a sense, to me, it’s all epic fail. All I know is that Nintendo prints money and really wants to get into the controller business (for each individual game), Microsoft overprices hard drives (is it up? down? a new size? a phased out kit? wha…?), and Sony still appears to be in denial (everything else is just niche) .

Geesh.

The triumphant return of “my” Xbox 360

I received a package yesterday from Microsoft that contained an Xbox 360 console and a note that read:

Dear Xbox Customer.

So that you can get back to playing and enjoying you Xbox quicker, we have replaced your Xbox console with a replacement unit.

As you probably know, my previous Xbox 360 overheated and was subsequently sent in for repairs less than a month ago. I was interested in seeing how Microsoft would handle the repairs, so I specifically wrote down the serial number from my broken unit to see if they’d repair my unit or send me a different one. Microsoft has some ground to make up with its customers, so how would they perform?

First off, I’m impressed with Microsoft’s response time. Less than a month turn-around is greatly appreciated. Second, I’m 99% sure they sent me a brand new unit. It’s quieter, cooler (after a four hour gaming session) and has a manufacturing date of 2007-08-09. I’m assuming that means 2007-August-9th, not a unit that was built 3 days ago. Either way, I’m giving Microsoft credit for being responsive and handling customer service appropriately. It’s a pain to send in a broken unit and wait, but this was fairly painless. The also gave me a free month of Live. A nice touch.

So now it’s back to gaming!

E3 musings (day 1)

By now you’ve hopefully read all that Microsoft had to offer up at their press conference. I can’t comment on everything that was announced (Aeropause has a good summary) but I would like to point out a couple things that me likey very much.

The Halo 3 Xbox. I’m a sucker for these kind of things, and it sure is purty.

Halo 3 Xbox 360

I was suprised that it’s not the Elite version of the system. If they’re going to fleece us over and over, at least be committed to the fleecing!

I mentioned earlier I wanted something about Resident Evil 5. A teaser is what we got. It doesn’t reveal much (and being set in Africa, I doubt I’ll be able to do a translation page like RE4) but unbridled excitement doesn’t begin to describe how I feel about this game:

There is more, almost too much. The 360 Fall lineup is outta sight. My wallet (and my family) are already cringing. It will be NCAA 2008 around here for a while, then it’s going to get thick with games. Mass Effect, Halo 3, Two Worlds. Crazy!

Outlook 2003

This has nothing to do with games, but I recently upgraded to Office 2003 at home and I use Outlook for my email account and I must say the new anti-spam features are top-notch. I have the level set as “high” and I rarely get an unwanted email in my inbox while my junk email folder is filling up more and more. I got about 200 emails last week, 150 of which were junk email and all but 3 or 4 made it to my inbox. Pretty good work there. And adding senders to a “safe” or “blocked” list improves its efficiency even more.

I often don’t toot MS’s horn, but I’ll give them props for this one. It also finally has some security features for HTML emails, as well. At least it seems like they’re trying to get better.

Nintendo and Microsoft

So now that I’ve had time to think about the news story I linked to earlier, I wanted to comment on it. I know it’s older news, supposedly Bill Gates tried and failed at buying Nintendo a few years back, hence the Xbox. He knew that there is a lot of money to be made in the living room and wanted a piece of that action. Say what you will about him, he didn’t get where he is by luck alone. He knows what he’s doing.

Anyway, I’ve thought about what could come of a merger like Nintendo + Xbox. Here are a few thoughts I’ve had:

Online – Like it or not, Nintendo has dropped the ball here. With only 2 games utilizing the broadband adapter to play online is pretty sad. While there aren’t a lot of games that could utilize it, an online Pikmin, Animal Crossing, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles, or any sports game would be great. By combining Xbox Live’s success with Nintendo games, possibilities are endless. A 16 player F-Zero race online would rock.

Franchises – Nintendo has tons of them, Xbox really only has HALO. Bring Zelda and Mario in the fold would be perfect. With Nintendo’s knack for making fun games and the power of the Xbox would be unbelievable.

Fan base – Nintendo fanboys are fickle creatures. I’m sure most of them would feel that Nintendo sold-out and they’d be mad. But most of us would realize the possibilities and embrace the change. For one reason or another, I don’t want to see the PS3 win the next console race and an Xbox/Nintendo combo could easily knock it off its high horse.

There are other positives, and I’m sure an equal number of negatives, but I’m an optimist so I try to look past that. Either way, I doubt it will happen and we’ll have a 3 console race once again. I can’t see it going past that, though. Someone will have to drop out. Who will it be?

I’m going to play some NCAA 2005