Tag Archives: Xbox 360

More than Matchmaking: Xbox’s crazy number of services

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Microsoft’s Xbox Live Service Status page is a great fist-stop when you’re having problems with anything relating to network activity on an Xbox console. Before you dig into DNS settings or power cycle dusty equipment stashed behind your TV, start by making sure the service itself is working.

It’s also a good place to remind yourself of how many services, apps and features Microsoft provides access to; my finger got tired scrolling through the gargantuan list! There’s the ubiquitous stuff like Netflix, Amazon, and YouTube but amid the sprawling 110 entries are things like Ameba TV, providing curated kids’ entertainment, a handful of anime streaming services, music video repositories, all the streaming radio apps I forgot about, and of course, the Pizza Hut app.

It’s worth looking through if just to remind yourself of all these online services.

I can’t stop making things with GTA Online’s Content Creator

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I was pretty excited about Grand Theft Auto Online’s content creator that allows users to build their own races and deathmatches, but I didn’t expect to get this into it. Since the feature was added a few days ago (with a big BETA tag, naturally) it’s all I’ve wanted to do in the game.

The tools are surprisingly easy to use and while it’s not as granularly customizable as Little Big Planet or Trials Evolution there’s a lot you can do with it. I didn’t realize until I was deep into a new deathmatch that helicopters, planes and military vehicles can be dropped in at will. You can switch to the default over-the-shoulder camera to stash objects, weapons and checkpoints. There’s plenty of potential with dynamic (explosive) objects and ramps for more exciting and unpredictable races than Rockstar’s own.

While making this stuff is easy, finding it may put a damper on the whole thing. Right now the only way to find user created stuff is through the Rockstar Social Club website. There’s loads of options to find just the event you’re looking for but having that search within the game would make it much more accessible. Rockstar will be verifying quality content and pushing it into the game world as well as promoting user made stuff through in-game events. If you’re still chasing the game’s numerous awards there’s more incentive to dip into the tools with rewards for plays, up-votes and an unlockable Rockstar t-shirt should the team bestow a verified tag on your creation.

So what’s next? Tanks vs Choppers? Garbage truck racing through the mountains? Molotov fights on a deserted island? I may not be super hot on competing online but I sure do love making these things.

My first 200 hours in Grand Theft Auto V (Part 2: Online)

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As obsessed as I was about seeing as much of the single player content as possible, I had no idea how possessed I would get once Grand Theft Auto Online rolled out. I stuck with it after the shaky launch and found a different kind of San Andreas than the world Trevor, Michael and Franklin inhabit. I’m a no-good thug, fresh off the plane and in town to meet my LifeInvader pal, Lamar. He basically hands me a gun and throws open the gates to the world; a confusing new place where I’m a criminal jack-of-all-trades.

Like the fervor around the launch of Portal and Fez part of the fun has been figuring out how this peculiar MMOGTA works. Rockstar filled the game with grinding, loot and quest givers like any other MMO but they wrote a bunch of their own rules and didn’t bother explaining them all. Passive mode makes you immune to player abuse, unless you get in a car. The world is full of ATMs that you can stash your cash in but you can also use your phone for convenient online banking. Races and respawns cost money. Your apartment comes with daily utility fees. I’ve posted a few times as I’ve discovered how it all works and now that I’ve gotten farther in things are really getting crazy.

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At any time the open world around you is crawling with distractions. If it’s not driving to a clothing store to see what your last level-up unlocked it’s an impromptu gang attack, an armored truck packed with money, a convenience store yet to be robbed or a random player to greet/grief. All of that sits alongside starting points for nearly 100 races, 72 deathmatches, 6 Horde style survival games, parachuting and team deathmatches.

What you could call story missions pop up frequently from your cellphone contacts and work much like regular GTA missions only you can invite your friends. These linger on the “drive here, kill these guys, drive back” formula for quite a while but soon it gets interesting. Stealing tankers as they barrell across the highway is much easier with multiple gunmen. Bringing a helicopter full of gun-toting friends to bear on a sky-high construction site is much more exciting than attempting it alone. The most elaborate mission I’ve been a part of so far eclipses even the single player stuff with multiple gunfights, invasions and even hacking.

All of this has been even more all-consuming since we decided to buy a second copy of the game. Finding a game with an interesting online mode that Katy and I are both interested in at the same time hardly ever happens. GTA Online has paid for itself a million times over in ridiculous knife fights, accidental explosions, frantic Survival rounds, racing shenanigans, and bluntly honest fashion advice. Joined by a regular, nightly crew of friends I’ve finally found that unrelentingly fun multiplayer experience that so many have had this console generation.

My first 200 hours in Grand Theft Auto V (Part 1: Single Player)

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I’ve just topped 200 hours in Grand Theft Auto V so I thought I’d answer your probable first question, “what the hell are you doing in that game all the time!?”. After 93 hours I wrapped up the single player story and completed the 100% checklist which, somewhat perplexingly doesn’t require you to do everything in the game. Still, it was a feat of fun and dedication that I enjoyed completely… mostly.

You’ve probably heard it already but the heists in the game are definitely the highlight. Going over the planning board, choosing your approach and crew, running little missions to recon or acquire gear build up some of the game’s best moments. What really sucked me in, though, is the world that Rockstar created. So many little details at every turn solidify San Andreas as a real place that I couldn’t pull myself out of. One-off conversations you overhear, the random people out on hiking trips or picnics, the handwritten in-game Internet that hooks right into the game world. Websites point to secrets and even start whole mission chains which wind up unlocking some of the game’s mysteries and teasing you with others.

Even after the gargantuan credits finally stop scrolling each character has a good post-game moment that let’s you know Rockstar isn’t finished yet. This is where I really got started on the 100% checklist and other unfinished business because I was honestly saddened at the idea of leaving this world. Little did I know that once GTA Online sorted out its launch-week woes I wouldn’t have to worry about ever leaving San Andreas again. Check back tomorrow for a lengthy recount of my time as a strong, silent, fashionably confused Ginger fumbling into Rockstar’s online world.

Halloween came to Grand Theft Auto Online

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I don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner but the idea of celebrating Halloween in Grand Theft Auto Online suddenly struck me the morning of. The game’s got plenty of gross outfits and masks, cars are customizable enough and Katy’s already expressed her love for knife fights, so why not?

I made a quick post on Google+ inviting people to friend up, dress up and stalk the streets of a private game with melee weapon in hand. I wish the weather cheat code worked in Online so we could’ve kept it atmospheric but the deathmatches and races were filled with eerie rain and darkness… it was the most the game allowed. I had dug up some spooky royalty free mp3s as well so if you watch our archived stream (Part 1Part 2) you’ll get the full effect. Umm, sorry about the frequent kitten mews, I don’t know why those are in there.

It went really well and we had friends cycling in and out for nearly five hours doing races, knife fights and a round of Survival. It was also my most popular Google+ post by far with 76 +1’s and commenters asking if we were doing the same thing on PlayStation 3 or if the party was still going. It wound up being one of the most memorable Halloween nights for me since I was a kid.

Grand Theft Auto Online tips now in video form

Whether you hate reading, love tinny nerdy sounding voices or insist on digesting the internet solely through the lens of YouTube, you can now get all my hot pro tips for Grand Theft Auto Online in video form. If you prefer the written word, though, that’s still available here.

Pro Tips: Make Grand Theft Auto Online more fun!

Grand Theft Auto V throws a lot of info at you, doubly so when you go online. I’ve poked around in the game and on the Social Club site and here are a bunch of tips and tricks that I’ve found not everyone knows about. Most useful of all: how to make a closed, friends-only game!

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Hidden Menus and Online Modes
From your single player game, press Start, navigate to Online, choose Play GTA Online and then choose a mode. The default is ‘Go’ which throws you into a random world of players but you also have the choice of Invite Only, Crew Session, Closed Crew Session, Closed Friend Session and Solo, though this last mode specifies “available activities will be limited”. Once you’re in a mode the only option you have to change it is to join a new session with random players or ditch back to single player and choose ‘Play GTA Online’ again.

While we’re in the menus you might as well hit Start, Online, Options after you’re in an online game. This gives you access to your various “mood” settings and Quickplay Actions for races, freemode, and deathmatches. You can set your spawn location if you prefer to spawn at your apartment (after you’ve bought one) and you can choose how much info is displayed above players’ heads in the game. Maybe most useful is the ability to keep the on-screen map expanded; handy if you find yourself always toggling it by pressing down on the d-pad.

Why Rockstar split up these options is beyond me but there’s one last place you may wanna check. Press Start and scroll over to Settings. If the game is getting too noisy with incoming calls, award pop-ups, and activity info you can toggle most of them on or off under Notifications. The rest of the settings are mostly the same as in single player but worth looking at if you haven’t tweaked them yet.

So You’re Finally Playing Online
I lied, there’s more esoteric menus here. Hold Select/Back to bring up your quick menu. It’s a really handy tool that I’ve come to wish was available in single player. The top option will quickly let you set a waypoint to the nearest Ammu-Nation, ATM, mod shop, clothing store or quest marker. When doing a mission it will also let you set waypoints for mission targets and locations.

Below that is your Inventory where you can store up a bunch of snacks to refill your health when you can’t find a medkit. Buy snacks at convenience stores and fill up your pockets because these things don’t replenish a lot of health. You can also put on a mask or change clothing here, both of which have more than cosmetic value. Put on a mask before holding up a convenience store and you won’t be spotted (and immediately attacked) if you come back later for legitimate shopping. Changing your outfit will also remove one star from your Wanted level when you’re out of sight and the stars are flashing. Last up in the Inventory is the option to set who can get in your personal vehicle so you can keep random strangers from driving off in your car!

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Random Tips

  • Races cost money! If you aren’t winning at least $300 from each one you’re secretly losing money.
  • You can navigate to an ATM but you can also head to Maze Bank’s site on your phone browser to manage/hide your money.
  • Take a look at your bank Transaction Log to see where your money’s been going.
  • Passive Mode only keeps people from killing you on foot. You can still be shot if you’re driving a vehicle.
  • If you lock onto another player and hold Select/Back you’ll see new options at the bottom of your quick menu to view their profile and crew info.
  • On the dealer websites on your phone browser the number on the vehicle images indicates how many passengers it can hold.
  • The game gives loser perks to anyone who dies repeatedly in a deathmatch without getting a kill. Activate these on the Wasted screen before you respawn to get a little edge up.
  • JP points currently don’t seem to have any value. Reasonable speculation says they may factor into the online Heists or other modes planned for future updates.
  • You can sell off a vehicle at the Customs shops every 48 minutes which is 1 in-game day.
  • Your online bank account is shared between all your characters. You can’t get the free $500,000 for each of them.
  • If you want to add playlists or maps to your game from the Rockstar Social Club site you need to make sure your Xbox 360 Family settings are turned off or have ‘Member Content Privacy’ set to ‘Everyone’.
  • If you’re looking for something to do press Start and go to Stats. Press A/X on the Awards and Unlocks sections to display a ton of detail on your progress in dozens of categories. 

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Enough, We’re Through Here
When you’re ready to quit playing Rockstar strongly suggests switching back to single player to make sure your online progress isn’t corrupted. Hold down on the d-pad and switch to Michael, Trevor or Franklin or press Start, Online, Leave GTA Online.

There hasn’t been any news from Rockstar yet but just as a reminder they have a lot of content planned for the future. Coming soon is the content creator that will let players make races and deathmatches, 300+ new clothing items, 4 beach-oriented vehicles, 2 new weapons, a Capture the Flag mode and multiplayer Heists. All this content is allegedly free according to Rockstar.

Thanks for checking out this immense post. If I learn anything else I’ll update it and hopefully have a video covering this same info in the game up soon.

This ad for Grand Theft Auto V is smarter than it should be

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Meijer, one of our regional grocery/department stores totally nailed it in their ad for Grand Theft Auto V this week. Not only are they aware that the game requires an 8 gig install to play, they know that it’s only possible to install stuff to a flash drive on the 360. I’m not even sure myself but PNY may be one of the brands that Microsoft certified as 360 compatible. Amazing job, ad team!

BREAKING: L’Oreal Xbox App Sunsetting August 30th

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I’ll bet not many of you remember ‘L’Oreal: The Next Thing Application’ on Xbox Live… and that’s probably why the thing is shutting down at the end of the month. Last August Microsoft appeared to be pushing the Kinect as an adver-game delivery system, powering app/game/ad things like Intel Discovered, Mars Rover Landing, and Stride’s Micro Lab Challenge.

Amidst those releases was this thing from L’Oreal. Intrigued by what kind of Achievements a cosmetics app would give out, I queued up the download but was stopped at the front door. My Avatar is male and that’s an immediate red flag in L’Oreal town so I was unceremoniously denied access. I never got to check out what L’Oreal’s next thing was but this incident (if it’s even worth calling it such a thing) probably makes for a more memorable story.

I don’t think I need next-gen just yet

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I can’t tell what the future will hold; secret money from the family, a bonus at work, a lucky twitter contest win, or if I’ll just give in and splurge once Maxx buys a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One (or both). Looking over this list of games I’m interested in that I made over the last week, though, there’s still loads to play on current consoles and PC.

Yes, I wanna be there on Day One to check out the new consoles for myself but look at that massive list of games I could already be playing! Earth Defense Force 2025 alone will suck up hours of our time and the PlayStation 3 exclusives — Rain, Beyond, Puppeteer,  CounterSpy — are just as compelling as Dead Rising 3. Not to mention that we still don’t know what will be available on launch day for either console.

I didn’t get an Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 until well after their debuts. When people were mugging each other for the latest hardware and mediocre launch games I was still reeling from Shadow of the Colossus, Far Cry Instincts and Urban Chaos: Riot Response. Like I said, I can’t tell what will happen this fall when both consoles are finally released but for now I think I’m fine hanging on to the hardware I’ve already got.