Major Nelson's HEROES give away: PRIZE PICTURES

Here are just a few pictures of the huge give away from Major Nelson’s podcast. I entered the contest in December, and found out I won a few days after New Years. The prize pack was shipped out after CES. The trouble was that I was moving out of town – and the package arrived the day after I left. My family has been holding on to the package for me for a while, and I finally had them open it up and take a couple of pictures.

So here they are. The brand new Xbox 360, the HD-DVD Player, and the First Season of Heroes on HD-DVD… all of which are autographed! Again, I have YET to see these in person, but these glorious photos are amazing, as far as I’m concerned! It’s hard to tell who signed what, especially the DVD’s themselves. I believe that might be Major Nelson and his one time guest, Heroes Co-Executive Producer Jesse Alexander – but I can’t see for sure. But I’m very excited to see Sendhil Ramamurthy, Jack Coleman, Hayden Panettiere, and so many more of the Heroes team!!

I probably won’t have this thing in hand until April – and then it will be a long process of deciding whether this goes in my collection, becomes a give away for my website, or if it goes on eBay with the proceeds going to Child’s Play (the last one being highest in my mind, at this time). All of these thoughts have crossed my mind, and it’s a good thing I have a few months to decide! Until then, enjoy the pictures!

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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.