Tuesday, June 10, 2008

My Xbox 360 came back ages ago, but it has been almost two months since I updated this blog. Seems to be working fine. I've been playing lots of GTA4 and finished the story mode last week. I have dabbled with a little Battlefield: Bad Company too, which has my name in the credits! DICE sent over a care package with a few free copies to say thanks for helping, which was nice of them.
Since the last update I have been to the Wii Summit 08 and Sony DevStation 08 conferences. I have a ticket booked for the XNA Gamefest 08 in two weeks time as well. It will be interesting to compare swag, especially since the attendance fees differ so wildly. Nintendo's was free and main gift was a laptop bag. Sony's was €50 and I got a PlayStation Eye and Spiderman Trilogy Blu-Ray gift set. Microsoft's is around £200, so that may get me a free Xbox 360?
I have been away to Tennessee for Louise's mum's 50th. It was actually a lot of fun and something I would probably never have done otherwise. We went to see Graceland, Jack Daniel's Distillery and the Grand Ole Opry, amongst other things, (like shopping.)
I started up a new project of playing a new game demo each workday, (that I can,) and recording my impressions on a website cleverly titled Demo per Day. It is a quick way for me to expose myself to new gaming experiences, catch up with old games that passed me by, (even if it is just a taste,) and perhaps gain a useful knowledge into a gaming industry niche.
It is my 25th birthday this weekend. I need to deal with my early mid-life crisis.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

If anyone out there was getting spam supposedly sent from HiAsh.com I apologize. It seems to mostly be coming from Russia, but I've worked with my host to try and prevent it in future. I was getting hundreds of bounced mails back to me each day which was my main clue into what was going on. So, sorry for any spam but it wasn't me and was just as annoying on this end!
I've been having a lot more ideas for new websites, other projects and potential products recently. Limited amounts of time mean I can't do all of them unfortunately. I'm still slowly working on one and have now started another that I hope to work on each day at lunch times. I'll post more when they are further along.
One idea that struck me a couple of months ago thought is "why not have a Guitar Hero controller as a real instrument?" Right now it could be achieved through software. We already have Frets on Fire, which I guess has an editor, (Guitar Hero 4 was announced this week with a built in band jam-session mode,) but why not have an instrument that is basically the same as a Guitar Hero/Rock Band controller but works in the same way as an electric keyboard? Also, sheet music has been around for hundreds of years and there must be good reason why that is so, but surely there must have been other ways of noting down music before now? Why not have Guitar Hero-like tabs be the new documentation format for music on real instruments, such as drums? There is no reason we need to have sheets for music any more. We could just as easily build an LCD screen into a piano these days, for instance.
I was interviewed and got a mention on the Full Sail graduate news website. I also got myself a nice little promotion at work this week!
Louise and I went to Paris for the weekend last month. It was actually much better than I thought and we had a great time. We went over on the Eurostar and grabbed tickets for an open top bus tour, jumping on and off wen we saw something interesting. We also spent one day at Euro Disney and the Disney Studios which I surprisingly enjoyed.
Louise's sister, working on the Oriana, docked in Southampton a few weeks ago so we went down to visit and had a quick tour of the ship. I was on the maiden voyage of it years ago, so it seems much smaller and tattier now. Makes me interested in doing another cruise though since it has been a few years since the last one.
This weekend we have been visiting more of Louise's family and got lucky with the weather. I'm a little sunburnt though. If it is still nice tomorrow, seeing as how it is a bank holiday, I might pop over to the driving range I visited last weekend. It was nice to hit a few balls again.
My Xbox 360 made it to EA in San Francisco but then sat in their mailroom for more than a week since they couldn't see a name on it to deliver it to. After chasing that up it has been sent on and was with Microsoft at the end of this week. Word is I may have it back sooner than I thought, (which is great, but annoying that a week was wasted already.)

Sunday, May 11, 2008

On Wednesday I suffered the death of a friend... my launch day Xbox 360. I wanted to capture the process I went through with getting it replaced since its a slightly different case to most. I have a US 360 from my time living there, but right now I'm back in the UK with it. Would I totally blow Microsoft's mind?
I called the UK MS helpdesk about my Xbox the day it was dying, (system would hard lock after a min or two with graphical glitches on the screen. It may or may not restart, depending on how long I left it to cool.) First thing they said was it wasn't in warranty because it wasn't a RRoD, even though it was clearly heading that way, so I would have to pay, but they couldn't say how much it was because it depended on what was wrong. I made it clear that I had a US 360 and I expected a US 360 returned to me, (since I doubt I'm getting the same Xenon back. I expect a new model.) Anyway, he makes me go through the process of removing all the cables and putting it back together etc. and it then booted, (but then it was doing that before, you just needed to wait a min...) so he said call back if I was still having problems. It was clearly broken but I left it for the night.
The next day I tried it and it was an instant RRoD, which is pretty lucky really. I went to work and asked if there were any way I could speed this up through EA. They told me they call the same number I would. Fine, so I called the helpline again with the reference number they gave me the night before. I go through all the bullshit of getting the return setup and just before they hit OK I say, "You know this is a US system and I expect a US system back, right?". "Err, we'll take it and fix it but you'll get a PAL system back, OK?" No its not fucking ok, what use is that to me? So they cancel everything and I'm told to call the US. One thing to note is that they were going to email me a postage label, then I would have to package up the Xbox myself and call UPS to come and collect it.
So I wait a few hours for the US line to open and call them. Their automated line robot is a piece of crap but luckily I had seen an article a couple of days before with a different number to call to get straight to a human, as long as you had a case reference number. So I call that and they tell me they will fix it, and its all free now that it is RRoD, but they need a US address. Their process is to mail out a pre-paid postage box for me to put the Xbox in and mail out. Then when it is fixed they mail it back to that address. That obviously isn't going to work for me and the guy understands the situation so tries to help out. I ask if I can save some time and just mail it to them myself and then I'll find a US address of someone that can return it to me in the UK when it is done. They say that is fine but I'll be covering the postage myself. OK, thats cool, but let me check how much that postage is. It ends up at around £80 with UPS, just to send it one way. Great, so I need a US address and will be paying ~$300 to mail it both ways. That's not far short of a new 360.
I ended up using one of the admins in the Redwood Shores office as a US address. I mailed the Xbox to them on Friday and Microsoft have sent their box to the same person. Let see how long this all takes. The repair time was estimated at 2 to 3 weeks by the UK helpdesk. Add a week either side for mailing to/from the US and another week for mailing within the US and I would say that means mid-June.
So, a mixed start. I hate being told one thing that ends up being a total lie. What if I had sent it to get fixed in the UK because that first bloke said it would be fine? But then the assistant in the US tried to be as helpful as possible.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

It has been a couple of months since the last post, but I put that down to being fairly busy. Louise and I have been trying to arrange the wedding and so far have close to 70 people confirmed coming away with us to Barbados for the ceremony. It is amazing how quickly time passes though, (it will only be a year away soon.)
I flew out to Vancouver for an Online Summit, internal to EA, and had to present a summary of some of the more interesting products EA had shipped with online functionality this year. Most of the rest of the time was spent listening to what other groups within the company have been working on and it was interesting to hear. At the weekend a few of us went up to Whistler which was a great place to ski. Unfortunately I only had one day of it due to illness, so I'll have to go back one day.
Easter weekend Louise and I flew out to Portugal to meet up with my parents to try and catch some sun. We got a little, but it was cold in the evenings.
I went back to DICE again on Friday and had a good trip. We flew out of the brand new Heathrow Terminal 5 which opened with many problems last week. It seemed fine to me now after a settling period. The odd unfinished lamp post, some staff that didn't know what they were talking about and some odd layout decisions, but pretty nice overall. As for DICE itself, the projects coming out of there look great. Battlefield Heroes looked especially impressive and will be launching to a closed beta very shortly. I've been playing the Battlefield: Bad Company beta on Xbox 360 too, and I think its pretty fun. It has definitely raised my interested and impressions of the game so will be picking that up when it appears.
I've filed my US taxes but had them returned to me because I forgot a form. Hopefully that will all be sorted quickly so I can get my nice little rebate payment sent to me.
It is performance review season again right now at work and I think I have done well again this year. I have submitted my review and I'm hoping for good things from the meeting with my manager in a few weeks.
Chris is back from his Asia tour soon, which has now included a month in the US. I think he is in San Francisco at the moment and I would love to be there with him right now to catch up with him and my friends. I'm hoping for a trip out there soon, but there has been no mention.
Thanks to my Dad and Dagenham & Redbridge I went to the Carling Cup Final at the new Wembley Stadium in which Tottenham beat Chelsea. After seeing things from a regular punter's point of view at the England game it was quite a contrast to see the fancy part of the stadium. I was fed in a fancy hall along with the players from both teams that were not playing that day and had a cushioned seat. Not bad at all.
I'm trying to finish up some games so I can get to others. I'm rushing through Mario Galaxy right now and want to get to Burnout Paradise next before GTA4 comes out.
I finally got my tools out and laid a new floor in our hallway. Its too much like hard work... all that bending and kneeling. My frail computer geek physique can't take it.
Randomly it is snowing here today. Crazy English weather.