Archive for the ‘gaming’ Category

netflix-nomoregoldIts been a few years, (I ranted about this a while back) but it seems Xbox finally caved and will now let us use our Xbox consoles to watch Netflix without forcing us to have a Xbox Live Gold membership.

There isn’t much of an explanation, nor any real fanfare on the Xbox site, just a small note in their frequently asked question section that they “are committed to delivering the best gaming and entertainment experience to you – our most loyal fans.”

It’s funny that Netflix is the one informing customers about this, you’d think Microsoft would be all over it trying to shine up their tarnished public image.

Who knows, I may even turn on my Xbox 360 and use it again, although I, like many I presume, have already found other ways of getting Netflix onto our TVs.  Another example of too little too late I think.  If you are going to wait years to respond to the outcry, don’t be surprised if no one is listening when you finally do.



Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for companies making money by selling us products and services.  It is after all the basis of the free market that we all know and love.  But when it comes to paying a company a monthly fee just to be able to stream media through their console, that’s where I think they’ve gone too far. And they’ve been doing it a long, long time.

This isn’t me being an Apple-fanboy, this is me being pissed at having to pay a fee to Microsoft so that their gaming device which I already paid for will be able to stream Netflix through it.   They are the only gaming platform that charges a fee to do this, and in my opinion it is nothing but a cash-grab.  What exactly does Microsoft need to do in order or us to use our XBox360’s to stream video through it that can justify forcing users to pay for XBox Live Gold just to use it?  Is it maybe because they have their own service (Xbox Live Marketplace/ Zune Marketplace) that allows you to download movies and music, for another additional fee of course.

They already give us a console that doesn’t include a WiFi adapter out of the box and has more software “updates” than any other console, as well as being the only one to have an entire section of their company dedicated to dealing with broken devices and the “Red Ring of Death“, but they also have the gall to make us pay them a premium just to make their console do something that costs them nothing.  There is no overhead for them to worry about, nothing to administer, no additional load on their servers, so why make us subscribe to Gold just to make it work?

The statement that really got my goat was from someone on Twitter who said “it’s only $60” when I made a comment about being annoyed I had to pay to stream Netflix on my XBox360 when we were discussing which console was better.  Yes, it is only $60 per year. But that doesn’t make it right.  Playstation does not charge for you to stream Netflix, neither does Wii.   Besides, $60 can feed a starving kid for 2 months.  It can keep a few dogs well fed at the Humane Society for a couple of months too.  Or to be more selfish, it’ll pay for my morning timmy’s for 2 months.

The point is, we’ve already paid for the device and if they truly want it to become part of our media hub, why force us to spend more money each month for an add-on service that offers someone like me no value?  Where we live the internet speed available is too slow to make online gaming possible – I’ve tried it.  I rezz just fast enough to see myself fragged over and over again.  Kinda makes most of the games being developed nowadays a rip-off too since most of the fun is online based, but that’s a rant for another day.  So what else does Gold offer? Video Kinect, Twitter and Facebook on my XBox360 – no thanks, we have computers and other devices for that that work much better.  Aside from the fact that to do that I would also need to get gold accounts for my kids too, which means paying even more for the family plan for Gold.  Why isn’t there a plan available per device, which would make the most sense since most of the time only one person is going to be using the device & those services at a time.  Like I said, just another cash-grab.

So really the only part of the Gold account I want is the ability to stream Netflix thru my console, all the rest is of no use or interest to me.  I guess what amazes me the most is the fact there are so many people paying for a service that the other console makers give away for free. (latest number i found was over 30 million “Live” accounts, no breakdown as to how many are Free and how many are Gold though) Maybe if Xbox stopped charging the extra money for the Gold accounts then more people would use them and be willing to pay extra in the XBox Live Marketplace & Zune Marketplace to download movies and TV shows, instead of charging us a fee for the privilege of being able to pay them even more of our hard-earned cash.


When i was a little kid, i used to love drawing stick figure battle scenes.  You know the type, they usually involved most of the battle happening below ground in tunnels, with men dead and dying all over the page.  The battle scenes were epic, with mountains, plains, tunnels, tanks, infantry and air attacks if you planned the page out properly and had space for them that is.  I was fortunate in that my dad was a draftsman (or more correctly, draughtsman) and if i begged and pleaded, he would occasionally bring me home a 24″x36″ ‘D’ sized piece of paper to use to wage my war and create my masterpiece on.

This is the early 70’s and video games were not something that most people had access to, heck, a lot of us only had one TV with 3 channels available that we were not allowed to watch anyway.  If you weren’t at school then “get out and play” was the common mom-mantra heard from all the houses on the street with kids living in them.  That is, unless it was raining.  Those rainy days were the ones that drove mom’s nuts.  Kids stuck indoors, typically fighting with siblings or getting underfoot.  That is what started the whole stick figure battles for me.  Not sure where the idea came from, but its funny to talk with other old-timers who used to do the same thing and recollect the hours or days spent working on battle scenes of such detail and depth that in the end they were hard to part with.


What prompted that long-winded romp down memory lane was an app i stubbled across in the iTunes store called Scribattle.  It’s a cutely drawn albeit primitive rendering of the old stick man battle scene on a much simpler smaller scale.

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Even the graph paper is reminiscent of when i was a kid, minus the tape holding the pages together of course ( i couldn’t always get a big clean piece of paper to start with)  Gameplay is simple, just tap on the “man” you want to shoot and flick your finger or thumb upwards the direction you want him to fire.  You get three men at the bottom and you can enable shields and/or the “noodly appendage” if you want depending upon how tough a fight you want.  Its one of those addictive little games that will keep you coming back to wage war on the various invaders attacking you from above.  (My childhood version of course was not animated except in my head as i sat at the kitchen table drawing)

I try a lot of apps – and i do mean a LOT.  Some days i will download and try out 10 apps, and most of which never last on my iPhone for more than a couple of days, some only minutes.  This one i grabbed when it was free on the iTunes Store for a few days.  The full game.  Sometimes you stumble across little gems like that which is why i try to check out the iTunes AppStore every couple of days.

If you are not willing to shell out the $2.99 to try it out, the fine people at Rebisoft have provided a Free lite version too.  It’s a simplified gameplay version but enough to let you get the gist of it.   Frankly, I’m still shocked that there are so many free apps being created for the iPhone/iPod and now the iPad.  Sure, some of them are “lite” versions that have either limited levels or options missing, etc. but still, you get the chance to try out games prior to forking over your hard-earned cash.  Wading through them all and trying them out can be a daily occurrence, and not always fruitful, but take it from me, this is one app you should grab and at least give it a try.

This is the kind of game that is made for those moments when you have some time to kill and really don’t want to get into anything too intense or complex.  In fact its become my “i need five minutes of distraction during the day” game.  If you enjoy the lite version, you’ll love the full game, even if you don’t get all misty-eyed reminiscing about your own youthful poorly drawn low-tech paper version as i do.