XBusted 360

Why I continue to buy and support Microsoft and it’s hardware and software products is beyond me. So I received my state and federal tax returns and at the convincing [which didn’t take much] of my wife, I decided to purchase an Xbox360, in order to replace the original Xbox. One note on that, YES MICROSOFT I DID MOD THAT XBOX AND COPY GAMES AND IT FELT GOOD! Last Friday, we stopped by Toys ‘R Us and I picked up a premium system [includes the wireless controller, headset, Ethernet cable and HDD) for $399. I also picked up Ghost Recon Advanced Warrior and FIFA 2006. The total bill was about $650. Not cheap by any means.

So I get it home, unpack it and connect it up to the Internet, build myself a profile and Gamertag [itgOSWALD] if anyone cares] so I can play online. I spend a few hours playing FIFA 2006 and run through a few practice sessions on Ghost Recon. The following day I go to play FIFA 2006 and the Xbox 360 locked up…just freezes, sort of like other Microsoft operating systems. So I reset the system and go to load my game up. I then get an error message saying the disk is not readable. WTF? I was just playing it 10 minutes ago.

Upon further inspection, I pull the disk from the drive and there is a circular ring, like it had been scratched on the disk. This scratch was not on the disk when I purchased the game. I did not physically put it there, so the only logical conclusion is somehow it got scratched while in the system. No big deal really, my wife returned it and got a new FIFA 2006 and I was off for a few games of footie.

Unfortunately it did not last long before the 360 locked up again [no, not a heat issue either], so I decided to pack it all back up and return the piece of shit and try my luck again. Wouldn’t you know it, I return it where I bought it at and they are out and can’t tell me when they will get more in. So I drive 30 miles southeast to Pleasant Hill and go in for an exchange. Same story, they don’t have any and can’t tell me when they will get any in.

Yesterday, I decided to drive some 55 miles east to Stockton. Thankfully I had a few other errands to run in that direction, so I stopped by Toys ‘R Us. Guess what? Yup, they don’t have any. Beginning to get more and more frustrated, I decided to call it a day and just wait it out until next week. That’s when my wife decides she wants to go to Babies ‘R Us down in Dublin, about 60 miles south of where we live.

Before lugging that box with me again, I called and they confirmed they had the premium systems in stock, so I was halfway to my return. The exchange when smooth, the salesperson was a pleasure to work with, unlike the usual gang of pimply teens or white trash women working at Toys ‘R Us. Foreseeing future problems, I also purchased a 1 year warranty for the Xbox 360, which covers damn near everything after Microsoft’s runs out. $40 bucks, thought it would come in handy seeing as I had trouble from the get go.

Fast forward to 3:30am this morning, I can’t sleep so I get up, come downstairs and fire up the system for a bit of footie. I play for about an hour, win a few games and I decide to go back to bed. I shut the system down and think nothing of possible problems, as all had gone well up to this point.After feeding our son Zachary I start up the 360 for some gaming. That is when the problems started, the 360 can not find my profile to log me in to Xbox LIVE. Further examination and an error message pops up saying, you need a hard drive to store profiles and games in progress on. WTF? More issues, so going against my better judgment I go online for “support” and here is how the conversation went down:

Me: I have already returned one Xbox 360 due to the console locking up during game play. I now have the new Xbox 360 hooked up, I recovered my Gamertag and was playing a few hours ago. Just recently I go to play and the console tells me that I do not have a HDD, which I do since I did get the premium system. Am I out of luck and do I go return a second system or is there something I can try to resolve this issue?

Jonathan: I’m sorry for the inconvenience Stephen.

Jonathan: I strongly suggest that you call our phone support for this issue so they can make arrangements for you.

Me: Arrangements for…

Jonathan: Repairs or exchange.

Me Ill take the POS back to where I bought it from, quicker…thanks*sigh* So it looks like I am back to step one…AGAIN! Stuck with a non-functioning Xbox 360. I know these consoles had issues, but what the hell are the chances that two of them are bad? Well, it is Microsoft. Guess I will give it one more chances, that is, when I find a store that actually had them in stock that does not take me 60+ miles away from home.

Oswald Rant: Interaction Not Reaction

Who really controls the direction of a mod? I guess this is a rhetorical question with an obvious answer. The development team of course. But do they really have total control or should they pay attention to their community and the product they are developing. I will bring up a few factors, such as interact and communication that are sometimes overlooked when it comes to mod development. The main responsibility of any team is to create a successful product. Hopefully with a bit of information and some re-education, mod teams can really take their development to the next level by involving their community in the development process.

The relationship a development team has with their community should be a give and take relationship. There should be an open line of communication between the two parties, so they can interact. Many mods I have experienced, have a development team who is not really “gamer oriented.” What I mean by this is, they do not like to interact and spend time with those who are supporting the mod team’s creation. Why wouldn’t you? Unless your development reputation precedes you as a “Mod God,” developers really need to pay attention to what goes on in their community.

Unfortunately, some developers come off as being “high and mighty,” acting as if they are above the mod they have created. Rarely these teams interact with their community, or when they do they come off with an attitude that leaves the community with an uncomfortable feeling. Remember these impressions can set the tone the community takes towards the development team and the mod. These gamers are also the ones who support your mod and want it to be successful. So ignoring this group is not highly advisable.

A little interaction with the community can pave the way for a solid relationship on which both the community and developer can build on. Rarely will there be a time when these two parties meet face to face in the real world, the only correspondence comes in the form of online communication, such as e-mail and forums. This is when words become a powerful tool for the developers, but used improperly can ruin any mod. Learn how to communication effectively online when talking to your community.

Being able to create a supportive online community can really provide added incentive for a mod developer. Gamers who are active and participate feel as if they are an extension of mod, by offering feedback, which will help to improve the mod they love. Unfortunately, many times comments are rarely responded to by the development team and the gamer is left wondering if he is getting though to the team. In defense of developers, unless the mod team has an individual dedicated to continually corresponding and interacting with the community, development of the mod is the primary responsibility and rightly so. Forums are a virtual gold mine for developers, as many insightful topics are touched upon, including where to improve the mod and current issues that need to be addressed.

In the end, the development process is left to the mod team, but without gamers to support that mod, it is destined to fail. As a gamer, it is nice to see developers participate in discussions. An excellent example can be seen in the Quake 3 World Forums, as Paul Jaquays and Todd Hollenshead of id Software often post and respond to the community. A small presence can often go a long way. Hopefully development teams will make use of the people skills in order to strengthen the support for the mod they are developing.

Oswald Rant: Stingy Mod Authors

While I cannot hold my tongue until Friday I felt a real need to express my thoughts on the recent question posed over on PlanetQuake’s Rants n’ Raves. Stealthc posed the question, “Why are mod authors so stingy?” With the help of dokta8 we attempted to answer this question and give futher incite into our development.

Stingy? Uncooperative? Unwilling? Unresponsive? These words probably best describe the attitude or response you get when you attempt to correspond with a mod development team. Now that I have experience as both a gamer and developer, I have a better understand of why development teams are so protective of their work. Unfortunately as a gamer, we rarely see the big picture in terms of development plans and sometimes feel the mod team is leaving us in the dark.

Why do we have a stingy attitude and not release our code? That is best answer by Silicon Ice Development Lead Coder, dokta8, “Bah. People who want source code released will kill the development of the best mods. You reckon Gooseman [Counter-Strike] would have spent hours on CS coding if everyone else was ripping off his hard work? Nup. I wouldn’t do Urban Terror.” He goes on to say, “I mean, yeah, we spend 6 months developing beta 1.0, and we release it, and while we take a break to develop 1.2 some guy takes 1.0, fixes the bugs in 4 weeks and has a more popular mod straight out of the can. I’d have to be a complete moron to spend 6 months developing a mod for that.”

When it comes to our community, we respect those who play our mod. Urban Terror is as much the community’s mod as it is our. We have a very open and working relationship with our gamers. The development team is highly visible on the forums and game servers to help promote the mod. You must do everything you can to foster development in order to gain popularity and work your mod into the mainstream of the Quake III Community.

Feedback and ideas are what help to spawn new and improved versions of mods. While any development team has the final say in what features will be add and how the mod turns out, many of those same ideas come from a knowledgeable and experienced community. For Urban Terror, we keep a running list of ideas that have been brought up, not only by Silicon Ice Development but by the community. Strangely enough, the two groups think alike. I wonder why? Because we are all gamers at heart and know what we want in our favorite mod.

We have had numerous groups approach us and ask to use our code base as the basis of their planned mod. Of course we respectively denied their requests as our development is just beginning to rally make progress.

Oswald Rant: The Buzz Over Beta

Now that I am actively involved, as a developer in the up and coming Quake III mod, Urban Terror, I get to view life from behind the scenes. Gone are the days of surfing the gaming sites and checking out mods. It is all work and rework, to turn our plan and your ideas into a new mod. Beta testing seems to have now trickled down into the mod sector. No longer is it just for the “big boys” who develop games on a larger scale. Even use lowly mod developers run into much beta testing. Do we need it? Is it warranted? Continue reading and you decide.

It’s a busy Saturday morning, as the Silicon Ice Development team is formatting machines and installing software, with the help of id Software monkeyboy, Eric Hill. The venue. QuakeCon 2000. The Developers Hall. The team is preparing to show its mod, Urban Terror for the first time to developers and gamers alike. Anticpation is running high, as the door are opened and the hall is filled with wide eyed gamers gawking at the latest and greatest from developers like Raven Software, Activision, NVidia and Discreet, just to name a few. The computer slowly fill up as gamers are introduced to Urban Terror. They begin to see the advantages of beta testing.

While the realism venue has recently become active, Quake III still has a void, which is in dire need of being filled. All those Quake II players who lost themselves in The A-Team production, Action Quake 2, have been yearning for a Quake III realism mod. Unfortunately The A-Team decided to transgress to the Unreal Community for their new project, leaving the realism door open. Currently, no fewer than eight development teams are at different stages of their production as they all work toward a common goal. To fill the realism void for Quake III.

Silicon Ice Development does not consider themselves better than competing teams creating their version of a realism mod. We are though, trying to take development to a new level, by gaining the interest of the gaming public and involving them in the creation of Urban Terror. We have attempted to offer development information not only on our web site, through the use of screen shots, previews and interviews, but also through the Urban Terror forums. Instead of “guessing” what the gaming public wants, we want the gamers involved in the development of our mod. By doing this, we hope to have a knowledgeable fan base, ready to accept our beta release and offer a much valued critique.

Team members have been taking an active interest, providing information and previews of Urban Terror. We have offered to go “in-game” with gaming web sites to show off our development and answer questions. No longer are we trying to envelope our mod development in a shroud of darkness. Our forums have been very active, with team members participating, sharing information and responding to many of the questions and topics raised by interested fans.

We have attempted to “raise our standards” and take a professional approach to our development which we believe has ignited interest in Urban Terror. Our fans have offered some great support. One fan created our first Urban Terror trailer, which caught the eye of id Software. More recently, we have been receiving great looking artwork from fans wanting to contribute to the mod’s success. Even at this early beta stage. We have had offers from numerous international [outside the U.S.] web sites and magazines, who want in on the action. Need I mention all the e-mail? The support and interesting and been amazing!

As Lee’Mon stated, “…too much competition can be a problem”, and I tend to agree. The success and staying power of a mod is usually related to the interest it spawns and fan base which is attracted. With numerous mods, all touting similar development, the fan base has the potential of being dispersed between different realism mods. We have examined the community and are creating a mod based around Action Quake 2 and Counter-Strike, while implementing our concepts and designs, with the fans in mind.

Silicon Ice Development and Urban Terror would not be where it is today, if it were not for the good press and coverage we have received on many different fronts. Thanks to sites like PlanetQuake, GameSpy, Telefragged, and a host of others, who have followed our coverage and got the word out.