WinBreak Star Light issue #2: TriXie!!

Nu: First, let’s get one thing out of the way: many gamers prefer to be known by Gamertag only; it’s an identity all to itself. “TriXie” seems to be one of those. Larry Hryb is Xbox Live’s “Major Nelson,” but “TriXie” seems to exist unto herself. Do you have a real name, or does that remain under wraps?

TriXie: My real name is Christa Phillips. I did keep it under wraps for a few years, but the LA Times did a story on GamerchiX in September, so I had to reveal my true identity.

Nu: We’d all like to think that playing games for 8 hours a day is what it’s like working in the Xbox division, but there is real work to be done! What is your job title at Microsoft, and what does the job entail (a typical day in the life of TriXie)?

TriXie: I don’t even have an Xbox in my office. The only gaming time I get is when I’m at home. My job title is Xbox LIVE Community Manager. A typical day for me is figuring out what titles to play for the next Xbox All-Nighter, Family Game Night, GamerchiX Ladies Night, etc. Or talking to Rhoulette and Jinx and figuring out when the next Frag Doll Friday will be. I deal with hundreds of emails both on my ‘Christa’ account and my ‘TriXie’ account. I go to meetings, make plans for upcoming themed promotions (like My Mom’s a Gamer, or Back to Old School or Valentine’s Day). I may choose a new Xbox.com forum moderator, or start a new forum area (like Gamer Parents and Family Gaming), write a Gamer Spotlight, commission a new article from Xbox Dad or Elle, or film a Community Confidential episode for Inside Xbox. Several times a year I travel to report on gaming events. This week Video Monkey and I are headed to Phoenix to cover the Madden Bowl. The week after that we’re covering the Grammy Awards in LA. And on March 1st I’m doing a keynote presentation at a conference at UCLA.

Nu: Wow! Looks like February is going to be busy for you, but exciting for us!
When did you start at Microsoft, and what was your job title, then? If it was different than it is now, how did it evolve into the position you now have?

TriXie: I started at Xbox in February 2002 as a contractor, and became a full-time permanent MS employee that July. I started as a Technical Writer doing documentation. I wrote the first Xbox LIVE manual. I started writing the Gamer Spotlights (and using the pseudonym ‘TriXie’) soon after Xbox LIVE launched. My work with the community grew as the membership grew. Now my goal is to help all 10 million LIVE members find games they like, learn how to keep their kids safe online, connect with fun people to play with, and let them know about cool stuff happening in the larger community and with smaller groups.

Nu: In your “Family Fun Day TriXie Travels” blog post, you mention that you are a college dropout. What were you going to school for?

TriXie: I have actually dropped out of college three times. I’ve studied all kinds of useless liberal arts stuff: Literature, History, Film, Folklore, etc. I loved school and if I could go to class and write papers the rest of my life I’d be a happy girl. But I gotta put food on the table… :)

Nu: Don’t I know that!
What would you be doing if you weren’t working for Microsoft?

TriXie: Hmm. If Microsoft were to disappear tomorrow I’d go back to school most likely and support myself as a freelance writer. Maybe I’d try writing a novel.

Nu: My kind of girl! Maybe someday TriXie and NuAngel can co-author some books! …Wishful tihnking? Ah, well… ;)
How long have you been gaming?

TriXie: Since Santa brought my brother and I Pong in the ‘70s.

Nu: How is your office decorated?

TriXie: I’ve attached a picture. I don’t think you could really call it ‘decorated.’ This was taken in the fall (as you can see from the trees) and it’s twice as bad as it was then.

Nu: What’s playing now? (What music do you listen to while you work?)

TriXie: Right this minute I’m listening to my Howling Wolf, BB King and Robert Johnson playlist. After that I think some Springsteen will be in order. I need a little Bruce every day.

Nu: Which games are you playing most, in your free time, right now / plan to play a lot over the next couple of weeks?

TriXie: On Xbox 360 I’m still playing Zuma. And Boogie Bunnies. I’m planning to play Bioshock soon… but I scare pretty easily.

Nu: What have you learned about web-writing and dealing with the masses that you may not have known going into this position?

TriXie: The most surprising thing I’ve learned is that people who win prizes often act like jerks. They are rarely grateful and often demand special treatment or extra stuff. A couple winners have been wonderful exceptions to this, but they are few and far between.

Nu: That’s a revelation! I didn’t know people could be so ungrateful. I was honored to be the winner of Major Nelson’s HEROES Giveaway in December-January. I intend to post pictures and share my joy as soon as it gets to me (it has “arrived” it my address, but I actually moved the day before it arrived, and my family has yet to forward it!).
Finally, do you have any additional parting words?

TriXie: Remember, if someone acts like a jerk on Xbox LIVE, use the tools in your dashboard to file a complaint. We can’t punish the bad guys if we don’t know who they are!

That’s it! That concludes the second issue of Star Light! Let me give the BIGGEST thank you in the world to TriXie! Taking time out of her clearly busy schedule to answer the questions of a site online for less than a month! Thanks, TriXie! Remember, Better Know a Gamer introduces you to people you may not know, gamers from all walks of life. Star Light will feature well known names and faces in the industry!

The Fox News Mass Effect Debacle

I have been reading about the story all over the place, and finally decided to educate myself. I despise Fox News, I think it’s a laughable news network. I’ll watch CNN, MSNBC… hell, I’d watch the Home Shopping Network, any day of the week, before watching Fox News. They live in their own universe where only they know what they’re talking about, and they force an opinion down your throat all day. Every news channel has people giving their opinions all day, but Fox News only gives one point of view, unlike the others which give a few hours a day to various views.

That’s enough of my rant, though.

Unscripted 360 does a good job of covering the story, and thanks to DeaconBlade 360 for the links. IGN has covered te entire story and even provide a link to the youtube video of the Fox News article. Watch it. Be sure you’ve seen it, don’t get involved in the conversation based on what you’ve heard – hear it as it happened. That’s important to being part of a discussion.

The key thing for me, however, is this: youtube’s Xbox 360 owning populous has made a series of responses. We all know that the Fox News article pretty much has the last say, that EA’s press release is going to be completely overlooked, and no other news channel or website is going to cover this either. But check some of those youtube responses and see the occasional valid and mature response! Take that, big media!

Preview: Turok demo

As the United States finally gets a chance to play The Club demo, WinBreak has finally obtained our demo version of Turok. We enjoyed this (very) brief look at the game, and here are our first impressions.

Let’s begin, as Lewis Carroll had said, at the beginning. The game gives you a paragraph of back story, then drops you into a cave. Essentially as meaningful as the plot I recall from the Nintendo 64 version of the game, putting you into a comic book, or a dream, or a bolt of lightning… okay, I admit, I’ve forgotten, over the years. Still, here in the demo, you get essentially nothing but game play – let’s hope the retail game is a little more interested in making you can and uderstand why you’re fighting both humans and dinosaurs.

The game has interesting play mechanics. It is, of course, the traditional first person shooter… but a bow and arrow can make you a deadly assassin. This powerful yet silent weapon is certainly to be feared, as you rampage through this level of caves and jungle, killing man and animal alike. Something that I noticed and was quite impressed by was how herbivores had a tendancy to leave you alone, unless provoked, and even the most docile animals will attack you if you destroy their eggs. Quaint details.

The weapons I have quickly gotten my hands on so far include a shotgun with an alternate fire of shooting flares, and an assault rifle of sorts, which includes a silencer. These can be dual wielded and assigned to either hand, for dominant-finger-trigger-domination. Fend off reptiles with the rapid-fire shotgun while long-shooting those mood-goggle wearing bad guys. Whoever they are.

The AI can be a little annoying. Wandering around, useless, then all of the sudden snapping to attention, and leading the way, like they’ve known where the exit was the whole time, and were really just kidding when they said they were affraid of the dark. Then, you’ll get to a point, and they’ll stop like the invisible wall infront of them just gave them a concussion, and it will be your turn to lead the way. But you have to get a good distance ahead before they’ll start following again – if you turn around, they might as well stare at you like a cocker spaniel. They won’t start walking again until you cross another invisible line. It’s a tad annoying, and very unrealistic – they should’ve called up Microsoft and asked about Gears of War, and believable squad AI.

The already well known Unreal 3 engine does not disappoint. Graphics are stunning, though, at times, a little lack luster. Creeping through grass, you get to watch blades and branches bend down infront of you. But they’re still very sprite based, and look the same from any angle. The textures on most objects are still amazing, but I think we can thank Epic studios for that. The sounds are impressive, and quite helpful… you can tell when an enemy soldier is splashing through the water. You will know enough to stand still behind the rock you’re using for cover. The voice acting (a pet peeve of mine) is neither awful nor superb, which already makes it far better than most games I’ve played.

So far, the demo seems kind of ho-hum, so-so. Like it’s been done before. But let me tell you where this game shines. Two points. First, melee combat. Creep up behind someone and do a silent kill with a knife. It’s always a good time! Give it up for… Native American Army Space Marine Combat Training! Or something. Whatever. It doesn’t matter. I don’t need a story line, or cheap weapons, or a super fast shotgun… as long as I can slit the throats of every dinosaur that tries to sneak up on me. A quick dodge and a tap of the right trigger, BAM! A third person view of me, doing in a creature three times my size, with ease. It never gets old! And I can’t wait for others to get their hands on my game, so they can understand my “no dino too cute” policy. Knife’em all!

Second, the game can, at times, give you a genuine sense of helplessness and panic. While the caves never made me feel claustrophobic (more just lost in the dark), I was actually more impressed with the flood of raptors that happened at one point. I was in a large circular clearing in the jungle. The problem with that large clearing? Dinosaurs could come from any angle. And they did. After killing them all off, I still sat in the center, pivoting, and spinning, unsure if more would come out of the tall grass. Was that a gentle breeze, or a scaled killing machine? You turn in circles, wondering what will come next, and a genine sense of fear may rush over you. It’s quite fun!

So, there’s a little of what to expect, if the game does come to the U.S. Hopefully you get a chance to experience it before it launches, though. If nothing else, the exit screen of the game says you should be able to get busy decimating dinosaurs as early as February 5th.

Preview: The Club demo

A while ago, we shared with you that the demo for The Club had been delivered to Microsoft. Little did we know that the game would be released to many other countries before we got it. Well, according to ads on the marketplace, in the next three days the demo should launch in the United States, if not all of North America.

I was able to get my hands on the demo a couple of days ago and have been playing it. I have been looking forward to this game the first video I saw of fast paced shoot’em up.

The game reminded me of playing Doom all over again. I mean, the original. I couldn’t wait to play The Club, because it looked just like the rapid pace first person shooters used to have. Suddenly you were able to play through the game at a rapid pace, beat a level in a matter of seconds, 2 minutes tops.

The Club brings this feeling back. As we all know, there is a point system, which rewards you for fast paced killing, as well as finesse. Headshots, shots from great distances, well timed shots, shots after dodging or rolling. The only playable character in the single player demo is Renwick (the cop). A good all ’round character, and well balanced. The game puts you into the setting of the Newhaven Prison Cells (one of eight locations where you’ll be able to take the fight). You are then presented with two of the in game missions available for that level. One is a simple ‘sprint’ objective, entitled “Escape from Newhaven.” The goal here is to achieve a target score (among 4 different difficulties, Casual, Reckless, Insane, and Real) of 61,000 to 6,000,000. The other event is Time Attack (called “Doin’ Time”). With this you have a target score of 35,000 to 6,100,000.

Timed Mode, here, gives you a set course, where you have to do a specified number of laps before the timer runs out, killing all the way. If you fail to do so, “the micro explosives you have been injected with will detonate” in rather anti-climactic fashion. The clock starts with 30 seconds and you can add time by killing (3 seconds), and collecting five second time bonuses throughout the map.

Multiplayer, as exciting as it sounds in the marketplace advertisement, is limited to local split screen multiplayer. The the in game menu tells that play over Xbox Live and systemlink will both be allowed.

The multiplayer game mode is Hunter-Hunted. We gave it a shakedown here at WinBreak Central Command. The game play is very interesting. Much like oddball, Hunter-Hunted mode is a game where the first person to make a kill becomes “the hunted.” The hunted achieves a point counter on his or her screen. This point counter increases rapidly until one player achieves 15,000 points. The hunters each want to kill the hunted for their share of the points. First to 15,000 wins. After thoroughly getting my butt handed to my by our resident console-hater, I called it a night and went back to writing.

All in all, I’m very excited for this game. Game play (so far) seems pretty bug free, but that’s a hard thing to determine, as I found out wit Blacksite: Area 51, a game I thought would turn out to be way better, until launch day when I paid for it.

Graphically The Club is very pleasing. Framerates never stutter, which is key to the atmosphere this game is setting up. The environments are well detailed and little extras, such as furniutre in rooms that can be knocked over when running by, are nice little details. The sound is nothing spectacular, but it doesn’t detract from the game either, save for the Quake III Arena announcer voice.

While the bottom of the screen constantly reminds you that it is a “work in progress and should not be considered as representative of the quality of the final product” I wouldn’t worry too much about it getting worse. If nothing else, the game will be long. If each of the eight locations has six events, and each of those has four difficulty settings… and you want to play through with all eight characters. It could be the only game you have to buy in 2008.

So, this is what you can expect in the demo coming in the next few days, and let’s hope it’s a fair representation of the final game. It might not be on everyone’s must have list, just yet, but I have a feeling that fast paced addiction is going to take a lot of gamers by surprise.

Internet Costs switching back to PER DOWNLOAD? Time Warner says YES!

Time Warner announced, recently, that they intend to start testing usage-based-billing rather than flat fee internet access.

In a time when large bandwidth consumption has more and more legal uses (Xbox Live Marketplace, Xbox Originals, HD Video on demand through the Xbox 360 and other services like Netflix and iTunes, or even their constant music streaming service, RoadRunenr Radio), I cannot believe that there will not be an enormous backlash. I could understand this being a tactic to curb piracy nine or ten years ago, but now that the world is dependant on larger chunks of data, you cannot change the billing scheme that has been in place for over a decade.

Per-minute-internet access is still used in some countries, and I, personally, know a few people who still have to dial long distance numbers just to check their email. Nevertheless, I am ten thousand percent opposed to this idea, and hope it does not come back!

Better Know a Gamer: Issue #1: iruhlman

WinBreak has used their Super Secret Selection System and found their first willing BKAG subject. You’re now reading the first issue of Better Know a Gamer! We shan’t hesitate.

Nu: What’s your Gamertag, and what’s the story behind it?

iruhlman: iruhlman. My last name is Ruhlman and all throughout high school and beyond, all I heard was ” you rule man” seems it stuck…lol

Nu: Where are you from?

iruhlman: Born in Ohio

Nu: How old are you, and what do you do (school, job, family, hobbies)?

iruhlman: 31.
Systems Designer for Audio Visual. Husband and a father, Guitar player and hopeless gaming addict seeking a miracle pill for soon-to-be carpal tunnel relief.

Nu: How long have you been gaming in general?

iruhlman: over 20 years

Nu: How long have you been a 360 owner?

iruhlman: since launch day

Nu: What was one of your favorite Xbox / Xbox Live moments?

iruhlman: Can’t name one really but in general probably the 1,000’s of Big Team Battles played in Halo 2 with all my Live friends. Great times and memories. To me thats what online gaming is all about.

Nu: Which Xbox 360 Achievement are you most proud of?

iruhlman: Currently it was getting my 10,000 kills achievement in Quake 4. Soon to change to the 5,000 ranked matches played in Quake 4. 200 more to go!!!

Nu: Are you currently “working on” any achievements?

iruhlman: Mass Effect – very cool that Bioware actually incorporated in game rewards for the achievements. Makes you want to get them even more. The 360 Achievements officially have changed the face of gaming IMO.

Nu: What game(s) are you playing the most now?

iruhlman: Mass Effect – Rock Band – Quake 4 – Puzzle Quest

Nu: What’s playing now (what music do you listen to when away from your Xbox)?

iruhlman: …latest cd bought was Dream Theater – Systematic Chaos

Nu: Do you try to stick with one Gamerpic, or change it frequently?

iruhlman: I’ve changed it frequently but settled lately with my Decepticon logo. For the non friends pic it’s Megatron.

Nu: What is your current favorite Xbox related website to visit?

iruhlman: Xbox.com

Nu: What game are you looking most forward to in 2008?

iruhlman: Lost Odyssey

Nu: Do you have an “all time” favorite game, for any console or the PC?

iruhlman: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Curse of the Azure Bonds from the Commodore 64.

Nu: Do you have any “gaming buddies” you frequently play with / want to make almost as famous as you?

iruhlman: way too many friends to mention, I value each one of them like a family member as I know some of them very well, others not so much but who knows all 100 of their friends!? Well most recent friend I’ve played with…. nipps1 (you shred dude!) oh and of course my lovely wife mySuzanne (she loves Rock Band/GH2 and Puzzle Quest) Hot chicks that play video games are cool!

Nu: Any parting words for the droves of readers?

iruhlman:the Xbox 360 has brought a whole new level of gaming to the industry with it’s online community and it’s (sometimes seems more like a second job!) achievement system. The PS3 has the potential and could possibly match it someday?, the Wii is a nice change from both (actually me and my wife are playing the Wii more right now as it was under the X-mas tree) with its new “interactive” gaming for all, but neither offer quite what the Xbox 360 can.
I own almost every gaming console (need the Colecovision and Neo Geo still) in the original box with the manuals but when I log in to Live and that icon pops up with the message saying you have 28 friends online, it really feels like your connected to millions of people. It’s the preferred console for most gamers and will be for many years to come. Its many Triple A games and it’s 10 million member community just simply can’t be matched (right now). I’m tired of the complaing that Xbox Live costs money and other services are free. My response is this. Look at Live and look at the other services. You get what you pay for. Xbox Live costs 4 bucks a month. Cut out a happy meal a month and enjoy your better health and better online gaming experience.

ALRIGHT, LADIES AND GENTS! That wraps up our first issue of Better know a gamer! We hope you’ve enjoyed the read!

WBX: More Xbox Originals Confirmed…

WBX:WinBreak Exclusive
I announced Peggle several days ago. Four days later it’s picked up by other sites and it took them even longer to confirm what we knew all along. Don’t doubt WinBreak, please. It’s embarassing to you! ;)

In keeping with WBX tradition, here are two more un-announced Xbox titles which we have confirmed will be released on the American Marketplace (and perhaps others) as Xbox Originals.

At this time, we don’t know when these will hit the marketplace, but we don’t expect it to be along side Burnout 3 Takedown, slated to come out January 14th.

Things may be delayed… we're moving!

Not the domain, not the site… but NuAngel & WinBreak CentCom! I am hitting the road on Sunday, and will be living out of a hotel until I can find an apartment. Anyone out there from York, PA, looking for a room mate? ;)

Anyways, there will be delays while I prepare for the move and while I apartment hunt. So the Better Know a Gamer segment may be slightly delayed, but don’t worry… it’s going to start striking like a cobra!

WinBreak Star Light issue #1: Avid X.


Nu: So, the first question with every gaming related interview should always be: your gamertag! For everyone out there, what is it and where’d it come from?

avid: My gamertag is “avid x3ro” , originally it was XERO but over the course of time harsh rains and winds eroded it down, to what it is today.


Nu: Your website, 360style.net, seems very busy. So much more going on than my lowly startup! I’m sure you have a large following of your own, though I heard your appearance on the Unscripted 360 podcast # 57. So for people still new to the Xbox community (and who skip the top of every page on 360style), when was 360style.net founded?

avid: My baby was born May 2nd, 2005. The idea came from the TeamXbox forums. I was a big wallpaper and avatar contributer and I decided I wanted a bit more respect and a place to call home for my artwork so I decided to start 360 Style along with another community artist, “igotgame1075″. In August of 2006, I was given a hand with the site, my good friend Delilah Blaze stepped up and redesigned 360 Style. This took 360 Style from being your basic html webpage to the deep database it is today.

Nu: 360style seems to focus on a much more gritty part of the Xbox community. Skull designs and graffiti fonts pepper the site. I love the edgy yet fun attitude of the staff and members of the site (we all hope McKillin’ makes a return). How would you describe 360style?

avid: 360 Style is what it is because I have built the community to be very open ended. At first it started as a wallpaper website, but since has grown to be so much more. If I decide to post a video of a kid microwaving a cat on my mainpage tommorow I will. That is where the “style” comes into play. I like to think of us as the artistic goofballs of the Xbox community. But even though we like to screw around, we still work hard to bring unique content to our users.

Nu: Tell us a little bit about the man behind the gamertag. We’d all love to think that blogging gets to be a full time job, and reviewing video games will pay the bills, but that remains to be fantasy for most of us. Then again 360style does have a large staff, Microsoft MVP recognition, and so much more – so maybe it is, for you! What’s your day job, family life, and any other details that make up Chris Erickson, and not just Avid X.

avid: I am a single bachlor looking for a gamerchick to take long walks with on a pixelated beach. During the day I cut meat at a grocery store and at night I turn into Avid X, the internet addict. I have generated some good chunks of money on my website, but nothing to really call a profit. I put so much time and money into it, its going to take a lot more then a few google ad checks to allow me to call this a job.

Nu: Did you go to / finish school? If so, what did you major in? Do you get to use any of those learned skills at all when working on 360style?

Avid: Dual enrolled in some Graphic Arts classes in high school, from there I attended a local community college for a year and then got mixed up in something we call life. No degree here, but hopefully someday.
The design skills I learned in school did not help me in any way, shape or form. I was already self taught long before I started taking classes. In class I was the guy who had to help everyone. :P

Nu: What’s up with the Bacon Waffles, or is it still filed under “don’t ask questions?”

avid: Well young Xbox jedi, its a inside joke between some community leaders that attended the Crackdown community event at Microsoft last February. Let’s just say Nelson R. from AchievementJunkie.com ordered bacon waffles and ended up getting 1 bacon waffle. He was also the first one to get his meal. We all sat around and laughed as he ate the lil’ kid sized waffle. Ever since that I noticed other people on forums have fascinations with bacon waffles, which encouraged my addiction. They are interesting.. I mean the bacon is in the waffle.

Nu: How long have you been gaming?

avid: Since NES…

Nu: What’s playing now? (What music do you listen to while you work on the site?)

avid: No, music. I never listen to music on my PC, just podcasts.

Playing now: www.thegamersgarage.com – Fatal1ty Interview.

Nu: Which games are you playing most, lately?

avid: Call of Duty 4, Spongebob Underpants Slam!

Nu: Do you have an all time favorite game (any console / PC)?

avid: Psychonauts is easily one of my favorite games ever. I have yet to see a game top it in level design.

Nu: What have you learned about web-writing and dealing with the masses that you may not have known going into this position?

avid: To relax, you can try to write an article or review and make it sound like your are reading a wikipedia page or you can make it “real” and honest. I’ve learned that keeping it real has gotten me alot further then anything else.

Nu: Any additional parting words?

avid: Seriously, check out our podcast at www.360stylecast.com and search for us on iTunes. We have put a lot of effort to make it a unique show for the community.

Thanks a lot for the interview!

Well, everyone, this concludes our first STAR LIGHT segment! I want to think “avid x3ro” for taking part and submitting himself to my tortuous questions! See you next time around!

WinBreak Star Light: Interviews with Community Leaders

ANOTHER new segment. WinBreak Star Light. Shining a little bit of star light from community leaders. Their words, their wisdom… shared with you! Star Light will allow me to do a similar segment to “Better Know a Gamer” – however, the questions will often be more targetted to this individual. Better Know a Gamer will often be a form letter set of questions, where Star Light allows me to speak with community leaders from the Xbox 360 gaming community, or prominent members of the video game industry, and ask them very specific questions.

I think you’ll enjoy these, and I will post them as often as possible, much like the Better Know a Gamer!