Archive for August, 2005

Arsenal get Ajax in Champions League draw

August 26th, 2005

Arsenal have been drawn in Group B for the initial group stage of this season’s Champions Leage. They will face Ajax, Sparta Prague, and swiss side FC Thun. The details of the full draw can be seen here on Arsenal.com, and the details of the fixtures can be found here.

Cygan gets two as Arsenal beat Fulham 4 – 1

August 26th, 2005

Pascal Cygan trebled his goalscoring tally at Arsenal with two strikes in a 4 – 1 win by Arsenal over Fulham. Fulham went ahead in the first half with a strike by Claus Jensen after a Toure mistake, not long after Lauren had a penalty saved. However, the Gunners came back to equalise on the half hour with Cygan getting a touch on Bergkamp’s free kick to steer the ball into the net.

In the second half, Henry bagged two. The first saw Reyes lift a perfect pass over the defenders and into Henry’s path, from where he controlled the ball and slotted it home pass the keeper. Arsenal put the game beyond doubt in the last 10 minutes as Henry got another following a Fabregas pass where he lifted it over the goalie and into the net, despite a vain aattempt by a Fulham defender to get there first. Finally, Cygan got his second from close range, with Toure leaping out of the way.

Arsenal.com have a full match report here.

Halo Movie Update

August 24th, 2005

Master ChiefJoseph Staten has posted an update over at Bungie.net about progress on the Halo Movie. Details have been worked out with Universal and 20th Century Fox – i.e. the lawyers are now happy – and things can start really moving on the project.

Joseph takes us on a journey through the evolution of the project, and his enthusiasm for the script is evident. If the final movie is true to this script, then it sounds like it will be awesome. The main issue so far, and no doubt throughout the project, is the question of creative control – Bungie wants to retain control over the details so that the movie remains true to the Halo universe. Joseph seems to imply that this is largely sorted out. As Joseph himself puts it:

“First, our community team (along with some great folks in Microsoft’s Franchise Development Group) assembled an exhaustive “companion” that will accompany the script during the film’s production. We built this universe bible/style-guide to inspire and inform the filmmakers as well as serve as a point-of-reference for all parties in the event of creative disagreements.

Here’s one of the companion’s reference pages. Imagine this level of specificity for every character, weapon, vehicle, environment – you name it – in the known Halo universe. That’s a lot of inspirational and argument-settling goodness.”

This is the fabled Halo Story Bible – though I think that it has never been in such a complete form. No doubt Bungie realised that this will get out into the public domain, despite being labelled as a “Trade Secret of Microsoft”, and decided that it should have the same production values as the rest of the Halo/Halo 2 experience.

There’s no mention of who exactly will star in or direct the movie. My vote goes for Scarlett Johansson as Cortana, and Steve Downes for the Master Chief (he does the voice in the game). As far as the director goes, Joseph makes the comparison with Peter Jackson and The Lord of the Rings. They’re looking for a director that will bring the same level of devotion to making it perfect, to not disappointing the fans, and who can above all make a great movie.

If they can find someone who can do for Halo what Jackson did for The Lord of the Rings, then I will be ecstatic. Jackson’s movies are so true to the books in their look, their feel, attention to small details, that they really capture the essence, the feel of Middle Earth for me, even if there are some differences between the books and the films. The LOTR movies look just like I imagined it when I read the books. But on top of that, Jackson made great movies, with great performances and real emotional involvement with the characters and events. If Bungie can pull this off and produce the same effect for the Halo franchise, then they will truly be on the road to world domination :)

In related news, HBO are reporting that Variety has an article detailing the agreement between Universal, Fox, and Microsoft.

  • Universal and Fox will each pay Microsoft $5 million in return for 10% of the gross
  • Microsoft will have extensive consultation rights, but not final say on creative elements
  • The movie should be out in 2007

So, it could still turn into The Avengers!

Chelsea defeat Arsenal 1 – 0

August 22nd, 2005

Chelsea welcomed Arsenal to Stamford Bridge on Sunday, and managed to take the three points thanks to a lucky goal from Drogba. Arsenal had significantly more possession, but lacked the ability to produce results in the final third. Freddie Ljungberg was substituted off after injuring himself on an advertising hoarding. He has undergone initial scans since that look positive, but is on crutches for the moment. Henry seemed to go missing, which may have been due to Chelsea’s tactic of defending deep with numbers. But Arsenal lacked imagination and played too narrowly.

The season is not over by any means, despite what many pundits are saying. Arsenal will still be challenging for the title come May. But the psychological effect of two defeats to Chelsea in 15 days may mirror the effect of Manchester United stopping Arsenal’s unbeaten run last season. A full match report can be found here at Arsenal.com.

J Allard XBox 360 chat transcript

August 22nd, 2005

XBox 360 LogoMajor Nelson organised an online chat with J Allard over the weekend. The transcript of the chat can be found here on his blog. J answered some key questions, such as support for backwards compatibility:

J Allard (Expert): Another one from mail: What about backward compatibility in the core system?
J Allard (Expert): because we didn’t abstract storage in the first generation xbox back compat will require a hard drive. the good news is that the core system owners can upgrade if they deside to update at a later date.

The decision to have the two versions (XBox 360 Core System and XBox 360) is explained:

in summary we tried to optimize launch around three critical audiences

[1] – the game developer – by offering them a no compromises platform with great hardware, tools and the leading online service with live.
[2]- the hard core gamer – by putting together a configuration with everything you would want at a compelling price.
[3] the entry level gamer – that wanted to get into next generation gaming and was excited by the media capabilities and wanted an entry level option

There was no further information on a launch date, but he made it clear they are working flat out.

J’s comment on backwards compatibility requiring the presence of the hard drive seems confined to the fact that since the original XBox had a HD, then games designed for the original XBox will assume it’s there, and therefore won’t work without the HD present. Whether the HD also plays a role in terms of updated versions of popular games re-compiled and optimised for the XBox 360 is not mentioned, and may be nothing more than speculation.

Bungie Weekly Update – August 19th

August 22nd, 2005

Master ChiefIn this week’s Weekly Update over at Bungie (where they seem to have dropped the “Weekly What’s Update” moniker), Frankie gives us a couple of tidbits in a short update.

  • All the new Halo 2 maps from the Multiplayer Map Pack will be available for free download on XBox Live from August 30th.
  • All the new maps will be included in the matchmaking lists from that point, so if you haven’t downloaded them, you may not be able to take part in some matches.
  • Bungie will be moving to their new larger offices in Kirkland in September
  • On the new project:

    “What about our new project? Well, it’s coming along swimmingly. I see cool things every day. More on that much later.”

  • The movie is progressing slowly, with details still being worked out with the lawyers.

Bungie Spotlights Major Nelson

August 19th, 2005

343 Guilty SparkBungie have posted a Community Spotlight story about Larry Hryb, a.k.a. Major Nelson, (Xbox Live Director of Programming). It focuses mainly on how the XBox Live team are helping weed out the Halo 2 cheaters, but also Frankie just won’t let it go about Bungie’s defeat at the hands of Major Nelson and the XBox Live team in a recent Halo Humpday Challenge :)

Bungie bans boosters

August 19th, 2005

Master ChiefFrankie has posted a news item about the mass (temporary) banning of “boosters” from playing Halo 2 on XBox Live.

“Yesterday several thousand players were banned, all people who were found to have played a significant number of games with known reported modders. ”

Frankie describes the phenomenon of “boosting”:

“Since the banhammer came down hard on people using modified content on Xbox Live, a new trend has emerged – “Boosting” with modders. People are using free trial accounts and using mods to boost their friends or their main accounts as much as they can until they eventually get banned.”

My only concern with this is that in matchmaking, you don’t necessarily know who is modding or not before the game begins. You may end up playing a series of games with/against modders, without your knowledge. Mind you, I’m sure the query Bungie can run is sophisticated enough to track down the real culprits, and it sounds to me that they are probably arranged games rather than matchmaking games. Overall, it’s good to see Bungie continuing to take a hard stance on all forms of cheating in Halo 2.

XBox 360 packages and prices announced

August 18th, 2005

XBox 360 PackMicrosoft have announced details of the packages and prices for the XBox 360 when it launches later this year. Major Nelson has the full press release here, and I’m sure it’s available elsewhere too.

There will be two packages, the XBox 360 and the XBox 360 Core System. The Core System version will come with no hard drive, a wired controller, and a S-Video cable, and will sell for $299.99/€299.99/£209.99. The premium model includes a 20GB hard drive, a wireless controller, a headset, component HD-AV cable, and for a limited time the Media Remote controller. This model will sell for $399.99/€399.99/£279.99.

Microsoft also announced several accessories, such as a 64MB memory card, play and charge kit for re-charging the wireless controller via the USB 2.0 port while you continue to play, a wireless networking adapter, and a VGA HD AV cable. No launch date has been specified yet, though 25th November has been rumoured as the European launch date.

It’s interesting to see Microsoft’s approach on pricing. Without any competition for the moment, they can pretty much charge what they like – within reason. No hard drive on the Core System version is interesting, since it might impact on backwards compatibility, but the HD can be purchased as an optional extra. The lower price point may be enough to get people interested. At that price point you get what looks to be a great gaming console, which can also play your MP3s from your iPod and act as a DVD player.

At an extra $100/€100/£70 for the premium edition, I’m sure Microsoft are hoping that most people will go for the extra value for money represented by the extras you get. I think most hardcore gamers will go for this package, as will many upgraders. It’s the one I have my eye on!

However, I think Microsoft have a problem. For me, there’s no compelling launch title. Unless Halo 2 looks and plays better on the XBox 360 (and the same goes for other XBox titles), then nothing available straight away will persuade me to upgrade. I bought the XBox early after the launch in Europe, and then Microsoft dropped the price a couple of weeks later. I won’t do that again. I’m prepared to wait for Halo 3, and hopefully for the price to come down, before upgrading.

At least, that’s what I’m saying now :)

Bungie Weekly What’s Update

August 18th, 2005

In last Friday’s WWU, Frankie lets us know that the matchmaking playlists are due to be updated in September. Part of the update will be to add the new maps to the standard playlists, since by September they will be available for free download via XBox Live. The Preview playlists will be removed at the same time.

The second change is the introduction of some multiple team gametypes, such as 3v3v3v3 Team Slayer. One new gametype that caught my eye was “Multi-balls”, which is an Oddball variant with two skulls – or as Frankie likes to call it, “total anarchy”. Even having only played one game of oddball, I can imagine what he means!

No mention this week of the current project they’re busy working on. Perhaps we’ll get more nuggets of info this week – and perhaps I’ll get around to writing about it sooner this time :)