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XBOX One Party Chat System Illustrated Via Text Messages

The XBOX One party system (which was the jewel of the XBOX 360) is seriously broken. It works - kind of. But in order to get it working with a game like Battlefield 4 not only do you have to jump through hoops, but you have to discover first where the hoops are and then how to jump through them.

The first time my friends tried to start a party and then play Battlefield 4 together this happened. Below is a transcript of our furious text messaging back and forth trying to get it to work.

DM: Can't join or hop into any of your chat/ game

BK: Why aren't u guys joining a party?

DM: I can't. You're offline

BK: WTF? It says I'm online

VF: Battlelog says DM and JS are online only.

BK: My Xbox says I'm appearing online. DM is in my party but can't hear. Party chat on?

DM: I just accepted!

BK: Can u hear me at least? Cuz I can't hear u. Party chat turned on?

VF: Xbox also says you're offline.


BK: WTF?!?! My Xbox says I'm online. Just checked my NAT setting. It's set to open

VF: To you you are. What about privacy settings?

BK: I don't see anything in privacy setting regarding online status

DM: I haven't changed anything since we played VF. Hoping out. Will send invites all around

BK: Can u check ur NAT settings?

DM: How do you do that in this travesty

BK: Says we can't turn on party chat... This is stupid

DM: Nat open. I can see when I'm talking but what happened to you happened to me last game.

BK: Now that I left the party, I can turn on party chat...

JS: J can you hear me? Can you accept my invite?

JS: Can't hear you. Didn't see invite.

DM: You joined!

BK: Can u invite me?

JS: Oh. I joined party. Not game.

DM: Turn on chat though. Just invited BK

BK: Haven't gotten invite...

DM: oh my god this is fucking dumb

BK: In your party but won't let me turn on party chat

DM: Is your chat turned on or same problem? WTF is that? Same happened to me when I joined you! Try now

BK: No dice...

VF: I bet if Battlefield is running in the background there is a problem. Quit

BF and maybe that will work? (Suggestions from the peanut gallery...)

BK: Are u n JS able to chat?

DM: No. How do you quit it though? Dumb question but it's always lingering in the back

BK: Highlight the box, hit the start key (looks like three lines)

VF: Select it in Xbox home and hit the hamburger button.

BK: Scroll down menu and select quit

DM: [Picture above]. 2 fucking BF shortcuts. Genius

BK: DM and I are able to talk

DM: J quit BF if you can. Join the chat then we'll

JS: I had kid issues.

DM: All head in

JS: How do I turn the game off?!!!

BK: Remove disc, or check above messages

DM: Highlight it's window in the home screen then the old start button. Turn party chat on

JS: Just turning off the console. This could not be less intuitive.


The Console Golden Years

John Herman writing at Buzzfeed did a really smart thing a few weeks ago. He looked at the best metacritic scores for the PS3 and XBOX 360 and plotted them on a graph (above). Turns out, the best games come around the same time the prices on the consoles start to come down too. It's not really a surprise, but as one who is profoundly frustrated with his XBOX One right now, it's a great perspective.

The Last Console Generation Took Four Years to Peak


Teach Yourself Guitar with Rocksmith 2014 

Ever since I was a little kid playing Mattel handheld football people have been talking about how to use video games to get kids to actually learn something. The old trope is, kids waste time playing video games but if they could just learn something while playing then it would be a win-win.

The problem is that kids see right through this, and games that are "educational" or teach something "useful" aren't particularly fun. Some learning games are great, and as a Dad I often make my kids practice their math facts (for example) using apps on their iPods. But my kids know they're memorizing arithmetic and not really playing a game.

I think comparing Rocksmith 2014 Edition, a "game" from Ubisoft that teaches you to play guitar, to a game like Rock Band or Guitar Hero does both a disservice. People play Guitar Hero to relax, have fun and fantasize a little about playing guitar with a band on stage. Rocksmith uses some of the principals of this type of game but instead of a video game controller in the shape of a guitar the player uses a real electric guitar. The learning curve might be a bit more steep, but before you realize it you're actually playing the guitar.

To be fair, I have been playing guitar for many years and although I'm not great I do have some abilities. If anything I think that ended up being a bit of a hindrance in using Rocksmith. Anyone who learned guitar the old fashioned way by reading books and looking at chord charts might find this method difficult to grasp at first. Like Guitar Hero Rocksmith uses a sort of moving "track" to show you which notes are coming up next, except the "track" is broken down into the individual strings and frets of the guitar. For someone who has played before it's not the most intuitive thing to grasp at first, and I have to admit that my 40-something brain found it hard to translate but eventually I got the hang of it. For someone who has never played guitar or only has very rudimentary knowledge I think it might be much easier to master.

There are 50 some-odd songs to choose from (main list is here) and teaching those songs is the core of the experience. When you start to learn a song the first time through it starts so simply that it almost seems like you've misjudged the settings somehow and made it too easy. But each time you go through the song it gets a little more difficult, and pretty soon (if you've taken the time to go through the individual lessons) you're playing the song you've been working on.

There is one BIG issue that anyone thinking of buying it needs to consider. If your audio from your video game console travels over the HDMI cable with the video then there is definitely going to be some audio lag. Basically there will be a split-second between when you strum the guitar and when you hear it over your TV. The audio lag pretty much makes the game unusable in my opinion so before you buy please check out this web page to see if your setup is compatible (Ubisoft also smartly includes this exact thing as a huge one-page sheet packed inside the box). Split seconds don't seem like a big deal, but when you're trying to play along with the music on the game a split second can be infuriating. I used an audio adapter for my XBOX 360 and output the audio to a separate speaker which worked great. Again, check out this page on the Rocksmith website before you buy to make sure your setup is compatible or that you can do something to make it compatible.

There's a lot more to Rocksmith that I'm leaving out - like fun mini-games that help you drill chords, notes and scales; and a very thorough step-by step lesson section with videos. The whole learning experience is very comprehensive and in my opinion it does a great job.

If you've got a child with a video game console and an electric guitar then it seems to me that this is something you should definitely consider. And for us Dads who always wanted to learn how to play the guitar (or get better beyond the three chords you learned in college) it's also very much recommended.

And it goes without saying, no one ever impressed a girl because he was great at Guitar Hero.

Rocksmith 2014 Edition is available for PC/Mac, XBOX 360 and Playstation 3 for around $79.99 with the cable included, and $59.99 without.

You can check out all the versions on here.


Microsoft Reverses DRM Policy, Keeps Extra $100

In the biggest instance of corporate "Oops! My bad!" I've seen in a long time, Microsoft has now completely changed their tune with the XBOX One. Don Mattrick, they guy who last week essentially said if you don't like what we're doing go pound sand, is now saying,

"I would like to take the opportunity today to thank you for your assistance in helping us to reshape the future of Xbox One."

If you haven't heard already, it boils down to this. No more 24 hour internet check-in. You can play any game offline for as long as you want. You can give a disc to a friend or sell it just like with current consoles. And disc-based games will require the disc to be in the tray of the machine. You'll also be able to purchase games via download instead of disc, but you won't be able to share those games at all (unlike the previous "10 family member" scheme they had proposed).

Lots of people on the Internet are taking victory laps now (just read the comment section of any news article on the subject) but I'm more interested in the specifics of what made Microsoft change. I expect it had more to do with the developers who backed the XBOX One freaking out than even weak pre-sales. (Check out this article in the Guardian, "Xbox One reversal: did Microsoft make the right decision?".)

With dropping all of the DRM restrictions, I think this has changed enough minds so that the Xbox One will be a competitive gaming platform into the next ten years. The reversal shows that Microsoft is listening to its community, even if (cynically) it's really because they were listening to the developers who were listening to the community.

PS4 still has momentum post-E3 and I'm ever concerned about how the extra $100 cost over the PS4 will affect sales. But Microsoft doesn't seem to be worried about the money and they're the ones with the most skin in the game. Personally I've gotten well over $500 of enjoyment from my Xbox 360, so in November it looks like I'll be going with the Xbox One.


The Guardian Nails Why XBOX One Is In Trouble

I have been railing against what Microsoft is doing with the new XBOX One because I care. I'm an XBOX fan and up until now it has never really let me down. I am, as Keith Stuart says in his great piece in The Guardian, a "veteran Xbox fan," a "super engaged gamer" and one of the "super-engaged "geeks" who buy in early to new technologies and share them with family members."

And that's why I'm so unhappy with all of this.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the article:

'"Microsoft has a corporate desire to own the living room, first identified in the mid-90s: it is not addressing consumers' needs but Microsoft's desires," says analyst and author Nicholas Lovell. '


"It's the super-engaged "geeks" who buy in early to new technologies and share them with family members – it is difficult to bypass these self-appointed brand advocates to reach the mass market."

and the one I've been thinking the most about:

"Every one has a primary screen – a tablet or a smartphone – which is personal to them, but each household also has a single shared screen – the TV."

The second screen is the TV, and the first is your phone or tablet - not the other way around. I don't need a hub, I need a way to share stuff to my second screen from the hub already in my pocket - my phone. Could the idea of a media "hub" be as outdated as centralized computing on terminals was in the mid 1980s? In other words, not totally dead but well on it's way?

I think it may be. And I don't want to spend $500 betting that it's not.

Xbox One: Microsoft's shocking discovery that gamers aren't data [by Keith Stuart,]